How to split parenting more equitably?
November 27, 2016 3:54 AM   Subscribe

One baby, two parents who both feel like they are doing more than their fare share of babyminding. How to equalize?

Mom stays home with baby and breastfeeds and Dad works outside the home so there is some natural imbalance. But when both parents are home, what is fair? What are some strategies for making sure both parents feel like they have some time for themselves? What worked for you? I know keeping score is supposed to be bad but how do you deal with the feelings of unfairness?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Easy.

On weekdays, Mom is home with baby during the day....so Dad takes over when he gets home.

On weekends, take turns.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:19 AM on November 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


On weekdays, Mom is home with baby during the day....so Dad takes over when he gets home.

As a mother I agree that Mom does really deserve and need to have time to herself after a long day with the child, and she really to get a break when dad gets home, AND that he can't use the fact of working outside the home to shirk on child care...but if both parents are feeling stressed, the above solution means Dad works all day (outside job and childcare) while mom gets every evening off. It would work if Dad found coming home and bonding with baby to be rewarding. But the couple is looking for equity, so this might not feel equitable if his job is also really stressful and he is saying he needs time to completely "off" too. It's also important to get away from what is so common: the feeling that your whole life is kind of a grim turn taking of chores and duties, and no fun. You had a baby together and probably imagined that you would feel more, not less, connected with this -- but it's difficult and needs some planning to make that happen.
So I would alter EmpressC's idea a bit to advocate taking turns with weeknights too. First: assume that both of you have had equally taxing and exhausting and important work days that equally contribute to the family and make sure to start from there. So make a plan that works accordingly. For example, when Dad comes home, he takes the baby for X amount of (45?) minutes while Mom is completely free. Then Mom takes the baby for the next X minutes. Then -- do the rest together! Help each other out, smile at each other, develop a sense of being a team and a family. Even bedtime, which you do can together even if it involves nursing (ie Dad is not just watching TV while Mom does bedtime, he's there with her). On weekends, take turns to have time to yourselves, do stuff all together and get a babysitter once a week at least to do something together without the baby-- this is super important.
posted by flourpot at 4:41 AM on November 27, 2016 [36 favorites]


If there is ANY way to afford a babysitter or mother's helper, do it.
posted by metasarah at 4:51 AM on November 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think this depends on the nature of Dad's job. If he works an intense job where he always has to be 'on', then I think a even split of childcare when he's home (evenings and weekends) is fair. If, on the other hand, his work is less intense, then I think it's completely reasonable to expect him to take over most evenings (and, again, split duties on the weekends).
posted by Betelgeuse at 5:04 AM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


You're going to get lots of answers here and suggestions for how you can do this, but know that there's no one right answer: this is something every set of parents needs to negotiate individually.

Like flowerpot mentioned above, I work a full-time job (with a long-ish commute) and my husband is at home with the kid most of the day. I'm 100 percent *not* prepared to do all childcare duty when I get home. I'm also pregnant, so kind of useless in general. We simply don't have an equal split of childcare duties but the fact I'm out earning + making our next baby + it isn't a permanent state of affairs keeps us going. The point is that the goal can't always be "equal," but, like you said, "equitable." Is everyone doing close to the best they can and getting something close to what they need?

(Also, I'm a huge fan of throwing money at these problems if you can. We prioritize having monthly maid service over many other things because it keeps us married. Also, part-time daycare.)
posted by whitewall at 5:08 AM on November 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


We literally created a schedule. (I think I even wrote it down and posted it on the refrigerator at first.) We each had certain days/times when we were on baby-wrangling duty. I don't remember the particulars, but it was something like every other weeknight evening, and one weekend day. The other was free to do whatever when they were "off duty". It wasn't a complete 50/50 split since I was breastfeeding, but it was pretty close and it worked great for us. My husband used his "days off" to do projects around the house, like cutting the grass or fixing his car. I mostly took naps and went grocery shopping.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:07 AM on November 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


A lot depends on how the baby sleeps. Are nights exclusively dealt with by the mother? If so, that is very tiring for her (as I can attest) and mentally tiring to be always on call. So, I'd think she'd need at least an hour or two in the evening, every evening. Weekends probably should be split, as of course the father also needs time to decompress.

