What To Do When You Disagree About Parenting

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comAt last count, the internet has provided us with roughly eight million different parenting styles. You’ve probably noticed different parenting styles even among your own friends. Is it any wonder, with so many opinions and philosophies, that two people who share a home and children might also disagree on the best parenting approach?

Marriage is tricky enough without kids. As soon as you add little people to your family, the trickiness is off the charts. Now, not only are you figuring out how best to communicate with your partner and enjoy life, you also have to work together to raise these tiny utterly dependant humans! A lot of couples, including Tony and I, are unaware of the kinds of parents they will be until after the children have arrived. I always thought I’d be the strict enforcer and Tony would be the fun one. It turns out I’m the snuggler, Tony is the fun one, and we BOTH have to be the enforcers when it comes to discipline and handling behavior. Only, we don’t always agree on how to handle the kids.

What I want to share with you is less about the best way to parent and more about how your parenting affects your marriage. Let’s talk about the two of you! Because, above all, the way you treat each other and communicate about parenting can either have a positive or a negative effect on your relationship with each other. It’s your relationship with each other, not the way you parent, that will have the most profound effect on your children’s lives. These are the things Tony and I keep in mind when we disagree about parenting.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements

1. Let your partner parent.

One of the hardest things to do when you disagree about parenting is to step back and let your partner BE a parent. But, unless something terribly unsafe or abusive is happening, that is exactly what we need to do. Think back to your own childhood. Did your mom and dad handle every situation in the exact same way? Probably not. And, look at you now, handling life EVEN THOUGH your parents parented differently.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comWhen our oldest was just a toddling two and a half year old, Tony brought home some small firecrackers from a little pop-up stand around the corner from our house. Fourth of July was coming up and, since he’s the fun parent, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he showed me his loot. Of course I piped up just a little, “Honey, I don’t think this is a good idea. Claire is two. This really doesn’t seem safe.”

How did he respond? “Babe! It’s fine. I’ve got this.”

So, I was inside the house tending to our infant while Tony went out to the driveway to light off these little firecrackers. I could see a little bit from the front window, but I was really trying not to hover. I snuggled the baby and reminded myself, He’s a good dad. He’s a good dad. He’s a good dad. They’re fine.

The next thing I knew, the front door flung open and in came Tony carrying a screaming little Claire. My heart sank! She’d gotten too close and got a tiny burn on her hand. He rushed her to the bathroom. I grabbed an ice pack and followed him in where he was washing her hand and applying some cooling gel. He was handling it. She was fine. I nearly passed out from the stress, but I kept the I-told-ya-so’s to myself.

Letting your partner parent is not easy but it is vital. Practicing stepping back is about seeing parenting as a long game and not about just this one particular instance in which you would be doing things in a different way… the right way. The truth is that we need to see our differences in parenting simply as differences and not as wrong ways and right ways.

In the long game, the two of you need to be a team in all aspects of your marriage, and that includes parenting. Undermining your partner by stepping in and interrupting a parenting moment is not only disrespectful, it also communicates distrust. Nobody performs at their best when they feel that they aren’t trusted and will be undermined for their efforts anyway. So, if something is happening in a way that you don’t necessarily agree with, take a step back. Pause. Remind yourself that it’s better for the kids and for your relationship to let the situation play itself out. And if your husband burns your baby’s hand, that too will be a situation that you can handle together, hopefully without passing out.

[ctt_author author=”5873″ name=”Michelle Peterson” template=”1″ link=”_ba68″ via=”yes” ]We need to see differences in parenting simply as differences, not as wrong ways and right ways.[/ctt_author]

2. Practice the “Same Team Mentality” in front of the kids.

Smart parents know that kids will do what it takes to get their way. Pitting one parent against the other is a classic move. Kids don’t even need to be taught! They come out of the womb knowing that mom responds differently to a sweet snuggle and a smile before they ask for what they want than dad will. They know which is more likely to sneak some chocolate into their lunch (DAD!) and which is more likely to read one more little book even though it’s 20 minutes past bedtime (MOMMY!). Nobody told them. They just know.

Look, I may not like the extra sugar in her lunch and Tony may not like that bedtime should have been over by now, but in front of the kids we are on the same team. If dad says no, mom says no. So, in order to have the upper hand with these tiny master manipulators we’ve developed a new response…

“Have you already asked Daddy about that? What did Daddy say?” (and vice versa)

With the same team method, whichever parent gave the first response to the request is the parent that leads that situation. Sometimes the kids forget that their main objective is to divide and conquer, so they’ll ask one parent in front of the other. When that happens, we openly discuss in front of the kids what we each think about it and come to an agreement together.

“I really don’t like Claire to have chocolate at school.” – Mom, obviously

“I like the idea that she’s got a little treat with her lunch.” – Dad, the fun guy

“Sure, I get that. Let’s just not make it a daily lunch habit.”

“Great. Maybe once a week or so, she’ll get an extra little treat. Claire, what do you think?”

Not only does this method save a ton of arguments between the two of you, it’s a fantastic chance to model what teamwork looks like for your kids. They can see that we disagree and that we’re willing to talk it out and work toward a solution together.

3. Talk about differences away from the kids.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comIf you’re letting your partner be a parent, and practicing the same team mentality in front of the kids, you may still find yourself frustrated over something your partner has done. The best thing to do is to wait until the kids aren’t around to bring it up. Then, when you bring it up, don’t forget all of the problem solving skills you already know:

Start kindly and respectfully.
♥ Name what specifically happened.
♥ Name how you feel about it.
♥ Present what you think would have been a better method.
♥ Remain open to their perspective.
♥ Remind yourselves that you’re on the same team.

It could look something like this…

“I love that you want to do fun things and make fun memories with our kids. But, when you took Claire out there to light fireworks, I felt scared and frustrated. I was afraid something bad would happen, and I was frustrated that it seemed like you ignored me when I mentioned it. I wish you would have listened to me, or that we could have waited until I didn’t have my hands full with the baby so I could be out there to keep Claire away from the flames while you lit things on fire.”

4. Get a third-party perspective.

So far, we’re just talking about parenting instances. But, if you feel like you are having disagreements about parenting overall and not just in one situation or another, it’s time to bring in some perspective. All of those eight million different parenting styles come with eight million different websites, books, and seminars. One of the best ways to stay on the same team is to grab one of these resources, read it (or watch it or listen to it) together, and then discuss how you each feel about it.

