Can you have two ‘fun parents’ in the family?

“Modern Family,” one of the best shows on TV” asked a very interesting question last Thursday about parenting: Can you have two fun parents?

The set up was that the mom and dad were debating which route was faster to a restaurant. The mom Claire had been badgering the heck out of everyone to leave on time and was stressing the kids out.  The Dad Phil challenges her to a race and they decide to take separate cars. The airheaded son comes downstairs and she tells him “we’re splitting up.” The kid thinks they are breaking up and immediately says “I’ll go with dad.”

Claire doesn’t realize he means in a divorce but later in the car puts it all together. She’s hurt but realizes right away it’s because Phil is the fun parent. Then she explains to her son:

“Claire: You can’t have two fun parents… You know that kid Liam who wears pajama pants to school and pays for things with a hundred-dollar bill? Two fun parents.”

You can watch the full episode here. (No one has uploaded just that clip although the quote was all over the place.)

So the question is: Can be there be two fun parents? Does someone have to grow up and be responsible and be the one who badgers to make sure homework gets done and teeth get brushed?

Does it work to take turns on sometimes being fun or does that just confuse the kids? (Then they don’t know what to expect – are you the fun parent today?)

Which parent are you: the fun one or the un-fun one?

32 comments Add your comment


November 23rd, 2010
12:36 pm

Hmmm….. maybe. Although, it’s probably not a good combination. Thing is, I hate being the non-fun parent. It’s exhausting to always be the one that insists on homework being done at a reasonable hour, that provides the boring sensible meals, that reminds them to wear their coats and shoes when they go outside, that keeps up with everyone’s schedule…. ugh, I am tired just typing it.


November 23rd, 2010
12:44 pm

Mom2alex&max – are you saying you are NEVER fun????LOL….

As a single parent, I get to be both the fun parent, and the non-fun parent. It’s quit exhausting…LOL


November 23rd, 2010
1:11 pm

As a single dad, here’s my experience. When I have made efforts to be involved in the day to day disciplining, decision making, etc, I am either ignored or told “the only thing that matters is if it works for me (ex-wife) and M (daughter)”. My voice only counts if the vote is unanimous. So why say anything at all?

So the natural progression of this situation is that the 3 days out of every 14 that I have her, we are going to do fun things together and spend quality face time. If we have a conflict, I brush it aside with something like “I’ll talk it over with your mom and we’ll figure it out later”, and we move on.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJCMOMania, ajcparenting. ajcparenting said: AJC's Momania blog: Can you have two ‘fun parents’ in the family? [...]


November 23rd, 2010
1:45 pm

Hmmm -I think my husband and I are both very similar in our parenting. We’re often quite a bit of fun, but if you act like a brat -you get treated like one! Of course in my defense, if I HAD to choose -I would say I edge my husband just a bit in the fun category. I say this because I get more excited and do more for holidays that the kids enjoy, and I like finding things that look like fun for all of us and for them and my husband would almost never fully research extra curricular activities. Example -I asked him the other day if he wanted to got OVO Cirque du Soleil tickets for all of us as our big Christmas outing this year. After researching it and receiving a discount coupon it looked like we would all love it and could even bring our youngest. My husband was really into the idea and remarked, “Yeah, when I drove by the tent the other day, I thought we would probably all really like to go -even ____.” Had he looked into it? Would he ever? NO! Ultimately though this seems to balance us out. Neither of us fits into one or the other category very neatly. We’re both a combination.


November 23rd, 2010
1:59 pm

JJ: I guess I meant it in terms of who is the one that makes sure the non-fun stuff gets done. He’s the one that gets to enjoy the fun stuff like taking them to the park or the movies.


November 23rd, 2010
2:02 pm

Of course there can be two “fun” parents. Is it a healthy lifestyle in which to bring up children… probably not. But each parent can be “fun” when the situation warrants and each can and must be serious at other times. But I think much of life isn’t lived between constant highs and lows; it’s often simply humdrum.


November 23rd, 2010
2:06 pm

@Mom – you can do that stuff too. Don’t let hubby have all the fun. Then your kids grow up and think of you as a fuddy duddy and you never did anything fun with them…..I’m just saying….

Like for instance, one friday night, come home, wait till everyone is home, and announce “It’s junk food and movie night” and let them have at it…….let the kids pick a movie, and eat junk food in front of the tv. It doesn’t have to be structured….let them have potato chips and the like……LOL

But have fun and let them see your fun side….I know you have it in you…..


November 23rd, 2010
2:45 pm

When I was a single parent, I was more a fun parent. After I remarried, my new husband became the fun one. Sigh. At least my kids love him – that makes it all okay.