I do think that finding what's "fair" is a fool's game when it comes to babies - especially breastfeeding babies. In my experience, it's really hard to compare baby care with working out of the house. I've been trying to focus instead on what I and my husband need in order to stay at a similar level of sanity.

Also, it gets easier as they get more independent!
posted by brambory at 6:14 AM on November 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I realized that "but Dad needs to unwind after work too maybe" after I posted. So if I could amend my post to:

Make sure that whatever solution you come up with takes into account that "staying at home all day with the kid" is equally as taxing for you as 8 hours at a job all day is for him. Part of the reason why things get inequal with this kind of thing is because people assume that staying home and caring for a child is "easier" than a job, or "doesn't count", and it totally does.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:14 AM on November 27, 2016 [26 favorites]


My mind has always been boggled by suggestions that since Dad has it so easy all day at work, he takes over baby responsibiities when he gets home. This is what my wife expected. I would get up super early, drive a long way to work, work a crazy stressful job all day, fight traffic all the way home, and walk in the door pretty exhausted. My ex would breath a sigh of relief when I walked in, and she'd leave to go shopping, work out, spend time with friends or whatever. I would do all the baby and toddler stuff (two kids) until I got them both into bed. Then I would pass out because I had to be up early again the next day. I resented it. Over time, I convinced my ex that doing this resulted in her having about 5 hours of "down time" each weekday, while I had zero. This seemed unfair to me, and she agreed that I should get at least a bit of time.

We ended up working out a written post-work schedule so I would have two days a week where I could do something I chose to do, and she got three days. It helped tremendously to just have it written out. The predictability allowed both of us to schedule fun stuff to do during the week and made for a more fair situation. We both ended up happy with it.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 6:15 AM on November 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yes, you both need down time. the ideal thing is to throw money at the problem, but if it's not possible, I'd recommend that you both have one weeknight and one weekend morning "off." If baby still wakes up frequently at night, then dad takes baby in the morning for as long as possible so that mom gets an hour to sleep longer. The rest of the time, take care of baby together.

What happens during the transition time after dad gets home matters a lot too. As much as possible, make the first 15 minutes about relaxing and reconnecting. Try not to have anything urgent that needs to be done at that time. Infancy is short but brutal; chores and cooking can wait. Diffusing resentment and making sure that everyone feels loved and appreciated can't.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:22 AM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


There is no correct answer here. You are going to get 50 answers, all correct if they worked for the parties involved, but maybe none of them will be correct for you. I worked 2 or 3 jobs for a while so my wife could stay home with the kids. It's been 20+ years, but I don't remember us ever having a conversation about equitable splits of the workload, and we certainly never had a written schedule. We just got shit done as needed I guess. We had no money back then, so there were no maids, no help with the lawn, it was all us. We didn't even get babysitters and go out sans kids that often. We didn't start regular date nights again until the kids were old enough to leave home alone for a few hours.

We are still married and our adult kids seem to like us, so I guess we did it right, for us.
posted by COD at 6:23 AM on November 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


I find spending more time together as a family doing fun things (even if it's just a walk, board game or similar) takes the focus off this question and makes it easier to spread stuff in a good way because it raises team spirit. We like to allow for flexibility (if I have more energy, I do extra kid wrangling, if I don't, husband gets to spend more time with them), so a schedule would feel very wrong. In general, I think tackling this as a team (including the kids, mind you!) makes things much more bearable and, for us, is more helpful than any distribution rule we could come up with.
posted by The Toad at 6:37 AM on November 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


We still struggle with this, but it helps us to clearly define times when each parent is fully on- or off-duty, rather than spending our Sundays glaring at each other because we each feel like we've done 90% of the diaper changes that week and we sure as hell aren't going to do the next one. I agree that the amount of on-duty time you each have on nights and weekends may depend on how stressful your job is. I've been a stay-at-home parent and now I work full-time outside the home, and my office is a hell of a lot more peaceful than my toddler. I'm sure I would feel differently if I were an ER nurse or something.

Also, I never anticipated how physically exhausting breastfeeding would be. I had some complicating factors (anemia and hypovolemia from postpartum hemorrhage) so it is probably not equally rough for everyone, but for the first six months I felt as wiped out as I usually do with the flu, all the time.
posted by xylothek at 6:52 AM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I do think that finding what's "fair" is a fool's game when it comes to babies - especially breastfeeding babies.