Having an article to consider together is a great buffer because it takes the discussion out of the “me vs. you” state and puts you in an “us + new information” state. Instead of feeling attacked and criticized for the way you do things, now you can explore someone else’s thoughts and methods on parenting and make some decisions together. It’s not about your way vs. my way. Instead it’s about discovering our way.

Just remember, if this is the method you choose, you’ll still want to introduce it in a way that is kind and respectful and doesn’t make your spouse feel accused of doing something wrong.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comWhat I mean is… and I’ve said this on our Facebook page before… do not simply tag your spouse on an article you want them to read or send them a forward without any explanation. When you don’t include a comment to give context as to WHY you are tagging your partner or sending them an article, they could easily feel accused of having done something wrong. So, if you’re going to share something for your partner to read or listen to so that you can discuss it later, be thoughtful in how you share it with them.

Here are some quick options…

“Hey babe, let’s read this and talk about it later…”

“This article made me grateful for the way we do things in our marriage. I thought you might like it.”

“This article has some great ideas. I’d love to know what you think.”

Marriage and parenting really are a ton of work, as are most worthwhile endeavors. At the end of the day, whether you do everything exactly the same or not, the most important thing is to honor and respect each other and work out your solutions as a team. Stepping in, undermining, and rudely disagreeing with your partner in front of your kids can be really damaging to your kids and also to your own relationship. Be patient with each other, practice the same team mentality, present a united front with the kids, and #staymarried.

Special thanks to the Coleman family for letting us use their beautiful family photos to illustrate this post.
Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen whose work can be found at http://www.stacyjacobsen.com

Now, for those parenting resources I promised you…

Brain Rules for Baby by Dr. John Medina and Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow are the two books I recommend most often. They both thoroughly changed the way I parent, giving me insight based on scientific research, and practical steps I could take right away. If I’ve been to your baby shower in the last 4 years, chances are I gave you one or both of these books. I love them!

I can’t even believe I waited until the end of this post to tell you that, for all of our email subscribers, I get to GIVE THESE BOOKS TO YOU! Both books! In audio book format, because who has time to read! Ordinarily that would be a $40 value, but the people at Libro.fm have generously offered #staymarried Subscribers FREE downloads of both!

#staymarried and Libro.fm Parenting Audio Book Giveaway

Enter your name and email address to receive both of these parenting resources, a $40 value, as our gift to you!

You'll also stay up to date with the latest from #staymarried, speaking events, meetups, and more giveaways!

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The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarriedIf you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

Kindness Elves – Something New for Christmas

As I explained, I decided to put my Advent tradition away this year. The original idea for it was to give us a way to focus on making this season meaningful and not so centered on buying more stuff. It didn’t work. I’m letting it go… darn you, Frozen, for getting that song stuck in my head every time I use a perfectly legitimate phrase…

Kindness Elves - Something New for Christmas #staymarried

This year, we are trying something new: Kindness Elves. I learned about it from Anna over at Imagination Tree last year. I followed along as her little elves left notes for her children with ideas for different ways they could be kind and generous to others. Are you kidding me? This is right up my alley! All I want is for my children to be kind, generous, and compassionate. The world is full of Me Monsters, and I want our family to be different. There was something about the Elf on the Shelf that I couldn’t get on board with, but this, these darling little friends, this is just what I wanted!

They appeared with a knock on the door Continue reading “Kindness Elves – Something New for Christmas”

Opting Out of the Rat Race of Christmas

Opting Out of the Rat Race of Christmas - #staymarriedIt’s an interesting time of year, isn’t it? Christmastime, I mean. I know the politically correct term is “Holiday Season,” but if we’re truthful about the season itself here in America, it is really the “redecorate your home, bribe your children for the perfect family photo, attend themed parties, hurry up and don’t miss out on the ‘traditions,’ and buy lots of things” season. Or at least it can be.

I don’t mean to Bah-Humbug what is going on in the world. I love this time of year. Decorating and celebrating and participating in all of the festivities means so much to me. Seeing the wonder of it all through my children’s eyes is delightful. This year, however, I’ve found myself entering in with a bit of trepidation. I want to participate in the joy, but I do not want to participate in the race. I want to be a part of the loveliness, but I do not want to be a part of the competition for loveliness. I want to enjoy this time with my family, but I don’t want to get caught up in looking like I’m enjoying it so I can document our “joy” on social media. So, I’m ditching some of my very own traditions. Continue reading “Opting Out of the Rat Race of Christmas”

Gratitude is the Antidote

GratitudeIs The Antidote - #staymarriedI’m working on making the most of my time. I’m working on saying no to good things so I can say yes to great things. I’m working on keeping my eyes open to commercialism and the comparison trap so that I can see clearly and help make better decisions for our family. I’m working on being more grateful. So, this year, I said “No” to buying new costumes for the kids for Halloween.

No New Costumes!

Now, before you gasp in horror at the dismal holiday my children must have had, sitting in a dark living room watching the kids in fun costumes parade around our neighborhood, remember that I don’t hate my kids. I love my kids! I love them like crazy! I just didn’t want to make a big fuss over Halloween this year.

Something struck me about how much time and energy I usually pour over their costumes and decorations and making everything the best ever. I usually drive to four different places to find the perfect something, recruit a friend or two to help me make the best whatever-the-heck, and I love every second of it. I usually start planning and throwing out ideas to Tony about what our whole family will be for Halloween in May. I mean, most times I wouldn’t be surprised if Pinterest showed up at my door to interview me on how I got it all done. But, not this year. Continue reading “Gratitude is the Antidote”

Zero to Five – We are in a book and we’re giving it away!

We don’t write about parenting.

Zero to Five Giveaway on #staymarriedOnce in a while we will get requests to cover certain topics on #staymarried. I love it when that happens. It usually jogs my mind and gives me something new to research and think about. However, now and again we will get requests to write about parenting in the midst of marriage, and that’s one subject we tend to shy away from.

The reason? Well, it’s because I am always on the hunt for good parenting material myself. I’m looking for a blog or a book titled “How to Parent Successfully as an Introvert When your Children Learn to Speak and then TALK to You, Expecting a Response, and Ask Questions All Day Every Day.” If this exists, or if you are thinking of writing it, please let me know. I am at a loss.

I am also looking for resources for “Parenting Kids Who are Smarter Than Their Parents.” Fortunately, Tony still has a leg up on them, but I have completely fallen behind.

