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What to do about totally different parenting styles

(37 Posts)
PenelopeChipShop Sun 30-Nov-14 07:26:22

I'm not even sure if that is the whole problem, am struggling to articulate it. But DH and I rarely agree on anything these days it seems!

DS is now nearly 2.5 years old and we're entering tantrum territory. DH works long hours and is rarely home but when he is and DS plays up he'll either shout or say to ignore him, whereas I try to acknowledge his feelings and wait it out. He still wakes at night and DH doesn't hear him (!) but his advice is to let him cry whereas I go in if he's upset (I do wait a little bit to see if he'll resettle but he's in the habit of waking for good from about 4am if not settled quickly so it has to be done or the day is ruined!!)

We also seem to have very different energy levels when it comes to playing with DS... I do lots of games with his toys, silly messing about stuff, reading, drawing... If DH and DS are left alone in the house I will ALWAYS find the TV on, it's as if he wants to avoid actually interacting with him. I know playing with a toddler can be pretty boring, it's not like I actually love playing thomas the tank for hours but it's important.

I just feel that he is not the hands on dad he said he would be, and to be fair I have morphed from his equal professional partner into a probably nagging and critical wife and I hate myself for that, but I just think he should make a lot more effort with DS.

This isn't even about doing stuff around the house - he does barely anything but I can live with that, but not making much effort with his son will have repercussions I think. When I mention this to him he says I over analyse the importance of everything and it's not a big deal.

I'm starting to feel resentful of spat everything he does, when I find him sitting on the iPad ignoring DS I feel so angry but it's either bottle it up or make yet another nagging comment. How do I get past this? I know it's wrong of me to feel so critical but sometimes I just feel this isn't the family life I thoyght we'd have.


listed Sun 30-Nov-14 07:32:44

I feel for you.

It's funny how his parenting "style" involves very little effort isn't it? Leave him to cry, put the TV on.... I'm not sure it's a parenting style, it's just laziness!

This then throws the onus straight back on you. You're the one who does everything, so you become the "uber mother" for want of a better term, and suddenly it's all your responsibility, including trying to force the other crap parent to pull their weight.

It's exhausting and you end up hating yourself because their uselessness forces you into the "bad cop" role all the time.

I'm afraid I don't have any easy answers. My ex was like this and well.... he now an ex.

Have you laid it on the line for him? It's so unfair forcing you into the role of nagging wife simply because it's the only way you'll get anything done.

I used to think "I can be fun too! It's just you never give any space to be the nice, fun one!" And that is so unfair because it affects your relationship with your child too.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 30-Nov-14 07:37:24

I think the advantage DCs have when there are two parents is that they get to experience more than one parenting style. It's not essential to entertain children all the time, for example, so quietly watching TV with Dad is therefore just as valid as playing games. When it comes to the night-times, your DH is not so much avoiding DS as being lazy, safe in the knowledge that you'll get up and see to him provided he does nothing. And fair play to him.... it's working like a charm. smile

So I think that's the tack you take rather than the nebulous 'parenting styles'.... the laziness. You mention that he does nothing around the home and DS is clearly falling into the category of domestic chores. So it's time to correct that, stop being the maid/nanny/cook, agree a fairer division of labour between you, and make sure he pulls his weight in all aspects of family life. Don't 'nag'... agree some parameters, set the expectations and have ready some consequences for failure.

I'd also suggest that you are long overdue a week away to visit a close friend. Let DH manage home and DS for a nice long time.

DisgraceToTheYChromosome Sun 30-Nov-14 08:44:49


We had radically different parenting styles, so different we had to go to Relate. But laziness wasn't a problem.

How long are his hours OP? Any less than 70 out of the house and he's a part timer in my game.

Twinklestein Sun 30-Nov-14 09:07:43

This is not about parenting style but laziness.

You're getting angry because he's not pulling his weight either with the housework or the child. It's not that you're turning into a nagging wife it's that he's turning into a feckless husband. Who wouldn't be angry with that?

