Having a child is not for the faint of heart. When your baby arrives, there will be little time for sleeping – let alone planning. Because many responsibilities, such as breastfeeding, must fall on you, you should consider delegating some other responsibilities to your partner so you can get some rest.
As I was writing Labor Force: Winning Strategies During Pregnancy, Maternity Leave and Return to Work, I interviewed and surveyed over two-hundred working moms. Many shared that they had made plans to share childcare responsibilities with their partner well in advance of their baby’s arrival.
There are many benefits to involving your partner early on. Research shows when fathers are hands-on with their newborns during the earliest moments, these experiences create a bond that keeps them more involved with their children later on.
Elaine, a product leader at an e-commerce company, shared, “I had planned for my husband to change all the diapers during his paternity leave.” When their daughter arrived, her husband Mitchell executed on the plan. This gave Elaine some time to rest and bonded him with their daughter early on. To this day Mitchell reads to their daughter on a regular basis and spends a lot of quality time with her. The undivided attention from him helps boost their daughter’s self-esteem and confidence in the long run.
Establishing a true partnership with your husband starts from the moment you are pregnant. Here are a few easy approaches that can help establish a true parenting partnership between you two right away:
On average, a woman has to go to twelve to fifteen prenatal visits, which is time consuming for you. But those doctor visits are not just regular visits – they are an important way for the fathers to be engaged throughout this journey. It’s worth the time for both of you to go. Even though your partner is not the one getting the check-ups, it is important for him to make the effort to make time for the visits. Doing so will help your partner feel he is contributing and connecting with the baby and supporting you. It also allows him to be present in case there are important decisions for you to make as a couple.
During the first couple of weeks, you may want your partner to plan on using any paternity leave he may have, or his accumulated PTO. You shouldn’t plan on doing these first few weeks alone. Having a partner to burp and soothe the baby after each feeding lets you sleep more, and by going through the sleepless nights together, you will build a bond in raising your child. Even if your division of labor changes later on, he will always appreciate the hard work you are putting in because he experienced it firsthand.
Today, women are assuming more home responsibilities, even though more of us are in the workforce. The term "second shift" is commonly used to describe employed mothers facing an unequal load of household labor and thus a "double day" of work. In “Women in the Workplace 2016,” produced by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, researchers found that “women in senior management are seven times more likely than men at the same level to say they do more than half of the housework.” By religiously planning out the responsibilities with your partner, you can alleviate friction, especially during pregnancy and the early phases of infant care.
Even if you’ve planned in advance, it is just as important to revisit the plan against the actual situation, especially when there is a change in infant care arrangements or work schedules. When my husband Jacob first returned to work, I was staying at home. Uninterrupted sleep became a necessity for him, so we agreed I would take over the night duties exclusively. Fortunately, our daughter was often sleeping five hours per night by then, so his return to work wasn’t too disruptive most of the time. But at times it was exhausting. A couple of weeks later, he came home with flowers and a smile.
“Thank you for letting me rest at night," he said. "I know it is a lot of work for you, and I appreciate you.” These words melted my heart and made all the hard work worthwhile. I also know that if he had not experienced the sleepless nights himself, he would not have had the same appreciation he does now. His paternity leave made this connection possible.
Egalitarian career expectations have to come with egalitarian family arrangements. Having a child can often widen the gap between your expectation and reality if you have to constantly fill the childcare void. You can drive equality at home through planning and managing responsibilities with your partner early on.
Vivienen Wei is a tech strategist and an advocate for working parents. From Shanghai to Dartmouth College, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, she has always worked and excelled in a male-dominant environment. After giving birth to her second child, she made a commitment to interview career women at the highest levels of success and to detail their journeys and career guidance in her new book, Labor Force: Winning Strategies During Pregnancy, Maternity Leave and Return to Work. She received her BA from Dartmouth College and MBA from Harvard University.