My wife noticed we have gained a lot of male followers to this gentle parent blog, which so far has been predominantly from the Mum’s perspective. We felt it may therefore important for us to show a dad’s perspective to gentle parenting. I am a busy business owner, being away from the home for 10 hours a day with only one day at the weekend for family time. I cannot function if I do not have personal time to change my mindset and relax. This means my parenting experiences are less than my wife’s – but that does not make my actions less important. In this post I discuss my introduction to gentle parenting, from the working male perspective. I discuss challenges it can pose above and beyond learning the techniques and trying to apply them. I also bring my perspective on how amazing gentle parenting is to the family unit. I am truly passionate about the themes of gentle parenting too.
How Dad Discovered Gentle Parenting
My wife is so passionate about gentle parenting and offering the best upbringing for our babies. I work hard to take on board the vast research summaries my wife offers me, the prompts and reminders she gives during my interactions with our kids, whilst continuing to secure our finances for both the short and longer term. Did I put my full backing into my wife’s decision to try gentle parenting 2 years ago? Not particularly. Our daughter had phases – smacking phases, screaming phases, kicking phases, refusing to do what we needed phases… I will admit I thought it was the fault of gentle parenting at times.
My wife changed it up one day. Our daughter had hit one of the twins again and instead of saying “we don’t do that” or something with a bit more power, she held our daughter lovingly in her arms. Snuggled in together. She said “are you ok?”. I interrupted her and said “what are you doing!?”. She told me, in a polite way with those eyes she does, to back off. Her gut instincts, from the interactions and experiences she had with our children drove her to try the best parenting decision she’s succeeded at yet. She wrote more about her method in her post about expressing emotions. From this moment I realised it was not our children’s behaviours that needed changing but our own that were key to us having a friendlier family unit.
My Biggest Current Challenge Involves Finding the Right Words
What have I found hardest so far since following gentle parenting techniques? The words I can or can’t use. I am only a part time parent, here for around 2-3 hours per day of my babies wakeful hours. I am aware of the importance of being a gentle parent, but my limited experiences challenge me in finding the right words. Even at the best of times, words do not come easy to me. I have learnt key tips for getting it right, which I explain below in the hope it helps fellow men who are challenged with the words needed to be a gentle parent.
Words About Your Children
When I feel an emotion, I am one to say it aloud at the time I feel it. I was working so much when our eldest baby was little that I did not have much experience of baby phases. I have naturally been more involved as a parent since the birth of the twins as one set of hands is simply not enough 24/7 for raising 3 kids. I have had concerns during our parenting journey at whether certain behaviours or emotions from our children are normal and whether my wife or I are doing things wrong. My wife kept urging me not to discuss these concerns in the presence of any of our children. I have now seen for myself that the behaviours that were worrying me are indeed just phases. This has helped me work at keeping my concerns for a private chat with my wife later. My wife’s view is that saying negative behaviours out loud can only create them in the other children listening, or make them feel fearful of the child you’re talking about. It makes sense to not raise these concerns around your children. This includes on innocent phonecalls to friends and family, which can be overheard by little ears.
Holding Boundaries Through Words
I have been working hard at setting boundaries, since my wife seems to do this naturally. I noticed our kids had far more respect for my wife’s requests than mine. I always subsconsiously wanted to do whatever will stop my babies from crying, as the sound is a trigger for me from my childhood. I realised that ‘giving in’ to their tears was not helping them in the longer term. Instead I could see first hand from my wife that ’embracing the emotions’ would be a much better way forward.
Expressing Parenting Ideas and Disagreements with my Wife
It is difficult for me to understand words sometimes without taking them personally. This is not only from my kids’ words towards me but also from my wife’s words. My wife has worked hard at trying to reduce our arguments by showing an understanding of my emotions but clearly telling me what her viewpoint is too. This seems to be working for us, and the more we interact in this way, hopefully the more we will grow to trust that each other’s comments are not meant as an attack but to best support our growing children.
