One interesting thing about having four children is that, looking back, I can see how my attitudes have changed so much with each one. With our first, I would hardly let my husband, Richard, do a thing. I was the mother - and mothers know best.
This came to a head one evening at bedtime. Getting four children upstairs, bathed and with pyjamas on, teeth cleaned, stories read and into bed required the strategic know-how and planning of a military operation. Richard would always try to be home in time for stories, but the initial supervision of the bedtime routine usually fell to me. Maybe it was because I had been with the children all day, but by 7pm I just wanted to get them settled and into bed - no high-jinx or other antics - and I had the routine down to a fine art. Richard would arrive half way through the proceedings. Fun and games with his children was a highlight after a work-weary day - and he would invariably have fun and games galore up his sleeve, which usually involved lots of shrieking and running around or bouncing on beds. My attempts to get the children into bed quickly would be hijacked. My irritation at his casual approach to the bedtime routine would often focus on the lack of supervision given to teeth cleaning. The children would all clean their teeth - but not in the way that I thought it should be done. Richard simply did not seem able to grasp the required amount of horizontal and vertical brushes that are needed to instruct a six-year-old in dental hygiene. 'Just give them a good doing son' was simply not enough! And, on more than one occasion, I found myself taking over. But the honest truth is that I was going over the top. By the time our fourth came along I would hardly worry if the poor soul was soaking his dentures in the bath.
Richard and I have parented in different ways and I have often had to moderate my natural tendency to want to be in control. I've had to make a supreme effort to bite my tongue.
At some point I remembered a question that I sometimes asked in workplace appraisals: 'What does a good job look like?' A 'good' job can mean very different things to different people. In hindsight I am sure Richard's toothbrushing supervision was more than adequate (all four still have their teeth as young adults!) but my inner belief that only my way was best, often led to Richard backing off.
If you are a mum parenting with a dad, try to back off a little and allow dad to be involved. And dads, find ways to engage with the routine jobs - meal times, bedtimes, the school run - as well as the fun and games (important as that is).
If you are parenting alone, take all the help you can get, including accepting support from grandparents, other family members, neighbours and friends. And if they aren't doing the job exactly as you would, before jumping in to set them right, press the pause button and ask yourself, 'What does a good job really look like?'
(Extract from If You Forget Everything Else Remember This)