We recently took Claire, who is four, to get her own library card. It might sound cute, but the truth is: I was desperate. She has SO MANY QUESTIONS! She’s been asking me about babies and bodies and if any of the food on her plate is a “superfood” because she wants to have a lot of energy. I keep looking stuff up on the internet, but I am terrified we are going to come across the wrong thing… search engines always have a way of showing you things you DID NOT want to see… I figured the library would be a safer bet.

Continue reading “Zero to Five – We are in a book and we’re giving it away!”

QUICK! Clean Up Like the House Cleaners are Coming!

QUICK! Clean Up Like the House Cleaners are Coming! - #staymarriedCan we just talk for a second? Seriously, right this moment, I am sitting on the floor of my living room writing as FIVE WOMEN rush around cleaning every inch of my house. I do not know what I should be doing.  I can’t do the things I normally do at this time of the day while they are here… like take a nap… so let’s chat.

My whole life, I never thought I would be a stay-at-home-mom…homemaker… household manager… domestic engineer… or whatever the politically-correct-non-offensive term it is that we are calling ourselves these days. I have always had a job… like a W-2 job… Come on, guys, don’t make me overly explain myself. I know being home with the kids IS a job, I just didn’t ever think it would be MY job.

I wasn’t home full-time until a few months after our 2nd daughter was born. That was just about two years ago now. You know what I’ve figured out? I’ve never been trained for this.

I’ve been trained in how to open a bottle of wine with a wine key without setting the bottle on the table in front of the guests. I’ve been trained in sales. I’ve been trained to process bail bonds. I’ve been trained in international shipping procedures. I’ve been trained to setup and tear down a trade show booth. I’ve been trained on the proper way to explain informed consent for a government research project. In all of those instances, I was able to shadow someone else, ask questions, and be monitored and evaluated until I felt comfortable and confident to do things on my own. Some of those things took longer for me than others, but eventually I was off and running independantly.

This homemaker stuff, however, I sort of just landed in without any training at all. I feel like I am constantly faking my way through cooking and house cleaning … uh… remember how Tony makes dinner every night? I think he figured out I was faking it… I feel like people will come into my home and look around and say to themselves, “Poor thing, she must be so overwhelmed with three kids” even AFTER I’ve done my best to “clean up.” Fortunately, it’s usually just my friends that come over, so I don’t stress about it that much. But last week I noticed something on our calendar that has had me STRESSED!!!

Back before we had our third little baby, when I was still pregnant, a group of Tony’s guy friends pitched in to purchase us a maid service for a day as a gift to welcome our new little one. Amazing, right? Little Alice is now five months old… which is not a reflection of them holding out on us, but instead a reflection of me not being able to figure out how/when would be a good time to have our house cleaned. Tony finally just took it upon himself, got it scheduled, and put it on the calendar.

They’ve already been here over an hour and I feel so awkward! I’d leave, but the girls are taking their afternoon nap, and I don’t think childcare is a part of their services. Sitting in the middle of this is making me CRAZY!

I got up early to clean before they were to get here at 1pm. I know that sounds ridiculous, but when I was a nanny, the family had housecleaners and I remember them being very specific that they weren’t going to “pick up,” they were just going to clean around anything that was left out. I figured if these women were coming to my house to clean, I’d better get everything I possibly could out of their way so they could do it. I’m telling you, I’ve never been more motivated to clean my house than finding out other people were going to come clean my house.

I've never been more motivated to clean my house than finding out other people were going to clean my house - #staymarried

Have you ever watched professionals clean your house before? It’s fascinating… and intimidating. I am watching and thinking, Crap, it never even occurred to me to wash the molding up at the top of the walls. Um, is she cleaning the door hinges on the bedroom doors?  At one point I even texted Tony and said, “Babe, one of the ladies is cleaning out our refrigerator. Is that normal?” Listen, I’ve never felt more like a spoiled white lady than I do right now.

My only saving grace is that I grew up speaking spanish, so I’ve been able to ask a few questions like, “What do you want ME to do? Please, will you tell me if I am in your way?” Lupe, the first woman who introduced herself to me just keeps smiling and giggling at me while she works her tail off. She is excessively gracious, and I’m sure it’s clear to her that I am a pitiful excuse for a house wife. How have I gotten away with being such an imposter for so long?

I feel the same way when it comes to being a mom. I mean, I read books and blogs and try my best, but I just know that when the UPS guy comes to my front door and sees through the window that my kids are watching cartoons, he’s thinking to himself… “Ah those poor girls. Hasn’t their mother seen any of the amazing Pinterest crafts they could be doing right now?” Listen, dude, I’ve seen them. They’re cute. But I’ve got dishes and laundry to do so I’m not trying to make even more work for myself by preparing – and let’s be honest – executing one of these crafts myself. So I can what? Have another art project that I feel guilty for throwing away?

And why, you ask, am I worried about the UPS guy judging me? Because I am judging myself, obviously. … Hold up, this incredible woman is cleaning my baseboards with a TOOTHBRUSH!!! I might sneak a picture… Anyway, there’s this role I have, but there was no undergraduate program to prepare me for it. There’s this stuff I’m supposed to do but no clear sense of whether or not I’m doing it correctly. It’s supposed to feel natural, but I constantly feel so dang clumsy. The UPS guy should judge me because he is a trained pro at what he’s doing, and I am clearly an amateur.

QUICK! Clean Up Like the House Cleaners are Coming! - #staymarriedIt’s the way I felt as I gave birth for the first time. Everything was supposed to happen, and I figured I would understand my part in it once I got started, but I laid in that hospital bed feeling so inadequate. With every push my husband and the nurse said to me, “You’re doing great! She’s almost here.” And with every subsequent push I thought, “You guys are full of it. I have no idea what I’m doing and you keep saying she’s almost here, but she is NOT here!” I felt silly and inadequate and like there must be a right way to do this, and I so wished I knew what that was.

Claire, our first born, did eventually arrive. The nurses and doctor were worried about her, so they examined her for about 35 minutes before I was allowed to hold her. WORST 35 MINUTES OF MY LIFE! You know that dream where you are screaming for help and people are standing right next to you, but nobody can hear you? That’s how I felt during those 35 minutes. When I finally held her in my arms, I cried and cried and just kept telling my sweet little baby I was so sorry. I felt sorry that I’d caused her any pain. I felt sorry that I didn’t know the right way to give birth. I was thrilled to meet her and astonished by her wonderously large brown eyes, but I felt sorry that I was already a pretty crappy mom.

