Collaboration is something we see all around us. From the literal collaboration of popular musical artists to the more subtle collaboration of co-workers to accomplish a task, we cannot go a day without being encouraged to collaborate. No one lives on an island.
This is never more true than in the home—parents have a responsibility to collaborate and work together. Without such collaboration, things can fall apart pretty easily.
While collaboration is something that is so important in the home, we can sometimes misunderstand what it means to collaborate. I think immediate images that come to my mind when I think of parents collaborating are parents sitting at a table late at night, after the children have gone to bed. I think of parents in constant communication with each other about choices they’re making that will influence their family.
While I think these are important, I think it can be simpler and more important than we sometimes realize. Here are just a few quick tips about how we can try to collaborate as parents a little more effectively.
Collaboration doesn’t mean doing the same thing.
I tend to get the image stuck in my mind that working together with my spouse means we are working on the same task. That task could be cleaning the house, making dinner, or even trying to make a grocery list. This is definitely part of collaboration, and most of the time two heads are better than one, but to collaborate, do we need to both be involved in the same activity? I don’t think so.
Collaboration comes down to having similar goals. If my wife and I have a goal to clean the house, make the dinner, and get the shopping done one Saturday (and we normally do), then is it wrong of me to take care of the shopping while she cleans and then we make dinner together? Not at all. Spending time together is not the ultimate definition of collaborating, and sometimes it is the least effective thing you can do.
For example, when my wife was teaching in an elementary school classroom, she asked me for help often when it came to making crafts for the kids to work on. I totally enjoy doing this, but there are parts of it that I simply cannot do. One thing I can’t do: cut with scissors. I am terrible at cutting in a straight line. I blame my left handedness. Regardless, I am not the man for that job. While she cuts, I can paste, color, organize, or any number of tasks. Are we collaborating even though there are some things I can’t help with. Yes, yes we are. Common goals is the key.
Take the time to talk
When I go into a goal or activity with my wife and I am not sure of the desired outcome, things can get messy. When we go shopping, for example, my mindset is the classic “get in, get out” mindset of 90% of the male population. My wife, however, likes to peruse and wander, which I don’t mind, if I know that is the goal, rather than finding what we need so we can get home.
It is important as a couple to collaborate by talking to each other about your goals, personal and couple. Without that communication, there is little chance you’re both thinking the same thing. That is a simple way to collaborate with one another.
Collaboration involves some sacrifice
As with anything in marriage, there has to be some give and take. There are those who believe that when you collaborate with someone else, you can both walk away with what you want. I think, however, collaboration involves some sacrifice, which is a good thing. That does not mean you are giving up something vital to you or your self identity, sometimes sacrifice is as simple as letting someone else go first, or holding your idea in until you’ve tried theirs. There are many opportunities to sacrifice in marriage, and we should welcome them. Sacrifice helps us understand what we truly want. When we collaborate with our spouse, we should be willing to make some sacrifices and not feel afraid to ask them to do the same in a loving and sincere way.
To finish up, remember that collaboration does not have to be some big, drawn out event with coordinated schedules and matching t-shirts. It can be as simple as knowing your goals, communicating, and being ready to make some sacrifices.