Some people fall easily into the role of parenting, while others struggle with the adjustment. Whether you're trying to get pregnant or already pregnant, there's no time like the present to spend some time thinking about what you'd like your style of parenting to be. Think of parenting as a test (that will last 18+ years) — you better start studying now!
Just as when you're considering marriage or a commitment to a partner, you should set guidelines before taking the plunge. There are many aspects of parenting that you may not even anticipate will be an issue between you and your spouse. Since you probably didn't grow up with identical parents, families and circumstances, chances are you'll have some if not many differing opinions when it relates to parenting. These differences may be even more dramatic if the father of your baby grew up drastically different than you. Subjects such as spanking, who cares for the baby, breastfeeding and sleeping arrangements rarely come up during courtship, but you can trust that they may be among the hot button issues you'll have to discuss with your spouse.
Adjusting to a New Baby
Before your baby comes, you should discuss your feelings about meeting your baby's basic needs which include feeding, diapering and sleeping. Some important issues you should discuss ahead of time include:
Breastfeeding:While your husband may assume that you plan to breastfeed, you may feel differently about it and want to formula feed your child instead. Conversely, your husband and his family may feel that breastfeeding is taboo and makes them uncomfortable. Address this ahead of time and tell them that you plan to breastfeed and will make every effort to make them feel comfortable if they make similar efforts to be accommodate you and be more tolerant.
Changing Diapers: You may be married to the most masculine man, but when it comes to potentially stomach-turning duties such as changing a baby's diapers, he may be the biggest wimp you'll ever meet. If you're fine assuming this responsibility on your own, you don't have to worry, but if you'd like him to help out, you may have to tell him to "man up." Check out daddy boot camps in your area — you may make a man out of him yet!
Sleeping: Most child psychologists will attest that one of the most important parts of parenting is bonding with your child. Many families opt for the family bed as a way to grow closer to their child, while others want to keep the bed to themselves. The important thing is that both you and your spouse have to be in agreement on this issue — or someone will probably end up sleeping on the couch most nights. One compromise might be to have a co-sleeper or basinet next to your bed for the first few months, then transitioning him or her into a separate room later.
Child Care: Your husband may have grown up with a stay at home mom, while your mom dropped you off at daycare. If either of you feel strongly one way or another, this is quite possibly the most important parenting issue you'll have to agree upon before the baby is born, possibly even before you get married and decide to have children. Deciding to have one parent stay at home with children will require careful budgeting and planning in most cases, as well as some financial and career sacrifices. Talk it over with your spouse and try to come up with the best plan that makes both of you happy.
Parenting Your New Baby
There are so many issues that new parents have to decide upon when starting a family. It may be a good idea to buy a general parenting book and read it over and discuss it with your spouse. Potential parenting issues you should discuss include:
Diet: Do you want to feed your infant only organic, homemade food? Will you feed the child a special diet, such as vegetarian, vegan, etc? If you are vegetarian, and your husband isn't, what will the child eat?
Discipline: Before you know it, your infant will be needing (and demanding) boundaries — you should decide on your parenting philosophy ahead of time. Of course, kids change everything, and you may find that the philosophy you started out with may have to change as well. The important thing is to stay consistent and discuss your concerns with your spouse out of earshot of the children. Spanking, which is typically a sensitive issue, should be well defined ahead of time. If your spouse grew up with spanking in the house and has a strong feeling against it, then you should definitely respect it. If spanking is ok with both of you, determine when and how it will be utilized as a discipline technique. Other discipline issues such as how you will reason with kids, what the rules will be, how time outs will be enforced, etc. should be discussed as well.
Spoiling: You and your spouse may have very differing opinions on how much a child should get in terms of material goods. While some parents may have no problems lavishing expensive clothing and toys on their baby, others may be diametrically opposed to spoiling of this sort.
Extended Family: While your husband's tipsy dad may have been amusing before kids, you may find that you don't want him around your young children. If your mom is particularly overbearing, as a new grandma, she may be even worse. Families can be one of the hardest things to deal with, and you should discuss ahead of time how much a part of your family they will be.
Regardless of what you think your parenting style may be, it is important to be flexible where you can, and respectful of your spouse's opinions. Parenting is a lifelong process — it will require a lot of growing and learning on your part.