Neurodiversity in Marriage: Practical Ways to Parent When You’re Wired Differently
When I think of practical ways to parent, the top guiding principle in our family is WE ARE TEAM KUBO.
It’s short, sweet, to the point and an excellent reminder that at the end of the day, no matter what happens, we are a team. I often expand on the team principle to say that if it doesn’t work for one of us, it works for none of us — a reminder that every decision we make affects each individual.
This principle gets tested when it comes to parenting. Experience has taught me that children need structure and consistency to thrive. They don’t need a rigid routine but they are most secure when every day has a natural rhythm to it.
This is no easy task with a neurodivergent husband. Brian does a lot of things well, but his executive functioning (EF) deficits make it hard for him to be anything other than consistently inconsistent. Though my girls have never gone hungry, there’s been more than one night when “dinner” has consisted of non-stop snacking for a few hours before bed.
He’s forgotten swim lessons, gymnastics class, school lunches and homework. It’s a surprise when he does remember things…and it’s a reality we’ve accepted.
The Reality of a Neurodivergent Parent
If you’re married to someone who’s neurodivergent, you may have a similar story with different circumstances. Our spouses are people, not carbon copies. Where my husband is fickle and craves constant spontaneity, your partner might need rigid consistency and fall apart when things don’t go according to plan.
Thriving in a neurodiverse marriage means we embrace our differences and we create systems that support the success of our family — even if those systems don’t look the same as other families’. We have had to find what works for us both in our marriage and in parenting.
Here are the non-negotiables for us: We always…
- present a united front to our children
- assume the best of each other
- play to our strengths
- revisit and renegotiate our agreements
We Always Present a United Front to Our Children
Neurodivergence aside, Brian and I have different opinions on child-rearing based on our own backgrounds. What couple doesn’t? It’s important to both of us, however, that we always model respect for one another in front of our children.
Brian forgets a lot of important things and it’s easy for me to get frustrated by that. But I have to mind my words, my tone and my body language in front of the kids.
There is nothing worse than having your 4-year-old ask, “Mommy, why do you talk to Daddy like you’re the Mommy and he’s the kid — and he’s in big trouble?”
We Always Assume the Best of Each Other
For years, Brian’s distractibility and inability to focus his attention has been mistaken for disrespect, lack of consideration and outright insubordination.
Early in our marriage, I would accuse him of not caring about me when he forgot something that was important to me.
Now I realize that when I get home at 8 p.m. and dinner hasn’t been made, it’s not because he’s selfish or that he’s trying to get back at me for working late.
It’s that he lost track of time. No malice. No willful disregard of anyone. It was just an accident.
We Always Play to Our Strengths
Though we set family priorities and goals as a team, I operate as CEO of our family. I create the systems and strategies to keep the household running efficiently, and Brian is the lead executioner of those systems. Brian is unstoppable when you give him a list of clearly defined tasks and leave him alone to get the job done.
I handle the budget, the meal plans, the lists and the scheduling. He does the shopping, the laundry, and all of the family fun/entertainment activities. We share other tasks like cooking, cleaning and getting the girls to and from their activities.
We Always Revisit and Renegotiate Our Agreements
Agreements are important to me, and broken agreements hurt. Brian never intentionally breaks agreements. Usually, he forgets about them or he doesn’t apply an agreement to a nuanced set of circumstances.
Brian is a great guy and a great dad. He wants the best for our family, but he needs my help in knowing what that is at any given moment.
Having weekly conversations about what’s working and what’s not working for both of us gives us the opportunity to revisit our agreements and prepare for seasons of life with different obligations and priorities.
Each of these non-negotiables support and encourage teamwork. We operate as a team.
These principles enable us to be effective parents and effective partners in a way that works for us.
Practical Ways to Parent with Your Family Blueprint
If you feel like you and your spouse aren’t on the same team, and it’s affecting the effectiveness of your parenting, a Family Blueprint can help you to align your lifestyle with your priorities.
Rather than trying to impose someone else’s structure on our family, the blueprint allows us to create structure based on our strengths. Subscribers to the Great Moms blog receive a free guide to the Family Blueprint. Get yours today.
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