How Do You Share Parenting Duties with Your Spouse?

maternal gatekeeping

2017 update: We still stand by the advice below on how to share parenting duties with your spouse; you may also want to check out our more recent post on how to get your husband to care about the little things.

Are you an “equal parent” with your partner? What steps did you take to make that happen — and what happened organically? Do you foresee times when your partnership won’t be equal — and how do you feel about that? If your roles are not equal, how much of that is due to maternal gatekeeping — as in, you take on a certain task because you’re the only one who does it “right”? (Sandberg defined maternal gatekeeping in Lean In as women discouraging their husbands from doing their share at home by being too controlling or too critical.)

There was an interesting article in Daily Worth a while ago with suggestions for how to equalize your parenting, so I thought we’d discuss here as well. I always get frustrated when I read articles like this that exclusively focus on housekeeping (the easiest thing to outsource!) and dismiss what I like to call the “cruise director duties” (meaning the mom’s role is cruise director for the family, explained in this HuffPo piece as the “default parent”), so let’s try to discuss the following topics:

  • Running the household — How much do you outsource? Even if you outsource certain things, does one of you take the lead on those matters (hiring the housekeeper, keeping track of supplies, keeping the kitchen stocked, keeping the never-ending laundry train moving)?
  • Day-to-day parenting (fun stuff): Reading, bathtime, mealtimes, board games, other play…
  • Day-to-day parenting (duty stuff): Who preps the kiddos’ meals? Is one parent the default one who does daycare drop-off, picks up sick kids at school or daycare, or is at home nights/weekends?
  • Planning for the family (near-term): Who keeps track of the schedule? Who chooses/investigates extracurriculars and summer camps, schedules doctor/dentist appointments, and plans birthday parties? Who chooses and buys year-end gifts for teachers?
  • Planning for the family (long term): Who takes the lead on investigating school/care options? Who takes the lead on family finances (budgeting, 529-ing, accounts, etc.)?
  • Extras: No family is going to truly suffer if, say, the family photo albums aren’t up to date — and no one will suffer if you don’t get to that family-friendly resort. But for the things you do prioritize, which parent does that stuff?

For my $.02 — I would say that my husband and I are definitely equal partners, although sometimes it may feel like I carry a heavier load because I work from home — and for myself — so I have much more flexibility in the what/when/how. Some of the different areas that I think of when I think of equal parenting, and how it worked for me:

  • Running the household: We’re definitely equal here — my husband does most of the laundry and the clean-up after meals, while I do most of the food prep, grocery shopping, and clothes purchasing. I’ve written before about how this was vastly aided by the fact that my husband and I have generally the same tolerance for mess, with there being enough variation that he always does the dishes first (because I am less bugged by dirty dishes than he is) whereas I always do grocery shopping first (because I hate running out of stuff, e.g., I buy milk when I see it getting low). We have a biweekly cleaning professional (we loooove Olga!).
  • Day to day parenting (fun stuff): Again, I’d say we’re equal here. We both enjoy reading to the boys, hanging out with them at bathtime, etc. — my husband tends to be to be more physical with the boys and run around at the playground, whereas I’m more likely to encourage a table activity like painting, coloring, Play-Doh, a puzzle, or a board game.
  • Day to day parenting (duty stuff): This is the first of these metrics where it didn’t happen accidentally (but that isn’t to say that it wouldn’t have happened organically). Because I work from home, and because we have had varying degrees of paid childcare through the years, we both saw the importance of delegating different “parent in charge” times. Early on when Jack was born I encouraged “Daddy time” in the mornings, before my husband went to work — it gave me time to allegedly get a work out in before the day started (hahahaha) and gave my husband time with our boy while both were fresh and, shall we say, unsullied by a long day. Oh, and after both boys were about 4 months old and we “closed the kitchen” (refused to breastfeed or bottlefeed) from 12am to 6 am, Daddy was the PIC (parent in charge) during those hours — if the baby woke up, he was the first responder if one was needed. (After all, it’s hard to close the kitchen if you’re getting pizza wafted in your face.) Now, on weekdays I probably spend more time with the boys than my husband, but on the weekend he’ll take them for long swaths of time (to the playground, out with grandma, etc.), giving me uninterrupted time to work at home.
  • Planning, near term: I tend to do most of this. Which toys are age appropriate? Which classes are age appropriate, when/where are they offered, how does it work with the rest of the boys’ schedules? How should we deal with X issue in potty training, or Y issue in discipline? Why is Jack doing Z new weird thing, and does it mean we have to see a doctor/specialist/etc.? I tend to be the person who researches, plans, implements. Some of this may definitely be due to maternal gatekeeping; but it may also be because I enjoy researching this kind of stuff more than my husband (and can do it after a long day while we’re watching TV, whereas he tends to be totally wiped by then).
  • Planning, long term: For what gets done, I’m the one doing it for the most part. Watching over the 529 accounts and general family finances, investigating schools, etc. Again, this may be a maternal gatekeeping kind of problem; I also tend to enjoy this kind of stuff.
  • Extras: Memorializing family memories, for example. I enjoy organizing our photos and making family photo albums, so I wouldn’t want to outsource it to my husband — but it is another drop in the bucket of stuff I’m doing for the family. We are both horrible at vacation planning (I think I’m going to outsource this to Jack as soon as he’s old enough, ha) so we haven’t been on a vacation since our honeymoon.

