My daughter screamed; it was a full-blown, come-get-me-right-now-or-I-WILL-pass-myself-out scream. A six-month-old, our girl had learned that if she screamed hard and loud and long enough, I would come to her “rescue” — even when (ahem, especially when) it was bedtime.
Even though well-fed, dry-diapered, lovingly-bathed, affectionately-snuggled, our daughter would STILL not sleep longer than two hours at a time. My exhausted, new-mom heart simply could not take her tears; my drained, new-dad husband could see clearly that the baby was winning the battle of the wills.
It seems silly, doesn’t it, that a tiny baby can wreak such havoc on two full-grown adults? My husband and I knew that this first test of our parenting would set the stage for future parenting patterns, so we sat down and made a plan to which both of us could adhere. Basically, we had to get on the same parenting page.
Encouraging parents to “get on the same page” is common advice, but what does it really look like to present a united front when teaching, training, and disciplining children together? In her book, Team Us, Ashleigh Slater writes about her wedding day saying, “When I walked down that aisle, I was a ‘me.’ When Ted and I walked back up it, that “me” had become part of ‘us’ — Team Us, as I like to call this new formation.”
While it is natural for a mother and father to divide and conquer all the tasks associated with parenting — tasks such as meal-making, tooth-brushing, calendar-keeping, kid-bathing, house-cleaning, chore-assigning, toilet-training, homework-helping, clothes-shopping, Bible-teaching (and much more!) — we must take care that in the division of tasks, we aren’t inadvertently dividing into separate sides.
That means that if mom says “no” to Junior, Junior automatically knows that dad is going to say “no,” too, and vice versa. In fact, if mom says “no,” Junior isn’t even going to approach dad about the topic because he knows that while mom and dad are two people, they parent as one.
A united front does not come naturally, however. Both spouses must work hard to develop a parenting game plan. Required are many, many strategy-setting sessions.
For example, who will take the lead on discipline issues and when? What shall be the consequences when children are disrespectful? What if we disagree on a parenting issue? Discussion topics will vary, but the most important tactic of all is that the husband and wife make time to design a single, united parenting plan.
Jesus said that when a man and woman get married, “the two will become one flesh.” (Mark 10:8) This is true in every aspect of our marriages, and it’s important to realize that this “oneness” is not going to “just happen.” In fact, we must make the time to talk about how we can better pursue together spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, sexual, and even parental oneness.
Pursuing parental oneness is no easy task, though! Paul says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
My hope is that you will not give up. I pray you’ll sit down with your spouse to plan ways you can pursue parental oneness together. To assist you in the process, my husband and I wrote Undivided Marriage: When TWO People Become ONE Flesh. It’s a devotional born out of 25 years of marriage and can serve as a discussion starter for you and your spouse as you pursue oneness together — in every aspect of your marriage, including parenting.