Originally published by Boston Parent’s Paper – Jan 2014

I’m raising my 2-year-old son with someone who has a very different parenting philosophy than my own. Sure, we’re on the same page about the important stuff like vaccines, but it’s the minutia that trips us up. For example, that other parent insists on establishing lots of rules and limitations, whereas I tend to be more lax. That person has systems in place to get through the day, whereas I fly by the seat of my pants. My so-called partner in crime also has the gall to be calm and collected; I am almost always on edge.

I’m not talking about my husband; we get along fine. It’s myself from a few hours before that I have a problem with. She just sets me up for failure!

Take the seemingly reasonable “No more watching YouTube” rule that she established at 10 a.m. after an epic tantrum regarding my son’s intense desire to watch one more version of “The Wheels on the Bus.” When I broke down and clicked play mere hours later just so I could run to the basement and change the laundry, I cursed the woman for making me feel doubly guilty – once, for letting my 2-year-old watch YouTube and twice, because I was rebelling against my own decree.

Ditto the day after we finally had the car cleaned. Morning Me’s new rule about not eating in the car seat to maintain cleanliness was smart and just. But Afternoon Me absolutely needed to throw a cereal bar at the baby so that his screeches of “Snack!” didn’t force her into a traffic accident. Who does this Morning Mom think she is anyway? Does she want me to crash the car?

Often there are only minutes of separation between Stern, Confident Mom and Lazy, No-Backbone Mom. “Throw wood chips one more time and we’re leaving the playground,” the former will say. But when the woods chips are inevitably thrown, the latter will shudder at the thought of pulling a sobbing toddler from happily playing, not to mention the hour or two we still need to fill before naptime, and she’ll balk. I’ll think to myself, “If you can’t throw wood chips when you are 2, then when can you throw them?”

“Never,” whispers Good Mom inside my head.

“Shhh,” I answer her. “Shhhhhhhh.”

Once in a while I’ll sit myself down to try and agree on a unified game plan for childrearing. “Little kids need structure and clear rules to be set and stood by,” I remind myself. “They require these lessons demonstrated over and over again so that they can understand what is appropriate and what isn’t. Did you even readany of those books I got out from the library about raising healthy toddlers?”

Ashamed, I admit to myself that I did not. Disappointed, I shake my head before turning to my son who has spontaneously started dragging a black crayon across the white dining room wall. “Paper only!” I firmly remind him. “Paper only!” He agrees, happily adding squiggles to his wall design. Mom A is annoyed. Mom B thinks, “Eh, whatever, that crayon will probably wash right off.”

What can I do? I’m only two moms. And both of those moms, like all of us moms, are just trying to do the best they can. Maybe someday we’ll be on the same page, but until then, I’ll try to give both selves a break.