November 23rd, 2010
2:54 pm

I think we’re both fun – we both have our silly sides, and we love horsing around with our daughter and dogs. Really, it’s just a big dog pile around here :o)

BUT I am the structured one. Mama makes the meals, washes the clothes, changes the sheets, makes the kid brush her teeth and comb hair – you get the gist. Daddy handles the occasional night alone well, but let’s face it…if Daddy was in charge it would be microwave meals every night, pajama pants to school, wrinkled clothes otherwise, and a pass on changing sheets.

I do like JJ’s idea of spontaneous activities like junk food night. I will write that down :o)


November 23rd, 2010
2:59 pm

We can both be fun but my husband is definitely the most laid back. He grew up in a home with very little rules, no structure or routine. The CHOW was on the stove if you showed up and got some good…if you came in too late…sorry you might be there earlier tomorrow. My parents and family always sat down for dinner together, said the prayer, passed the food and had table manners. I am much more relaxed than my own Mom was and he has swung over to my side on quite a few things too.

About 8 years ago,our kids were 10 and 15. He told me,
” you know, when the kids were little and you had all these ***crazy*** ideas about what we should and should not do…I really thought you were nuts. Now, I see why you did those things and also see lots of other kids whose parents obviously had no rules…it shows.” Touchdown!

We ate out last week and our college aged waiter was so sweet. We had chatted with him the entire time. At the end, he says;”You two are the coolest customers I have had in a long time and I have enjoyed meeting you.” I replied, “oh yeah, our own college kids tell us all the time that we are the coolest parents…NOT!”

We do know how to be silly and we always joke around here and have funny names for our dog and each other. The kids remember the goofy things we did when they were little and that is so neat!

Some my daughter’s friends think we are nuts. The ones who have spent the week with us on vacation and must come from a serious family as we frequently laugh and poke fun of each other.


November 23rd, 2010
2:59 pm

This is crazy. There shouldn’t be a fun parent or a not fun parent. Parents should work together and establish rules that both parents enforce. If one parent isn’t enforcing the rules, then they aren’t parenting.

Kids don’t need their parents to be their friends. They need parents who will love them – which often means being “no fun”.

Well, Joe...

November 23rd, 2010
3:11 pm

…we certainly know who the “no fun” parent is in your family…


November 23rd, 2010
3:15 pm

I believe both parents can be both serious and fun. I am prone to punctuality and the family enjoys making fun of it. I was told once that women, and therefore mothers, are keepers of rituals. This holds true in our family, in part because she enjoys it and our children enjoy it to. So she is the fun parent when prepping for the holidays. So the serious and the fun roles are situation specific and even the serious can be a source of fun. The key is that the parents are consistent on the important issues, such as character building, teaching lessons, disciplining etc. and not undercut each other. If the parents trust each other, there is a lot of room for silliness to complement the seriousness that is sometimes necessary.


November 23rd, 2010
3:22 pm

Each of my parents were “fun” in their own way but each of them towed the line and were hard asses on us too. They weren’t as “fun” as some of my other friends’ parents, but they provided extremely well and instilled manners and a work ethic into my brother and me. They are deceased now,and this week, i am thankful for who they were and how they raised us.


November 23rd, 2010
3:25 pm

@Well Joe

Touche. :-) My wife and I both have lots of fun with our kids, but when it comes to house rules we both know how to hold the line.


November 23rd, 2010
3:31 pm

Well, we are new at the parent thing, but we are fun in different ways.
My husband just wrestles with the boys and they love it.
I am more of the plan a fun movie night with smores or something else they would love.
My husband and I have one rule when it comes to discipline – ALWAYS agree with one another in front of the kids, even if you don’t really agree.
For example, my husband was really getting onto our two year old about eating. I’m thinking… If he wants to eat nothing but cheese for dinner then let him, he is only 2! He is figuring out how to ask for what he likes.
BUT, at the table, I went with what he said. We discussed it later and he backed off and it settled itself the next night.
If the other parent doesn’t back them up, it makes the disciplinarian the odd man out.


November 23rd, 2010
3:33 pm

I agree with Valstake; we were both fun and not fun as the situation warranted. In addition, we were fun in different ways so we complented each other nicely in that regard. Although he is now my ex and had our disagreements, we were always in complete agreement about our boys, and still are. We were definitely not fun when we needed not to be fun, and fun when we could; a nice balance.


November 23rd, 2010
3:39 pm

Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks families where you have a “good cop/bad cop” situation are kind of strange! I love “Modern Family” though, but let’s face it -in real life, most of us would have either killed Phil or left him years ago!

@mom2alex&max -I agree with JJ -throw some fun in there. Have ice cream and waffles for dinner one night or surprise them with a Saturday afternoon at a favorite place!