This. So much. The two of you should discuss this. And one of the things to put on the table is that parenting isn't 50-50. It will go in and out from "fairness" depending on what phase the kid is in, what you need as an individual, work schedules, school schedules, etc.. You will do best of you plan to recalibrate regularly. Every two weeks, even! Especially when baby is young and feeding and sleeping patterns are continually adjusting. Right about when one parent starts grumbling, one of you should say, "time to switch things up! What's not working?"

Modern mothering is hard work. No support. Expectations both internal and external to suddenly be super mom AND super wife. Modern fathering is hard work, too. Sharing the load on childcare and having increased financial pressures. You both have to recognize factors within your control and out of your control. Priority #1 - have on hand decent food. Priority #2 - sleep. Priority #3 - decompression. Here's the thing about the evening scramble when you have a baby - mom needs a break. Even 30 minutes to myself with my baby in trusted care and I was back with enough energy and kindness to jump in and give it another push. I think depression post-partum can absolutely be linked to not being able to fully decompress which you can only do when you have a trusted carer to hand the baby to.

I once told my husband: I know you need a break when you get home. But you can either take a break or you can watch me abandon the child and run screaming down the street, leaving you as a single parent. After that, he came home and seemed to accept that life had changed. His decompression became sitting with the baby, cuddling baby while I had a shower, or started dinner, or maybe once or twice went screaming around the block. And we didn't put a lot of pressure on each other to chit-chat during this time. This arrangement didn't last forever but it worked really well.

Lastly, resist the temptation to take the only hours of your week where you could get some re-charge time and turn that into "family time." Be conscious about carving it out and definitely consider writing out a schedule.
posted by amanda at 7:24 AM on November 27, 2016 [16 favorites]


What makes ME less resentful is: if I'm taking care of baby, other parent is not just laying around. When other parent gets home from work, they take baby for a bit so I can get stuff done, or a shower , or a quick grocery trip. Or he plays/feeds baby while I get dinner around. He does bath time and then I nurse to sleep while he picks up. After baby is in bed, both of us clean up and put the house back together so that we can BOTH relax. That way nobody is sprawled out on the couch while the other parent is doing dishes.
posted by checkitnice at 9:10 AM on November 27, 2016 [20 favorites]


I have a lot of thoughts (though none conclusive) on this because I was a stay at home mother for about 1.5 years, including months at a time on my own when my husband was away for work, and now I work full time and he stays at home full time. We've both seen both sides and to be honest, I think neither of us has felt in either case that we're getting enough down time. I think the goal that makes me happiest is that we both stop working for the night at the same time - that means that each of us is doing childcare, or making dinner, or doing dishes, or tidying up until around 8 PM when our kid is asleep and everything is done. Then we both collapse on the couch, but it mostly avoids the situation where one of us is watching tv with a beer while the other is still "on". The important thing for me is that I at least have a change in busy-ness -- I'm okay going from a full day of work to minding my daughter because it's totally different brain space. Similarly, when I stayed at home, I just desperately wanted to not be on kid alert and be able to focus on something like cleaning or making dinner as soon as my husband got home.

Basically, it'll take constant negotiation and a willingness to admit that neither of you is going to have hours of down time each night, at least while the kid is still needy.

And you can make all the plans you want but the kid will sometimes interfere. I always took nighttime duties while my husband was working full time (not least of all because I was breastfeeding) and while he tries to do the same for me now that I'm working, my daughter is currently in an I-only-want-mommy phase at night so I'm the one up at night during her current teething and sleep regression as well as working a full day. It's awesome. I love it. I don't want to cry at all.

So it'll be constant negotiation, compromise, and sacrifice as the kid ages and its needs change. You just have to talk it out, both of you willing to say when you really need time and willing to give the other some time off when you have the energy and ability to do so. Don't "keep score" because babies are not here to make things perfectly equitable. Just assume the best on both your parts and try to live up to it.
posted by olinerd at 9:48 AM on November 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, I'm a stay at home dad, and I'm trying to think of a way to phrase this delicately, but can't really come up with something other than this:
The father probably isn't doing as much of the total share of work as he thinks.

