Updated: Oct 29, 2020
The Business of Mom
The first bundle of joy gives you the belief you've got this parenting thing down. The second is a reality check, "You do not." Becoming parents is, without a doubt, the best group project I have ever been apart of. A funny coincidence in comparison to school, and work projects, I always end up doing all the work, or I use to anyways, okay, I still do sometimes. Why do I shoulder the majority of duties? I tend to believe, "If I do whatever the "it" is, I will do it better than my team member or in my house, my husband.
There is a compelling realization former First Lady Michelle Obama wrote in her book Becoming. Going to therapy was not about fixing her partner; it was about examining herself and the "whys" attached to her thinking and behavior. Understanding your "Why" behind the choices you make when deciding what is essential in parenting can be the difference between a divided or united home. For couples that transition into marriage and parenthood seamlessly, I offer you well-deserved applause. For those that had or have some bumps, bruises, fractured egos along the way, let us talk.
My upbringing was a mixture of a lot of things, none of which I would call completely healthy. By the time I was thirteen, rules and structure were nonexistent. Did my mother love me? I believe so, but she is human and faced her own battles. The lack of parenting left me hunting for structure. At an impressionable time, I wanted someone to care, I wanted to be valuable, but in wanting those things, I quickly learned to mistrust everyone. I needed to control my environment to feel safe, it was me against them mentality, and it worked. Survival through control was my game, and I played it well. Kenneth, raised by strong women and men, had his own adolescent battles, trauma, and ingrained survival tactics, which taught him at a young age control, and power rule the day, but also picking your fights wins the wars.
Becoming a parent meant to me providing structure, rules, safety, education, and love in that order. I believed if I gave those things, my kids would just know, "Of course, mom loves me." I assumed control over every aspect of my children's lives. Ken handed over the reins in Nadia and Violet's early years, which added validity to the belief, "My way" is the way it should be. Until Nadia turned four, then all of a sudden (or at least in my mind) Ken had these opinions about Nadia and Violet. Maybe for all of one week, I faked interest in his suggestions, thinking he was going through a phase that merely needed to be waited out. As time progressed, I found myself agitated and annoyed every time Ken tried to assert himself into decisions surrounding the kids. I would get extremely irritated whenever he would question my judgment. Ken, in response to continually being refuted, became contumacious and combative. We both were asking the question, "Why won't my spouse just let me, parent?"
"She who handles discipline writes the rules," my motto as our children went from babies, toddlers, then overnight into early childhood. As the primary source of discipline, my children often assumed Mom rules the roost, but Dad is fun and easy-going. Although Ken didn't mind being the cool dad, it often ruffled his feathers when the kids would only ask me for permission to have or do things. As a man, Ken did not want his girls to grow up and fear him, so disciplining them was off the table. Until he realized the lack of assuming dual responsibility in discipline forfeited his authority and respect as a parent. This was never as apparent as the day Nadia asked for a juice box, and Ken said no, she promptly turned and asked me. Ken said, "Why are you asking your mom, I told you no" To which Nadia replied, "But, mommy is the boss."
Ken felt for some time, Israel, Nadia, and Violet were dismissive of his role as an authoritative figure, but he also affirmed for his lack of effort in that area. Ken opening up and expressing his emotions behind his "Why", as well as seeing Nadia unable to comprehend why daddy was upset, broke down my resistance to change. As we began to share the task of creating rules, consequences and rewards our children, corollary began to have a more balanced outlook on us as parents. Releasing the pressure of solely being responsible for our children's moral compass was a breakthrough in letting control go in other areas of parenting. Not being solely responsible for our children's moral compass allowed my children to experience a softer side of their mother.
Control is a powerful drug that feeds your need to feel safe, sturdy, worthy, and valuable. The side effects of control leave you feeling alone, on edge, and always paranoid about who wants your spot. It would be easy to say, "Oh yeah, a year later, we figured it all out," that would be a bald-faced lie. It took a lot of self-evaluation, books, classes, and therapy to scale back my reign. I had to first let go of what I thought would have made my life better as a child because my life will never be my children's life. Next, was understanding what Fatherhood meant, Ken was an amazing father, but in all honesty, I didn't have a real understanding of what that meant. I assumed it meant, man provides for his family.
Unlearning a false narrative of Fatherhood gave me a deeper level of love for Ken. As a father he wanted to be involved, he wanted his children to know he is invested in their lives, future and wellbeing as much as I am. Finally, I had to believe in Team King, I know it sounds corny, but it's true. In a healthy home, parenting is a team sport that requires passing the ball.
An essential part of my growth as a parent came from my bonus son. Without even understanding or knowing, my son taught me how to be a healthier mom. I did not get much say in his upbringing, what I did get to do was play a supportive role. This allowed me to listen more, judge less, be more open to hear his opinions, as well as be a sounding board to bounce ideas and advice. I handle my son with softer gloves because I was conscious of the relationship I wanted to build with him.
Strengthening my belief in my husband's ability to run the plays from time to time eased my anxiety and fear of not being a good mother. His way will never be my way, and that's the way it should be. He is forming his own unique bond with our kids, which is critical to their development as young women.
I like to believe having daughters softened my husband, but having my bonus son softened me in addition to letting go of my need to control. We work hard at Team King. Perfection is not the goal. Creating a home filled with emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy individuals is.