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Equality In The Household

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How to understand and set up systems to prepare for equality in the household as new parents.

The baby industry tends to focus a lot on the mom. It’s understandable seeing as it’s mostly moms that are carrying and birthing the babies. And it’s mostly moms seeking out baby products, baby care, baby books etc. Also, let’s be honest here, in many cis straight couples, the mom carries the bulk of the baby rearing. Dad often goes back to work earlier, which leaves the mother in the primary caregiver role. This in turn may make him feel less confident with his newborn.

In many cases- the dad is the one that stays home. Then there are the families with single dads. There are the families with two dads. Besides a couple hard to find books, where is the parental support for them?

Excluding birthing and breastfeeding, any parent can be involved in all other aspects of baby’s care! Let’s break down these gender norms. Let’s empower dads in the same way that we do moms. We need to raise the bar of expectation regarding dad’s involvement, and support him in the process. In the spirit of being equitable, I’ll be using gender neutral terminology for the rest of the blog.

COMMUNICATE

We recommend starting open communication before baby comes. Writing out a division of labor can help one party see the inequality in their initial logic. Realize that the parent who is home with the newborn is fulfilling a fulltime job. Therefore, when the other parent comes home, the rest of the day’s tasks should be shared.

Talk about what you like, and don’t like. If a parent despises waking before the sun maybe the other parent takes the early bird shift. If one parent is breastfeeding the other can be washing burp cloths.

Talk about what you expect to change in your routine. Does one parent typically make dinner while the other does the dishes? Now add in: who eats a hot meal while the other one rocks the baby and eats later on?

Be prepared to throw this all out the window when baby comes. Baby will likely kick his little feet and scream at all your well thought out plans. But KEEP TALKING. Talk about what is working, and what isn’t. Talk about when you feel uninvolved, or if you feel overwhelmed. And on the other end- listen. I guarantee you your partner isn’t pretending to be tired. If they need support, offer it.

GET OUTSIDE HELP

Apologies but we need to shamelessly plug Nightingales a little here. Parents tend to function better as a family unit when they are feeling well rested. I just mentioned that parents can support each other…but sometimes BOTH parents can use some support. That may mean rest, or that may mean knowledge and empowerment.
When I go onto a job I LOVE when parents ask me for help. Many parents have never changed a diaper, or don’t know how to soothe their baby. Baby carriers, colic, car seats, croup- whatever it may be; knowledge builds confidence.

CONNECTING WITH BABY

  • Feeding time: Feeding time is a great time for parents to make eye contact and feel the warmth and love of their happy cuddly baby. [If you are exclusively breastfeeding, after the first 2-4 weeks we recommend that babies are offered at least one bottle a day. It helps the breastfeeding parent feel like they can have a break. Often there is a doctor’s appointment or an errand that’s easier run without baby. It’s also helpful from a safety perspective. What I mean by this is that if mom has a supply issue or needs to be away for an emergency situation, then the baby will already be comfortable taking a bottle.]
  • Skin to skin: I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but skin to skin really does help with bonding and connecting! [Even if it feels a little weird at first]
  • Diaper changing: Okay, hear me out. General caretaking times like feeding and changing are perfect times to really hone into baby and foster a connection. Babies are changed multiple times a day so it’s a chance over and over again to look into baby’s eyes, maybe sing a special song.
  • Time: Sometimes baby seems to prefer one caregiver over the other. Your baby doesn’t like you or hate you- she doesn’t have the ability for those emotions yet. She is focused on survival and if you are feeding her and keeping her warm and dry then she is getting her needs met! Maybe your hands are too cold. Maybe your voice is too loud. Maybe you haven’t figured out the positions that baby likes to be held in yet. Do NOT take it personally! You and your baby will get to know each other and establish a rhythm in time.

equality in the household

Moms, dads, parents, grandparents, caregivers of all sorts- we see you. We support you and we have faith in your ability!

Karina McCarthy

A Rhode Island native who has babies in her blood. A mom to a beautiful daughter and a lover of yoga and long naps.