How to co-parent

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I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer that I am not saying that our method is the best method, by any means. It’s just a method that works well enough for us that friends often ask about it. Also, I’ve seen so many moms out there who bitch and moan about their partners not helping out with parenthood when it so often turns out that the mom won’t actually let the dad be involved. Again, not all situations are the same and I’m not judging. So if you’re here to get all offended and defend your honour, please don’t. You don’t need to. This is a safe place, ok? Ok.

How to co-parent. Advice from one half of a co-parenting unit. Here are my tips on what you could do to get this right. I hope it works. If it doesn’t, keep trying to find your solution. It’s so worth it, I promise you.

Involve him right up front.

I can’t tell you how many moms I’ve met that tell anyone who will listen about their husbands being useless and detached in one breath and in the next state that even if he did help, he’d get it wrong. These moms need to get a grip. I’ve seen situations where one parent moans about how alone and unsupported they are, how the dad never helps, never asks, never gets involved, never feeds, never changes nappies. And I understand that in some situations it’s because of a lack of interest, I do. But it’s not always that way. Just the other day I watched a mommy grip her baby from the dad and sigh under her breath “you’re doing it all wrong anyway, just give him to me and I’ll do it myself”. COME ON, LADY! How’s he meant to learn if you keep taking the baby away? Often I’ve found that the mom is so independent there isn’t room for co-parenting. I was guilty of this myself while on maternity and Jon had to get quite insistent one night when I took Aiden away from him before he had a chance of consoling the baby from crying. Jon’s opinion was that he would never learn to soothe if I never let him try. It was so hard, but I had to learn to walk away and distract myself while Jon took care of the crying baby. In no time at all, my body stopped responding to Aiden’s cries while with Jon because I knew that it was under control and that my husband was more than capable of settling him down. Which then made involving Jon a lot easier.

I learned very quickly from Jon that not telling him what I needed was a big mistake. In the beginning when it was up to me to do the expressing and the breastfeeding, Jon was up doing the pump washing, the sterilising, the bottle preparing. When I was healing from my c-section, he was cleaning my dressing, driving us to and from the hospital (because Aiden was in NICU for 3 weeks for being 6 weeks prem’). He would ask me what he could do, and when he sometimes forgot to ask, I would tell him where he could help. As much as we were both exhausted, we were both involved with the baby and all chores that come with parenthood, and today I am so very grateful I have someone reliable, willing and totally capable of sharing parenthood with.

Learn from each other.

Aiden had two head bumps before both Jon and I learned that leaving the toiletries on the edge of the bath was not a good idea. The first bump was my fault, the second bump was Jon’s fault. You know what we did? We consoled each other after Aiden calmed down from crying, rather than scolding each other. Because we learn, together, separately, after each other and from each other. Because we both make mistakes. Because we’re both human. Because we’re both parents. I’ve seen moms get an absolute kak-out session from dads for doing something wrong/differently and couldn’t understand how this could be a thing. Jon would never get cross with me for making a mistake, and neither would I at him. Even when he forgets that the baby has just finished eating and bounces him to a vomit stand-still. That’s just karma as far as I’m concerned and I am fully entitled to my sniggering, thank you very much.

Don’t have a primary parent.

Jon and I are co-parents. Neither one of us is the primary parent. Jon does not ‘babysit’ his son, he parents him, there’s a difference. If I go out for a breakfast with a friend, Jon isn’t on baby-duty, he’s just being a regular old dad without me there. This seems to confuse people endlessly. Women especially just don’t understand that when Jon recently spent a week at home with Aiden it wasn’t because it was a favour to me, and it certainly didn’t “let me off the hook”. It was because I didn’t have leave days due like he did, and the school was closed so one of us needed to take a few days to watch our kid and it happened to be Jon. No, I didn’t panic. No, I didn’t check up on them every 30 mins. I ran out the door and spent the day with my feet on my desk enjoying adult conversation.

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Share alone time with the baby without the other parent.

