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Excerpt from a Da Capo Press press release   Date: 11/23/09 Bookmark and Share

SSW Prof Teams with Her Partner for Parenting Guide

Marsha Kline Pruett, the M. B. O’Connor Chaired Professor in the School for Social Work, teamed with her husband, Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, in authoring Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently—Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage, a book recently published by Da Capo Press.

The following is a publisher’s Q&A with the Pruetts on Partnership Parenting.

A Talk with Dr. Kyle Pruett and Dr. Marsha Kline Pruett

If you could tell parents with younger children three things that matter about co-parenting, what would they be?

1. When co-parenting begins early, it lasts a lifetime.

2. There is no more important gift to your child than to give him/her the best of each and both of you.

3. Co-parenting partnerships maintain the marriage and enhance the quality of family life for parents and children.

When will men ever do their fair share of co-parenting?

Who says they aren’t? This is the problem. We define men’s roles in terms of what they do not do, rather than the important ways they contribute to women’s and children’s quality of life. Beyond a level mom and dad are comfortable with, it’s quality of involvement, not quantity that matters.

How can partners be a real team in the way you describe if he works outside the home a lot and she stays home with the kids?

A team has different persons playing different positions. The catcher is no less important to the enterprise than is the pitcher or the outfielder. The team work comes in understanding, valuing, expressing appreciation for, and supporting the other person’s role.

Do kids really feel parented by their dads, given that moms do most of the work emotionally and physically?

As Ellen Galinsky’s national study has shown—and our clinical experience continuously indicates—children do not bean count. Parents do. Children feel loved and parented by both parents in spite of dad’s fewer hours of involvement if dad is attentive, playful, and “tuned in” when he is there, and when Mom clearly values what he brings to the family.

What would you say to moms who aren’t sure they want to let dads be equal partners in parenting—those who think it’s the mother’s job?

It’s difficult to share the delicious, if exhausting, responsibilities of parenting. But the benefits to your child and to you far outweigh the feelings of doubt. You cannot hold onto your children as tightly as you’d like if you want them to be successful, independent human beings. So why not share at home first, with the guy who helped bring these incredible kids into the world.

And what would you say to dads who aren’t really as involved as they think they are or would like to be?

You can always get involved later, but you can’t make up the time you’ve lost. And you marriage will not thrive in the same way if you aren’t involved. Women are drawn to men who are affectionate and loving with their kids. The risk to your marriage and your children of not being involved is far too expensive to leave it until you are a little older, more stable financially, or feeling more settled. By then, it may not matter to them as much.

What are the benefits to kids of having mom and dad each doing the things they do best?

It is maximizing the gene pool. Who wouldn’t want to have the best of what their parents can offer, instead of an amalgam of the best and worst? More specifically, fathers do not mother, and both kinds of parenting bring specific benefits to kids. Mom makes the world an easier place to conquer, more predictable, safer, and more approachable. Dad makes the world more exciting, more surprising, and helps his children bear the frustrations and disappointments of trying to conquer it. Together, these qualities help children face the world as productive citizens with fortitude, readiness, awareness, and sensitivity. Not to mention pride and confidence in what he or she has to offer.

Isn’t it confusing when parents aren’t consistent and on the same page?

Children can adapt to inconsistency, especially if they understand how each parent does things differently. Being on the same page—especially about the big ticket items (schooling, religion, values, etc.)—is essential; that’s why this book helps parents get on the same page in their own ways. Then the inconsistencies teach children to deal with diversity and difference, without all the conflict engendered when parents aren’t on the same page and are upset with each other.

Are you guys always on the same page?

Absolutely not. But we have learned to raise the questions and problems when they occur, to discuss them respectfully, to give each other room to be different from ourselves and, when we’re really on our game, to laugh about them and move on.

If your kids were to call in right now, what would they have to say about the job you do co-parenting?

They would say Dad does some things better, Mom does other things better, they love both of us, they are so glad we love each other, and that sometimes we miss the boat. Then they’d giggle mischievously, because they know we’re only human and they like to remind us to work together when we forget. We like to think we taught them to think that way and to call us on it.

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