Of COURSE the hard part here is that a lot of this stuff is such a gray area of “duty” that it’s hard to recognize as a chore — and there may be things that your partner is doing for the family that you don’t recognize/credit him with doing.

How about you, ladies — how equal is your parenting? What happened organically for you and your partner; what did you decide to do? Those of you who’ve been successful in quitting maternal gatekeeping — permitting your husband to do some of the stuff you do “best” — what are your tips?

Photo credit: ShutterstockPhotographee.eu.

 

A Guide to Sharing Parenting Duties: Working mothers discuss what they do, what their spouses do -- and how they made it happen.

 

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Comments

  1. This is really helpful! I’ve been frustrated by my partner since having a baby in this area–not because he isn’t willing to be helpful, but because I feel like the default parent for a lot of it. For instance, he always assumes that he will be child-free if he makes plans or if he needs to make a phone-call or something. It is assumed that if I am doing something, child will be in tow. But, he is helpful and is willing to help (takes care of child in morning and take to childcare, gets ready for bed), but it is really difficult for me to put into words what I mean by “default parent.” Looking at this, I do a lot of the running the household (but, he still helps a lot), half the fun stuff, but almost all the duty stuff, and all the planning short-term.

    My question is, is there a way to avoid having either parent a default parent? It feels ridiculous to always be checking in with the other person every single time you need to do something without child! I don’t know…it is easier the way we are doing it, but I don’t want to get resentful about it–it already feels frustrating at times.

  2. Lyssa says:

    Interesting topic! Obviously, my situation is different because my husband stays at home (so he is the default parent by, well, default). But we still have some work with working out these things:

    Running the household — This is mostly him, of course. He does the grocery shopping during the week, and does a number of chores around the house when the little guy is down or occupied. That said, there are things that I usually did before kids/him leaving work that have been hard to adjust to – i.e., I was very particular about keeping things stocked and bargain shopping, while he is more “just in time” about it, which can be frustrating to me. (I’m a penny-pincher, too, so whenever he, say, has to make a special trip to the store because we ran out of eggs, I’m having to restrain myself from getting annoyed about the waste of gas and why didn’t he check the eggs before the last trip, and so forth.) We don’t outsource much of anything that doesn’t require an actual specialist.

    Day-to-day parenting (fun stuff): Obviously, he does most of this, but I pretty much take over weekends and evenings. This can be good and bad – I know that he needs a break from it, but I sometimes need a break just in general, too, but have the guilt when I try to avoid it. The kid goes back and forth, but he can be pretty mama-centric when I’m around. I definitely have to do the getting ready for bed routine.

    Day-to-day parenting (duty stuff): Again, this is something that obviously, he does the bulk of, but I tend to take over on evenings and weekends.

    Planning for the family (near-term): We don’t have a lot of this yet, but he does pretty much all of it. I try to get to the checkups just to stay involved, but if I don’t, it’s NBD.

    Planning for the family (long term): I’m probably more on this, but that has to do more with personality than anything. A lot of it comes down to who prioritizes what (i.e., me, being the penny-pincher, handling the household budget).

    Extras: These, again, really falls to the person who prioritizes it. He cares more about vacations and is the planner there, but doesn’t concern himself much with things like organizing photographs or decorating the house. To tell you the truth, neither of us are great at those things. :)

    I’m not sure how things will change as kiddo gets more involved in things outside of the house and #2 starts taking up our time more. We’re pretty play it by ear about those things (which I think that you pretty much have to be), but I do think that it’s really helpful to my career to not be the default pretty much ever. I don’t know how I could manage if I had to do day care pickups and emergency sick days and that sort of thing.

    • My husband is a SAHD as well, and I spend a lot of time feeling guilty that I don’t do enough. I’m a senior associate trying to make partner in a few years, so I spend 3,000 hours a year on work between billables and business development. I take the kids to preschool unless I have an early meeting or am traveling, and most evenings have time to have dinner with them and play, then get them ready for bed, but even that’s not a guarantee every night, and as soon as they are off to bed I am back on my computer.

      DH does all of the housework, grocery shopping, etc. (running the household) as well as the majority of the parenting other than as mentioned above. We have a cleaning lady once a week and a service for mowing the lawn. On weekends, we tend to spend time as a family running around to birthday parties, social gatherings, etc., but I also spend time working most weekends. We tend to do the planning type things jointly. DH researched summer programs and we made a decision together. I’ve been emailing the travel agent to come up with options for our next trip. I manage the family calendar and keep an eye on finances on mint; he pays the bills and handles school paperwork. He does the Christmas and birthday shopping but we jointly decide on gifts, typically via email brainstorming back and forth.

