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DH & I at each others throats in front of kids...

(23 Posts)
OnlyMe1971 Sun 07-Aug-11 13:18:06

I need some help/advice on this one. It's been slowly getting worse and worse.
So basically DH & I both have quick tempers. We also have 3 small children and are often very stressed with that. We have just had a month's holiday together which sounds divine but in truth, it wasn't. The kids are so small (4,3 & 1) and so were doing a lot of moaning and complaining and just being extremely demanding so for me having DH around it was like dealing iwht another child. It's impossible to have a conversation with the kids around so we end up getting really narky and often it escalates and we find ourselves really cross with one another and then taking that out on the kids, just a vicious circle really.
I know it's the stress of having the kids that trigger it as come evening when they are all asleep in bed (bliss), we get on well and are warm towards each other. Still I can't help but feel resentful of DH and I know he is resentful towards me too of the nasty exchanges we have when the kids are around.
Worst of all is that the kids are witnessing this bad communication between us and I really want to knock that on the head asap.
They rarely see us cuddly and warm together or having a laugh, holding hands etc. Mostly they see 2 very cross parents who behave like they can't stand one another.

We are going to a parenting course in October, but that is a long way off.... I need some tools to help us before then!

Does anyhone have any suggestions or experiences to share?

Thanks for reading : )

ImperialBlether Sun 07-Aug-11 13:34:16

I don't know what you can do. It sounds an awful situation and I'm so sorry for your children.

Do you have a regular routine for the children? Regular times to get up, to eat, to go to bed? Do they always eat properly? Do they have a bath each night, followed by a story?

Do you take them out once or twice a day? Do they get enough exercise?

Do you and your husband each have the chance to a) sleep in once a week (to a reasonable, not taking-the-piss, time) and b) the chance to see friends outside the house at least once a week?

Do you watch the Jo Frost parenting programmes? They are well worth watching.

buzzsore Sun 07-Aug-11 15:09:30

In the evening when you're all calm and cuddly can you have a talk about where you are with parenting, as it sounds like you're not working together.

Does he have different expectations of the children? Do you disagree on discipline? Why is it like having a 4th child when your dh is with you all as a family - what is it that he does/doesn't do that makes it harder?

You need to get on the same page, and that means agreeing some basics, like not undermining each other and to have some strategies in place. Maybe when you're both getting narky you could give yourselves a time-out instead of the children - have a code-word or something and one of you go off and take a breath, possibly taking one(or more) of the children with them - a sort of divide and calm down?

OnlyMe1971 Sun 07-Aug-11 15:49:21

Yes, we had a good talk about it over the holidays and we agreed to try harder to be on the same page. DH is VERY good with the kids and is very hands on, but because he is at work every day and I am a SAHM, he doesn't see the way I do things, then does things his way during the weekend, then the kids are confused and start getting cross because it's different to the normal routine.

Imperial blether, it's not the kids that are the problem in that respect. Of course they are in bed every night at 7:30 and wake at 7:30, they all get a 10 minute story individually, we eat a very healthy diet, for example they have never tasted a soft drink or had a fast food take away (yet), don't watch much TV (an hour every other day maybe but not during Summer), I am very affectionate and loving with them and so is DH most of the time, we go out 2ce a day each day - get the picture? That's all good.

DH and I are working harder on it now. We know the triggers. Leaving the house is stressful, trying to get everyone ready etc etc. Getting kids to do what we want them to do (even simple things like go to the toilet etc can be a battle but I'm working on that with reward charts etc).
The mornings are not good as I am always very grumpy and so is DH until we've been up a while. DH annoys me asking me 20 questions and he won't respect my requests to just leave me alone til I've thawed out.
It's just dealing with life's stresses on a daily basis - that's what we are finding challenging. DH is terrible for bickering at me and that makes me really cross and that is another trigger.

Sorry this is so long, just trying to give a clearer picture.

DH thinks I am too hard on myself and that we are doing our best and it's not as bad as I make it out to be but I just don't want the kids to witness it anymore and I think he needs ot take more responsibility for his part in this.

bananasplitz Sun 07-Aug-11 17:44:59

im not surprised the kids are whiny and moany and upset, they are copying you and your husband - why would they be happy living in that crappy atmosphere?

