I was recently trying to explain to a friend what one of the biggest unforeseen challenges as a parent has been for me, and I finally figured out a way to pithily sum it up, and that way was this: “Imagine you and your spouse have been going along your merry way for years now, happily coexisting, when BAM! Somebody tells you that you now must run a company together. And that company is super duper important to you because it’s as important as Facebook, or, well, a child. And the thing is, you’ve never run anything together. You aren’t even sure your skill sets and approaches and perspectives on MANAGING THINGS even line up at ALL. And on top of that, you’re going to run this new company (i.e. child) together while you’re sleep-deprived, hormonal, and highly irritable. And the stakes are going to be higher than any stakes you’ve ever encountered, ever. GO!”
Okay, so obviously I’m exaggerating a little, and I feel the need to majorly preface this post by saying that I actually feel like Ethan and I have found a co-founder “groove” that’s working fairly well for us these days (he stresses about naps; I dominate the sippy cups), but I think he would agree that it’s not necessarily easy to get to a place where all of your perspectives and expectations and even just your general WAY OF DOING THINGS line up. It takes work (obvi). And I didn’t adequately anticipate that work before I had a kid (shocking).
If you think about your little family unit as an itty bitty start-up, and your kid is your employee, then you’ve gotta decide on all kinds of things like which rules you’re gonna enforce and how much to delegate and how much vacation time (i.e. Elmo video watching) your kid is gonna get. You have to decide if you care about having homecooked meals on the table and if you do, who’s cooking them? You have to merge your own philosophy on childrearing (which is probably less of an actual real philosophy and more of a “when I was a kid my mom let me eat ice cream in bed…” situation) with the philosophy of somebody who grew up with an entirely different perspective. But more important than any of that? Your actual, like, personalities. You know how your husband has always been this endearingly chill stoner who likes to spontaneously go surfing? Stoner dad either has to learn how to line up a babysitter, or strap Kiddo to the surf board. Or maybe your wife is totally Type A and likes to plan her days down to the last second. You might just have to help her off the ledge when Kiddo refuses to wear pants and you end up not going outside for forty-seven hours straight.
Does one of you hover over your kid (okay, that’s me), and the other thinks Kiddo needs to learn to be independent (that’s Ethan)? Does one of you firmly believe that if Kiddo doesn’t get the exact prescribed amount of hours of nighttime sleep plus nappage per day, he will grow up to feel you failed him? (I’m not naming names here, but it rhymes with “Snethan.”) I’m lucky – my husband is a super involved dad who takes our son’s nap schedule so seriously, he would probably refrain from peeing for 13 hours like that Filibuster lady if it mean Leo got a good rest. But I know it drives Ethan crazy sometimes that I’m an oblivious writer with a limited capacity to organize the shortie pajama drawer. Oh, well. My story-reading voices are epic. (Actually — so are his).
How do you and your partner collaborate as “co-founders”? Have you been surprised by how well (or not well) you work together? Which one of you is the nap dictator, and which one of you thanks God every minute of every day for Sesame Street? xox