From the first moment I became a mom, motherhood for me has been equal parts JOY and GUILT. Joy, as I say to myself, “I can’t believe I get to care for these incredible little people!” Guilt, as I realize, “I am totally going to screw up these incredible little people.” Motherhood is the most wonderfully vulnerable place I’ve ever been. It’s really not a role I ever aspired to fill- otherwise I might have actually tried to get some training. It is a task I am learning and re-learning and un-learning and trying every day to get better at. I’m trying to figure out what my kids need because I so desperately want to provide it for them. I want them to grow up to know they are valued and cherished, that they are strong and brave, that they are hilarious and sweet, that they are creative and unique.

Motherhood is the most wonderfully vulnerable place I've ever been - #staymarriedFor now, rather than beating myself up for not being a “professional” mother, I’m going to allow the professionals to clean my house this one time and just enjoy it. I’m going to be grateful for the men who wanted to give us this gift. I’m going to thank my husband for scheduling it.

By the way, there are no professional mothers. If you think that having three kids makes me better at being a mom than having one or two, you are mistaken. I certainly feel even more like an amateur now that I have three than I did when I had one. If anyone is telling you they’ve got this motherhood thing down, they are a mean liar and you should not be friends with them. Each of us will do our very best to care for our littles the only way we know how. My baseboards may never see another toothbrush again, but my girls will have my whole heart and occasionally clean sheets while I stumble along to figure it out.

From my spotlessly clean kitchen, I’m raising my glass to you this weekend. Cheers to all of my fellow amateurs. Cheers to all of the moms and step-moms, grandmas, aunts, and sisters! Cheers to all of the women loving and giving everything you’ve got. Let’s remind each other that, untrained as we may be, what we give is enough.

 

 

You are reading QUICK! Clean Up Like the House Cleaners are Coming!, a #staymarried blog. If you liked this post, you may also like to read How to Be a Great Dad and Holding Hands: A Simple Act with Profound Impact. If you think these could encourage a friend, please consider sharing. You can also feel free to pin the images above if you like.

New to #staymarried? Welcome! Check out why we started this blog and our first entry to get a little background.

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Michelle

How Do I Love You? { A free eBook for the month of love }

How Do I Love You - Ideas for showing love from 25 inspiring parentsIt’s been a long time since our last #staymarried post. Some of you know we welcomed our third child into our family in December and decided to take a little bit of time off. I thought our break would last just a few weeks. Of course, even if you already have children, it’s impossible to prepare for just how much a new baby takes over your life… in the very best way, of course!

We’ll share more about her soon, but in the mean time, we wanted to let you know that we’re thinking of you. Marriage is as important to us as it ever has been. To celebrate Valentine’s Day and this month of love, we have a very special treat we’d like to share with you.  Tony and I had the chance to participate in a delightful project called, How Do I Love You? Let me count the days. It’s a delightful eBook created by photographer-blogger-creator of familyness, Davina Fear! She reached out and asked us each if we would share one simple way we show love in our family. We shared, along with 23 other wonderful people, and Davina took our little ideas and compiled them into a beautiful book full of inspiration for you! Here’s what she says about the project…

As a group of parents who own their own businesses, live life on the road, manage multiple schedules, and so much more, we are like you. We donʼt want to miss our kids growing up or the little nuances that make life rich and beautiful. But we sometimes have days that fly by so quickly, that at the end of the day, we canʼt remember if we actually shared a hug with our spouse or one of our children. We all have days like that…please know that youʼre not alone.

We also have high hopes for connecting with these wonderful people we adore. And we want to do it everyday. Which is why many of us have created connecting points that are built into our days.

That being said…none of us do all 25 of these ideas. Some of these ideas will resonate with you and others wonʼt. Choose the ones that feel authentic for you. These are our gift to you. Happy love month to you!

Happiness,
Davina

How Do I Love You - Ideas for showing love from 25 inspiring parents

You can check out Davina’s blog here and download the ebook here. You’ll find Tony and I sharing ideas 9 & 10. We hope you’ll print this off and incorporate a few of the ideas that resonate most with you as a way to show love to those you adore and, of course, #staymarried!

Enjoy!

Michelle

New to #staymarried? Welcome! Check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background.

To Love is To Listen

Candy Crush vs. The Midwife: Are our cell phones ruining our ability to listen?

To Love Is To Listen - a #staymarried blog for couplesTony recently took the morning off of work to come with me to a check up with our midwives. This is our third time being pregnant, so it’s quite a luxury to go to an appointment like this without our girls in tow. It was a fun morning getting to see our sweet baby on the ultrasound, to learn that we’re having another girl, to find out all of the amazing stats about her growth. One of the things that we like about our midwives’ office is that we hardly ever have to wait for anything. It’s so wonderful and new to us that we still expect to wait a long time and we are sometimes caught off guard when they see us right away.

Prepared to wait in the exam room, we both pulled out our phones to play Candy Crush. I mean, that’s what you would do, right? When our midwife came in to see us, I put my phone away and got onto the exam table, ready to hear the baby’s heartbeat. She realized she didn’t have the heartbeat monitor in the room and stepped out for about 30 seconds to grab one. When she came back in, Tony was still playing his game. We listened to the heartbeat, I got teary-eyed, she gave us some advice and answered a few of my questions about pregnancy. We both looked over at Tony and there he was nodding, eyes still locked on his phone. Our midwife looked back at me with such pity on her face. I’m sure she was thinking, “You poor girl. He doesn’t really want to be here, does he?”

When she walked out, I started laughing and said to Tony, “Honey, you were staring at your phone the entire time she was talking to us!”

“No!” he said, “I was totally listening! I just had this one level to finish. I thought I could wrap it up, but I swear I was listening. Crap, she probably thinks I’m a jerk!”

“Yep, she probably does.”

It was easy for me to laugh because I know Tony very well, and I know he was listening with his ears and taking in the information. I also know that he is usually really courteous when people are talking to him. But, my knowledge of his character did not help his impression on the midwife at this appointment. Why is that? Because when people are really listening, there are certain behaviors and postures that help us have confidence that they are engaged. Tony felt like he was listening because he could hear her. She likely did not believe it because he was not looking at her and didn’t respond verbally to anything she said. He was a little regretful, but neither of us were devastated. We just chalked it up to a funny little learning experience. But, when this kind of thing happens in our most important relationship, in our marriage, it can be incredibly hurtful.

