How to Win at Parenting (You Know, More Than Your Partner Wins at Parenting)

I lost last week’s Parenting Competition to my husband, which, to be precise, really Sucked the Sucky Suck.

Now, Greg doesn’t know there’s a weekly Parenting Competition, or that we’re competing at all, because I’ve never told him. Also, he’s nice and not competitive (except during Settlers and Scrabble when he’s kind of a jerk) and so he’s always rooting for me in parenting and in life (but not in board games), but that doesn’t make the Parenting Competition less real. Or me less of its winner. Because winning when no one else knows you’re playing? IS STILL WINNING, friends. Still winning.

In case you’re kind-hearted and a team player (pffttt) like Greg, though, the Competition goes like this: the parents in two-parent families compete against each other, and the one who works harder, who’s more exhausted at the end of every day, and who most convincingly plays the role of martyr wins. 

Throughout the week, each parent accrues points for every task he/she performs. This is works-based, folks, not grace-based. For example, points can be awarded for (but are not limited to) family scheduling, kid transporting, appointment tracking, grocery shopping, errand running, party planning, clothes washing, tear drying, puke cleaning, butt wiping, up picking, nap putting, manners reminding, bread winning, meal prepping, and, of course, for remembering your kids’ birthdates, sizes, food preferences, diagnoses, allergies, friends’ names, teachers, sports practices, recitals, clubs and All the Appointments that are trying to kill you.

Bonus points are awarded for performing any task while sick or with a sick kid in tow. 

OR, if you’re not into tracking specific points, you may alternatively accrue general points by committing to do way, way too much, never asking for help, raging internally about all you’re doing, muttering about how little help you’re getting, and then getting defensive when your partner offers to help reduce your workload. This is my preferred method because I believe it’s important – critical, really – to play to my strengths and live into my areas of giftedness. Throw in a dramatic sigh, toss your hands in the air, and say something along the lines of, “You just don’t GET it!” or “Nevermind, I’ll do EVERYTHING” and you’re a shoe-in for 1st place. Sure fire way to WIN, baby! 

A winner is declared (not necessarily out loud… in your mind is fine) when one parent has clearly out-parented the other. 

And I? I WIN. Like, all the time. 

Except when I realize what I’m doing, and then I don’t win because I try to be kind (gag) and a team player (gross) and communicative and mature and responsible for my own feelings and dysfunctions, which is vulnerable and hard and makes my marriage better in the end. But most of the time I just stuff my feelings with food and the slightest bit of rage… so, WINNING. YAY!

Last week, my oldest kid had foot surgery. Which was planned. And still hard. And painful. And exhausting. And I hate seeing my baby suffer. But ALSO IT WAS AWESOME, because HELLO, OPPORTUNITY TO WIN! 

And I had last week’s Parenting Competition in the bag, I tell you. IN. THE. BAG. Because I was up ALL NIGHT with her, newborn style, every half hour, clicking her ice machine on and off, and on and off, and on and off, and on. For days at a time! EVERY HALF HOUR, man. I set my alarm for EVERY HALF HOUR to ice my baby’s foot, and I threw in some pain meds for her every 3rd hour, and I never, not even once, helped myself to those narcotics. So I deserve, like, a TROPHY, right? 

And it was RAD. I mean, I looked TERRIBLE. Smudgy make-up. Droopy pajamas. No shower for 4 days. Hair wonky. Smelled fantastic. And I didn’t cry at all. Like, ZERO crying. Just stoic and stiff-upper-lip and very I WILL OVERCOME. Very sacrificial. Very LOVING and GIVING and Woe Is Me; I AM DOING ALL THE THINGS.

And, sure, Greg offered to take a night or two or all of them so I could sleep in our bed and he could take a turn on our daughter’s floor. He offered over and over again. And, sure, Greg handled All the Other Things during the week. And, sure, he changed sheets and ran for meds and watched the kids and kept up on his job and handled the bedtimes and checked to see How I Was Doing. But I did not let him help me. I did not let him Win, ’cause I know that ploy. That ploy to pull ahead! And he was NOT going to get away with it. Nope. Not on MY watch.

But Greg is sneaky. And Greg is savvy. And Greg is SMART, darn him, and he keeps thinking with his giant, genius brain, and so, on Day 4 of my Surgery Vigil, Greg offered a solution. A way to make my life easier. He suggested – get this – that we put Abby’s ice machine on a timer. A timer. A timer to automate the on/off cycle so I could sleep, pulling my martyr rug right out from under me like a magician with impeccable timing and expert slight-of-hand, and leaving me standing there, shocked and rugless.

Don’t worry, though; when he offered to set up the timer, I wasn’t nice about it or anything. I sighed and said, “You just don’t GET it!” like a timer was the world’s stupidest way to handle a round-the-clock icing machine, and then I threw my hands in the air dramatically and said, “FINE; set up a timer if you think that’s a good idea,” like I was doing him a favor. And, I know, I know; even though it was clearly the strongest possible comeback under the circumstances, I still know Greg won last week’s round. 

