By Sarah Chua
In the early days of marriage, one quickly discovers how men and women tick differently. Becoming a parent made these differences even more obvious to me. I would stress over how much milk the baby is drinking, whether the baby has pooped, whether he is too hot or cold and insist on getting every ailment, big or small, checked out by the doctor. My husband, on the other hand, is a much more “chillax” (chill-and-relax) parent.
The fact is our children need both fathering and mothering, to grow up feeling loved and secure in their family relationship. Parenting requires teamwork, where both mum and dad are willing to work together to bring up their children well. That doesn’t mean that both have to agree on every area, be it choice of schools, discipline techniques or even dietary choices, but there must be a desire to maintain a united front for the benefit of their children.
The fact is our children need both fathering and mothering, to grow up feeling loved and secure in their family relationship.
3peaking to Mums
After carrying a child in their womb for nine months, mums often instinctively know what the baby needs or is feeling. You might find yourself feeling possessive, finding it difficult to let go and allowing your husband to get involved with the parenting responsibilities.
I still remember the first time I had to go back to the office for an important meeting while still on maternity leave and my husband was tasked with taking care of our firstborn all by himself. I was constantly on my phone checking with him to make sure the baby was doing alright!
My son did bump his head a couple of times while playing with his dad that day but he had a great time. From the early days of constantly saying, “Please be careful!” I now appreciate how my husband parent our sons differently. He is more likely to play rough with them, encourage them to climb higher at the playground and push their limits while I watch from the side with my heart in my mouth! I cannot expect him to parent the way I do, as both mums and dads contribute to a child’s development in unique and important ways.
Sometimes, it may not be the differences that irk you, but the circumstances and consequences that ensue. When applying antiseptic cream on your screaming child’s knees and scrubbing him to get the mud off from the playground, you may wish you hadn’t let your husband bring him to the park in the first place.
If that sounds strangely familiar, the one thing to remember is the necessity for flexibility. It’s all right if it takes slightly longer to clean up the kids after a fun time in the park with dad; what matters is the fun and bonding they had together.
Speaking to Dads
Dads, you are every bit as important as your wife when it comes to parenting your children. Research shows that children with involved fathers are more likely to be more confident, handle stress better and connect with others in a constructive way, among other positive outcomes. So don't for a minute think that dads don't matter as much as mums!
Get involved in the daily responsibilities and duties of childcare, even those that don’t seem “manly”, like changing the diaper. That will make you more attractive to your wife, who will likely appreciate the help you offer to lessen her load.
Also, be willing to learn. Don't take it personally if your wife tells you what you’re doing wrong, and don’t respond with, “If you don’t like the way I’m doing it, do it yourself!” Patiently listen to her point of view, before offering your alternative approach. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, it shows your willingness to be humble and listen. Together with your wife, constantly strive to improve on your parenting skills, by attending parenting workshops or getting advice from more experienced parents.
Sometimes, the roles are reversed – Dad may be more hands-on than Mum, and is the one who decides on the routines. Whatever the case, the thing that matters most is whether the both of you are willing to work together. Leverage on each other's strengths; for example, figure out who is better at clearing up after dinner and who puts the children to bed in a fun and fuss-free way.
Whatever the case, the thing that matters most is whether the both of you are willing to work together.
Most importantly, communicate. You are very likely to parent the way you were parented, and this will often result in different parenting styles. Make time to list and discuss the differences and agree on the best methods. Don’t just stop at discipline techniques or splitting of responsibilities; share with each other your hopes, dreams and values you have for your children. With clear and consistent communication, you will then have a clearer perspective on expectations of each other’s role, parenting approaches and priorities for your children.
Ultimately, both of you want the best for your children, and the best way to achieve that is by cooperating. Instead of seeing parents bicker, mum nagging at dad or dad frustrated with mum, work together and model a loving relationship between husband and wife. Chances are with your example, your children will want to continue your legacy of a strong marriage and be partners in parenting in their future family.
Adams, R. (2014). 8 Science-Backed Reasons Why Dads Deserve More Credit. Huffington Post.
Focus on the Family Singapore Limited is a local charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status dedicated to helping families thrive by being a voice for Family. We partner individuals and organizations to nurture families at different life stages through transformational family life education, trusted resources, content placements and counseling.