One thing I have heard frequently in parenting and in supporting other parents is this area of the “unsupportive” spouse. Whether it be breast-feeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling, eliminating media – it seems like this comes up a lot. “I would like this, but my partner is not supportive.”
I can only offer you a few suggestions from other mothers that I have heard over the past fourteen years or so…
1. Remember your spouse is a parent too. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have been breastfed/have been raised with no media/were homeschooled ourselves. Then we bring that to the table as part of us, and our future spouses and partners KNOW this about us. However, many of us were only exposed to these ideas AFTER we had children and now it is almost like changing the rules of the game in a sense. We feel as if we have better information and knowledge to make a better choice for our families, but we are bringing something totally new to the table for our partners or spouses…which leads to….
2. Communication; have the honest dialogue. Communication is really important. If you set it up as “I am right and you are wrong in “X” parenting matter” ….well, you probably aren’t going to get very far. But a heart-felt conversation in which you address your partner’s fears, assumptions, wishes in a respectful way…that can go a long way. Be a team together. Share information and support each other. Talk about how you came to the conclusion you are now holding as truth; maybe that will help your partner’s journey as well.
3. Can you respectfully compromise? There are two of you, and you have to parent like it. Are there baby steps?
4. Can you offer alternatives that protect your child? What compromise can your spouse make to help meet you?
5. Give it time. Some families start out with a specified time frame to try things out – three weeks seems like a good time frame – and see what happens! Is everyone happier?
If the time passes, and your spouse is not happy but overall the family seems more happy, ask yourself: is this a parenting problem or a relationship challenge? In other words, is this really about breastfeeding/cosleeping/media-free/homeschooling/etc. or is it really about something else? See point #7 below.
6. Be respectful. Mothers often are the ones researching things and wanting to move things in a certain direction; be respectful and again, allow communication and time for your partner to work on this issue that you have raised.
7. How is the rest of the relationship? I read an article once about “The Unsupportive Spouse” by Gregory Popcak in “The Nurturing Parenting” (1996) and he wrote about how we cannot use these issues as a shield to avoid each other or not work on our relationship with our partners. If you need help, get help. A great therapist or counselor can be the wonderful third party and objective sounding board. You may grow even closer having worked through some of the challenges inherent in parenting!
I would love to hear your stories….how did you and your spouse handle big issues that you disagreed upon?
Blessings and love,