I often hear from moms who complain:
“My boyfriend doesn’t like how I discipline my teenagers. That is so messed up — what does he know about teenagers! His kids are in GRADE SCHOOL!”
“My boyfriend and I fight all the time about how I raise my kids. Makes me crazy — they are my kids, he needs to mind his own business.”
Both of these are wrong. Here’s why:
- Kids are not Smurfs or Northern hairy-nosed wombats. Kids are human children. There are billions of them. Your boyfriend was a kid, and he knows other human kids. He is familiar with their habits and species, and because he, too, is a human he has opinions about their behavior and rearing.
- If you tell your significant other: “You do not get a say in my family,” you are telling him: “You are not part of my family.” You are telling him that he does not matter and you will never fully commit to him.
- His relationship with your kids is limited. Part of an adult-child relationship is the grown-up laying down rules and issuing consequences for the kid. Restrict that, and the bond between your boyfriend and kids is restricted.
- You’re a control freak. Disciplining kids is just one more goddamned thing you have to do. Why would you turn down an opportunity to outsource that to a willing volunteer?
- You’re unwilling to compromise. Yes, at the end of the day, you are the parent and he is not. You get final say. But if you are to have a future with this guy, he must also have a say in how things go down in your house. If you draw a hard line in the sand he is never allowed to cross, nothing good can ever come of that.
- Telling others that you are the only person qualified to discipline your kids is a symptom of the canonization of motherhood that oppresses women. In other words: Yes, being a mother is important and fulfilling work. But there is not a whole lot that you can offer your kids that someone else can’t do every once in a while. And if you buy into the notion that you and only you can nurture your kid, then you buy into the culture that tells women that they are bad moms for working outside the home and having sex with men who are not their fathers — just like that nice guy who wants to give your bratty toddler a time out.
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