An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the saying goes, and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to the inevitable wrench a baby throws into a couple’s interpersonal dynamics.
“If you want equity in your parenting partnership, you’re going to have to talk about it head-on,” says Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H, F.A.A.P., a local pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest and author of The Working Mom Blueprint: Winning at Parenting Without Losing Yourself. “Think about dividing tasks and responsibilities like you would talk about running a business. Create a concrete list of what needs to get done, and assign an owner to each item on that list. Talk about what each of you expects around each task. What’s acceptable when it comes to laundry? How about weeknight dinners? Car maintenance? Make it a point to have consistent follow-up business meetings, too. To consistently share responsibility with your partner, you’ll need to come back together frequently to discuss what’s working and what’s not.”
Other Tips from Dr. Casares:
- Designate your partner as the soother-in-chief. “Count on your partner to be the expert on soothing techniques like swaddling, shushing, and swaying. If you are breastfeeding, you have a full-time job that requires rest, fluids, and patience to learn and perfect. You are the feeder-in-chief. You’ll do your fair share of soothing as a function of that job. But your partner should take the lead on soothing so that you can accomplish your main mission: feeding your baby.”
- Discuss getting educated together so you’re both baby experts. “How do people become experts in their fields? They study. If you are the only one in your family studying up on babies and parenting before or after your newborn arrives, you will feel as if you are the only one who knows anything, and you will be the only one who feels confident enough to take charge. Expect that both of you have a working knowledge of common baby issues and newborn care basics before your baby arrives so that you can problem-solve from the same educated perspective (and so you can both take responsibility when needed).”
- Talk about how you plan to divide parenting roles and give each other respect. “Dads are not complete duds in the baby-care department, despite how most TV shows and movies depict them. Sometimes, we carry that same attitude toward our partners in real life once we become moms. … The truth is, if we don’t allow dads and other partners the space to be amazing family contributors, not just as winners at the office, but also as dust-mop wielding, dinner-preparing, diaper-changing Jedis, we miss out on a ton of help and on a ton of balance in our lives and parenting partnerships.”
- Embrace the differences. “Once your baby arrives, embrace that you and your partner may parent differently. You have probably always done a lot of things differently; your differences just haven’t been quite so in-your-face as they soon will be. … You may like different bottles; you may think certain toys are better than others. You may even have a different way of discussing which bottles or toys are the best! That’s OK. Your differences will make you stronger together.”