This isn't his fault, as a society, we've been shown REALLY unrealistic images of what child care looks like. But let me tell you, especially with babies, it's WAY more work than just getting up and changing diapers and feeding them. Seriously, taking care of a baby takes a crap ton of mental and physical effort, at a time when you're least able to provide it because of lack of sleep, and there's a crying thing that why won't it stop crying, I just need 5 minutes of setting her down so I can go to the bathroom, and holy crap there's only one clean onesie after this left and why won't she stop crying so I can poop!

On top of just feeding and changing diapers and putting down (which is not a "just" thing, it's hours of frustrating work a day), there's: Doctor's appointments; cleaning; so much laundry; shopping; trying to figure out which pacifier works best; sorting through clothes as they get outgrown; setting up clothing swaps with friends with different aged kids; doing more laundry; where did her favorite toy go; checking to see if you need adjust the straps on the carseat yet; and since you're doing that, you should wash the cover; and on and on and on and on. Most of the time the Dad has NO idea this is going on while he's at work. So when he comes home and all he has to do is change the diaper and stuff, it's like "why is this such a big deal? I have a stressful job and need my break." And I get it, even if you "know" that staying at home is hard work, it's another thing the truly understand just how crushing and unending it is.

Also, another thing to consider, is the person that leaves, gets to leave. Like, I know that work is work and stressful, and all that, BUT, it's also surrounded by adult humans, in an environment that doesn't remind of the 70 things you need to do to have a clean house, and then you get to leave it to go someplace else to relax. That's huge. Imagine having to spend most of your time you get to relax at the building where you work, with all your unfinished projects just staring at you, oh and the person who's there doing the work for the other shift keeps expecting you to help too.

All of which is to say, if you want an equitable split of childcare, you're going to have to consider things other than "who gets the baby when they cry?" So here's my suggestions that you should do right away to help balance those parts:

The parent that stays at home gets to leave the house at least 2 times a week without the kid. At least one of those needs to be non-kid related and involve interacting socially with other adults.
Nobody gets downtime when the non-home parent gets home. Downtime's after dinner is eaten and cleaned up. The non-kid wrangling parent does the cooking and cleaning.
After the baby's gone to bed: Dad does all the non-feeding related bits of soothing the baby: changing diaper\re-swaddling\putting back in crib\whatever. Yes I know Mom's going to have to wake up and get up anyway, but it's a giant gesture on the Dad's part to show that he's serious about splitting the work.
Oh and everyone gets to say "I can't deal with this" every now and then (not more than once or twice a month) and get a couple hours to do whatever that's not taking care of the baby.
ALWAYS say thanks to the person who's job it is to get the baby that time.
The stay at home parent gets to list some baby adjacent jobs that they want the other parent to do.

Having a baby is at least three full time jobs, split between two people. Everyone's going to be burnt out and feeling like they're doing too much work, because they are. The answer isn't finding a perfect split where everyone does exactly 50% of the total house work (including making money), but in showing consideration and appreciation for the other partner.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:03 AM on November 27, 2016 [59 favorites]


For us, in general, I get two week nights off and he gets three (though we rotate back and forth on this), and we split the weekends evenly, not counting family time. Our house is never clean enough for me, but I'd rather have a dirty house and a rest, because I'm super introverted and need some alone time, and my kid, alas, is not introverted and extroverts all over the place.

We both, in general, feel the other doesn't recognize the other person's contributions, so we try to say thank you, for doing the dishes, etc. whenever we can. We know it's not forever - just one of the sucky things that goes along with having a kid for a few years.

In general, do what you can to try not to tear each other apart, and if you have a little extra energy, lighten the other person's load.
posted by anitanita at 10:33 AM on November 27, 2016


So, a breastfeeding baby just requires a huge amount of constant attention. It will get better eventually. If your baby is not sleeping through the night yet it will get somewhat better immediately as soon as he/she does.

I think "keeping score" in the sense of mentally tallying up effort and using it to hold a grudge is bad, but "keeping score" in the sense of actually keeping track of what you do or setting up a rota so that the labor is divided reasonably equitably is a totally reasonable way to approach the difficult task of being parents to an infant.

