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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

We Fight in Front of Our Kids—and I Don’t Feel Guilty

By Pam Moore

I am suspicious of couples that claim they never argue. These people are either lying or they are unicorns. My husband and I fight. I wish we didn’t, but both of us are way too stubborn for that. 

Life is messy, especially now that we are parents. And when we’re low on sleep, a sea of baby dolls and puzzle pieces has turned our living room into a field of booby traps, and little people are laying constant demands on us…as my husband likes to say, there’s competition for resources. Which means we don’t always use our polite flight attendant voices when we have a conflict.

So, sometimes we fight in front of our kids. There are a lot of things I feel guilty about as a mom. But fighting with my husband is not one of them. Here’s why:

1) When our kids see us disagree, they see we are real people, with our own competing wants and needs. Everything we do models behavior for our kids. I don’t want them to grow up with the false expectation that it’s easy for a couple to manage their differences. Real, intimate relationships are hard. I can’t keep my girls from adoring their princess dresses and Frozen figurines, but hell if I’m going to let them grow up thinking a prince will bring them all their happily-ever-afters. I wouldn’t respect my husband if he always went along with my wishes, and vice versa. I want to show my kids that a real relationship takes work—and that it’s worth it.

2) When we argue in front of our kids, we don’t have to wait until we’re alone to discuss the issue. And while I’m (theoretically) a fan of cooling off before you discuss an issue, on the flip side, when you wait to address the problem, you have time to simmer and stew. Which is awesome for a crockpot dinner. For a marriage, not so much. My husband and I have two small children. They wake up very early, they need us all day, and by the time they go to sleep, we are exhausted. We don’t want to spend the precious little time between their bedtime and ours fighting about who left the chest freezer open. Worse yet, we refuse to spend the glorious hours when they are in the care of a sitter resolving minor disagreements, when we’d much rather be enjoying dinner at a place with real silverware and cloth napkins. When we can quickly air out our issues, we can move on and avoid holding onto resentment.

3) My parents fought in front of me and I think I turned out just fine. My parents were not shy about sharing their grievances with one another. They weren’t shy about displaying their affection for one another, either. I’m not saying they were throwing dishes, hurling insults, and then having crazy make-out sessions at the dinner table. I’m just saying I heard them bicker about random things, and I also saw them kiss, heard them say “I love you,” and delighted in the sound of them laughing together. From my parents, I learned that even the fiercest, most enduring love is not immune to the occasional murderous feeling—and that’s normal.

I’ve never claimed to be a parenting expert. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I don’t subscribe to a particular philosophy or adhere to any hard and fast rules. In many ways, I approach childrearing the same way I do everything else in my life—by the seat of my pants and with honesty. And if I can’t be real in my own house about who I am, what I want, and what annoys the crap out of me, than where can I? I don’t need my kids to think my husband and I are perfect. I just need them to know that even though we don’t get along 100 percent of the time, we are trying really hard, because we value each other and our relationship.

And the fact is, I am just not good enough of a liar to pretend I’m happy all the time. It’s all I can do to let my kids think my fancy chocolate is a vitamin. 

Pam Moore is an award-winning freelance writer, intuitive eating coach, and host of the Real Fit podcast. Get her free guide to improving your body image at