November 23rd, 2010
3:59 pm

@ JATL…when my daughter was smaller, she told my neighbor,
“if I ask my Mom for something and she says no, I wait until she is out of town and then ask my Dad.”
Who do you think is the softy here? Did you see my comment at the end of today’s previous blog?


November 23rd, 2010
4:24 pm

How about the non-answer of “it depends”? I think there are situations where there are perfectly reasonable consistent roles and other situations where the strict/fun roles are more fluid. At some point, the personality/mgmt style/etc of the parent influences this. In our house, there’s probably more of an alternating or situational split, with me being both the harshest disciplinarian but also the one who gets the most & biggest laughs from our son. My wife provides both but with more moderation in both areas. But so far, it seems to be working so I’m not inclined to break it just to fit the model either.

family quotes | A FACE IN A BOOK

November 23rd, 2010
5:09 pm

[...] Can you have two ‘fun parents’ in the family? – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Modern Family,” one of the best shows on TV” asked a very interesting … No one has uploaded just that clip although the quote was all over the place.) So the question is: Can be there be two fun parents? Does someone have to grow up and be … Nov 23, 2010 8:28pm [...]


November 23rd, 2010
5:28 pm

I am definitely the Non-fun parent. It’s basically like I have two kids really. It’s not that I don’t have fun or am not a fun person, I’m just the nag making sure that there are shoes on feet and everythings packed. However I think my son likes me best. :D


November 23rd, 2010
6:11 pm

Eazily, I had 4 kids, and one of them was older than me by a year! After a while, you figure, if I am going to do all of it, I might as well get rid of the dead weight (the other “adult”)


November 23rd, 2010
9:00 pm

@MJG -wow -can’t believe I made it to the short list! I think we’re pretty far apart geographically though -I live about 2 miles from downtown. Do you ever venture ITP? If you need to contact me regarding our OBGYN, see if TWG will give you my email. I’ll email her and let her know it’s fine with me. Happy Thanksgiving!


November 24th, 2010
7:38 am

I would agree with the “it depends” label. Some days I’m the fun parent, other days it is my husband. But I’d say more of the time, it’s my husband. I am with Sean more so naturally I’m going to be with him during the “not so fun” times more often. My husband works long hours and doesn’t get to see much of my son beyond when he gets home from work before bedtime and weekends. So he tried to simply spend as much time as he can with our son doing silly, fun things. But we both apply the rules when Sean tries to push the limits. He’s realizing that we are a united front and that helps a lot.

[...] Theresa from Momania blogged about it earlier in the week also. The questions she posed to her readers are the same questions I would like for our readers to chime in with today : So the question is: Can be there be two fun parents? Does someone have to grow up and be responsible and be the one who badgers to make sure homework gets done and teeth get brushed? [...]

How to be two fun parents | Dad vs Wild

November 26th, 2010
2:41 pm

[...] around the blogosphere is, “Can you have two fun parents in the family?” (e.g., Momania; [...]


November 27th, 2010
10:51 am

Many years ago I had a student in my classroom of divorced parents. The fourth grader would spend two weekends a month with her father. As a teacher you get in the habit of generically asking your students, “How was your weekend?” This child came to me with this pensive look and replied, “I’ve figured out what’s different when I stay at my dad’s house. He doesn’t know all the rules like my mom does.” Being a parent myself, I could definitely relate. :) Guess that makes me the “not fun” parent. Btw, my husband (the fun parent) and I love Modern Family. Thank goodness the three children we’ve raised have so far made it safely to adulthood!


November 28th, 2010
1:43 pm

My husband and I switch off. We’ve fallen into this routine of “good cop, bad cop” and this goes for funtimes and badtimes. It’s not even something we consciously do, either. During “badtimes” if my husband is disciplining our son, I am the comforting and reassuring parent (or vice versa). During “goodtimes”, if Dad is relaxed and goofy, or they’re wrestling, or whatever, then I am the one making sure that we keep to our time schedule or that nothing gets broken…or vice versa.

Chas Foster Kane

November 28th, 2010
6:34 pm

This stupid mommy column, which (I guess) appeals to soccer moms in the burbs, is one indication of why the ajc is now the Dunwoody Journal Constitution. Please don’t offend anyone in the sahara of the bozarts. When old lady Cox croaks, it’s gonna be interesting to to who, if anyone, will buy what used to be the ajc.

Mama surfin

November 28th, 2010
9:30 pm

I went out of town for one night. When I picked the kids up from day camp the next afternoon, they were still wearing the same clothes from the day before. Had slept in them too. Yeah, Dad’s the fun one.