The only cure to this situation is for him to get his arse in gear, I cannot see how you can get less angry if his behaviour does not change. These issues will destroy your relationship if they're not addressed. So I would sit down and tell him that if he wants this relationship to work he has shape up. Divide up chores and childcare between you.

I don't agree with a pp that watching TV or playing with an ipad is a valid way of parenting, it's not 'quiet' so much as crap. At 2 and 1/2 there's no reason for your son to be watching TV at all.

Guyropes Sun 30-Nov-14 09:18:36

The only way to improve things is through communicating. You aren't going to 'get' him to shape up unless he starts acknowledging your feelings and needs. In order to communicate with him in such a way that this possibility might happen instead of more conflict, you need to reconnect with him and have a close, personal dialogue with him. All this is probably affecting your intimacy as well, you don't say.

BertieBotts Sun 30-Nov-14 09:30:04

I agree that some TV watching is fine, but it is a cop out, come on. And yes sometimes a cop out is fine, some downtime is essential, for kids as well as parents. But if one parent ONLY ever does TV watching, and the other does all of the other stuff, that's not a fair or proportional split.

Agreed that this is not a parenting style, it's a lack of wanting to actually put any work in. How refreshing! I wish someone had said that to me about my XP! smile

Talk to him maybe? Ask him if he would think it OK if you also sat and watched TV with DS all the time? It might be that he thinks it's fine because DS is getting enough stimulation from you and so he's off the hook (not fine). It might be that he genuinely thinks it's OK - in which case you can try to persuade or argue the point that he ought to humour you really. Or it might be that he thinks you really enjoy playing with him - some men seem to have this bizarre idea that toddler playing is somehow magically less mind numbing when you're in possession of female hormones.

heyday Sun 30-Nov-14 10:38:08

Many people, both men and women find it very difficult to interact with young children. Men quite often prefer to do more hands on stuff. How about making a suggestion board of activities to do with DS, things like going to park to climb trees, play football, ride a bike or fly a kite on a windy day.
How about a construction day whereby loads of different materials come out and they have a task to build something. Or making a den together or go swimming. Get DS and DH to add to the list of things they would like to do together. Hopefully if they can find things that they enjoy together your DH will start to relish his time with his son. You can do the playing and he can do other activities.
Try to bring some fun back into the home. It's so easy to get into the pattern of disagreeing and arguing over every little thing especially once children come along. . sounds like DH is taking the easier road and doesn't want to or doesn't know how to change things. Probably the more you are 'nagging' him (I hate that word) the more he is putting up the barriers and not listening. Try to make plans for some family fun days out too, it sounds as if you all need some quality time together just having fun.

PenelopeChipShop Sun 30-Nov-14 10:47:14

Thank you all for your considered responses. I'm actually quite relieved that you understand, as I did worry that this isn't even serious enough to go on the Relationship board. I logged on this morning and saw all these posts about cheating partners, some when people are pg… it's dreadful, and I know I don't have it as bad as that. DH would never cheat, I just know he wouldn't, and he is great in other ways too - never, ever controlling with money, he is beyond generous, has given me an Amex that I can put anything on (well household expenses!) and he pays. This is because I am largely at home with DS at the mo (I do a bit of freelance stuff to keep my hand in but v much around our son, I am basically a SAHM who has an occasional deadline!).

I'm trying to look on the bright side because I feel so angry. I think it is fair to call him lazy around the house, but it's because he does work a lot and have a lot of responsibility (his own company). Yes it would be 70 hours plus a week, Disgrace. The problem I feel is that he saves his energy and his 'best self' for work, and at home he just has to slob out to recover from working so hard, and so I feel that I'm never off duty. He would only volunteer to get up with DS on a weekend for example if I was ill, not for any other reason.