The convenience of technology, the advantages of being connected at all times through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting, and even email (for those who still use it), actually seems to be making it harder to engage with each other instead of easier. Our attention spans are getting shorter because of this rapid fire type of sending out and receiving mass amounts of information. I don’t even read all of the tweets in my feed. I scan them, because apparently I cannot waste my time on the mere 140 characters or less that the author put forth. I hate to admit that it takes a lot of self-control for me to put my phone down, and not just in my pocket, but on the counter in the kitchen, when we sit to have dinner together as a family. Tony doesn’t seem as attached to all of this communication as I am, which just makes it easier for me to see that he doesn’t appreciate me constantly checking my phone.

But, we see this all the time, don’t we? There seems to be this need to constantly post what we are thinking, where we are eating, that gorgeous sunset we are looking at, so that everyone can partake in the grand adventure that exists inside our minds. Everyone, that is, except the people sitting right in front of us. This is where I am most guilty.

To Love Is To Listen - a #staymarried blog for couplesNow and then, Tony and I will take the girls to a park and all of us will be having a blast. My girls are adorable, so obviously they’ll do something cute and I’ll want to capture it with the camera on my phone. Well, it was way too wonderful for me to keep it to myself, so now I need to post that once in a lifetime picture to Instagram, which of course is connected to both my Facebook and Twitter accounts. But, heaven forbid I simply post without cropping and editing and adding a filter to the picture so that it truly highlights the moment. Before I know it, I’ve been staring at my phone for five full minutes just so I can post something that took two seconds to occur. Now my husband and my kids feel fully ignored instead of honored that I wanted to brag on social media about how wonderful they all are. I was living in the moment and present with my family for a little while, and now I am somewhere else entirely. I can’t hear their laughter, I’m not listening to the 10 new words Nora just learned, and I have to ask Tony to repeat himself because I was completely engaged with my phone even though he is standing right next to me.

According to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, I’m not the only one hooked to my phone.

To Love Is To Listen - Tweet from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on #staymarried blog

YIKES! I don’t know if that’s true, but there is a definite problem if a game of Candy Crush has become more entertaining than sex with our partner. Are we losing the thrill of personal moments because we fear we might be missing out on something happening right this minute in our cyber community? We are becoming people who are physically present, but mentally elsewhere and we’re missing out on listening to and learning from the people that are in arm’s reach.

To Love is To Listen

The first duty of love is to listen - #staymarried blog for couplesDavid Augsberger said that “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.” Great conversationalists know this very well. All you have to do is ask one or two pretty good questions and then let the person in front of you talk. Look at them, ask them to share more about it, and they’ll walk away believing the two of you have really connected even if you didn’t share much about yourself. People long to be heard. We crave to know that what is inside of us is worth knowing and that someone out there wants to draw it out. I know I do.

I lean toward being an introvert and part of that, for me, means that I don’t want to talk unless I’m really sure someone is listening. For the most part, I don’t believe people are listening, and I’ve even come up with a little trick to prove it. Sometimes someone will ask me a question and I’ll begin to share a story. If I have a sense that they aren’t truly listening, I’ll stop sharing mid sentence. I might pause for a second or two, and then ask them a question or change the subject entirely. Most of the time, people won’t even notice that I didn’t finish what I was saying – they weren’t listening. You know who nearly always catches me in my trickery? My husband. He’s listening. When he doesn’t catch me, I use it as an indicator that this really isn’t a good time to talk. He’s distracted, so I might revisit the story another time.

I’m not suggesting you try my little trick for yourself. It’s sort of manipulative and passive-aggressive of me. But, it has helped me to see that it’s true, people have short attention spans and listening is hard. It requires patience and practice and most of us just aren’t skilled at it. But, could we be? Could we detach ourselves from our smart phones and laptops long enough to try? If what David Augsberger said is true, wouldn’t it be essential to showing love in our marriage if we practiced and became more present and better listeners? I think it’s worth a try. Today we’re sharing just four quick tips you can incorporate today in your marriage, or with anyone at all, to become a better listener.

4 Tips to Becoming a Better Listener

1. Put down your phone.

Go ahead, put it down. Maybe you can even decide together to leave your phones in another room during dinner or when you are out on a date. Become aware of how often you instinctively reach for it and stop yourself. I’ve even heard of people that give their phones a daily curfew so that both husband and wife put their phones away by 7pm.

2. Stop talking and take a look.

When someone does start to talk to you, whenever possible, look at them and stop talking. I’ve been guilty of being an interrupting listener. I used to think that was how conversation went – we’re both talking and listening at the same time, I’m relating with you – but that’s not true. Having someone interrupt you, even if they think they are only finishing your thought, can be frustrating. It’s also really obvious to people when you are just waiting for your turn to talk. With your mouth closed and eyes open, try to just listen.

3. Listen for understanding.

You do not have to agree with what you hear, or even believe it, to listen with the goal of understanding the person in front of you. If you don’t understand what someone is saying, ask for clarification. This can actually help them really believe they are truly being listened to.

4. Be patient and slow down your response time.

Allow a breath or two before you respond to what is being said to you. Give yourself time to really take in what the other person is saying and consider if what you are about to say acknowledges them, or merely makes your own point and doesn’t take their thoughts into consideration. When someone is sharing, they aren’t always looking for an answer or advice from you. Sometimes they are just sharing to reveal something of themselves.

We practice the things we want to become better at – public speaking, photography, cooking, coding web pages, putting on makeup. Listening is something most people believe they already are good at, so often it is not something we think we need to practice. It is much easier to identify if someone is not listening to us than it is to admit that we are not really giving our own undivided attention. This week, take responsibility to connect with your love through focused listening. Become aware of the things that distract you. Close your game of Candy Crush, leave your phone in another room. You may be surprised at what you learn about the one you love, how much more loved they will feel, and how much more they’ll want to #staymarried.

 

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read Why I Date My Wife, a post where Tony shares some great questions to get conversations started with your spouse. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background.
Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

If Mama Ain’t Happy

If Mama Ain't Happy - 6 Tips for Being a Happy Influence In Your Household - a #staymarried blog for couplesHave you ever heard the old saying “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Or how about the more polite version, “Happy wife. Happy life.”? Have you ever thought about how true those phrases are? Whether you can think of examples from your childhood home, or your own marriage today, there’s something powerful about these clichés. There is an assumption that a woman’s mood is influential enough to affect everything and everyone around her.

