Do you find yourself doing everything, and leaving dad 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 realize now. No person is a mind reader. It’s not 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 more to family and household tasks—they’re co-parents, not babysitters, after all. But sometimes we go about it the wrong way. We tend to fall for the typical traps of hinting, nagging or being too critical when we involve them at home.
How to involve dads at home
Moms and dads are equal partners in crime, and our homes will only buzz more efficiently with both parents in sync. Take a look at several effective—and fair—ways to involve dads at home:
1. Don’t delegate
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. Except the constant asking and ordering diminishes his role as an equal partner.
Instead, divide duties. You’ll 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 falls on whom so you don’t delegate.
2. Adjust your standards
No one will ever do everything exactly how you would except for you. Accept that your husband may not fold the laundry or dice your kids’ food as you would. Neither parent’s methods are better or worse—the goal is to get the task done.
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—are one and 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 leads dads to assume you do it better or you don’t need help. This makes him 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.
Your husband might take a longer time soothing your fussy baby. Watching the scenario unfold is difficult, especially when you can step in and solve it.
But stepping in would deny your husband the ability to refine his skills. And he can’t 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 boring—tasks. Changing the baby’s diapers, packing lunches, or meeting with the children’s teachers. Meanwhile, dads’ version of parenting is taking the kids out to the park.
Fun times with dads are beneficial and even necessary.. But children benefit when they see their dads participating in tasks that mom does as well. They see dads are just as capable of taking the kids to the pediatrician, and that mom can have fun at the park.
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’ll 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. But my absence has only benefited my husband’s abilities with handling the kids alone.
The kids will grow up to learn that dad and mom are equal bosses. They’ve grown a bond with him that might not have been so strong if they never had time alone.
My 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 and held us accountable. It also ensured that neither felt that the other wasn’t doing enough.
7. Communicate openly and frequently
Make it a point to communicate often and openly. If need be, ask one another point back what the other needs, how you can help each other, and what’s on your minds.
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 anyway. Communicate 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 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.
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.
Use the tips above not only to get dad more involved, but to be equal partners with him. He’s your co-parent, your co-pilot, in this parenting journey, after all.
Get more posts all about dads:
- Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- Dad Bashing: Why We Need to Stop Making Fun of Dads
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
- Dads Are Co-Parents, Not Babysitters
- Why Dads Should Wake Up for Night Feeds
How do you divvy up the responsibilities between the two of you? What are some of the best ways you can involve dads in your home? Let us know in the comments below!