This is an article in our Pregnancy Week by Week series, a resource to help you manage your job and life, through and after your pregnancy.
Week 47: 5 Ways to Empower Dad* To Co-Parent
Parenting today looks a lot more like Modern Family than The Brady Bunch. So we’re giving dad* an asterisk right up front-and-center so we don’t have to keep writing “partner/spouse/legal-guardian/step-dad/biological father” a million times. Not because we’re dissing single moms, step-dads, and mama + mommy couples.
Whatever type of coupling you’re part of, traditional mom and dad gender roles are getting tested, big time. And much of this tussle begins immediately after baby comes home.
In today’s world, if Bill Gates does the dishes and Mark Zuckerberg can take 2 months away from running Facebook for his baby, it’s hard to argue that your dear husband can’t change that dirty diaper.
Not only does co-parenting give you a much needed break during maternity leave, but it is also a hugely important investment in laying the groundwork for your dual-career future. Don’t spend all your time during maternity leave getting good at feeding, bathing and clothing the baby only to keep on doing everything (or 80% of it) after you go to work unless this is a conscious, family decision.
Taking over all child care simply because you’re the mom is not fair for you, dad or baby. If that’s what works for your respective career demands and family, it’s obviously fine, but doing so without thinking it through is a quick recipe for big-time burnout and marital stress. And psst...it’s not exactly fair for you, dad, or baby.
Ally, an attorney at a BigLaw firm in Chicago shares her (pretty common) story. Ally and her husband both had big careers and intended to keep it that way. But because Ally had a wonderful four-month maternity leave whereas her husband didn’t, it meant that she was the one who became a real pro at feeding, burping, changing and soothing her baby to bed.
Even though her husband took some time off and was usually home for the baby’s evening routine, Ally still ended up putting their baby to bed most nights during her maternity leave.
Well, when Ally went back to work, she couldn’t always make it home for bedtime. And when she couldn’t be there, her husband -- no surprise -- had difficulty putting the baby to sleep the same way she did. This frustrated him and it made her feel guilty and anxious about not being there.
The lesson here is that even during maternity leave, you may want to consider your routines and “start as you mean to go.” We know it can be hard to let go, especially when you’re so fresh on those new baby skills yourself (and damn proud of them!)
But giving dad a chance to get his hands dirty (um, literally) can be a really good thing for you, your relationship, and your baby.
Here are 5 tips on how to empower dad to do more (starting from when you’re on maternity leave):
1. Let him mess up. Everything is new to everyone, and there’s no way for dad to get confident -- much less comfortable -- with taking on his share of parenting if he feels like he’s walking on eggshells.
2. Tempting as it may be to get all managerial and tell him “the right way” to do things, don’t hover. As Mac Caveng, a new dad who took an 18 week paternity leave, explains, “Let [dads] develop their way of doing things even though you know that there are far simpler ways to change a diaper, let him do it and come up with his routine, like you probably had to.” #truth
3. Leave him alone with the baby. Seriously. We know this may feel like the last thing you want to do. That’s biology and instinct kicking in, and we know it’s hard.
So start by taking a walk around the block for fresh air, or getting coffee with a friend. Physical separation is something you’ll need to get used to if you’re going back to work. Giving dad some solo time is as good a place to start practicing as any.
4. Ask dad to take his full paternity leave. If his employer doesn’t offer paid leave, cobble together whatever you can afford between unpaid leave (typically under FMLA) or his saved up vacation days.
As Eric, a new dad in Brooklyn, puts it, “In order for our society to progress, men need to see for themselves how challenging and enriching it is to be caring for your child alone.”
Note: guys can face a lot of stigma for taking paternity leave at some workplaces, so don’t go bat-sh*t crazy if this becomes a major identity or career issue. After all, he can face just as much unfair discrimination as you...and remember, you’re on the same team.
5. Be patient. Be patient with yourself, and be patient with him. Be patient with yourselves as a couple entering a brave new -- sometimes stressful, sometimes beautiful -- world of being a new family and co-parents.
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How can I get my partner to help out more with our baby?
My husband is completely oblivious to the fact that while we both work long days, I tend to be the one staying up to wash bottles and get everything ready for daycare the next day, while he is relaxing on the couch. It's hard enough keeping up with...
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