Of course, I could ask, but when I push him to do more, by asking him to get up, or on the rare occasions that I go out with friends, or have work to do myself, so he has sole care, he gets very irritable and complains of being tired, and it's just all short cuts - telly on, feeding DS snacks to distract him, or just watching sport himself while he plays with his toys.

It feels like it's so mean to say that I don't think he's a good enough dad, but ultimately that's how I feel. Since having DS my whole world has revolved around him, he is my priority, but I feel like DH's life has just carried on with a few cute photographs on his desk.

Twinklestein I'm glad you agree about the TV thing, I certainly don't mean to judge those who use Ceebeebies, I do let him watch ITNG sometimes (not every day) and if he gets up at an unholy hour I'll put something on while I wake up, but otherwise, it simply doesn't go on on waking hours, I'd rather we were active. I don't think that makes me a massive perfectionist does it? But DH would say it does.

What really worries me of those of you who say your EXES were like this… it makes me so sad to think of splitting bc before having kids we honestly had a great relationship! I was so in love. Yes, he was a bit lazy then too but it didn't matter. But I don't want to feel like I'm raising my son alone. I don't really care who loads the dishwasher, but I DO care when DS says 'look Daddy I done a tower/play chasing me/whatever' and DH tunes him out and doesn't respond. Surely that's not ok?

PenelopeChipShop Sun 30-Nov-14 10:53:46

Sorry such a long reply. I suppose what I'm asking of those of you who had similar partners is:

Is working so hard a good enough excuse to not really do any properly hands-on parenting?

Am I expecting too much, especially given that I wouldn't complain about him in any other way than the laziness? (We still fancy each other and are intimate when we have the energy!!)

I just worry that my constant anger and irritability about one thing and another is going to affect us long-term. I'm thinking maybe I need to accept him as he is...

DisgraceToTheYChromosome Sun 30-Nov-14 11:02:44

No, it isn't.

I would suggest a really serious chat, because at the moment he seems to think that home time is down time. That won't be true for about 15 years if you stop at one child. The primary subject of the chat is going to have to be the "tuning out"; this is one of the manchild markers.

Have you BILs and/or brothers? Get them onside if possible, as a sledgehammer to knees concentrates the mind wonderfully. Certainly I've always kept it in mind.

Twinklestein Sun 30-Nov-14 11:18:57

I agree he's not a good enough dad and I think you need to tell him that because he needs to be aware how much is in the line here. What you expect from him is not perfectionism but basic parenting.

If it helps, by way of comparison, my husband has always worked very long city hours, with a lot of responsibility, and always pulled his weight with the house and children. I took time out from working when the children were small, so I did more round the house (- relatively I hate cleaning and always had a cleaner, honesty compels me to say); he always did bath time and bedtime when he was home in time, and loads with them at weekends.

Equally, my sister gave up a city career to have 3 kids, her husband works full time. There are many things I dislike about him, but I can't fault his commitment to and involvement with the children. He's a very hands on dad.

If you don't sort this out now, if/when you have another child or go back to work or both, the problem will escalate. Your husband will not expect to do any more round the house and with the kids and you will have all of that on top of your work to deal with. Resentment will turn to fury.

I don't think this is about 'asking' him to do more, but asking him fundamentally to reconsider his MO. He's got to understand that if he has a child, he has to parent that child, take responsibility for then, and not just babysit. He now has two areas of commitment: work and family, and he's carrying on as if he only had work.

PenelopeChipShop Sun 30-Nov-14 11:21:49

Disgrace at least that made me laugh! How old are your DCs now if you don't mind me asking? Did the counselling help?

I know this sounds like it's just a laziness issue, and I think a lot of it is, but it's also the fact that we just approach parenting in a totally different way - I have read loads of books, not just how to deal with a baby stuff, but some quite serious research, and philosophy. I believe that parenting makes an enormous difference to children's chances in life - how could it not? And I truly think it will benefit DS if I spend these formative years being very responsive to him, playing, tickling, laughing etc.

