Should parenting be a 50/50 effort all the time? Can parenting be a 50/50 effort all the time? In the beginning, this is unrealistic. One parent may be more involved in hands-on parenting. Meanwhile, the other is more involved in making money to facilitate helping the more hands-on parent bond with the newborn.
Later, depending on schedules and skills, one parent may be more the “homework parent.” The other may take on other parenting and family responsibilities. There are all kinds of ways to make parenting work, but “bean counting” to make sure things are 50/50 is a recipe for resentment and poisons the relationship.
First Things First: Set Realistic Expectations
You may imagine that you’ll create a to-do list of, say, a dozen chores. Easy, right? Each of you does six chores and nothing slips through the cracks. In a perfect world, this might — might — be semi-successful. Spoiler alert: We do not live in a perfect world. Parenting is a high-wire act without a net.
You are both sleep-deprived. If it’s your first child, you are also virtually clueless. There are brand new skills to master on the fly. Then, of course, you experience lots of unexpected surprises and crises. All of this adds up to a significant dose of reality. Applying this dose to your expectations takes time and patience with yourselves and each other.
6 Ways to Help Level the Parenting Playing Field
1. Practice Healthy Communication
No one can read another’s mind. You must speak up — clearly, respectfully, and often. Without steady, productive communication, resentment builds and anger simmers. Always make time to hash out parenting issues before they can mushroom.
2. Prepare in Advance
No one can predict the unpredictable. However, you can take steps in advance to ease some of the stress. Rely on your communication to have the tough discussions before your child arrives. For example:
- Talk about maternity/paternity leave
- Set up a support system of friends and family members
- Coordinate work schedules
- Warn your social circle that big changes are coming
- Consult with those who have been around the parenting block a few times
3. Accept That Everyone Has Their Own Style
In some aspects of parenting, consistency is crucial. In others, it is fine to let each parent do things their own way. Just because someone does something a little different doesn’t mean it’s “wrong.” If one of you feels strongly that one such difference is unhealthy, once again, lean on step #1 rather than blame or criticize.
4. Get Organized
Create schedules. Make lists. Establish routines. Check and double-check. Leave little to chance. This level of attention will help reveal where each of you is most comfortable and most useful. Over time, your roles will more naturally take shape. Through it all, maintain your collective focus and a cooperative spirit.
5. Prioritize Play Time
Your child will love being with you when you are smiling and acting silly. Each of you should break up the labor of parenting with one-on-one playtime. Also, it is essential that you play as a family. It’s not only bonding but it can reduce tension and pressure, too. Remember: your child is not the only one playing. Take time to relax and enjoy.
6. Practice Self-Care
No matter how intense things get, they will be a little bit easier when you are also caring for yourself. This can involve adjusting eating habits, sleep routines, exercise and movement, and some form of stress management.
Help is Needed and Available
Parenting can be the joy of your life while simultaneously stressing you both more than ever before. It puts pressure on you, your partner, and your relationship. The responsibility is huge. Yet, do not neglect to care for your adult connection. Your healthy, mutually satisfying relationship is the safe, stabilizing support your child needs. Please read more about parent counseling therapy. It can offer you the guidance and tools you need. Please reach out for a consultation soon.