Newborns are a lot of work. If you've just given birth or adopted one, you probably finally get the sentiment behind. “It takes a village.” You just need all the support you can get.
Especially, from the person you chose to become a parent with.
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:
Dad/partner/husband starts bathtime/diaper-changing or other baby caretaking activity. You are in the room or in vicinity. You observe your partner doing it “wrong.”
You immediately do one of two things: (1) Take over said task or (2) start telling them how to do it correctly.
Here's how I went about this. I'd say, “Stop. The baby doesn’t like that” and “He’s crying because you did [insert activity here] wrong.”
After much struggle, here’s what I identified: Maybe just because it’s not the way I would do it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
It can be easy to be protective of our babies, especially when they are so new to our lives. But I had to remind myself that my partner was also learning how to navigate the new person in the family. Did you ever have a boss who would micro-manage you? Maybe she corrected everything you did? Or made you feel like you were being watched? How did that make you feel about your ability to make decisions? Apply that same logic to parenting. The constant over-correcting sets things up for your partner to find it easier to just rely on you to decide how everything is done and to think, “Maybe it’s better if Mom handles this.”
So Mom is stuck with it. Forever and ever.
Tell your partner tonight that you need more from him/her in this area.
With that said, babies do have preferences for things. If you are spending your days with the baby, you might have more insight on what makes the baby happy. Of course, it makes sense for your child’s other caregivers to know that, too, something best expressed when you and your partner are both calm and removed from the baby. If not, the stress of the scenario could lead to harsh words from you or your partner or both.
This definitely happened at my house.
This is all very personal, so you might be thinking that you want to do everything, that you do it better, that I have no idea what happens at your house because your partner does other things but not the baby part. Just be forewarned that at some point? You might want a break. You might want a moms' night out. You might have a family emergency that takes you away.
In that case, it’s better to set up a dynamic from the beginning, where you assume your partner is as capable of parenting as you are. Keep in mind, this a journey for them, too. You don’t want to wonder later why you can’t leave the house without getting called 10 times to ask where everything is.
If we want a world where girls can be anything, we need a world where boys also take an active role in parenting and caring for others.
If your partner isn't helping out and that's why you clicked on this link, here are some steps you can take: Tell your partner tonight that you need more from him/her in this area. The more the conversation scares you, the more likely it is you need to have it. Express how you feel, open up the dialogue. If you are met with resistance, express how hurtful it is and why changing the current situation is important. Talk about how things were done in their house growing up. This might give you a different understanding of their views and beliefs about caretaking and raising a family. I know these conversations can be uncomfortable but, given the high levels of stress among people with children under the age of 5, these conversations can be life-changing and lead to better a understanding of each other's needs.
It can be hard to shift the dynamics of mom being the default caretaker of everything. Especially for heterosexual relationships, because the goofy dad narrative is so common in our culture. How many TV shows did we watch growing up where the dad didn’t know how to change a diaper or showed the kids going wild when Mom wasn’t around? Is that what we want to continue to perpetuate?
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More importantly, does the way things have always been done lead to happy relationships and happy moms?
If we want a world where girls can be anything, we need a world where boys also take an active role in parenting and caring for others. This starts at home with all of us. It starts with letting our partners make parenting mistakes and mishaps. Without our judgement or corrections.
It starts with treating them as equal parenting partners rather than as another child in our home.