Everyone’s economic situation varies, but let’s face it, today, it’s hard for most families to support themselves unless both parents work.
And if both parents are working on full-time schedules, it can be stressful for them to take care of their children, themselves and the house all at the same time.
However, if parents work together in an equitable fashion, splitting up parenting and home duties, they can have sanity such that they are more successful in their work, raising their children and maintaining the household.
To that end, here are some best practices you and your working spouse should consider doing to keep things equitable and running smoothly in the household:
1. Make Sure Parenting is Split Equally
No matter how far we have come, the fact is, many male parents still implicitly expect that their spouses will take on the lion’s share of the work when it comes to raising the children and taking care of the house, sort of set up by the fact mothers must pump or breastfeed at the start, which is the biggest job for new parents. It is arguably a fact that in the past, fathers may have assumed that because the mother is home with the child, she will take care of mostly everything, including the household chores, even though she is still recovering from pregnancy.
What’s more, even after maternity leave, the family patterns set from the beginning of a new baby tend to stay in place so that the mother remains responsible for most household tasks even after she returns to work.
However, there are a few ways to break this old-fashioned pattern of thinking. New, progressive patterns can be established early on that makes things more equal, setting up the family for success for years.
For starters, parents should set up a written chore chart (Microsft Word has templates for chore charts) that outlines who does what during job-protected leave (i.e. maternal or parental leave) and after the leave is over. For instance, it may be agreed that either the mother or father will cook many of the dinners while they are on leave, but when it’s over, cooking duties will be split 50/50.
2. Make Arrangements Around a Flexible Work Schedule
If both parents work 9-5 jobs, they may get childcare while they are working and then care for the children equally when they get home at night.
But if one parent works from home (“WFH”) (which is getting more and more commonplace after COVID), things can begin to get complicated.
To that end, parents should work out a written schedule (templates are available on Microsoft Word) so that the parent that has more flexibility works around the one that has a rigid office job and so that both parents can get into a routine.
So, for instance, if one parent works 9-5, the other WFH parent might consider working early in the morning, late at night or during weekends.
It’s also a good idea for the WFH parent to find a sanctuary working space they can work out of, and set boundaries. This way, there is little chance that they will be called away from work due to issues that may arise while their partner is watching their children.
3. If Other Events are Getting in the Way
As a parent and fulltime worker, it’s natural that you will want to take some me-time to get together with the boys or girls for some much-needed socialization. Or you may want to do something enriching like go to a workshop or pursue a hobby.
This is all well and good but, in cases like these, parents should have designated nights to parent. So, for instance, if Wednesday is a designated parenting night, a parent may just have to put off that drink with their bestie until Thursday.
If there is a three-night a week workshop you wanted to take, make sure you are available the other two nights to take care of the kids.
Working and participating in after-work activities while leaving your partner to care for the kids is not cool… unless you have a designated system.
4. Equality is Not About Micromanaging
You have to accept the fact that each parent will have different parenting methods. Even if those methods go against what you think is best, as long as your child is happy and safe, you will have to accept your partner’s ways if you want an equitable relationship.
For instance, if one parent likes to bathe the baby in the bathtub, but your partner prefers to do it in the sink, just let it go. Be happy that your partner is helping out. Let down your defenses and choose your battles.
Besides, if you are continually checking in, giving your partner directions and telling him or her how to do things, you are doing more work for yourself, and that’s never a good thing.
5. Make the World Aware of Your Situation
In most households, historically, mothers are defacto expected to be the parenting decision-makers. However, if the father is given certain responsibilities, he may be the one to determine the outcome of certain situations.
For example, if someone asks you a food-related question concerning your child, and your husband is in charge of food prep, hand the responsibility to him. Just tell that person that they will have to talk to your husband regarding that decision.
In the work arena, people may also assume that, now that you’re a mom, you’re no longer able to take on extra work or social activities.
However, if you would still like to maintain this aspect of your life, let people know you have a supportive partner and that you are still available to attend workshops and conferences and even to pop out for a drink every now and then.
6. Make Emergency Plans
Let’s say there’s an emergency and your baby gets sick. Now what?
If one parent has a more flexible schedule, it may always fall on their shoulders to run to the rescue. However, the other parent should then be prepared to allow their partner to make up for the lost time by caring for the baby on the weekend.
If both parents have similar work situations, they may want to take turns caring for the baby when emergencies come up.
Whatever works best is fine, but parents should take the time to consult and work out a plan for how emergencies will be handled in advance.
Working a full-time job and caring for a child is never easy. But it can be even more difficult if one parent is taking on an unfair amount of the responsibilities.
Draw up a plan with your partner to make sure both of you are parenting equally, and things will be a lot healthier for you, your children and your marriage.