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The Competent Parent: Playing Parental Pass Off


Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with local expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Playing Parental Pass Off

Dear Dr. Debbie,

Both my husband and I work somewhat erratic schedules – about 20 to 50 hours per week – with a few community and family obligations thrown in.  We still have one child at home who often needs one-on-one attention.  When school or day camp is in session, things generally work out pretty well for us.  Every now and then, however, a kink gets thrown in the works and I end up scrambling to find child care so I don’t have to cancel an obligation.  This can cause resentment because we both feel like our outside obligations – particularly work  – are being devalued by the other.  Today I came home looking forward to catching up on some paperwork and my husband, pleased to see me earlier than he had expected, announced that since I was home he would go take care of something for our grown son.

How can we avoid this feeling of competing with each other for child-free time?

When’s My Turn?

Dear When’s My Turn,

Competition between members of the same team can be a sign that there isn’t enough of a particular resource to go around.   In this case, child-free time.  Three things are needed here.  One – an advance schedule each of you can depend on to know when you are “on” and “off” duty.  You should catch up with each other for this at least weekly.  Two – a bigger pool of child care options.  Your child’s classmates could be a source of reciprocal play dates to meet this need.  Three – some compassion and compromise.  Parenting while working (or having any other obligations) is a balancing act – sometimes you have to be satisfied with doing a less than a perfect job because you had to wait or do it with a child underfoot.  If you don’t give enough attention to one of your duties  – job/child/etc. – you upset the balance and there could be a crash. Couples who work well as a parenting team use communication, cooperation, and creative compromise.

Dr. Debbie

Dr. Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis.  She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum.  Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at www.drdebbiewood.com

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor@chesapeakefamily.com

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