Like many military spouses, my husband traveled frequently when our first daughter was born.
Often when he would come home, our daughter would treat him like a stranger and cling to me. Not only did I desperately need a break, it was clear that my daughter and her daddy needed some quality time together. Since our lifestyle meant me parenting my way a lot, I would find it difficult sometimes to adjust our routine and make room for my husband when he was home.
My daughter didn’t respond well to anyone else feeding her or putting her to sleep. So we decided that my husband would handle bath duty every night since that was something she seemed to enjoy. The good news is my husband is way more fun than me and bath time is the perfect time to be silly. By giving her a bath each night, my husband spent valuable time getting to know her and my daughter quickly learned that daddy could meet her needs.
Being in the habit of meeting all her needs myself, I resisted the urge to criticize or instruct when he did things differently.
I would use the quiet time to clean up dinner, make a few phone calls, or just sit and enjoy the silence. Letting my husband handle bath time his own way gave him confidence in his dad abilities and allowed him to realize that he had as much at stake in our baby’s well-being as I did.
As my daughter began to trust my husband as a caregiver, I was able to leave the house for short periods of time. The more time my husband spent caring for our daughter, the stronger their bond became, and the more I appreciated his unique style of parenting.
It was important for me to keep in mind that different is not necessarily bad. Having a spouse with an opposite parenting style can encourage babies and kids to be less rigid and more acceptable of changes in routines.
Now that our kids are older, bath time has been replaced by other activities like Boy Scouts and sports. My husband still travels, but we make sure to take turns with everything from homework to driving carpool when he is home. I hope our efforts to always parent as a team ease the discomfort of my husband’s frequent traveling.
It can be very challenging for spouses to stay on the same page with raising kids when one spouse is frequently absent. Over the years, I’ve tried to develop some simple guidelines that make the transition easier:
- Adjust my expectations.
- Keep the main thing the main thing.
Thanks to the help of technology, our family calendar is synced and always at our fingertips. Even more importantly, the kids know that dad is always just a phone call, Facetime, or text away. As we’ve added more kids to our crew, I’ve learned that doing it all is simply not an option for me and even if it was, it’s not good for the kids.
How do you adjust your parenting style when your spouse returns?