Our solution involved some paid childcare as well as what started as an informal turn-taking system and became an explicit one. On weekends each of us gets to sleep in one day while the other person gets up with the kid (now kids) at whatever time he gets up, whether that is 4:30 AM or 7:30. That one day itself made a tremendous difference, and I know it's important to us both because we both know whose turn it is on any given weekend.

If you have other things you would like to do (exercise, hobby, etc) I strongly recommend scheduling them. That goes for both of you.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:33 AM on November 27, 2016


One of the things that was really stressful for me with my first was that negotiations over childcare divisions took on a second meaning. First, there was the immediate question of who was doing what, like, this evening. But second, I was really afraid that if the balance wasn't right just then, we were locking ourselves in to a lifetime of inequitable parenting. This has been much less of an issue the second time around, partly because we are often taking one kid each but mostly because I've seen my husband take on greater and constantly changing roles as our first child has grown older. We've renegotiated so many times as things change, and I imagine this will continue. So I wish I'd stressed a bit less about what our initial choices would signify for the future, I guess.

(But to second others -- this is hella hard! Try to focus on getting each parent some scheduled downtime.)
posted by wyzewoman at 10:48 AM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


My world is one where the very large majority of couples with kids consist of executive dad and stay at home mom. The ethos is that there is no excuse for dad sitting on his butt when he's home, but there's no expectation or practice that he be home when professional opportunity or necessity suggests otherwise. Moms engage other resources for consistent down/off-time but absolutely expect their husbands to pitch in when possible.
posted by MattD at 11:05 AM on November 27, 2016


I think the hard part about dividing child care tasks is that each parent likely has a different tolerance for the work and that you end up "keeping score" with different scales. My wife and I both work fairly demanding jobs. When she gets home, she loves nothing more than having the two monkeys jump on her fixing them chocolate milk, etc. while if I don't get 15 minutes of down time before child engagement I'm Very Cranky. I'm a fairly light sleeper, so I am happy to get up in the middle of the night to deal with nightmares, etc (we are past breast feeding) where she'll be happy to let them pile in the bed with us.

What "worked" for us (and I say "worked" because every couple argues about this stuff constantly and many get divorced), is each parent schedules the personal activities they need to feel human. Like, we use a shared google calendar and mine includes "running", "going to the gym", "Tuesday night Trivia", etc and hers includes "book club," "pedicure," "going to the gym, etc" Now that they're older, each kid has his own calendar. But nothing is too trivial to put on the calendar -- I realized I had gone months without practicing the guitar because child care stuff always takes precedence, so I scheduled myself an hour of guitar playing on Sunday night. Now, I don't always feel like playing guitar on Sunday night, but at least the opportunity is there.

Child care pretty much fills us all of the blank spaces in between the scheduled stuff and with 2 that are now 5 and 7, I'm here to tell you, it never seems to get easier or afford you more free time.

We have certainly had times where resentment built up because I felt like I was putting in more subjective effort, but the solution to that was not tallying up hours or "clocking out", it was communicating with my partner what all I was doing ("Hey, while you were at the gym I went through the kids'drawers and pulled out all the old clothes") and communicating what is important to me ("Hey, I feel anxious when the house is really cluttered and I would feel better if you and I could clean up the board games when the kids are done with them").

I don't know if the work is split evenly really, but the work is certainly more than each of us wants to put in. The important thing is that we each are getting (some of) our needs taken care of, and are (mostly) not resentful of each other.*

And oh my god, yes, schedule date nights, do it now and keep it going.

* this all literally took me years of therapy to come to. You're welcome.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:08 AM on November 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


How old is your baby? In the beginning, man, it's just HARD. Get help as much as possible. Is there anyone who can come assist once a week, for a few hours?

As soon as you feel comfortable, maybe around 6-8 months or even sooner, start looking into part-time daycare. Even super part time- 1-2 mornings a week, can make a dramatic difference!

There are, actually, some affordable and decent part-time solutions - either a Mother's Morning Out Program offered at lots of churches (isn't necessarily tied in w church, or religious in any way, but a lot of them offer daycare/childcare and it's often really good and cheap) or some kind of home-based place for awhile.

