“Oh here, I’ll do it,” you say, whisking your crying baby out of your spouse’s arms.
“He won’t go to bed for anyone except me. I can never get any time to myself,” you confess to your friend.
“I keep telling them they’re doing it wrong, but nobody ever listens to me. Mama knows best!” you complain about your partner’s lack of skills.
Moms, we have a problem. An epidemic, really. Thousands of us are affected. We are suffering from Spousal Saving Syndrome.
The irresistible urge to micromanage our partner’s interactions with our children. To impart our infallible wisdom. To coach, direct and insist on proper technique. And when all else fails? To do it our damn self and bitch about it to our friends.
I was Captain Controllypants with my firstborn, too. I get it. I figured I spent most of the time with him and knew the best tricks. Which I was happy to graciously insist on with my partner. I couldn’t stand to hear my son cry, so I immediately swooped in to save the
Here’s what happened. I created an environment where I was the only one who could parent my son. Then I became resentful of my lack of alone time, and of my partner’s incompetence. I micromanaged their every interaction so that they lost confidence in their own abilities. They started relying on me to save them, and stopped trying to deal with it in the first place. I grew more resentful.
I grew more resentful and it was entirely my own fault.
Babies? They don’t come with manuals. I didn’t know what worked best when my son was born. I had to figure it out. I had to try some things. I had to go back to the drawing board. I had to find my groove. And just when I thought I found it, a new stage would hit and the whole thing would repeat again. Throughout all of it, I never allowed the space for my partner to travel the same journey. I never considered that what works for me might not work for them. I never gave them the confidence they needed to find their groove. I never even insisted that they try.
So Mamas, I’m here to plead, to beg: stop saving your spouses. They are competent, intelligent parents just like you are. They will find their rhythm with your children, if you let them. They will bond and their confidence will grow just as yours did. They will find a way that may not always be your way, and it will be just fine. It may work, it may not. Not everything you tried worked, either. Allow them to settle in to their own routine and watch them blossom. There will be tears, as there was with you. Your child is safe and supported. Leave the house when your urge to save becomes unbearable, or at the very least take some deep breaths. You’ll be okay.
I’m not saying let them flounder. If they ask you for tips, share what works for you and then step back again. Agree on your hard limits to sleep and discipline and all the rest and then allow each other to work within those guidelines. Collaborate. Communicate.
If you let your Spousal Saving Syndrome get the best of you, you’re liable to wind up just like me and so many moms I know – drained, with an empty cup feeling like this entire parenting gig falls only on our shoulders. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. So save your sanity, save your relationship, save your sense of self, save your partners confidence – all by refusing to save your spouse. They aren’t in need of rescuing.