Today’s blog post is submitted by our summer contributor, Kara Olsen-Becerra.
Almost five months ago, we had big changes happening at my house. I went from being a stay-at-home mom working 6-8 hours a week on the side, to working almost 30 hours a week at a new job. I knew that this would be a huge adjustment for our family, and I of course wanted the transition to be as smooth as possible for everyone involved. My husband and I were able to coordinate our schedules so that he could spend more time with the kids so that we would be able to limit the amount of childcare that we would need. I knew that Chris was completely capable of being there for my kids, but I also knew that I would have to start warming up to the idea that he would not necessarily run things at home exactly the same as I would.
If we can rewind back to when Chris and I were dating, I have to say that I always knew that he would make a great father. He is such a loving and loyal person, and he has always been great with kids. I guess I never really thought about how all of the details would play out, but I was sure that he would be the person that I wanted to parent with. When our first daughter was born, I not only got to fall in love with her, but I also felt like I got to fall in love with Chris in his new role as a dad. He was hands on and so supportive from the very beginning. I never doubted Chris or his love for our daughter, but I sometimes would become annoyed at the way he did things. He would do do silly things like snap the onesie over the top of Sofia’s pants, and I would remind him that they needed to go underneath the pants. I remember being frustrated when my children came home and excitedly told me how daddy had taken them to ice cream that morning. I’m sure that I gave Chris an “Are you crazy?” look and then later reminded him that ice cream is not a morning thing, ever.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that being critical of the everyday differences in our parenting, was not helping us work as a team. Although we were on the same page and in agreement with how we wanted to parent in general, it took me a long time to realize that we would inevitably have some differences in styles or opinions, because well, we are different people. We were raised in different homes with different ways of doing things, and we were each born with our own temperaments and quirks.
Through my experiences teaching the Live and Learn with Your Baby class for many years, I learned that I was not alone with my experiences. I would hear mom after mom talk about how it was really hard for them when their partners did things differently than how they would have done things. For many moms who are so very attached to their sweet babies, it is really hard to let go of control and to be open to the idea that there can be more than one way of doing things. Now I know that there can be differences in parenting that can be serious, especially when there is abuse or neglect involved. This is not what I am referring to. I am referring to preferences and ideas of how small things should be done on a daily basis.
Fast forward back to the present, and I am still amazed daily at the love Chris has for our children, and with how much they adore him in return. Although I have learned a lot about how to parent as a team, I am still learning when to bite my tongue as I am deciding whether or not I really need to let Chris know my annoyance at how he has done something. Like the other day when Chris dropped my kids off to me at work with my two year old covered from head to toe in paint. Or when I get home from work and see that my kids have had something less than ideal (in my standards) for dinner.
On the flip side, I’ve realized that Chris isn’t always in agreement with how I do things, but he definitely was quicker to learn that it is okay to have different ideas and opinions sometimes. It is possible that we can have differences in how we do a lot of things, and we can still be unified team. Our differences can actually be part of what makes us work well together. We each have different strengths and weaknesses that we bring to the table, but our kids can experience some balance as we try to navigate parenting together. We do after all have the same mission of raising happy, kind, and productive human beings.
The beautiful thing about opening my eyes to and being more accepting of our differences, is that I am more clearly able to see the good in our team and individual efforts. I see how happy my kids are when Chris takes the kids on a long bike ride, or how wide their eyes are with excitement as he reads them a comic book. I can choose my battles and when I see my two year old covered in paint, I can be critical or I can assume that a really good time was had with daddy that day. When either one of us is running short on patience with our kids, the other one is usually able to offer some fresh perspective and step in to help out. The more we both support each other and focus on the good, the more we are each inspired to be the best that we can be.
Kara Olsen-Becerra loves working with children and families. She taught the Live and Learn with Your Baby classes in Corvallis for 6 years, and she is currently working as a nutrition educator with the Linus Pauling Institute-Healthy Youth Program. She loves being a part of this great community, and she loves being silly and playing with her husband and three young children.