Whereas I do think that DH simply doesn't think about things to that extent. His life philosophy is probably 'Everything will be fine, stop worrying.' He just doesn't think it particularly matters whether he puts the telly on or does some nice creative making/playing, so he'd rather take the easy route. But I totally disagree. That's why I do think it's a parenting styles clash of sorts.

Twinklestein Sun 30-Nov-14 11:22:11

Them not then^

dreamingbohemian Sun 30-Nov-14 11:26:09

I think you are completely entitled to feel this way, and he does sound a bit lazy, but... He works more than 70 hours a week in a stressful job, it's not surprising he's crashing out at the weekends. I also sort of agree with him that watching TV is not the end of the world, if you want to be active instead of TV that's fine, but it's not going to ruin your son's life. You don't like it because it doesn't fit with your image of what they should be doing, but should your expectations trump his exhaustion?

When SAHM it's easier to put a lot of effort into things, when working long hours you tend to fall into a 'good enough' attitude. I think you need to be realistic that he will never rise to your level. He's not around enough and he won't have the mental energy.

But maybe his 'good enough' could be improved a bit, if you focus on little things he could do more, or find some activities that might rouse him to get out. Because don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he should be allowed to totally check out.

But as far as the bigger picture -- I think his behaviour is the inevitable consequence of this very unbalanced setup, where he works very long hours and you do everything in the home. What is your long-term plan? Are you going back to work? Will he be able to cut back his hours?

Instead of constantly arguing, perhaps you could sit down and talk about how the whole situation is not making you happy, and is not sustainable, and figure out what you both want to happen long-term. If he says he wants to keep the status quo, then it will be for you to decide whether this is the life you want.

dreamingbohemian Sun 30-Nov-14 11:33:50

Sorry x-post -- actually it does sound a lot like different parenting philosophies, if you're reading lots of books about it and he's all 'everything will turn out fine'.

I admit I'm more of the latter. This is because I was raised poor by a single mum, watched shedloads of TV, went to daycare young, etc, and still managed to get a good education (incl phd), have an interesting life, a family, etc.

If you have really immersed yourself in these ideas, you will feel that of course your approach is right -- look, all these smart people have written books about it. But many many kids are raised your husband's way and turn out fine too.

So like I said, he still needs to do more, but you probably need to find some compromises between your two approaches. Like, you let them watch some TV, but he agrees to only do it for X amount of time. Or he has the morning to completely chill out but the afternoon he takes DS out. Would that work?

Twinklestein Sun 30-Nov-14 11:40:43

I would say my husbands's life philosophy is much the same: 'everything will be fine, don't worry' but that has nothing to do with how much he grafts as a father.

I think it's true that some parents are more laid back, less into parenting manuals and early learning, more into a relaxed, instinctive way of being a parent, but again, that doesn't mean they're less involved. I would say my BIL (mentioned above) is like that - but that doesn't mean lack of graft and commitment: he loves being with the children and he's always pulled his weight with them, taking them out for the day when my sister needs a break. He works long hours too.

I don't get the sense that your husband is that committed to being a father or has actually got his head round what that entails.

listed Sun 30-Nov-14 13:50:11

OP I posted about my ex further up thread.

My ex had his own business. It was incredibly stressful and full on and he worked 6 days a week 16 hours a day during his busy months.

He, even now, feels I was enormously unfair to him and never appreciated the fact that he HAD to work all these hours. He still complains I didn't support him.

What I cannot get him to understand is that the work hours were never an issue. If he was out of the house at work, I got on with things myself and never thought anything of it.

The problem was that when he was at home he was lazy, miserable, snappy, did nothing for his baby and nothing at all for me. He felt entitled to behave like a completely selfish arse because he was "tired" and "stressed".

So he asked for allowances from me all the time - I had to bring up a child singlehanded plus deal with all his shit too. He never had the energy to shoulder any of the burden for me or support me in any way. He was useless with the baby and eventually I realised that he contributed nothing, and I was better off halving my problems by cutting him loose.

