If you’ve ever watched Dancing with the Stars, you’ve gotten a glimpse of parenting with a spouse. Sometimes you feel like the professional dancer with the slick moves. Other times, you are the awkward C-list celebrity just hoping to get votes based on likability. Learning to parent together is a lot like learning to partner dance. At first, there’s a lot of stepping on toes, fumbling for proper handholds, and forgetting who is supposed to lead. Oh yeah—and there is a tiny judge who is more critical than all the reality show judges combined.
After lots of practice and plenty of missteps, my husband and I can dance the two-parent tango with a bit of grace. Of course, with every new parenting stage, we feel like we both have two left feet. But here are 4 ways to dance through any stage of parenting.
1. It’s OK for you to keep leading on the weekend.
Even in households where both parents work, moms are usually in charge of the house and its occupants. Your children don’t question that you are in a position of authority over them. Most men have no desire to usurp that authority when they are home. Instead, they look to their wives to learn what needs to be done rather than risk stepping on her toes. Your household will run more smoothly if you continue to take the lead, though that should mean delegating at least some duties to your partner.
2. Remember, he might be trying to find his rhythm.
I’ve heard more than one man say that he finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place whenever he is at home—doomed if he does, doomed if he doesn’t. He gets yelled at when he doesn’t help “the right way,” but he also gets scolded if he doesn’t help at all. Consider the motives behind his actions, and if they really bother you, don’t be afraid to talk it through. He’s probably just hoping to help without being a nuisance. But he won’t know what that looks like until you tell him.
3. Respect that he grew up dancing the waltz.
There’s more than one way to parent, and different parenting techniques aren’t necessarily right and wrong, or better or worse. Parents have the incredible opportunity to share the best of their own childhoods with their children, as well as meld together their different childhood experiences to create new family traditions. As you consider your own family of origin, be open with your spouse about why certain childhood experiences were important to you. Remember to be willing to hear what your husband would like to pass on to his children as well.
4. Don’t expect him to be Fred Astaire.
Partners need to be aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In dancing, honesty about weaknesses can prevent injury, and the same is true in parenting. If you have weak ankles, it’s important for your dancing partner to know that. If you’re a pushover when it comes to punishments, it’s important for your partner to know that too. Parents should be honest and open with one another. If your partner is better at discipline, let him take the lead. If you’re better at offering comfort, let your partner follow your example. Learning to parent together is as much about using your strengths as it is about acknowledging your weaknesses. But that shouldn’t stop you from learning a thing or two from your partner.
Learning to parent together is as much about using your strengths as it is about acknowledging your weaknesses.
How well do you think you and your spouse dance the two-parent tango? How might you become a bit more graceful in your parenting as a couple?