Raising Children with a Partner
If we're lucky, we're raised to be independent, free-thinking people. Self-reliance and a little ambition can take us a long way, yet when we enter relationship, the very thing that enables us to thrive as singles, can present a challenge in relationship. Long-term relationship requires negotiation, compromise and teamwork. Add children to that, and it's a whole different ballgame!
The best time to make decisions about parenting children together is before you have them. While you may want to delay the subject of raising children until after the third date, don't delay for too long once you've entered that committed relationship. One of the most important decisions you may make is whether or not you want to have children. If you are dating someone who has chosen a childless lifestyle, but you are eager to raise a child, you have a real problem on your hands. While you may have some beautiful fantasy about your partner changing his or her mind as your love grows, it's really not all that likely. Even those folks who magically change their minds about wanting children often have yet another change of heart after they bring a child into the world. Raising a child is difficult enough- don't insist on doing it with a person who doesn't want to. Find someone who feels the same way you do about kids. Once you have developed a partnership with someone who shares your love for children, take a small time-out from doing the wild thing until you've got a couple of issues hammered out. First, determine what kind of values each of you honors. Then, determine whether those values are prioritized in similar ways. These are what you will share with your children, so it is vital that the two of you have similar beliefs and values. Second, you and your partner need to identify what your roles will be in the family. Is your family going to be traditional in structure? Will you both work? Will one of you stay home to care for children? Will both of you be involved in childcare? If both of you work, who will care for your children while you are away from the home? What are your expectations of one another when it comes to raising this family? If you're thinking you'll hire a nanny and head back to work after a few months, you'll need to make sure that your partner's on board with that plan! Third, discuss what your visions of family are. If your partner comes from a big family and is hoping to raise a brood, but you're an only child and feel overwhelmed with numbers beyond ONE, then it's time to really review what each of you wants when it comes to family. Fourth, is this the right time for you to bring children into your lives? Are both of you mature enough to take on this much responsibility? Are you financially and emotionally stable enough to become parents? Do you have sufficient support to help you raise children (extended family and friends)? Are the local and global communities stable enough to enable you to start this family safely? Fifth, many couples know only that they want to have children. They rarely talk about whether or not they would like to conceive children or perhaps foster or adopt children, until one option fails and compels them to consider the others. Conception is a choice and one that couples need to contemplate carefully. If conception and childbirth are not prerequisites for you, consider fostering or adopting children. Finally, when the two of you have reached a consensus about how you want to proceed, discuss thoroughly the way that you see yourselves parenting. Different strategies will be required as children age and develop. Are the two of you on the same page about how you will manage those different developmental stages? If you are a born diplomat and see yourself negotiating each choice with your child and your spouse intends to use spanking to gain complete obedience, delay those efforts to conceive until you really know that you're on the same page, or rethink your previous decisions until you can gain some agreement.
Assuming you've made it through the previous stage of decision-making regarding children, you enter the domain of parenthood. Your world changes immeasurably when you take home that little person: you sacrifice the life you led before, so that this person can become all that they are meant to be. There are two distinct styles of parenting that meet the developmental needs of children. Initially, instructional parenting is used, allowing us to teach all that we know to our children so that they can move forward. Our instructions are highly specific so that we avert as much danger as we can for our kids, while still allowing them to learn, thrive, separate and individuate. Eventually, as the teen years begin, we transition to companion parenting through which we reinforce all that our children have learned to do, but from a more relaxed and less authoritative position. This is the phase of parenting during which we can have discussion and negotiation with our children- about curfews, household chores, and even about sex. Many parents find the transition from instructional to companion parenting difficult, especially if the parent had exceptional teaching skills! But for the parent who was uncomfortable in the power seat, the shift to companion parenting may be quite a relief. Beyond the use of the parenting style which will best meet the needs of your child, there is likely no real right or wrong to parenting. Parents from every different culture and walk of life find a way that works for them. But, the one thing that successful parents have in common is that both parents need to be on the same page about parenting!
Typically, if no major challenges arise, eighteen years pass and the couple will launch the child into independent living. Due to the pervasive desire for advanced education, most children don't become fully independent until their mid-20s these days. But, the day-to-day parenting lessens and co-parents resume the roles of partners and co-conspirators in life. In order for couples to keep their relationships alive after their children are launched, both parties most put effort into growing and maintaining the relationship over time. If you don't put gas in the car, it will eventually stop moving forward and come to a complete halt. If you don't continue to reinvest in your love for and attraction to your partner, the relationship will eventually end when the two of you are no longer required for active co-parenting. The healthiest couples spend the final year or two before launching children playing and traveling more, and using free time to relax together. The decrease in time spent with children and the increase in time spent together allows the couple to renew their feelings for one another and acclimate to spending increasing amounts of time and energy with one another (so that it isn't a tremendous shock when their children leave home and they are left only with one another!).