The fact was that I had totally lost respect for him by then - my feelings for him had been completely eroded until there was nothing left.

I hope you don't get to that point, I really do. I'm telling you this because I think that, no, working hard is NOT a catch all excuse for being a rubbish partner and a rubbish father.

listed Sun 30-Nov-14 13:53:45

Sorry, I just want to add that now I am a single parent and work full time. I have no family to help.

I do full time hours and then come home and do everything for my child. My down time is exclusively when he is asleep, and even then I still have to clean, do admin etc.

Home time isn't down time when you have a child. If there's two of you, you each get a bit of down time if you're lucky. But one of you doesn't get 100% of the down time whilst relying on the other to pick up all the slack. I don't care how much you work, that's not being a parent and it's not being a team player either.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Sun 30-Nov-14 14:51:22

Why don't you go and do something else when your husband is looking after his son? That's your time for yourself right there.

I think you need to take a step back because parenting styles vary tremendously and I think that many women (myself included) have too much of a tendency to think that it would all fall apart if it were for us. It wouldn't. If you made the right choice in choosing a father for your child and to marry then just trust them.

Certainly you should stop nagging; it's not going to change anything but your husband's view of you. If something is really adrift (dangerous or completely inattentive) then speak to him about it when your child is in bed. People are not natural parents, nobody knows exactly how to do it from the moment a baby is born and mother's don't always know what is 'best' because sometimes it's not about 'best', it's about presence and caring, in whatever form that is.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Sun 30-Nov-14 14:55:11

I also meant to add that, if you see yourself as being the 'primary parent' and a good one, ie. playing silly games on the floor - and think of that as what a 'good parent does' then maybe (not saying it is) that your husband is inhibited around you, wouldn't do these things around you. Is that possible? Does your son like being looked after by his dad? That is really the key point.

BertieBotts Sun 30-Nov-14 16:28:07

"Yes, he was a bit lazy then too but it didn't matter."

But it does matter now. And that's the issue. We put up with or ignore all sorts because it doesn't matter when we're all independent and basically just two people living together because we love each other, have fun and enjoy each others' company. Marriage is more than that, though. I wish I'd known that the first time around. How he pulls his weight when you're struggling is the key point, how he deals with things when you're not able to support yourself.

It might be something that you can get through but you really have to get him to understand, really, what the problem is. And it's nothing to do with parenting styles, it's to do with you feeling unsupported, him grabbing all of the "down time" (I love what listed wrote about this, spot on.)

The thing is that if he is spending all the time with the TV on and you don't feel this is OK, you're not going to feel you can relax at these times. If he thinks it doesn't matter, then can't you come to a compromise - you don't mind if he sticks the telly on for an hour a day, or you don't mind if he has the telly on in the background, whatever. But you need to be able to talk and hash these things out, not just him continuing to do what you feel is a cop out and you feeling more and more resentful about it as time goes by.

PenelopeChipShop Sun 30-Nov-14 17:31:34

Twinklestein I would describe myself as a relaxed and instinctive parent - but I am also very engaged and responsive, and I do think those things are hugely important.

I think there's a huge difference between being laid back and being switched off. A lot of the time my DH is the latter. It's complicated - just bc I am at home and think parenting is important, doesn't mean I am an organic food- cooking, flashcard-weilding pushy mum - I am not at all! But I wouldn't ignore my son when he was asking for attention and I REALLY mind when his dad does. I just can't get past that.

PenelopeChipShop Sun 30-Nov-14 17:36:06

listed thank you for sharing your advice and I'm sorry about how things worked out for you. Though in some ways I can see why you came to the decision you did.

You have hit the nail on the head too - it isn't about resenting the hours worked, it's about how they are eh they're at home. It's the 'there but not there' feeling I can't stand.

petalsandstars Sun 30-Nov-14 18:01:00

I feel the same and am looking into toddler calm parenting course to do together

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