I met my boyfriend online. We had an immediate and intense connection, and for the first five years of our relationship we were very happy and incredibly in sync. Then we had a baby.
I guess it should have been pretty obvious that introducing a new and totally dependent (albeit adorable) new person into our relationship was going to change things. But we were so loved up during my pregnancy that I didn’t really think too far ahead. And, for the most part, until our daughter arrived we never really argued about anything.
That changed about two days after she was born. We started to bicker about everything. Of course, there was the sleep deprivation and the stress of figuring out our new life with this baby, but our disagreements went beyond that: we had a different way of parenting and interacting with our child, and it hadn’t become obvious until that moment.
He criticized me constantly in the beginning, saying I was holding the baby too much. I felt that it was impossible to spoil a newborn. I wanted to co-sleep. He didn’t want her to get used to sharing a bed with us. He gets frustrated and impatient when she’s whining and crying, whereas I’m more tolerant as I believe she’s very little and can’t control her impulses. All of these situations led to an argument. Sometimes multiple arguments.
Our daughter recently turned one, and this year has been a learning experience in so many ways. Although we continue to disagree about most things where she’s concerned, I have decided not to stress about it. In fact, I think it’s important to embrace polar opposite parenting approaches for four reasons.
1 | It challenges you to see things from a completely different perspective.
We both have strong feelings about how we want to raise our daughter, and we both come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. It’s important to remember to keep an open mind and make an effort to see things from your partner’s point of view.
Sometimes my way is better, sometimes his way is better, and sometimes I’m so wrapped up in doing it my way that I forget to pay attention to his way. I think that’s a mistake. Consider both ways, and then make a decision.
2 | Your child will get a chance to see how conflicts are resolved.
Our goal is to provide a united front and not to argue in front of our daughter, so to date she hasn’t really witnessed any of our clashes. But I suspect one day she will see us fighting and I want her learn a valuable lesson: Disagreements are a natural and healthy part of every relationship, and they can often be resolved through dialogue, active listening, and compromise. That’s a lesson I want her to take with her to the playground, to school, to college, and beyond.
Kids are extremely perceptive. Even if they don’t witness a fight, they know something’s up. This is a great opportunity to teach them about problem solving.
3 | It will make your relationship stronger.
It stands to reason that arguing and, more importantly, coming to an agreement about serious topics such as discipline, food, and sleep, among other topics, will reinforce your bond. Even if you agree to disagree, every disagreement presents a chance to learn and grow as a team.
One time my boyfriend said to me, “You know I also have her best interests at heart.” I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it was almost as if I had forgotten that. Even when your partner’s approach is not the same as yours, it’s important to see the big picture and remember that you’re in this together.
4 | It helps you learn to pick your battles.
Life is too short to bicker about every little thing. That’s how our situation was initially – everything was worthy of an argument, no matter how small. That’s a terrible way to live.
Now when we disagree, I stop, take a deep breath, and ask myself, “Is this really worth arguing about?” Often it’s not, and I move on. And instead of using that energy to argue with my partner and be angry with him, I use it to play with my daughter and enjoy time with her. This is indubitably a skill that can be applied to all relationships.
While I love my boyfriend and I felt that I knew him very well by the time we had our daughter, the truth is that you don’t really know what kind of parent your partner will be until you have a kid.
And I’m not saying he’s a bad parent. On the contrary, he’s an absolutely wonderful father who adores his little girl. All I’m saying is that it’s helpful to expect these challenges once you enter the wonderful world of parenthood, and to weather them as best you can, together.