Assigning tasks to your husband seems like evening the playing field, but delegating household and baby duties puts you in the boss’ seat and him as your subordinate. You may find it easier to bathe the baby while asking your husband to fetch you a towel or grab the pajamas, but the constant asking and ordering diminishes his role as an equal partner.
Instead, divide duties between the two of you so that you both have equal responsibilities without having someone telling the other what to do. For instance, you’re the parent that bathes the baby while he’s the one that dresses her in pajamas. However you land these roles and duties—whether naturally over time or explicitly discussing them together—make sure you know which tasks falls on whom so that you don’t have to delegate.
#2: Adjust your standards
No one will ever do everything exactly how you would except for you, so unless you plan on doing everything yourself, accept that your husband may not fold the laundry or dice your kids’ food as you would. Neither parent’s methods are necessarily better or worse; the point is that the task gets done.
Similarly, keep in mind that while you and your husband might do things differently, both of you have the same intentions. You may have your way of feeding the baby a bottle that’s nowhere near what he does, but the main goal—feeding the baby, and perhaps in a larger scope, your baby’s welfare—are one and the same.
#3: Don’t be a gatekeeper
Mothers who control most aspects of parenting so much so that their partners have a difficult time participating are often referred to as “gatekeepers.” Allow dad to step in just as much as you would and refrain from jumping in every time to “fix” whatever it is he can’t seem to solve. Jumping in leads dads to assume that 1) you do it better and 2) you don’t need help, making it far easier for them to simply step back, feel unwelcome and leave you to do everything.
As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead writes:
I have seen so many women inadvertently discourage their husbands from doing their share by being too controlling or critical… If she acts as a gatekeeper mother and is reluctant to hand over responsibility, or worse, questions the father’s efforts, he does less… Anyone who wants her mate to be a true partner must treat him as an equal—and equally capable—partner.
Yes, your husband might take a longer time soothing your fussy baby, and it can be difficult to sit back and watch the scenario unfold knowing how quickly you could step in and solve the problem. But stepping in would only deny your husband the ability to refine his skills and determine which soothing methods work best for the baby.
#4: Dads should assume daily tasks and not just the fun outings
Common roles for moms include dealing with the daily—and often boring—tasks such as changing the baby’s diapers, packing lunches, or meeting with the children’s teachers, whereas dads’ version of parenting is taking the kids out to the park.
Of course, fun times with dads are beneficial and even necessary, especially to offset the other stereotype of fathers as the strict and distant disciplinarian. But children benefit greatly when they see their dads participating in tasks that are on equal par to their moms (and vice versa). That way, dads are just as capable of taking the kids to the pediatrician as easily as mom can hang out with the kids at the park.
#5: Make regular alone time between dad and the kids
Want one of the best ways dads can build a stronger bond with the kids and have an equal say and participation in the household? Go on strike. Leave the kids alone with him regularly so that he can set the agenda and know just as much as you do about what the kids need and want.
The biggest downfall about my early work schedule is that I miss out on our family breakfasts; however, my absence has only strengthened my husband’s abilities with handling the kids when he’s alone with them. The kids will grow up to learn that dad and mom are equal bosses, and they’ve grown a bond with him that might have been compromised if they never had time alone.
My work schedule requires my husband to be alone with the kids on a daily basis, but even weekly “strikes” can help. Take a class on the weekends. Hang out with friends. Anything that will get you out of the house and your husband alone with the kids.
#6: Implement a chore list
Long before my husband and I had kids, we started a chore list. Every week, we printed and hung a list on the fridge outlining general chores and who was to do them. The next week, we’d rotate, so that the chores I just did would now fall on his responsibilities next. This method kept things fair, gave us accountability (it wasn’t done until it was crossed off!) and ensured that neither felt that the other wasn’t pulling his or her weight.
#7: Communicate openly and frequently
“What’s the matter?” my husband had asked me one time. I had been huffing and puffing around the house, upset about something (of course I already forgot what it was) that I couldn’t believe he hadn’t figured out. Shouldn’t he just know what I was upset about and just step in and take care of it?
Of course not, I realize now. No person is a mind reader, and it’s hardly any fun trying to read between the lines (I could just picture what that would look like—”Let’s see… what could I be in trouble about?”). I made it a point to do better about communicating openly, and likewise, asking my husband point blank if something seemed to be upsetting him.
If you’re too upset, wait for a better time to broach the subject (when both of you are cool and calm is usually a much more productive time to iron things out than in the middle of an argument anyway). Either way, make sure you communicate openly with your partner; it’s easier, more effective, and can only strengthen your ties together.
#8: Show your gratitude
Say thanks, and not as if your husband has just done you a favor (remember, don’t delegate) but to truly be grateful for the person he is and the partnership you have. Sometimes it’s all we need to keep pushing through a difficult day, or to meet a new one with fresh gusto.
How do you divvy up the responsibilities between the two of you? Let us know in the comments below!