But what I really think you need to take away from this is, I’m winning. You know, in general. I mean, not recently. Recently, I lost the Parenting Competition. Bigtime. But I’m on a Winning Trajectory is what I’m saying. Lifetime Parenting Award! And one teeny, tiny setback will not (will not) determine the outcome of the entire competition. 

(Also, I apologized to Greg.)

The End

P.S. This may not be the best site on the internet for marriage advice.

P.P.S. Or parenting advice.

P.P.P.S. Or, you know, advice of any kind.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
8 comments
  1. Haha, this is fantastic ’cause-shhh, don’t tell anyone-I TOTALLY PLAY THIS GAME TOO! Secretly, in my head of course 😛 and the

    “committing to do way, way too much, never asking for help, raging internally about all you’re doing, muttering about how little help you’re getting, and then getting defensive when your partner offers to help reduce your workload”

    tactic is also my favorite….for future plans of attack, my immediate response when he brought up the timer, like the other ladies said, would have been “Oh, NOW you think of the timer, after I’ve already spent 4 days of exhaustion waking up every. half. hour. to make sure her foot’s ok. REALLY?!?!” and then storm away into another room before he has time to pick apart your rebuttal and realize you also never thought of the timer idea :X This leaves him defenseless and forever in your debt. Where does this leave you, you ask? Winning, DUH! lol

  2. I laughed at this post because I’m totally always in competition with my husband regarding parenting, in my own mind. And he’s, like, amazing– so always winning. Which is totally not cool.
    It helps if I choose to believe that he is actually not human but rather of some superior angelic race with limitless endurance which never gets tired or frustrated. At least then when I lose, I don’t feel so bad, because, hey, who can compete with the superior race husband? =P

  3. You should be pissed that it took him 4 whole days to come up with the timer solution. Think of all the sleep you missed!

  4. I LOVE this because I’m a winner too and Greg gets exactly zero points for the timer thing b/c he was clearly born with a big useful brain so that should count against him somehow and if not then why the heck did it take him 4 days to use it? Just cuz he was trying to be loving and helpful and pick up the slack and all does not excuse that.

    Also – you get winning points for emphatically saying (for those of us who don’t really yell) WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR YOU? Cuz it’s helpful to point out failure. I recently heard a woman who lives in my house say that. Whatevs.

    GO FOR GOLD!!
    Heather

  5. Hee hee, I love this! And I’m there with you–middle daughter had oral surgery yesterday and I had to be with her while she was crying and moaning and there was nothing. Nothing I could do about it except pray that the pain meds would kick in soon. That sucks. But, the thing is, my oldest–the one with autism–has just graduated high school and is going away to college this year, so now I am getting closer and closer to being an empty nester! Ack! So I’m actually enjoying these moments of night-time neediness because I know they won’t last forever. Same thing happened last weekend when my 13 year old had a “sleepover” with 6 of her closest friends and the “sleeping” consisted of arguing and crying from 1am-2:30am, until I went and sat in the family room in the dark with them so they would go to sleep. Those quiet dark minutes reminded me of the old days when any given night might have included a midnight vigil and it was so bittersweet. Those days are limited, which is weird because you spend so much time when they are little hoping that they will grow out of that stage and that you will get a full night’s sleep and then all of a sudden you will be wishing they wouldn’t grow out of this and giving anything for a few more nights of being needed. Sheesh. Kids, right?

  6. I hear you lady….do you wonder though,if the reason that we make it into a competition,albeit an internal one,is because of our fear of failure….failure as a parent.My husband has no such fears,he just relaxed into parenthood with total confidence…he doesn’t feel the need to show me and the whole world all he is doing as a parent,he just does it,he doesn’t feel the need to validate his worth all the time like I do.I relate all the things that I have done during the day to him the minute he gets home from work….kinda like….yeah,I’ve proved my worth as a wife and parent today…I wonder if this is specific to stay at home parents?Gosh,I didn’t mean to get so deep so early in the day 🙂

    By the way….your line…”live into my areas of giftedness”…..possibly the best line ever written.I will be quoting it muchly,mainly at my lovely husband when I have spent an hour browsing cosmetics sites when I could have used the time to scrub the toilets/clean up vomit or various other martyrlike activities….thank you 🙂

  7. I hear you lady….do you wonder though,if the reason that we make it into a competition,albeit an internal one,is because of our fear of failure….failure as a parent.My husband has no such fears,he just relaxed into parenthood with total confidence…he doesn’t feel the need to show me and the whole world all he is doing as a parent,he just does it,he doesn’t feel the need to validate his worth all the time like I do.I relate all the things that I have done during the day to him the minute he gets home from work….kinda like….yeah,I’ve proved my worth as a wife and parent today…I wonder if this is specific to stay at home parents?

  8. LOL! Nice husbands! What is with them sometimes!?! With the being nice AT YOU and the helping and the wrecking of all your plans for suffering. Jeez!

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