Do you find yourself doing everything, and leaving your partner out of the picture? Here’s how to involve dads at home — and why you should.
“What’s the matter?” my husband had asked me.
I had been huffing and puffing around the house, upset that he hadn’t figured out what was bothering me. Shouldn’t he just know why I felt upset and take care of it?
Of course not, I quickly realized. No person is a mind reader, nor is it 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?”)
Dads should contribute to family and household tasks—they’re co-parents, not babysitters, after all. But sometimes we communicate what we want the wrong way, by hinting, nagging, or being too critical. We feel resentful, dads withdraw, and all these emotions simply fester and stew until the next time.
How to involve dads at home
Even if one parent is the primary caregiver, both should be equal partners. Our homes can buzz more efficiently with both adults in sync. But we also need to be clear about what we want instead of getting upset when things don’t get done.
And it’s not just about telling your partner what to do. Delegating implies that you’re the boss, and he simply does what he’s told. Instead, focus on a partnership, one where both adults are clear about expectations—and feel satisfied with them.
These days, more stay-at-home dads and working moms are breaking barriers. But if you find yourself feeling resentful toward your partner or want him to take a more active role, take a look at several ways to involve dads at home:
1. Don’t delegate
Assigning tasks to your husband seems like evening the playing field—just tell him what to do, right? Have him fetch the baby’s towel or grab the pajamas while you run the show.
But delegating household and baby duties puts you in the boss seat and him as your subordinate. The constant asking and ordering diminishes his role as an equal partner.
Instead, divide duties. You can both have equal responsibilities without 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.
You might divide these roles and duties naturally over time, or you might explicitly discuss them together. No matter how you land these roles, decide which tasks fall on whom so you’re not always delegating.
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2. Adjust your standards
No one will do everything exactly how you would—except for you.
Accept that your husband may not fold the laundry or dice the kids’ food as you would. But that doesn’t mean that he does it worse or that your method is better. After all, the goal is to simply get the task done.
While you and your partner 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—is the same.
3. Don’t be a gatekeeper
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Do you control so much that your partner has a difficult time participating?
Allow dad to step in just as much as you. Try not to jump in every time to “fix” whatever it is he can’t seem to solve. Jumping in assumes that you do it better or that you don’t need help. This makes him step back, feeling unwelcome and leaving you to do everything.
As Sheryl Sandberg says in the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead:
“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.”
Your husband might take a longer time soothing the baby, and watching from the sidelines is difficult, especially when you can step in and solve it.
But stepping in would deny him the ability to refine his skills and determine which soothing methods work best for the baby. In other words, he needs the space to stumble to learn and get better.
4. Do fun stuff too
Common roles for moms include dealing with daily—and often boring—tasks and housework. Changing the baby’s diapers, packing lunches, and meeting with the children’s teachers. Meanwhile, interactions with dad means taking the kids out to the park or romping around with a game of chase in the backyard.
Fun activities with dads are beneficial and even necessary, but younger children benefit when they see their dad participating in tasks that their mom does as well. They see that he’s just as capable of taking them to the pediatrician, and that mom can have fun at the park, too.
Similarly, they need to have fun with you, too. You’re not the only one who does the grocery shopping, brings them to soccer practice, or helps them with math homework. You’re being good role models in showing them that you can both handle daily tasks and have fun.
5. Make regular alone time between dad and the kids
How can dad 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 knows just as much as you do about what they need and want.
When I worked in an office, I would leave early, missing out on our family breakfasts. But the upside to this schedule was that my absence allowed my husband regular time to take care of the kids alone. Then, in the afternoons, they would spend time alone with me.
With regular time alone with their dad, your kids learn that both of you are equally capable of caring for them. They can grow a bond with him during early early childhood that can strengthen during this time alone.
Even if you can carve the time every day, weekly time alone can help as well. Get out of the house, from hanging out with friends to running an errand. This can allow your partner to care for the kids alone.
6. Be clear about chores
Want to stop keeping tabs on who did what household chores the last time? Have a chore list between you and your partner.
Make a list of weekly chores, from vacuuming the carpet to wiping the sinks, and divide them between you and your partner. As you do the chores throughout the week, check or cross them off. Hang the list in a visible spot so you’re both reminded of what you still have to do.
If you want, you can rotate chores so that one person isn’t doing the same task all the time.
Another idea is to set certain chores for each person. Maybe you’re always in charge of laundry while dad handles taking out the trash.
And yet another idea is to set “if then” rules. If one person cooks dinner, then the other washes the dishes. Or whoever washes the laundry can hand the task of folding them to the other.
No matter which method you choose, you’re keeping things fair and holding each of you accountable. More importantly, neither of you feels that the other isn’t doing enough.
7. Communicate openly and frequently
Make it a point to communicate often and openly. If need be, ask one another what the other needs, how you can help each other, and what’s on your mind.
If you’re too upset, wait for a better time to bring up the subject. When you’re both cool and calm is a much more productive time than in the middle of an argument. Communicate with your partner—it’s easier, more effective, and can only strengthen your ties together.
8. Show your gratitude
We all want to feel heard and acknowledged, especially by our loved ones. Don’t forget to show your gratitude and thank you—and not as if your partner has just done you a favor (remember, don’t delegate).
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.
The best part? This can create a cycle between the two of you. As they say, treat people how you want to be treated. The more gratitude you show, the more likely you can receive it in return.
Getting dads involved in the household can be a little tricky—you don’t want to step on toes or feel awkward bringing things up with him. But you’re also tired of nagging, being critical, and feeling like you’re doing everything.
To get dad more involved, avoid delegating tasks, as this puts you in a “boss” role rather than as equal partners. Adjust your standards and realize that everyone has their own way of doing things. Don’t be a gatekeeper and jump in every time he doesn’t do something your way.
Make sure you’re both doing daily tasks and include plenty of time alone between him and the kids. Designate chores, whether through a chore list or by deciding who does what. Communicate openly and without judgment, and lastly, show gratitude for one another.
Use the tips and habits above not only to encourage more engagement between dad and the kids, but to be equal partners with him. He’s your co-parent in this parenting journey, after all.
Get more tips:
- Cool Gifts for Expectant Dads
- Why Dad Bashing Needs to Stop
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
- Dads Are Co-Parents, Not Babysitters
- Why Dads Should Wake Up for Night Feeds
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