I can remember really early in my transition to becoming a parent (I say early like it’s been a long time…but my little girl is only a year and half) I truly didn’t know what I was doing. It’s not that I was lazy or anything, but I think some fear of not doing things right caused me to be very passive in helping to tend to my daughter.
I depended on my wife to initiate most things. Now, I look back and laugh because it’s not like she wasn’t a first-time parent too. But I guess I figured she just had woman-like magical powers to know what to do. Anyway, I realized that she was still exhausted with the baby even though I was there to help. Then I realized that just “helping” was the problem and it wasn’t good enough…I needed to become a partner!
I realized that just “helping” was the problem and it wasn’t good enough…I needed to become a partner!
So what’s the difference you may ask? Well, I think of it in terms of business relationships. It’s almost like the difference between someone who is a part owner and someone who is just an employee or part time help. Here are some key differences.
A partner is proactive!
Helpers might do well at taking orders or suggestions and they might do just enough to get the job done. But true partners are proactive about finding the gaps and problems and finding solutions. “Oh, mom is overwhelmed with the baby tonight so let me step in and take care of bath time or let me step in handle drop off and pick up from practice.” The partner mentality is trying to increase productivity and minimize stress instead of just taking orders.
Partners don’t babysit their own kids!
Just like when you’re a partner in a business you don’t just work at the business, you work ON the business. Well the same thing holds true in parenting; if you’re a partner you don’t just “babysit” your child for a few hours at a time or until “the boss comes back,” instead you’re always parenting when the boss (mom) is in or not.
A partner is fully vested
In business, if you’re a partner you’ve probably invested some money into the business. And as a parent, you’ve invested the very best parts of you into your child as well…talk about being fully vested! This means you have to be vested in everything from schoolwork, to activities, to nurturing and discipline. You are vested because you know the outcomes depend heavily on your input and decision making.
A partner learns multiple roles and wears many hats
When you’re an entrepreneur, often times you play multiple roles: marketing, sales, IT, and HR. Even though your strength might be marketing, you learn other roles so that the business can survive. The same holds true in parenting. You have to learn how to be a cook, carpooler, shopper, custodian, and a hair stylist (I’m not doing very well in this skill by the way). You might not be great at all of them, but you need to be at least competent to keep things running smoothly.
A partner is consistent
When you’re vested in a business one thing is for sure is that you’re always showing up. You come in early, leave late, and make meeting and appointments because you know the business depends on it. Well with parenting showing up consistently is vital as well. Not only is it to help your partner but your child notices when you don’t show up and too much not showing up hurts them more than you know.
A partner picks up the slack
When your business partner is having a bad go at it or a bad season, you can’t just argue about it and hope it gets better. The business is depending on you and you may have to pick up some of the slack. Likewise, if you are parenting and your spouse gets sick or is going through something, the show doesn’t stop because she’s sick. So, pick up the slack like a true partner does!
Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes, I fall back into helper mode instead of partner mode. But now, I’m way more conscious than I was and I take way more initiative than I used to. I think I’ve graduated from helper status to partner status (I just hope my wife agrees…) I hope that after reading this you may even go for your partner degree as well!
Sharon Jackson says
This was such a good article! I found it accidentally as I was looking for research on the helper to partner mode from a social services perspective. Your main points were spot on for my discussion with a group of family advocates who needed a deeper understanding of supporting families with more than just a “here’s a flyer, give them a call” mentality. I appreciate your clarity and your excellent examples of comparison with the business model. Thank you…and I can imagine that your wife DOES agree! I will cite you in my resources : )