What’s been bothering me, though, is that I think most of the time when we hear these phrases, we automatically put the ownership on that woman’s husband and family to “make Mama happy,” or at least avoid making her mad. This got me to thinking. What if we, instead of blaming our foul moods on those around us, took ownership of our attitudes and responsibility for the emotional temperature of our homes? What if, knowing how influential we really are, we could become a pleasure to be around instead of someone to avoid? What if, when you called for your kids from the other room, they didn’t assume they’d done something wrong?

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, spent a year devoted to being happier. One of the by-products she found of her own attempt to keep a happier mood is that it affected the mood of her entire household. She noted that:

It’s true that “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and it’s also true that “if Daddy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and that “you’re only as happy as your least happy child.” Each member of a family picks up and reflects everyone else’s emotions– but of course, I could change no one’s actions except my own.

Tony and I know this to be true in our house. There have been many times when Tony and I have decided, using our parental secret code language, to take the girls out for frozen yogurt after dinner, only to halt all of our plans because our three year old inexplicably decides to be rude, push her sister, and then have a complete meltdown. The daydream of a family outing thwarted by a three year old! Claire wasn’t happy, so nobody else got to be happy either. But, as a mom and wife, I should have much more control over my emotions than my toddler.

So, do we choose happy and bring up the entire mood of our home? Or, do we choose to indulge our negativity and flippantly allow those around us to suffer? Choosing happy is not necessarily easy, but it is not impossible. Psychology professor David T. Lykken, author of Happiness: The Nature and Nurture of Joy and Contentment, says that “trying to be happier is like trying to be taller.” We each have a “happiness set point,” he argues, and move away from it only slightly. And yet, Lykken and other psychologist believe we can still pursue happiness. But, how? We’ve put together a few ideas for you…

6 Tips for Being a Happy Influence in your Household

# 1: Choose Happy

First we need to recognize that other people and circumstances only have so much influence over our mood. In the end, it is our choice and our perspective that determines our happiness. Will you allow an offense to seep in and be dwelled upon, or will you choose to let it roll off your back?

#2: Cultivate Gratitude

Ever have one of those days when you look at your closet full of clothes but still have “nothing” to wear? Me too. It can often send me into a downward mood-spiral and I find myself getting short with my kids or lashing out at my husband. If instead I were to look at that closet full of clothes and be grateful that I can afford a new shirt every now and then, I’d realize mine is just a “first world problem.” Thankfulness is a great antidote to a bad mood. Feeling grouchy? Take a moment to think of one thing you’re grateful for. It’s tough to be both bitter and appreciative at the same time.

#3: Foster Forgiveness

Like gratitude, real forgiveness can take the place of frustration. Though it is not easy, removing a debt from someone, whether they know they are forgiven or not, is extremely empowering. Did you know that someone doesn’t even need to be sorry in order for you to forgive them?

#4: Don’t Expect Your Stuff to Make You Happy

I’ve been wanting a new dining room table for a few years now. The one we have is so small that we have to pull out a folding table when we have company. This feels unwelcoming to me, and I can get easily irritated about it sometimes. The problem is that the table is completely inanimate, so it has no desire to either make me happy or to make me mad. Studies show that there is, in fact, an increased level of happiness achieved when a person makes a new purchase. But, that increase is incredibly temporary. What I need to do is remember that my happiness is a heart issue and not a stuff issue.

#5: Nurture Friendships

Nothing keeps you down like focusing on yourself. Bummed that you didn’t get invited out to that fun dinner your friends posted pictures of on Facebook? How about becoming the inviter? Bake some cookies and take them to your neighbor just because. Write a note to a friend that you treasure and tell them why. Doing something kind for others, investing time and energy in your friendships, is a great way to climb out of a rut.

#6: Enjoy Now!

Often what keeps us from being happy is that we aren’t ready to be happy yet. Oh, we’re sure we will be as soon as we get that promotion, start having kids, get our book published, or reach one thousand followers on Twitter. This is what is known as the Arrival Fallacy. Gretchen Rubin discusses this in her book and on her blog, too, and remarks:

The arrival fallacy is a fallacy because arriving rarely makes you as happy as you expect. Why? Because usually by the time you’ve arrived at your destination, you’re expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness. You quickly become adjusted to the new state of affairs. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals a new goal. There’s another hill to climb.

In fact, working toward a goal can be a more powerful source of happiness than hitting it – which can sometimes be a letdown. It’s important, therefore, to look for happiness in the present…

Choosing happy only works if you choose to be happy now. Looking forward into the future and saying, “I will be happy when I pay off my student loans and am debt-free,” does nothing for your current happiness. Deciding, “I know that having kids is going to make me really happy, but I choose to fully enjoy the freedom we experience now before starting a family,” can have an instantaneous effect on your current happiness.

Try it! Could you choose to incorporate just one of these tips today?

When You Can’t Choose Happy

There are times, I know, when happiness does not seem to be a choice at all. Just a few short months ago, there was nothing I wanted more than to be happy and no matter what I did, I just couldn’t muster it. My children were beautiful, happy, and healthy. My husband was caring and funny. I couldn’t find a single thing to complain about, and yet I couldn’t escape the worthlessness I felt or the hopelessness I saw in my life. I had no energy to invest in my friendships and everything I thought about doing seemed utterly pointless. I was depressed in a very real sense and if my husband and a good friend hadn’t insisted that I see a doctor, and then drive me to the appointment, I would very likely have continued down the spiral.

I share this with you because if I had read the list above during the time I was suffering, it would likely have made me feel even more hopeless. If you are in a place in your life that “choosing happy” just doesn’t seem to be an option, check out these signs and symptoms from Mayo Clinic. There are things that can help. Beginning to take antidepressant medication and seeing a therapist have been life changing for me, and a good doctor can help you figure out what is right for you. Tony shared more about our experience with depression in Living with My Partner’s Baggage a couple of months ago.

Mama Makes Mama Happy

Depression notwithstanding, as much as we are able, we should strive to set a happy tone for our families in our home. When we hear the phrase “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy,” instead of using it as a threat to our families, let’s think of it as a reminder to ourselves to keep our attitudes in check. Our children and our marriages only benefit when we take our joy into our own hands. An effort to stay happy is an effort to #staymarried.

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read To Nag and to Scold from this day forward… Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

How To Be A Great Dad

Let me tell you how I’m an amazing dad, person, husband, and lover.
How To Be A Great Dad - a #staymarried blog

Well… that might be what you were thinking I was going to write about (per the title of this post) but that’s not it.

What I am going to write about is my relationship with Michelle and how putting the well-being of my marriage to her in front of my big plans and dreams for my babies is my long-term parenting strategy.