OnlyMe1971 Sun 07-Aug-11 20:02:35

Thanks for that - very helpful!

michglas Sun 07-Aug-11 20:05:56

From your posts, I couldn't work out whether you or your DH work. To me it sounded like you were round each other 24/7, and therefore it is not surprising that you're both at each others throats. I would kill DH if i was with him 24/7 and I'm sure the feeling is mutual, but we really enjoy our evenings and weekends together. Sounds like you both need to do do something for yourselves individually.

namechangexx Sun 07-Aug-11 20:11:46

Could you do a bit more separate parenting at the weekend? Say give each other 2 hours each minimum time to yourselves both days. It's good for us, we argue less then when we are together because we are a little more refreshed.

I know where you're coming from, I think these tensions often start with couples who were formerly v good communicators but now can't finish a sentence without by interupted by a child and therefore get frustrated and cross!

It's no the end of the worls if the kids see you argue either so long as they also see affection from time to time. People aren't perfect and if you pretend they are, they'll get a bitof a shock when they grow up.

namechangexx Sun 07-Aug-11 20:13:11

bananasplitz - what on earth was the point of your comment other than tosound judgemental and irritating?

OnlyMe1971 Sun 07-Aug-11 20:22:25

namechangexx, michglas thanks loads for that! Yes we both find it extemely frustrating when trying to have a conversation (we usually only communicate about stuff that NEEDS to be discussed when the kids are around as normal recreational chat is near impossible and we accept that totally) and even asking one another about what the other wants for lunch for example is just not possible without "mummy, Mummy, MUMMY MUMMY!!" : )

Good idea to do separate parenting. Tomorrow I am going to the gym in the morn and that will be a bit of breathing space for us and the morning after that DH is going for a cycle so that'll be good for us.

We are just back from a driving holiday where we drove 4000 kms so we were really all in close proximity and I think that didn't help matters much either!

I had a 30 minute nap this afternoon and felt lots more balanced after it, so these small things help.

Thanks for the understanding.

TheMagnificentBathykolpian Sun 07-Aug-11 20:26:16

You say that you can't have a conversation with the kids around and that leads to massive arguments in front of the kids.

What conversations can't you have in front of the kids and why? Is the conversation worse than being at each other's throats in front of the children?

I think that both of you need to work on communication skills. ime when people resort to yelling and screaming at each other, it's because they haven't developed the communication skills they need.

That is not having a go at you about it grin it's simply saying that yelling & screaming = failure to communicate.

And it means that you won't be heard. Loud as you are grin people who are shouting/being shouted at - don't listen.

namechangexx Sun 07-Aug-11 20:27:48

Just hang in there - 4, 3 and 1 is hard. I don't know any couples with three kids of a similar age who do not fight A LOT. Guess it gets easier as they got older and less (constantly) dependent.

namechangexx Sun 07-Aug-11 20:30:26

Also I'd probably let them watch a bit more tv than you do - give yourselves a bit more of a break smile

angel1976 Sun 07-Aug-11 20:59:18

I was going to suggest the same as namechangexx, maybe you need to relax on your parenting a bit. Trying to do everything 'the right way' is VERY stressful! I used to be a bit anal finicky when I only had DS1 and standards dropped fairly quickly after DS2 came along so hats off to you for maintaining the high standards! With that, I mean, it won't kill the kids to have the odd soft drink or fast food now and then if it makes it easier when you are out and about NOT to have to worry about. Also, it is true you and your DH need to sing off the same parenting hymn sheet but again, it's not a big deal if now and then, you don't. With DS1, I used to worry if he didn't have a home-cooked meal every meal, but now if he has two good meals, I am quite happy for the third meal to be slugs/fish fingers/snack foods.

I am fairly strict with sweets but DH took DS1 out today and he came back beaming and told me happily he had SWEETS! And all I can do is shrug it off and smile and be happy he had a good time.

