Learning to Trust my CoParent

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Even though I’m a pretty easy-going mom, I’ve still got my preferences … I’ll admit, I can be relatively rigid. I believe in rules for bedtimes, chores, screen-time, and school work. That said, my CoParent, my life partner, my beloved husband, Eddie, has … let’s just say … different preferences. On some things, he is even more rigid than I am, but on many things, he’s more of a go-with-the-flow kind of dad. That means I have had to learn to do something I never like to do in even the easiest of situations: compromise. 

An African American dad playing, with a child on his lap and one on his shouldersWhen we first became parents, Eddie and I were pretty overwhelmed. We each had different expectations and understandings of what parenting would be like and what it would mean for our ever-evolving relationship. I think I expected a co-pilot of sorts, where I was the pilot, and he would be my right hand, aware at all times, ready to take the lead when asked, and sometimes knowing when to take over even if not asked. Now that I look back, I understand that he has always been the captain of his own plane, and we each maintain complimentary flight paths to the same destination. That means sometimes he takes the lead, sometimes I do, and sometimes we are on entirely different routes, with various stops along the way!

For the first few YEARS, I let this bother me endlessly. I was constantly watching both my path and his. I was hyper-critical about his choices as well as my own. I did not always make him feel empowered, respected, or appreciated. It caused us both a lot of stress. 

I’m not sure how or when it happened, but eventually, I learned to dial it back. For my own sanity and the sake of my marriage, I had to learn to trust him enough to do his own thing, confidently, without my critical eye and continuous feedback loop. I cannot claim a 100% success rate here, but I’m a work in progress just like he is! I think we are both a lot happier now.

Here are a few things I learned in the process:

  1. Everyone has a different definition of the “right” way to do things. Of course, I rationally knew this. But life experiences and perspectives are not always viewed rationally. When we encounter conflict over our different methods, we’ve learned to hear each other out and sometimes agree to disagree. More often than not, though, we find ourselves adapting to (or around) one another’s preferences as we CoParent.
  2. Sometimes his way of doing things is “better” than mine. Don’t tell him I said this, but the man does have some really great ideas about parenting. He is good about engaging the kids in fun, creative ways that they enjoy. He handles the chaos of scheduling and shuttling from place to place incredibly well. He can be especially efficient with his time and efforts in ways where I often spend too much time in both planning and execution.
  3. The kids don’t care who does what as long as their needs are met. Are they clean? Fed? Clothed? Entertained? Enriched? As long as the answer to all these things is yes, the “how” of it all doesn’t matter to them. Are they pristine? Maybe not. Was the meal wholesome? Most of the time. Wearing matching, well-fitting clothes? Perhaps. Entertained? Too often in front of a screen. Enriched? We’ve built a very enriching life for them in general, so maybe every moment doesn’t have to be a learning lesson.
  4. The kids can tell when we are not happy with one another. This one was a hard one for me. Kids are incredibly perceptive. They know more about our tones, facial expressions, and words than we often give them credit for. I tend to like to give “feedback” in the moment, but I’ve learned that sometimes that can undermine my partner or cause the children to be confused, frustrated, or upset. None of us want that. Even worse, no one wants to feel like they need to “take a side.” When I noticed my eldest child starting to play referee, I realized that I needed to rethink my approach and encourage my partner to do the same … away from the children.

Recognizing that my partner is exactly that, my partner, has helped strike harmony in our home. Acknowledging that we share the weight of parenting has made all of the difference.

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Aliah was born and raised in St. Louis. She comes from a family of community leaders, activists, educators and volunteers. After her experiences in both public and private education in St. Louis, Aliah attended New York University, where she studied Mass Communications and Journalism. She worked in the New York ad industry for several years before returning home to start a family and continue her communications career. Her experiences in both cities gave her a unique perspective on the ways that social, economic and cultural issues impact the growth and development of our citizens and our cities. In addition to her current work as a crisis management communications specialist, Aliah has served as founding board member of St. Louis Language Immersion School, as a St. Louis City Commissioner for BiState Development, and as a board member for We Stories. Her 6-year-old Quinn enjoys reading aloud from books in English and Spanish from their extensive personal library.