Child rearing philosophies: When partners disagree

After several years of infertility I want to stay home with my adopted baby and my husband wants me to work and place our daughter in day care. I want to raise her using intuitive attachment parenting and he wants to use the Ferber method to let her cry it out! This is causing a great deal of conflict in our marriage. All I want is to be with my baby, but he wants to get on with our lives. How do other new parents work out differences in child rearing philosophies?

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

Tell your husband that getting on with your lives includes a baby now. Your lives have changed and adjustments are major. Becoming parents is one of the most profound changes you will experience in your marriage. Now is the time to create a team approach to your new responsibilities.

Your feelings of attachment to your baby are critical to her well-being A baby senses the presence or lack of presence of this physical and emotional security. In a healthy parent-child relationship, a baby uses your presence to feel safe. She is small and you are big. Survival means to stay close. A basic sense of trust is being established in this first year which will serve as the foundation for solid and satisfying relationships the rest of her life.

Parenting contains a psychological investment that is undeniable. Your baby feels special to you because she is special to you! She can benefit from other loving caretakers as time goes on, but your emotional commitment to her should never assume a lower priority to day care. It is not possible to "spoil" a baby at this age, nor is it necessary to teach her independence. The needs of a five month old are for bonding and attachment to the primary caretakers in her life.

Your daughter has already started out her life with the loss of her biological parents. In time, she will have questions about why her biological parents gave her away. Developing your instincts about her needs now will help you gain confidence for the challenges to come. Bonding includes getting to know who she is, what she likes and how she reacts to the world. This takes spending time with her! Attunement to your child means being able to comprehend her unique experience in the world. She does not have words to tell you her experience. Perhaps you had this attunement in your childhood and your husband did not. If you want to stay home with her and are lucky enough to be able to do so in these tender months you should take full advantage!

Communicating the importance of your feelings as a mother to your husband can be the first step towards teamwork. Be sensitive to his feelings in this transition as well. Is he jealous of the special bond you and your daughter have? Does he feel left out in some way? These are normal feelings for a Dad to have in the first year of adjustment. He may miss you and not know how to articulate his needs or even be ashamed of his feelings. He may be feeling left out on the fringe of the family relationships if you stay home and he does not. Perhaps he wants things back to normal or how they used to be between you. This could be particularly true if he has not yet developed a primary bond with his daughter. Is he taking quality time caring for her by himself, as you have? Does he feel he has a special bond with her? Is he getting to know her ... what makes her happy, sad, scared, or glad?

Discussing what has changed in your relationship as a couple since you adopted your daughter will bring the two of you closer. Mourning the loss of your prior freedom and spontaneity as well as finding ways to reaffirm your couples' bond may go a long way towards creating a nurturing framework in which to build teamwork in the very important task of raising your child together. The late Carl Whitaker, known as the father of family therapy believed that when couples become parents they either grow closer together or further apart. Your conflict with your husband presents opportunity for dialog about what is in the best interests of your child and what has happened in your couples' relationship since she came aboard. Relationships between all members of the family take time to gestate. The birth of a baby is the birth of a new family form. Hang in there, anything that is worthwhile is worth the effort.

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