Honoring Each Partner’s Parenting Role

Carrying a baby is life altering for you and your intimate relationship with your partner. Nothing brings issues to the surface like becoming parents. The stress and tension of parenting, combined with the lineage of mothering or fathering each of you has received, makes all your issues more visible.
It’s imperative to nurture not only your own wellbeing but also the wellbeing of your partnership.
In addition to the other life changes, postpartum hormones can intensify feelings of both connection and conflict. In my women’s health physical therapy practice, a common complaint I hear from women is that they find themselves feeling angry with their partner, sometimes without even knowing the reason. Keep some perspective while the feelings roll through. Monitor your reactions and remember that your feelings may be greater than the truth of what is happening in the moment.
Also, you and your partner have been through a tremendous change, which requires time to adjust. Being patient and ultra-loving with one another is a high priority. In order to strengthen your bond even while in the midst of this transition, focus on your partner’s attributes and the traits that attract you. Enjoy your baby together, and savor the union that will nurture this new life.
Some of the early conflicts that arise between mothers and fathers are gender differences in caretaking.
Of course, individual parents will vary in many ways, even among mothers or fathers, but the gender issues arise often enough to be worth mentioning. A perfect example of this comes from my own experience. When my first son was six months old, I took him to an infant massage class to learn techniques for baby massage. Most of the participants were mothers. On the last day, partners — most of whom were fathers — were invited to attend.
My husband’s ranching family is less comfortable hugging or touching one another, and perhaps being male accentuated my husband’s discomfort with touch. Still, I wanted him to be different with his own children. During the instruction of the massage technique, my husband’s hand had only partial contact with our son’s body. He seemed to be doing the massage halfheartedly. By the end of the class, I was fuming. I felt that my husband was already well on his way to passing down a lack of touch and all the issues that came with it. Though we can pass on patterns of wounding while parenting our children, in this case, I had loaded meaning onto one situation.
I approached the instructor after class and shared some of my concerns, asking if she might talk to my husband about the importance of touch. Instead of speaking to my partner, she told me an ancient story about how mothers hold their children close and teach them about themselves, while fathers hold their children up to the sky and teach them about their relationship to the world.
This was not what I wanted to hear.
Though I pondered her words, I didn’t truly comprehend the meaning until a few more years of parenting had passed and I gained an appreciation for the attributes of different parenting styles.
As a mother, I was innately attuned to my children’s needs — so much in fact that I often intuited a need just as they were beginning to ask for something. To have a need met by their father, these same children had to become much louder or even ask for something multiple times to receive his attention. In a way, he was less sensitive to their needs, which meant that they had to learn the essential skill of advocating for themselves. Our skills as parents complemented each other.
In same-sex or non-binary partnerships, gender differences may not play as strong a role, but parenting styles can still differ or complement one another. A couple can increase their communication and skill set by respecting the benefits of their different styles. Ideally, couples learn from each other, and their collective strengths offset the inevitable places of lack.
It’s worth talking about concerns and identifying the limiting patterns, just as I continued to advocate for the importance of touch and connection in our home. But both parents don’t need to provide the same type of parenting for their children.

Author Bio
Tami Lynn Kent is a women’s health physical therapist, a TEDx speaker, and the founder of Holistic Pelvic CareTM where she utilizes her ability to read energetic patterns of the body. Kent maintains a private practice and an international training program in Portland, Oregon. She has authored three previous books. Her latest, Wild Mothering: Finding Power, Spirit, and Joy in Birth and a Creative Motherhood (Atria Books, May 7, 2024), is a newly updated edition of her classic, Mothering from Your Center. Learn more at www.wildfeminine.com.

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