The other thing is if you have family that want to be involved, to have them come into town more regularly and help out. Like, someone who can take the baby for a few hours, each day, while you guys take breaks.

Also, when your baby starts sleeping more regularly, or going to bed at regular times, this is big. I think around 8 months our baby started almost every night going to bed by 7 pm, and it was heaven. Now we are both 'off' every night by 7pm until almost 7 the next day. YES!

I have an almost 18 month old, and while my husband and I do most of the heavy lifting, and I am at home a lot with her, she goes to care 2 mornings a week, and then grandparents jump in on the weekends, or another morning or two each week. I feel mostly sane and rested these days, and I need that time to function, apply for grad school, self care, help out with our house chores, etc.

I find it pretty unsustainable to do raise a kid just with 2 people as the care givers, even if one person is the stay at home parent. Having some kind of back up is pretty key. (However, the first half year to 10 months, you are often muddling through it no matter what.) Being able to both say what you need and want is as important as ever.
posted by Rocket26 at 11:42 AM on November 27, 2016


I'm a fan of splitting duties between whoever is home. I'm a SAHM, and this is how we run things.

I handle all the nighttime care for the one who is still nursing, and in return my husband pays attention to how sleep deprived I am and will make an effort to give me extra time to sleep. When one of us is sick, the other picks up the slack.

My husband works his butt off. He definitely deserves time to himself. I also deserve time to myself. We have two kids, so that is...hit or miss, but we try.

I'm also a fan of throwing money at problems if you've got it- our older son goes to daycare, which helps also because I have some social anxiety issues, and he's at an age where playing with others is important. Some people can wrangle all the kids and herd them to playdates...I can't, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
posted by pearshaped at 11:54 AM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Our way was just to call everything like that "work". Childcare? Work. Going out to your workplace? Work. So, during the day, at-home parent was doing the same amount of work at at-work parent. Thus, the time when everyone was at home was either everyone together (family time) or "work" split equally between both parents.
posted by gaspode at 6:34 PM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


On top of just feeding and changing diapers and putting down (which is not a "just" thing, it's hours of frustrating work a day), there's: Doctor's appointments; cleaning; so much laundry; shopping; trying to figure out which pacifier works best; [..]

I think it's worth mentioning that a bunch of this stuff depends on things you can control (how clean you want your house to be, whether you use disposable diapers or hand-washed cloth or cloth with a service) as well as stuff you can't control but is going to vary per couple (how fussy your baby is with respect to eating, sleeping, etc). I don't want to get into a big anecdote contest, but my experience is that getting the baby to sleep isn't anywhere near hours a day of effort, and the person at home can get a nap or two in a day, and that's generally not the case at the office.

But the point is this is going to depend on your individual baby, so part of getting things apportioned properly is being realistic about your baby's habits and tendencies and what that means in terms of job-sharing there. Another part is being realistic about what really needs to be done - how clean the house needs to be, how many times a week you have to cook vs order out, how you do diapers and what that means in terms of division of labor. Like, to pick a really stereotypical example, if one partner says "I'm overworked doing the cleaning and also the house needs to be cleaned every day", there are at least two ways to resolve that.

Finally, since sleep is a really big deal, I would like to strongly suggest that if you're breast-feeding, you consider changing things up at night. Pumping or using formula at night is not going to kill your baby or keep them from going to Harvard, I promise, and bottle-feeding can open up a wealth of options wrt labor-sharing with your partner.
posted by inkyz at 7:29 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


How to cope with feelings of unfairness: It is going to be 20 years of parenting. So things are going to be fair and unfair at different times. You may be asked to hold the baby from the minute you walk in the door to 10 pm now because your wife is all touched out, but she may be the one who lets your vomit-covered teenager sit in her car after going and getting him at 2 am.

My sincere advice, knowing how deeply hard this is to take in, is to shift your thinking from what's fair for each of you to that you are Team Family, and Team Family's goal is that everyone comes out of this thing alive and as healthy as possible.

So start with needs and figure out together how to meet them (sleep, exercise, time to shower, a bit of downtime, a bit of social time, a bit of hobby time) and work together on what that looks like. My husband loves to stay home, so he covers home time. I do birthday parties, which he cannot handle, unless they are at Chuck-E-Cheese in which case family sanity requires we decline the invitation.

