How to Create a more Equitable Parenting Team

Published August 20, 2020 by Ryan

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The Power of ‘I Got This’

Keeping parenting equitable is so important for new parents. I was recently getting my son’s bottle ready for bed when I noticed that the kitchen was a mess from dinner. My wife had worked hard to make us all a delicious meal and we had not gotten the chance to tidy up before getting our son in the bath. My wife and I alternate nights feeding our son his final bottle and laying him down for bed, and it was my night. I grabbed the bottle when it had warmed up and went upstairs to lay little man down. When I came downstairs, my wife was laying on the couch, exhausted. She said “I’ll clean the kitchen, I’m just a really tired.”

In that moment I knew that it was time to step up and help out. This woman had just watched our son all day while I was working, cleaned around the house, and made us a delicious dinner. I told her “Don’t worry about the kitchen, I got this.” I cleaned the kitchen until it was spotless.

That one gesture of cleaning the kitchen made my wife so happy. Sometimes I lose sight of how much she does, and need to remind myself that I can do more to help. That one ‘I Got This’ made all the difference. That’s when I stopped and thought about how that phrase can really make a huge difference to your spouse/partner when you are raising a child together. That’s what inspired this weeks post on equitable parenting, and the positive benefits it can have.

What is Equitable Parenting?

Parenting is not an easy task, and it becomes magnitudes harder if you’re doing it alone. Shout out to the single parents out there because I couldn’t imagine going through this without my wife. However, if we aren’t careful, our spouse/partners may feel like they are going through it alone. This is because new parents often don’t have healthy discussions about equitable parenting.

When I say equitable parenting, I simply mean the fairness of the responsibility of raising your little one. Is there a parent changing diapers far more often than another? Is bath time always the responsibility of that parent as well? What about feedings or meals? Playtime? Bedtime? Temper tantrums? Is one parent taking these things on more than the other? It’s important that we take stock of these things and really reflect on whether or not we are supporting our teammate as much as we can.

Now there are definitely more complex factors to this equation here. For example, it kills my wife’s back to bathe our son. That’s why every night I bathe the little man while my wife tidies up downstairs. Then we trade off and she starts him on his bed time routine (which is very important, check out this last weeks article on baby scheduling) while I warm up his bottle. Then we alternate nights to feed him that bottle and lay him down. It wasn’t always like that, but it’s the perfect balance that we have struck and it works really well for us.

One of the best ways you can make parenthood easier for your spouse/partner is finding these ways of making parenting equitable. This is where the ‘I Got This’ comes in to play. If it seems like your spouse/partner is struggling because they’ve been going ninety-to-nothing since waking up, make things a little more equitable. Tell them that you got whatever task is next on the list of things that need doing and let them rest.

Rest is Key

Rest is the one thing that all new parents want more of. And while there are ways of getting more time for it sometimes there are things that need doing. The baby will need his or her diaper changed, the baths need to happen, and the meals need to keep coming. However, if one parent is doing all these tasks, they’re likely not getting enough self care or rest.

This self care is critical for new parents. Stress builds without it, leading to relationship troubles between parents, decline in immune health, or even postpartum depression and other mood disorders. So when you can say “I got this” and take something off your partners plate, you are giving them the time that they need to recharge. I have seen my wife’s demeanor completely change because I took something off her plate. It makes doing that 10 minute task worth it, because you know that you are making things easier on the person you love the most.

We Owe It to Our Little Ones

Believe it or not, it’s actually good for our little ones that we get this rest. I know that seems counter intuitive since our kids are the ones that are taking our rest from us, but it’s true. Well rested parents are parents that can more easily tackle the constant challenges that come with our little bundles of joy. It’s easier to respond to the situations where we’re not sure what to do if we can remain calm and level headed. Stress stands in the way of our ability to do that and is one of the key factors that makes life harder for new parents.

We, as fathers, have the ability to relieve some of the stress that our spouse/partners are experiencing. If we make sure that we are striving to make our parenting equitable then we give our spouses/partners the time they need to recharge.

Going Beyond Fifty-Fifty

So we want to strive for equitable parenting. However, there’s the opportunity to support our teammate even further by doing more. For example, my wife recently wasn’t feeling well. I could tell that she was drained, despite trying to keep things equitable in our parenting. So over a three day span I changed all of our sons diapers so that she wouldn’t have to. While that’s not a fair distribution of smelly surprises, it was what my wife needed and I would do it again. If we hold a fifty-fifty split over our spouse/partner, it can become detrimental.

Sometimes it’s not possible to do as much as our spouse/partner. Since working from home during the current pandemic I have been able to help out much more, but what about when I go back in to the office? I will be gone 8-9 hours a day. This is where my wife and I came up with ways to make things more fair. We had designated nights of the week where one of us would be the one solely responsible for getting our son to sleep. These nights helped us avoid burning out and feeling the stress. They gave us time to recharge our batteries.

We know a couple that have an awesome system. Every day when dad gets home from work he gives mom an hour of her own time to relax after a long day with 2 kids. This time was important to her to recharge so that dinner/bath/bed time didn’t become stressful events every night. This time is also important to the dad because he hasn’t seen his kids all day. He misses them and they miss him. He usually takes them on a walk around the neighborhood which is great bonding time. Our spouses/partners shouldn’t have to go from morning to bedtime without a break. By then, they’ve burnt their candle all the way down at both ends. This leads to more unhealthy stress that we, as teammates, can help to avoid.

Communication is Key

A huge way new parents can help each other is regularly checking in. Communication is so important. It’s the only way we know whether or not the other parent is okay or if they need a break. When things don’t seem fair or equitable, my wife and I sit down and talk about it. We make sure we can get back on track and give each other the support we need. It’s important to go in to these talks with the reminder that we are not criticizing each other. We are asking for the help that we need. We are talking about how we can make things better for both of us in the long run.

Maybe you feel like you are doing most of the parenting tasks. Maybe you think that your spouse/partner may be doing most of the parenting tasks. First sit down with your spouse/partner. Remind them that you’re not trying to be critical. Express your feelings about the equity of your parenting. It may just give you or your spouse/partner the opportunity to get some rest or self care. If you have trouble communicating, I really like this post about couple communication.

Ask For Help

Finally, it’s so critical that we remember when to say “I don’t got this” as fathers. Sometimes we can let our pride get in the way of our ability to ask for help. It may be that you find yourself in a situation where you are on the side of the parenting relationship where you are doing more. Instead of constantly saying “I got this”, we may need to say “I need you”. Again, communication is key here. Be open and honest with your spouse/partner about the support you need so that you can practice some self care. It’s okay to ask for help. We just need to remember that sometimes our spouse/partner is also in need.

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