Some thoughts on what you said... Do they really need 10-minute individual story times? My two love story time together and sometimes if DS2 is too tired, he is carted off to bed without a story while DS1 gets his normal stories. And with the TV issue, I take both my DSs out everyday (they are 3.6 and 21 months old so I know how hard it is with them close in age!) and if they are at home, I don't see why they can't chill out in front of the TV. If they have been out playing in the garden all day, again, it's a way of winding down. For me, as long as they are kids' TV, I am fairly relaxed at how much they watch as I know they do enough 'other' activities that they are not in front of the TV all day. Just try and relax your parenting a bit and give yourself (and your DH) a break. Good luck!

OnlyMe1971 Sun 07-Aug-11 21:49:47

Thanks for your thoughts and words everyone.
Yes I do hear what you are saying and I'm definitely guilty of putting myself under pressure although I have to also say that the standards have dropped dramatically since the arrival of DS3. They have sweets on weekends and when we're on hols and if we're in anyone's house so I'm not too strict and with TV same applies the rules are more relaxed during hols and on weekends etc. So I'm not as bad as I was and whole heartedly agree that once they've been out and about and active, it's guilt free TV time.
I cook freshly prepared dinners every other evening and then I will cook dinner for 2 nights and put one portion in the freezer so I am not cooking every day. I love home cook food and so do my family so I don't have a problem with that. Some nights if I can't be bothered, it's pasta with pesto and veg and when we were in the car we went to Mac Donalds once too so of course that was a big treat for them : ) I'm not too anal, promise, but I do get what you are saying and I know sometimes I just need to let things go, esp where DH is concerned.

Usually at the dinner table one of the kids will pipe up each time DH or I start a conversation with one another. DS will just keep on shouting LA LA LA LA anytime we try to speak. That is just one example. DH and I both get exasperated and i get annoyed at DH's persistence in trying ot tell me the story and then I'm annoyed at everyone!

It's okay most of the time, I think the holiday really just highlighted the stress areas for us though.

cobyconnel Sun 07-Aug-11 22:04:43

You really need to relax about the tv issue. It is a complete godsend for your sanity and your relationship to be able to sit them in front of a kiddies dvd or a tv programme while you cook, do housework,have a coffee or just chat to your dh etc. It will do them no harm whatsoever- my two are now 14 and 11 and are perfectly normal well-adjusted kids {I think!}. Mine would have an hour in the morning and again in evening and always without fail if anyone called to visit or suchlike. You need to not be so hard on yourself and your dh. A bit of tv will do them no harm whatsoever- it really does help them wind-down. I can't even begin to imagine how you get anything done or how you haven't cracked up before now. Just try and relax and give the kids a break as well. You'll be amazed how life will improve!

garlicbutter Sun 07-Aug-11 22:07:19

I don't think you should put up with attention-seeking screeching at the dinner table. The elder two are big enough to understand "It's Daddy's turn to talk, then it's mine. Wait your turn." One ask, then get down and wait stroppily quietly in the corner/on the step/whatever you do. Family dinners are about learning to appreciate shared conversation.

Sorry for not responding to your other trials, but you're getting good replies and I think you're doing okay! The only thing that strikes me is you might be putting 'parenting' too far above 'being' if that means anything to you?

ImperialBlether Sun 07-Aug-11 22:40:10

I wouldn't be eating with the children if they can't behave. Why don't you and your husband eat later? If you are waiting until your husband is home from work before eating, is it too late for the children to eat?

Why are they shouting when you are talking? They are going to have a problem in school if you don't get that sorted.

TillyvonTrapp Sun 07-Aug-11 23:57:33

It sounds like a military camp round your house if you don't mind me saying so. I think your kids are stressed by your rules and regulations! If mealtimes are stressful then feed the kids first and eat with your DH later.You need to put yourselves first sometimes! My kids are 9,11 and 12 and I've learned to make life as stress-free as possible. These phases will pass- you can all eat together when the kids get a bit older. And lighten up about the tv- an hour or two of tv a day will do no harm whatsoever. I used to find it a blessing first thing in the morning when everyone is grumpy etc. Funny thing is ,mine are not that interested in tv anymore. You may well find that your kids will really crave tv when they get older-have the opposite effect IYSWIM. Why on earth is there no tv during the summer???? As long as they're not in front of it all day then I think it can be a very useful tool to help them wind down, get some housework done etc. Give yourself and them a break! They will still turn out fine- honest!

garlicbutter Mon 08-Aug-11 00:51:35

Having read the two replies below mine about dinner time, I take back what I said. I'm suggesting even more control, whereas I think the others are right - your perfect parenting may be stressing your DCs, thus leading to you two feeling even more stressed and everything turning into a skirmish.
Ignore me. Chill out smile

Finallygotaroundtoit Mon 08-Aug-11 06:53:57

You are doing the hardest job in the world. I think you are a very good mum, my only advice would be to stop trying to 'manage' your kids.

