Parenting Survival Handbook Chapter 9 – The Argument Dynamic

Eight chapters in and together we have explored many experiences and new things that are, well, inflicted upon you when you bring a life into this world.

One facet of your transformed life that hasn’t really been touched on is the dynamic between you and your beloved.

Now hopefully, the reason you are expecting is because the person you entwined your DNA with is your soul mate. The one who melts your heart, the one who doesn’t want to liquify you when you don’t replace the empty toilet roll.

You’ve experienced lots of things together. Your family is their family and vice versa. Your future is theirs etc. Your spare time is spent with them and while you may have extra-curricular activities that don’t necessarily include them, invariably, when you’re not at work, you’re either thinking of them or you’re curled up on the couch, watching something that they have no doubt chosen.

You have arguments, of course. Who doesn’t? Have you noticed though, that they usually revolve around something inconsequential that with hindsight, makes you seem like a bit of an idiot after you’ve argued about eating all the shortbread?

Well, cherish those arguments. Those niggly conversations where you think you want the silent treatment but when it’s doled out it drives you batsh*t crazy like an interior itch.

Those moments where you both enter an exchange at the conversational equivalent of an amber traffic light, when you know you can squeeze through before the traffic envelops you. It starts off with both of you having a tenuous point and ends up with both of you scoring points off one another, eager to amp each other up and try to induce a mistake that can be preyed upon.

Because when your precious little one arrives, it changes inexorably.

Take it from experience.



My wife and I still argue, but it is in a different hue. It is the argumentative equivalent of decaf. The subject matter shares the same vein as previous models – something that really doesn’t matter, like I’ve put the baby’s socks in the wrong drawer, or I think they need a drink but my wife thinks they need a nap – but the destination arrives a lot sooner.

There doesn’t seem to be as much venom as there was previously. We still annoy each other, but now we put so much effort into the kid’s daily lives that it means we, subconsciously, have conceded that it really isn’t worth getting in a froth about.

We work seamlessly, even when slightly peeved with each other. One does the bottles, the other changes the nappy. One feeds, one tells stories. One goes for a call of nature while the other rocks one baby and plays cars with the toddler.

If you thought you were disorganised before and leant heavily on your partner for life admin, believe me, you’ll soon pick up the slack. You will see your other half struggle to maintain the roles they performed in the B.B years (Before Baby) and you will rise up like a majestic salmon, eager to help and be the hero they need.

Or rather, you will do what needs to be done.

The old adage, ‘there isn’t enough hours in the day,’ really does ring true, but you have to be thankful that you have someone who is there to support you and most importantly, help your offspring grow.

I can’t begin to imagine being a single parent. I doff my cap to anyone who performs this on a day to day basis without the support network of a partner to help relieve the load.

Still, being in a duo does bring up obstacles.

One being the oft-seen ‘difference of opinion.’

You see, everyone has a thought or two to share, whether you want to listen or not, on the upbringing of children. Even if they haven’t actually done it themselves (making a baby of course, not the ‘other’ thing…snort), they will hold forth nuggets of supposed wisdom that are hewn from their own childhood. That could mean you get the virtues of why it is good to give a kid solitary confinement for 12 hours at a time, like an infant Papillon, as it “never did them any harm.”

Or why you should feed them a gluten free diet, as they’ve read a report that it leads to cases of ADD, or lupus, or something – they read it on Facebook and it’s really bad…

So if you are lucky enough to have a decent set of friends, they will pass down what they perceive as helpful info, as you choose to share the war stories of parenthood. The sleep starvation, the struggles with mealtime, the sleep starvation, trying to weed out the bad reaction to instructions, the sleep starvation, when your child lashes out in temper, the sleep starvation…

If you open up, which you will as you must, otherwise the emotional dam will break and you will too, then  that gives anyone within earshot, free license to come forth and spew utter tripe.

Advice is a form of nostalgia, and is coloured with bias. So the advice, while well meaning, is skewed from what may have been perfectly good tips at one point or another. Just imagine how many times this info has been passed around. Remember Chinese Whispers at school? So what you’re presented with is a contorted offering, bearing no resemblance to common sense or usefulness.

When discussing this though, quite often it will be the tinder box that your tired disagreements with your partner needs, to spark into flames.

All too often, when discussing things with friends or family, I have gone over moments with the kids and it has led to previous opinion clashes being resurfaced, like when you wipe make up off your face at the end of a heavy night and you suddenly remember you have a spot the size of a small settlement on your chin. It’s ugly and it dawns on you why you chose to plaster over it in the first place – but now it’s there, in full glory and it won’t go away.

You either have to pop it – or apply more concealer.

But you pretty much have to pop it – applying the concealer only adds to the throbbing sensation that eventually cannot be ignored.

And that is the major difference to arguments B.B and A.B (After Baby, but I’m sure you got that).

You used to be able to sweep disagreements under the carpet, you just chose not to because you had the energy and belief that you were right. You had the conviction in your veins and it buoyed you to fight for what you thought was right.

When it comes to parenthood though, what you believe is flaky, and far from firm. The central theme is that you want to do what is right for your child, but you are still far from sure that the course of action you’re throwing your weight behind is the right one. Your partner feels the same of course, and it means that unless you both agree, or compromise, that it will act as a conversational speedhump every time you go out.

You will bring it up all the time until it is settled.

So pop it. Swallow your pride and settle matters. It really feels a lot better when you’re both on the same path.

And if you have to concede defeat? Fret not, for you will find that when it comes to parenting methods for everything, it is trial and error. That means that your chosen path will no doubt be explored in the near future, as you both search for ways to silence the caterwauling cacophony of a kid who wants to play with the cutlery.

Enjoy the fact you’ve got a partner to lighten the load, to take the strain when it comes to foul smelling packages, midnight runs to make bottles and tackling the sheer scale of Mt Babyclothes Washing.

You will disagree but it simply doesn’t matter in the end – I just wish I could’ve known that at the start – save your breath for the real battles – like trying to explain to a two year old why it is wrong to rub his Auntie’s moustache…

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