I know that probably sounds crazy right now, because having a baby is intense and realizing that when you are a parent, The Weekend, the one where you get a morning to sleep in and lie in bed and not think never comes. It never comes again, the children get up at 4 and 5 and 6 am and cry, and throw up, and have daycare, and wake you up as my 5 year old did last week when I was spending an extra ten, TEN minutes in bed from 7-7:10 on Saturday, to cheerfully inform me that he had decided to see how water freezes and gotten a chair and stood on it and _poured a pitcher of water into the top freezer on my fridge_.

And then suddenly they are leaving. I dunno man.

My recommendation for a routine is that when you come home, you get 10-15 min to adjust, then you strap on an Ergo/whatever baby carrier, and wear the baby (if baby permits) around for an hour so that your wife gets at least one hour she can just be herself and not Baby Tree and then after that you trade off a bit but...whatever you work out please make sure you each get what you really need, but that you do not worry too much about the fairness chits.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:45 PM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I should note he doesn't cover all of at-home time, but meaning he is always happy to stay home to supervise homework, say, where I want to go out. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 7:48 PM on November 27, 2016


I want to thank you so much for asking this question. I have a new baby and this is something I struggled with the last few weeks. I felt like since he was going to work and I was not, the baby was my 'job' and it wasn't fair to ask him to do things. Then I had a meltdown because he went out for hours on a Sunday to be with friends and the baby would not let me put him down all night. He came home and I had not eaten or showered and I was over-hot from having the baby on me and covered in fluids.

It's hard too because he is less aware of the baby's schedule than me. Right now the baby is on a formula that has a shelf life of two hours before it must be thrown away. So if we want to go out, we have to time it so baby has just eaten and then we have two hours to give him a new one. That means a maximum out of the house time of four hours (two hours, then you feed him, then you have two more hours until he needs to eat again, at home). So this whole 'We'll just make one more stop at the bank...and the gas station...and the post office...' habit he has just does not work.

And he doesn't know what goes on without him. I'll spend the whole afternoon with a screaming baby whose tummy hurts, then ten minutes before Daddy comes home, he finally poops. Husband walks through the door and baby changed, fed and so comfortable he's practically drunk, and husband feels magnanimous for agreeing to 'be in charge' of the happy and sleepy baby while I shower. And then he has no idea what I mean when I complain about the rough day I has since the baby looks fine to him.

When we finally talked about it, I conceded that I am better at the small-baby stuff than he is and with that said, I am fine with him maintaining his social life and having that outlet. But...

-No more than once per weekend. He went out two days this week and I could have used a break myself. He has to schedule himself better so he is not leaving me hanging like that.

- Try to be moderate with the duration. Maybe that means leaving the football game partway through. Such is life, I am making sacrifices too.

- Before he leaves to go out, he takes half an hour of baby duty so I can shower, eat and regroup. It isn't fair for him to come home after hours of social time and I haven't even had dinner because baby needed to cuddle...

- When baby is older and more on a schedule, I get to go out too sometimes, and same rules apply to me.
posted by ficbot at 6:39 AM on November 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


As out of house worker in this situation before I found the best solution was to "decompress" before I went home so that I could be 100% on childcare when I got there.

There is nothing worse than being with a kid all fucking day, having your partner come home and spend an hour doing the shit you've been waiting all fucking day to do. While you wait.

So I went to the gym at work, or the bar for a drink, or a relaxing walk around the grocery store. All bout 30-45 minute detours so that when I got home I was 100% ready to take over completely for the rest of the night.
posted by French Fry at 7:16 AM on November 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I did a rough calculation for a similar question awhile back:

50 hrs/week out-of-house work plus commute
15 hrs/ week housework and cooking
126 hrs/ week of active child-watching (I based this off estimating your baby plus you get 6 hours of "good" sleep a day, so 18 hours a day that someone needs to be awake and watching him/her)

So that adds up to 191 hours a week... so equally, each of you should be putting in about 95 hours a week. If the person who works outside the house is putting in ~50 hours a week, they should be doing ~45 hours of the other stuff.

