Sharing the work at home – What works best for Baby?
Most new parents expect to share the process of child rearing. Maybe they have a written plan and schedule that can be renegotiated as the rhythm of baby’s life changes. Or they wing it, like I did, and hold on to the magical belief that the shared parental love will make it happen. Either way, the “plan” is likely to evaporate within the first month.
Is it because one parent needs to return to work sooner than expected and can’t provide a 50/50 share of child care? Is it the nursing marathons, which effectively shut out the other parent except for diaper duty and furniture assembly? Or perhaps it’s baby’s temperament: if your baby is sensitive, cries a lot, has trouble sleeping, doesn’t latch on to nurse, or any other combination of newborn surprises, parental reactions may veer off in unexpected directions.
In some respects the specific cause doesn’t matter. Every household is different so the dynamics of what happens will vary. The truth is the deeper source of the problem is there is simply MORE WORK TO DO than anyone expected. The solution is straightforward but often hard for people to accept: You’ve got to expand your combined capacity for work.
- Expand Your Capacity for Work. The fundamental challenge is not simply what works best for baby, but how to generate more energy and resources beyond what each parent has typically performed. Your time commitments were 100% before baby’s arrival, but now you have added an additional 100% time commitment to be shared by both of you. Here are five gender neutral suggestions to help increase your capacity.
1. Enlist and/or pay for outside help to shoulder some of the load.
2. Cut back on so-called “free time,” especially those activities that require a large expenditure of both time and money.
3. Maintain your compensated activities to the extent possible.
4. Insert all the new things that need to be done:
5. Let go of perfectionism and embrace efficiency.
- Make requests; Secure promises. Communication is a term that leaves way too much to intuition and talk without reciprocity. If you want your mate to do something ask for it constructively and be specific. For example, “I know I have to nurse at 2:00 AM but I would like for you to get the baby and bring her to me.” Then negotiate what’s an acceptable response for your needs.
- Compromise. Sometimes, what we envision just is not attainable. Nothing is or can be perfect. We cannot control every single thing. We can control only what we do (which can include circling back on promises and requests to make sure the most important work gets done).
In the end what works best for baby is not Who does What, but What gets done and HOW. What’s best for baby is love and consistency from a pleasant, productive, forward facing family; led by parents who are fully committed to child rearing and to each other.