Recently, Giuliana and Bill Rancic were heavily criticized for saying nearly the same thing – that they would always put their marriage before their child. So, before you call CPS on the Petersons, allow me to explain.

OF COURSE I want my baby girls to grow up with the best that the world has to offer. OF COURSE I want to see them mature into responsible, intelligent, creative, and generous adults. OF COURSE I want to set them up for success in their future relationships. But I believe the way to do that, is to model it through the relationship they’ll be watching, scrutinizing, and eventually mimicking for the next 18+ years of their life.

They will learn how to do almost everything from me and Michelle, whether we purposefully teach it to them, or they pick it up from watching and ultimately understanding. From managing money, handling stress, and driving a car – to fighting fair, reconciling, forgiving, and giving up oneself for something better than a selfish desire. This list is endless, and I can’t write every single detail I want my girls to be equipped to handle, let alone sit down and teach them face-to-face. So, I’ve decided to live my life as ethically and transparently as I can, and I’ll hope that they find confidence and encouragement in watching me, mistakes and all. This will always start with how I treat my wife.

In the future, there WILL be a time when Claire disagrees with her significant other. Now, although I don’t know who this man is, or how he will treat Claire in this scenario, I can paint a picture for her of a healthy outcome that will be ingrained in her subconscious. Either they yell and argue and find each other at odds in the ring… or they discuss, defuse, and strive to understand over demanding to be understood.

Let’s take that above scene and paint a couple of images in Claire’s mind as she’s in a hostile argument…

If Michelle and I handled conflict in a very loud, aggressive, or even abusive way, Claire would say to herself, “Oh yeah… this yelling is familiar. This feeling I’ve had and seen before is normal. Mom and dad used to do this.” She would find a skewed sense of comfort in that place, dwell in it, and make decisions based off of the defense mechanism to emotionally protect herself by lashing out and deflect hostility with hostility.

Conversely, if Michelle and I handled conflict in a calm, cooperative, and united way, Claire would wonder to herself, “What is this douche yelling at me for? I didn’t do anything to deserve him yelling at me. Mom and dad never did this. I don’t like this feeling at all… I don’t have to take this!” She would see the telltale red flag very early and innately know that there is a better way of handling conflict. Whether she respond by leaving that guy, or were they married, she might request the same rule we have in our house: no yelling.

Working on being the kind of husband my wife deserves is going to be my secret weapon to being the kind of dad my kids need.

How To Be A Great Dad - a #staymarried blog

Dr. John Medina, in his book Brain Rules for Baby, writes:

Even in an emotionally stable home, one without regular marital hostility, there will be fights. Fortunately, research shows that the amount of fighting couples do in front of their children is less damaging than the lack of reconciliation the kids observe. Many couples will fight in front of their children but reconcile in private. This skews a child’s perceptions, even at early ages, for the child always sees the wounding but never the bandaging. Parents who practice bandaging each other after a fight, deliberately and explicitly, allow their children to model both how to fight fair and how to make up.

So, do you know what that means? Really, practically, what it means? Here’s what I think…

How To Be A Great Dad - a #staymarried blog

It’s not always guaranteed that your children will remember (or even listen to) the lessons you find significant. To combat this, and as a little fun for myself, I’ve reserved email addresses for both of my girls. When something happens that was a significant memory for me, I email them about it. I know they won’t receive these emails until well into their teens, but when the time is right they’ll have a whole inbox full of memories to relive. It is my way of ensuring that they still have these memories of their Dad, their mom, and their childhood, even though at the time, they were too young to store them away in their memory banks. It’s a free and easy way to connect with my girls, and in the process, it changes me and keeps my priorities straight.

We get asked to write about parenting from time to time, but dads, this is for you especially… Good parenting starts with being a good spouse. So read the other blog posts, read the recommended resources, invest time and money in your wife, and #staymarried.

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read Fathers Matter.  Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my wife’s first entry to get a little background. Thanks for reading!
~ Tony

Fathers Matter

For as long as I can remember, I have always had visions of my future. It might have started with M.A.S.H… (the childhood game, not the TV show). I loved and hated that game. I loved thinking about my future and hated how unrealistic these hypotheticals could be. I’ve always been a dreamer, but I scale back my dreams to realistic steps I can take. At eight years old, I saw no realistic step I could take toward marrying River Phoenix or living in a mansion.

I remember my childhood with no father.

Actually, being raised by a single-parent, I really didn’t see a reason to marry at all. My mother was smart, successful at her job, and didn’t seem to have any trouble finding a date. She also didn’t need to compromise on whether to buy nonfat, 2%, or whole milk. Nobody was home to challenge her idea of raising me and my sister. As far as I knew, nobody fought with her about how she chose to spend her money. It seemed to me like a life of little conflict for her, and it made great sense.

What I didn’t see as a child were the potential benefits of compromising, or of having two perspectives come together to raise children, or the checks and balances of handling money as a family. I got married knowing I would have to reframe my idea of family – the idea that a husband actually was important, the idea that children benefit greatly from having their father living in the same home as their mother and loving her. Studies show that children coming from homes in which a father figure is present are less likely to have emotional/behavioral problems, less likely to be juvenile delinquents or prematurely sexual, have better access to healthcare and education, and are healthier (source). According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, essentially every contemporary social issue has a “father factor,” considering that 1 in 3 children live in a father-absent home.

I remember my childhood with no father. Thankfully, my grandfather was around for much of those early years. I remember him in his big blue Lazy Boy recliner shouting the answers to Supermarket Sweep and The Price is Right. I remember he never let me get too proud of my good grades. He was the first person to ask me, “Are you feeling bored at school?” and he asked me that every time I brought home a report card. My grandpa spent one summer with me when I was thirteen teaching me to cook and exploring my love of cheesecakes with me- we baked a new kind every week. He was incredible and funny and loving, but he was not my dad.

Not that I would know what I was missing. I mean, the dads on TV like Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, and Ray Romano didn’t seem very heroic to me. These characters were buffoons whose wives were usually irritated with them. They were treated like idiots. I know I’d watched reruns of old shows like Leave it to Beaver with my grandparents where the dad seemed like a kind, smart, and respected guy. But I was getting the picture that those dads didn’t exist post-1960’s. According to television, modern husbands needed mothering and caused more work for their wives than even their kids. This poor depiction of fathers only encouraged any ideas I had that a husband, a father to my own eventual children, would be of little use to me.

Tony, you’re going to be a dad.

