Sharing Parenting Duties When You Both Work
If you and your partner both work and have children to care for, you are left with the daunting question of who will cover the household duties? When you can’t quite afford a nanny or housekeeper, or when it’s important to you to be hands-on parents who do most of the child-rearing yourselves, attending to your domestic and career responsibilities can leave you feeling completely under water. But, if you are fortunate enough to be with the children’s other parent and you do all live under the same roof, you can make it work. You do have each other—even if sometimes, it doesn’t feel that way. With excellent organization and communication (plus perhaps some magic) you can pull it off, without hiring any (or much) help. Here are tips on splitting up childcare duties when you both work.
Share your calendars
Share your calendars—wherever those may be. If you have Google calendars, invite each other to have access to those. If you have physical calendars, make two copies. It’s important that you both have an overall look at what your partner’s days and tasks look like. It will help you delegate more fairly.
Empathize rather than criticize
Rather than focusing on proving you’re working the hardest or proving you’re the one who is most exhausted, focus on empathizing with your partner when he complains of being tired. If you empathize rather than compete to be the most tired, everything will go much smoother.
Be honest about who prefers what
Have an honest conversation about who prefers what tasks. If one person absolutely loves doing story time and the other loves picking the kids up from school, then make sure everyone gets to do the things they love—it makes doing the things nobody likes a bit easier.
Be honest about who is better at what
Maybe one of you is just better at bath time with the kiddos than the other. If everyone plays to their strengths, then tasks will feel easier and go quicker.
Reassess every month
You don’t have to stick to the plan forever. Sit down every month—or twice a month—to talk about what’s working and what isn’t. Maybe one person is finding a certain task really hard to accomplish because it falls during a particularly busy time of the day. Maybe you can swap responsibilities.
Pull in help when you can
Don’t be too proud to pull in help sometimes. You likely have friends, family, and neighbors who have said, “Any time you need help, call me!” Take them up on that. You aren’t failures for calling upon your village.
Do major things together
Some parenting duties are particularly time-consuming and/or emotionally taxing and/or physically exhausting. Take these on together. Doing errands and finishing goals don’t always have to be done separately. You feel closer after doing some things together.
Release gender norms
There are no typical mom tasks or typical dad tasks. Release that notion. It will make splitting up responsibilities much easier.
If you can, pick up each other’s slack
Just because the laundry is his job this week doesn’t mean that if you find yourself with spare time and energy, you can’t just do it. Pick up each other’s slack when you find that you can.
Communicate about cause and effect
Maybe when your partner does things a certain way, it makes your next task tougher. Like, for example, if he gets the kids too riled up during bath time then they won’t go down for their nap—and you’re on nap duty. Talk about these things.
Don’t forget to cuddle the kids
Don’t fall into the trap as just seeing your kids as responsibilities. They’re also bundles of joy, lots of fun, adorable, snuggleable, and often hilarious. If you take time to enjoy them, you’ll actually receive more energy to take care of them.
Don’t forget to cuddle each other
Don’t forget to be affectionate and playful with your partner, too. Parenting and taking care of a household can feel so serious, sometimes. Don’t forget to make it fun. Put on music. Tease each other. Kiss each other and hug each other while you’re folding clothes. Keep up with fun date nights.
Thank each other
Thank each other for all you do. Yes, you each do a lot so you feel like that’s thanks you enough. But being thanked feels good. And telling someone thank you motivates them to keep up the good work.
Don’t be perfectionists
Really, though. This is not the time of life to fixate on accidentally getting the natural versus organic cereal or not folding the towels perfectly right. Be proud of yourself for just getting something done, and don’t be precious about how it’s done.
Be aware of particularly busy times
Sometimes, one person will have a particularly busy month or week. He or she may be traveling or taking on more meetings than usual. It’s okay if the household tasks fall a bit more on the other parent, just for that time.