You may crunch the numbers a little differently, but that might help put it in perspective. Both of you are effectively working two full-time jobs plus some. It doesn't seem "fair" because both of you have so.much.work.to.do.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:15 AM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is a huge period of transition for everyone going from 0 to 1 baby. The way I mentally dealt with it was thinking of the evening as really the "second shift" of a job. You both already worked morning shift and unfortunately there is no way out of both of you working second shift. So mentally getting to and accepting that reality is the first step. Things will get easier eventually, but not right now. Right now is hard and it is hard for everyone. The second thing is really, really understanding (both of you) that the work you do during the day is difficult and mentally/physically challenging. Both of you need a break by 5pm. You aren't going to get it. So the real question after that point is, how can you equitably share this second shift?

For us, dad got some time (10 minutes?) to get through the door, change clothes, have a drink of water, use the bathroom, and then take the baby. Mom then gets some time to do the same. Both of you hang in the kitchen and prepare a meal of some kind (or order a pizza). You take turns eating and carrying baby around. Then it's a dance around the baby sleeping at night. For us, I went to bed early, husband stayed up with baby until around 10 or 11 (he had a pumped bottle). I got up, fed baby put baby back to sleep. Both asleep. I get up to feed baby. If baby doesn't go back to sleep, husband's turn to walk around and sooth baby. Repeat.

On the weekends, I got to "sleep in" on Saturdays and he got Sundays. Try to plan little hours here and there where you take the baby and he's free to do something rejuvenating and vice versa. Be kind to each other even though you're both tired and anxious to some degree.

It gets better, I promise!
posted by LKWorking at 11:10 AM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


It really is like adding another full-time job into the mix. It's never 50-50. If you're good partners, it's something like 85-75 or 110-90 and it goes up and down the scale. But here's what happens when you don't take care of yourself as the primary caregiver – you go bananas. You get divorced. When the partner who isn't the primary caregiver starts fretting over how much personal time they are missing out on now that a defenseless yet demanding baby has entered the picture, the primary parent may start to wonder why they suddenly have two children to care for. They've got to make sure baby's needs are met, their own needs (sleep, nutrition, decompression) are met and then they've got to make sure their adult spouse's needs are met – something will have to go. Both parents, if they are to support each other, need to be committed to finding their way through to the new normal and embrace the chaos and joy of the immediate future and know that all things are transitory. It's battle stations, go! You will need to be unconventional and innovative. Keep your eyes on the prize: a healthy, happy family who stays together.
posted by amanda at 11:23 AM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I was home on maternity leave (and breastfeeding), I got up for the night feedings (because I could and did nap during the day) and took care of the baby 100% while my husband was at work. When he was home, we were 50/50 (as much as we could) taking care of the baby. On weekends or holidays, 50/50. When I went back to work, we traded off the night feedings every other night. My husband and I were, and are, a good parenting team. We've had very few arguments about whose turn it is to take care of the baby or whatever. Probably because we both feel that taking care of our son is our job, we both WANT to do this job. Though we are both generally fair-minded people and want things to be as even as possible. It's kind of amazing to both of us when we hear stories about one parent asking the other to, like, change the baby's diaper and the other parent refusing or grumbling about it or whatever. If he asks me to change the baby's diaper, I assume he's legitimately doing something else that needs doing and vice versa. (Of course excusing for sleep-deprived grumpiness. I mean, refusing to do babycare as a general pattern.)

How old is the baby? Because a lot of this will change as the baby gets older. When the baby was very young, like, <3 months old, no one was getting much alone time and I wouldn't have been particularly receptive to my husband declining baby care so he could have some. That's just what our life was for that short period of time. Once the baby's sleep/wake cycles regulated, yes, we got time to ourselves back.

Going out to work is a job. Being home all day with a baby is a job. I wasn't waiting for my husband to come home so I could fuck off to the gym or to get my nails done. I was waiting for him to come home so I could pee, or eat a meal with both hands, or shower. Or throw in a load of laundry because everything I owned was covered in baby pee, spit-up, or breast milk. Or sterilize the parts from my breast pump so I could get up at 3 am to pump.
posted by Aquifer at 11:11 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


« Older Best way to take shareable meeting minutes   |   How can I moderate exhaustion from career-related... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.