Now married, at twenty-nine, though Tony and I were actively hoping to get pregnant, I really didn’t know how to share the news with Tony that he was about to be a father. Would he suddenly turn into this bumbling dad character? Would he be scared, frustrated? I should have known him better than that.

The day came quickly. On Mother’s Day 2009, my friends had all been so nice to me and no less than five of them had asked if I was pregnant, claiming that I looked “so happy and pretty.” It seemed too soon, Tony and I had only recently stopped using birth control, so I wanted to shrug it off. I never mentioned these comments to Tony, nor did I mention that I had decided to take a pregnancy test the next morning after getting out of the shower. This way, when it turned out to be negative, I could just stop thinking about it. I took the little test, though, and sure enough– pregnant! I was surprised, but more than that, I was worried what Tony might say. I dawdled for forty-five minutes, doing my hair and makeup, before finally, nervously, calling him to the bathroom. “Honey, can I show you something?”

With an awkward grin on my face, I walked out, holding the little straight piece of plastic. Wordlessly, I handed it to him and waited. He studied it for a few moments, realizing what it meant– we were going to have a baby!

He looked up and asked me if I was okay. “This is a good thing. I’m really happy. Are you happy?” and… HUGE SIGH. He said just what I needed to hear– no, more than I needed to hear. We hugged and smiled, called nobody, and went for a walk.

What I couldn’t have known that day was that he was only experiencing a fraction of the joy he experiences now as a dad. I didn’t know dads could be so enthralled! I didn’t realize that, though I saw some of our other friends become fathers and though I’d had friends with loving dads, I still carried this perception that fatherhood was an unwelcome burden. Parenting was for women. Fathers, even if they stick around, don’t actually enjoy their children. I am so thankful I’ve been wrong!

I see it now. I see everyday how Tony loves our girls – he’s crazy for them. I see how I need his clear headedness when I’m so empathetic toward our two year old that I let her bamboozle me into an eighth bedtime story and just 20 more minutes of snuggling. I see how our girls need him, how they admire him, how they benefit from having a man who adores them, how secure they seem to feel. I see a future of raising daughters who know, beyond a doubt, how a real man behaves – with integrity and strength and kindness. I see them making choices differently than I did because they have a father who will not allow them to settle for anything less than to be cherished and respected by anyone who would want their attention. So, as the co-leader of a family of my own, we are doing things differently in our home. We are declaring in our everyday routines that, not only do we love daddy, but he matters immensely.

How our family intentionally declares that Dad Matters:

1. Daddy Does It

There are a few things in our home that “Daddy Does”. One of them is bath-time. A friend of ours told us, when I was pregnant with our first daughter, that her husband really enjoyed giving their baby a bath. She told us that infants, especially those who are breastfed, spend so much one-on-one time with their mothers that bath time was the one thing Dad could do with his child on his own. We took this to heart and this has become part of our normal to this day. Daddy does bath time, and he loves it! I was also informed by our two year old as I pulled into the gas station the other day that Daddy pumps the gas. “No mommy, you don’t get gas. Daddy gets gas. You’re the mommy. Daddy does it.” I got out and did it anyway, realizing she was right as I have only pumped gas 3 other times this year. Listening to her it made it that much more clear to me that our girls recognize the special things that “Daddy does” to take care of us and make our lives easier. Daddy drives. Daddy plays guitar. Daddy plays piano. Daddy will fix it when he gets home.

2. Dad Decides

I haven’t always been, but now I am home full-time with our girls. That means I am calling the shots around here the majority of the time. Then, Daddy comes home from work, or is home with us on the weekends, and it’s important to me that they know he has authority. Claire might ask me, “Mommy, can I have some juice?” and, though I am just as capable of making the decision during the evening as I am during the day, I reply “Well, let’s ask Daddy.” I don’t ever want my girls to believe their dad is a bumbling anything. I don’t want them to have this illusion that I make all of the decisions for our family on my own. Tony and I are a team, and since they are mainly experiencing only part of the team during their waking hours, it’s important to me that the see-saw gets tilted in his direction in front of them as much as possible. I want them to respect their father, not to dismiss him.

3. Dad Prays

This might sound archaic, but it’s important to us. As much as we are able, we sit down together to have dinner as a family. When we do, we all wait for each other – yes, even the baby – and when it’s time we all fold our hands – yes, even the baby – and Daddy prays for us. On occasion, I will pray. But that’s maybe one out of fifty times. My intention here is not unlike the first two points – I want our girls to have a visual for their father’s authority, leading, and care over our family. But, it’s more than that. I want them to see for themselves that their dad loves God. Having worked for five years in ministry, I know of so many families where Mom is the one who prays and takes the kids to church. Dad, if he even attends, shows up dragging his feet begrudgingly. Our girls know that sometimes we don’t all drive to church together, but not because Tony won’t come. It’s because he left early and will be volunteering there for most of the morning. They know that our church community is important to us – to him – and I hope the ways he actively pursues his faith by praying with and for us and by giving his time will only increase their admiration for him as they get older.

4. Daddy Loves Mommy

Tony never withholds affection from me in front of our children. He always hugs me for a long time when he comes home from work, he’s got no problem kissing me in front of them. We hold hands, we sit close, and we talk. If I am talking to him and our two year old interrupts, he corrects her immediately. “Claire, Mommy is talking and I want to hear what she has to say. When she’s done, you can have a turn.” We problem solve and make decisions together in front of them, like where we want to eat out for dinner, or what music we want to listen to. He compliments me to them, “Didn’t Mommy make such a yummy dinner? Doesn’t Mommy look so pretty? Isn’t Mommy so kind?” As much as it is important to me that our girls have a healthy respect and love for their father, it is just as important to him that they feel that way toward me. As they see that he puts me first before them, it only adds to the security they feel about our family. Daddy loves Mommy, we all love each other.

As I reframe what family means to me now that I am the adult and no longer the fatherless child, I run into hiccups here and there. But, I am thankful that Tony and I are a team. I am thankful that my own girls will have the opportunities I never had – to be taken out for special dates with their dad, to go to a father-daughter dance, to be walked down the aisle some day and given away to a man who will cherish and respect them in the way their dad cherishes and respects their mother. But, if I were to ever consider throwing in the towel on this marriage, if I don’t continue to put in the effort it takes, I will have taken these and many other opportunities away from my girls. That price is much too great for me to ever consider anything less than to #staymarried.

 

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and think it could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by! ~ Michelle

“Fatherhood” Photo Credit: Lindsay Kaye Photography