How Gentle Parenting Differs to My Expectations of Parenting
When our eldest was little, I had a few interactions where I raised my voice to stop her in her tracks. I also said no…. a lot… This was partly a subconscious reaction to the circumstances. The other part was that I felt she maybe need an authority figure to learn to respect her parents, others, be mature and essentially not hurt others. It was all a learning curve. My wife did not have the confidence at the time that being gentle in these circumstances was going to succeed. All I could see was that the gentle parenting approach was not working right now. I assumed it therefore would never work.
I soon realised that raising my voice did not have the desired effect in the longterm either. Our daughter was still hitting, even if she stopped immediately in her tracks. Why was this effective in stopping her in her tracks? Fear? Whilst I did not intend it to cause fear, ultimately this is why it appeared to be working in the short term. In the longterm my children would not feel safe with me if I filled them with fear from a young age to be complicit with my needs. This was a turning point in my understanding of what gentle parenting is and how it protects your relationship with your children, as well as respectfully communicating the needs you have. It warms my heart to see our children developing in the way they are.
How My Gentle Parenting Differs to My Wife’s
One other thing I expected when becoming a father was that our roles would be relatively equal. We are, after all, a society that values equality. However, it was certainly not an equal start to our parenting journey. My wife breastfed day and night – sometimes it seemed like our baby wanted nothing else. It did not set much room for me to have an equal role in the first year. The parenting balance naturally evened out more when my wife was close to the end of her pregnancy with the twins. I was able to employ staff to take over a lot of my work duties. My wife’s inability to meet the needs of our toddler, while juggling the needs of two premature newborn babies day and night, also allowed me to become an equal attachment figure in our daughter’s life. Part of me was joyous, and the other part knew I had so much to learn.
It took me a little persuasian to accept that my wife was the one who would be best placed to teach me all I needed to know about gently raising our children. She knew it inside out, and she was fully researched on what gentle parenting methods were available to us. She also offered me the valuable and most important permission I needed to be able to succeed at the role of a gentle Daddy figure. She gave me permission to leave the room and have a break for myself if the crying was getting too much. This was a sacrifice for her, but it was important to keep the house flowing calmly and not allowing my frustration levels to rise. In leaving the room, I’d focus on doing some housework or cooking to help in other duties. We became a really excellent team because of this, rather than arguing or having a stressed out household.
In the newborn baby days, my role was more to support my wife in achieving her breastfeeding goals. As the children got older, my role became more to being a fun and engaging character to distract our children from my wife so she could have a few moments to gather her thoughts. As time goes on, I feel our roles will become more closely aligned and we will both be prepared and available dependent on our children’s needs.
Full-Time Working Daddy
I feel some sadness at not being with my children for many hours each day. I feel my wife is doing a wonderful job at looking after 3 ‘so young’ without any support. However, just the situation does set us up for some frustrations. My wife can sometimes find things challenging, on sleep deprivation or inability to do much else other than raise the babies. It is a challenge for me to continue pursuing our business goals when times are also tough at home. I regularly reflect on my financial goals and how if I can achieve them we may have an opportunity to spend more time together in the next year or two. I am trying to view it as a short-term sacrifice for long-term gains. Throw in COVID19 causing significant reductions in footfall to our business and risk to our family of catching the virus, the choice to run a business becomes even more stressful.
Some top tips I can recommend for making the most of limited family time and running a business at the same time are:
- Understand your partner’s support system / coping mechanisms – my wife has no support, even without COVID19. Understanding that this will impact her emotional state is important so I try to limit my work stresses in our conversations.
- Show and express appreciation – never assume that your wife knows how highly you value what she is doing for you and your family. Tell her. Expressing loving emotions does not come naturally to me but it makes such a difference for my wife to hear some of my sincere thoughts.
- Remember that soon your children will fly the nest – 18 years may sound like a long time, but pretty much any parent you speak to says it flies by. Try to treasure it, as in 18 years you’ll miss the mess and the noise.
- Put the business into perspective – hard as it is to switch between the role of work and the role of father, the best way to do this seemlesly is to start a returning home ritual. Our kids all wait at the window shouting ‘Dada!’ around the time I’m due home. They all then expect me to pick them a flower from the garden, and it just helps all those work pressures disappear into the excitement of childhood.