While I was on maternity, I might have had the working hours with baby, but at night time the first thing Jon would do was to grab Aiden and take him for an hour so I could go and watch tv / take a shower / shave my legs / lie on the bed and play on Facebook. After that, we would bath the baby, read him stories and put him to bed together. Then we’d make supper and argue over whose night it was to get up for Aiden. We still do this now, because even though Aiden did sleep through for a few weeks, I jinksed it by celebrating on social media and now he’s back to waking up every 120 minutes to cry for his fallen dummy (As an aside: fuck that stupid dummy). Over weekends when Jon isn’t out training for Iron Man in the mornings I get to lie-in as long as I can. If he is training, he’ll take the baby in the afternoon and free me up to do whatever I want (I love how I say that as if I choose any manner of variable things at my disposal to do. If catching up on zzz’s with my mouth open is variety, then consider me the Royal Variety Performance Show).

Split the chores.

If one of us is feeding the baby, the other one washes bottles. If Jon is bathing the baby, I’ll be setting up the room for bedtime (new linen, mozzie repellent, new water for humidifier, put the lamps on, etc). If Jon is packing the dishwasher, I’ll put a load of washing on. We try make the most of our available time to get chores out the way so that after Aiden is in bed, we can actually share a meal and conversation. Or, as on most occasions, we can climb into bed together and nom on some chocolate while catching up on series to fall asleep to. It’s our way of halving the work, and maximising on couple time. It’s not glamorous, but it works for us.

Don’t be a control freak.

I had to learn very quickly not to be pedantic. Actually, wait, the jury is still out on that one. But I’m trying. I can’t control the way Jon does things with his son, just like he can’t control what I do – we each have our own methods and styles. Just because I like the bottles to be made this way, it doesn’t actually make a difference if Jon makes them that way. It might be the totally wrong, not even close to right way (I’m just kidding), but the end result is what matters. And our kid has never gone to bed without drinking his bottle, so it can’t be that bad, can it?

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Correct observers as you go along.

The thing that grates me the most? “You are so lucky, he’s such a hands-on daddy. What did you do to make him this way?”. It’s insulting to Jon, I feel. I didn’t do anything, other than communicate my needs to Jon right in the beginning of where he could get involved. That helped us get into the groove of this parenting gig together. But the rest was up to him. Even before we tried to conceive, Jon declared that he would be an involved father, and that he wanted to do everything 50/50. So we discussed up front what the boundaries would be, if any, and what parenting values we wanted to instill in each other, and for our child. We’re not perfect, we’ve had our fair share of arguments and frustrations, but we talk through it and learn from mistakes. We’ll never be perfect, but perfect is dead boring anyway so who even wants that? Definitely not me.

And really, as long as we’re both discussing things and sharing our feelings, frustrations and needs, what could ever go wrong?*

 

*That is not a challenge, universe. Back away.

PS: If you enjoyed this post, please do me a favour and click on the little button below, not that I’ll win anything. And neither will you, I suppose. Except the love and gratitude of an internet-award winning mommy blogger, and everyone knows how important and special that is:

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Photo credit: Jeanette Verster

4 comments

  1. sarah says:

    Such an honest post, I really enjoyed this and I’m going to try learn from it. I’m so guilty of accusing my hubbie of being useless when actually i know he could be more involved if i just let him. thanks~

  2. laurakim says:

    I think the biggest mistake moms make is not involving the dads from day 1. It took me a while but with the smaller two it happened almost immediately and now with four we have to rely on each other and tag team it.

    You guys are doing well :)) (not that you need my approval)

  3. po says:

    Garron has always been the lead parent in our family. I had to learn from him. I struggle with practical things and need to watch and learn. He always just dives right in. He does everything except breastfeeding and he does it all better than me!

  4. Tarryn says:

    Awesome post! I had a meltdown after baby was born. Hubbie just took over and did everything for the first week while I pulled myself together. He then had to show me what to do and how to do it! We have been sharing ever since and most of my friends are jealous, yet will never let their partners help!

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