Just show them how much you love them (which you clearly do), accept your DH does things differently, lower your 'standards' & behave to each other in a way you wants the DCs to copy.

Oh and carry on eating together - praise good behaviour and try to ignore bad

PeppaIsBack Mon 08-Aug-11 07:30:03


I think that re your communication with DH, it's fantastic that you can tell what are the triggers. Could you try and take one or two triggers each and change something on them (I would say the main ones that you can change easily)? For example, your DH could agree to 'leave you alone' for 30 min in the am to leave you time to wake up and you could agree to on let's say let him have a cup of tea when coming back home from work before 'jumping' into the father's role <<Not sure what he would like you to do>>

Re some of the points you raised, they are quite common parenting issues I find.

Do you allow for lots of time for things to be done? I found that if I want to go out and about, leave to the last minute (ie the time I would need to get ready) it doesn't work. Whereas if I leave lots of time for the dcs to be ready, mess around etc.. then it's making things much easier. I am not stressed & shouty. Kids are happier.

The other thing that is working for me is to let the dcs being as independant as possible (OK not possible yet with a 1yo!). When dcs were 3~4yo, they were dressing themselves up, choosing their clothes for the day. If we were doing a special activity (let's say going for a walk in a muddy place in winter), I wouldgive them some indications as to what to wear or not (like you need a jumper and warm trousers) and let them getting on with it. Same with as many thngs as possible like taking owls outof the cupboard etc...
I found it was good for them (they usually like to do things like the grown ups) and for me (less work/fight to do)


OnlyMe1971 Mon 08-Aug-11 10:59:46

Gosh I'm surprised it sounds like a military camp, to me it resembles more of a zoo with lots of wild animals running about the place : )
I got some sleep last night and feel more balanced today and we're back to our usual routine. I don't "ban" TV during Summer, but they watch less naturally as they are outside much more. Our TV is in the sitting room in the back of our house, which DH and I use sometimes in the evening but during the day the kids are in the living room playing iwth their toys. They don't ask for TV so then I feel why should I plonk them in front of it? The only time I do that is whne I"m making dinner, have to make an important phone call, a friend calls around etc etc - they don't ask. If they do ask, then I do let them. It's just that we don't watch TV ourselves so it's never really on in our house.
I use the computer a lot and in the evenings DH watches an hour or 2 but I don't - we would watch movies together that's about it really.
Sometimes we'll all sit down to watch a DVD together which I love.

Yes, I do need to relax. I come from a large family of 8 kids. My parents were quite angry and my Dad shouted, a lot. I want to stop that from happening in my home. DH also needs to relax. I find having had a good chat about it, we are on the same page again.

This morn DH got a lie in and then I went to the gym so everybody happy. Boys are happy to be back in their routine, all slept in this morning and are happily playing with their toys now while I am browsing on mumsnet.

I think during our hols we didn't give one another enough of a break, DH and I I mean. The thing is, while travelling everyone was very tired and boys were up late every night but still waking early, so it was tough going and seemed a bit of a nightmare at times. Because DH and I were tired, neither of us wanted the other going off doing stuff on our own which was silly looking back. When we're in our own home we often do stuff alone and the ohter minds the kids. So I think we've learned from this again that next time on hols we need to let the other go a little and just deal with the kids.

They are still VERY young and we are teaching them good manners. DS2 is a bit of a handful, always has been since birth, but a little sweetheart and I adore him but that can be stressful with him yammering on at the dinner table. It is attention seeking and we are trying to deal with that. I'm going to get some reward charts going and start making some other steps towards positive change.

Today they are like different kids, totally cooperative and happily playing together, and I really do think it's because they are back to their routine of sleeping 7:30 to 8.

Thanks everyone for all your posts. I have plenty of food for thought and I think we are back on track thankfully :O)

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