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    Baby Care

    Sharing responsibilities with your partner

    Written on 5 December 2018

    Work together

    Everybody in the family benefits when parents work together to maintain home and hearth. Men are more involved in childcare these days, which helps them develop a strong bond with their kids. Children also benefit from positive role models: They see that men and women both are important to family life.

    Chores and housework are unavoidable, and there may not be an ideal division of labor. But when parents cooperate, communicate fairly, and work together, everybody comes out ahead.

    Rethink your goals

    How does a modern couple maintain balance at home – get dinner on the table, do laundry, feed and bathe the kids – and still have some time for each other and themselves?

    Before answering that question, think about what exactly you both want and need. Rather than aiming for a straight 50-50 division of labor, try to find a way to simply balance the load and keep both of you feeling happy, productive, and appreciated.

    List your responsibilities

    Keep a one-week log of everything you do around the house and for the family. Have your partner do the same. Then compare lists.

    How do you each feel about the items on your list?

    Do you want to change anything?

    Is there any task you intensely dislike?

    Can you swap it for another chore?

    This exercise can be eye-opening: Don't be surprised if one person's list is very long and the other's isn't. With lists in hand, try reassigning responsibilities and finding compromises. Maybe you can agree to take turns doing the especially difficult tasks.

    And stay flexible even after you've divided up the chores in a way that's mutually agreeable. Be willing to help each other out when you can, or even swap chores once in a while to get a feel for what your partner does.

    List your baby's needs

    You both need to adjust to the idea of doing things on your baby's schedule rather than your own. Start talking about the division of labor before your baby arrives. Make a list of all the tasks involved in caring for a baby, from diapering to choosing childcare.

    If you're having trouble coming up with a list, consult friends and family members who have recently become parents. Talk about how you should split up these new tasks (and whether you should divide the chores you did before the baby differently).

    In the early days of a newborn's life, for example, many couples find that because Mom spends hours breastfeeding, Dad ends up on diaper duty the minute he walks in the door.

    Anticipate and communicate

    It's crucial that you tell each other what you want and need. Try to express yourself clearly and specifically, without blame.

    For example, when you need help, tell your partner exactly what you want ("Can you play with the baby so I can cook dinner?"), rather than how you may feel at the moment. ("I have to do everything around here!") If you fight over household responsibilities, set aside some time – when you're both calm – to figure out what the real problem is and how to find a solution.

    Make a schedule

    There's so much to do with a new baby in the house, on top of all the other household chores that just don't go away. But with a little planning and communication, you can tackle the new responsibilities together.

    With your preferences in mind, you and your partner can make a schedule of household responsibilities. Maybe one of you can take morning breakfast duty and the other can do the evening bath. Or try days on and off: One of you cooks dinner and cleans up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the other takes Mondays and Wednesdays – and you order takeout on Fridays.

    Take turns sleeping in on the weekends or getting up with the baby in the middle of the night.

    And keep talking about these arrangements so that you can be flexible and make changes if necessary. Maintaining an open dialogue helps you deal with situations as they arise.

    Who was up all night with the baby or who's not feeling well? Who just pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline? Figure out who has the energy and ability to take care of things, and switch nights or chores.

    Once you realize all these tasks are up for negotiation, you'll be amazed at how much saner life gets.

    Shed traditional expectations

    To truly share the load, you and your partner may have to do a little soul searching to examine your own motives and fears.

    It's easy to fall back on safe (but limiting) traditional roles. But doing so can leave one parent feeling resentful and the other left out in the cold.

    As a mother, do you say you want your partner to take an equal role in childrearing and then feel threatened by his involvement? As a father, do you want to be involved but feel clueless with no role model and a hovering partner? Try talking to each other about these feelings so you can move past them.

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