      The end result is that we both “work” a lot – me doing firm work, him doing stuff for our family. I am conflicted because I feel guilty that he does so much of the day-to-day, but at the same time, there realistically isn’t more time in the day for me to contribute. Should I feel guilty? Am I taking advantage of the situation? Or is this typical of a high-earning, sole breadwinner situation, regardless of gender?

  3. Sadly, we don’t.

    We are both attorneys and 15-month old is in fulltime daycare. Our plan when I got pregnant was to ‘share’ parenting duties, but unfortunately we’ve fallen into pretty gender-normative roles, and it’s hard to say who’s “fault” that is. Shortly after baby was born I started a non-litigation, gov’t atty position with a 40-hour workweek and paid holidays / sick time, which has no doubt contributed to my status as the default parent. Daycare is also on the way to and from my office, so I end up doing drop-off and pick-up unless there’s an exceptional circumstance. At home, I happen to get home first so I end up cooking 90% of the time, and do all of the caregiving between the time I get home and the time hubby gets home, often 30-minutes before baby’s 7:30 bedtime. Because I do daycare drop off and pick up I’m more aware of what the daycare needs (more diapers, etc.) so I end up doing all coordinating related to that. I never do happy-hours or other networking activities b/c I always have baby in tow. I don’t work out before or after work for the same reasons – the only time during the day that I’m not taking care of baby, at work, or eating/sleeping is between 8:30 and 10, after baby is in bed and before I fall asleep.

    I’m not happy about the whole thing, but don’t know how to fix it. Husband is usually happy to help if I specifically ask for something (‘can you please do a load of baby’s laundry’) but it never spontaniously occurs to him that this work needs to get done, and if I have to remind him about it 3 times I may as well just do it myself. He obviously loves the baby and is happy to ‘play’ with him, but never coordinates his food, clothes, swim lessons, dr appts, etc (though I’m sure he would if I asked him to – and provied very specific directions, with phone numbers, calendars, etc. … )

    I want to have another kid but I don’t know how I’ll have time to take care of 2, with the minimal support (other than financial) that husband is providing. Hope others have advise and not just commiseration.

    • Lyssa says:

      I’m sorry to hear that. :(

      Obviously a different situation, but one of the things that helped with some early struggles regarding who would do what around the house when we were first sinking into our new parenting roles was to try to focus less on who was doing what and more on straight up hours contributed towards the household (be they housework, errands, childcare, or work, since all of these are necessary to make the household run). Would it help to try to look at it, and get your husband to look at it, from that perspective? That is, if your job is 40 hours a week, and his is more, it’s fine that you would spend some more time on contributing towards the household than he, but not more than the difference between your two jobs’ obligations. (Don’t try to nickle and dime every minute, of course, just a general rule.) Of course, if he works a ton more hours than you do, it may be that you still come out doing less from that perspective, in which case it may just help you feel better about the whole thing (though I would recommend that you both consider trying to cut back more before having a second in that case).

    • Pigpen's Mama says:

      This is pretty much where we are (although I’m in private practice on a reduced schedule with the higher salary and he’s a fed). He does do drop-offs, but I do all the morning prep, so it doesn’t make that much of a difference.

      The mental energy used up in all of this is the hardest for me.

      We have the same situation regarding my H asking for detailed directions. I’m taking the opposite route and telling him (nicely) to figure it out on his own. E.g., after the nth time he said ‘I’ll do laundry, just tell me what to do.’ I said, as nicely as possible, that there is always laundry, it’s not complicated, and he can just do it — just check for baby food stains and spray them. I am slowly getting rid of any clothing that requires special care, so I’m willing to take the risk that some of my clothes may get damaged.

      A few other suggestions/tips — for getting ready in the morning, in theory there was a set time that the baby became his responsibility, and anything after that time he had to do. Maybe you could do that in the reverse — he’s responsible for your child until 10 minutes before you leave for daycare.

      Could you also set up one night a week where he’s in charge of the baby and you’re free to do what you want.

      • Famouscait says:

        Regarding laundry duties: I have a two hamper system that has revolutionized this in my house.

        Hamper 1 is where PJs, socks, underwear, workout cltohes, etc. go (all the non-important and impossible to ruin clothes).
        Hamper 2 (located in a different part of the bedroom) has all of my work clothes, his pants, dress shirts, etc.

        Now hubby knows that he can throw the contents of Hamper 1 into the washer any time; and that he should never touch Hamper 2.

        It only took us 9+ years of marriage to figure this one out.

      • EB0220 says:

        We are piloting a new laundry system. It’s OK so far. Each person has a dirty clothes hamper and a clean clothes basket. Each person has an assigned laundry day, and there is one day for sheets and towels. The schedule is posted in the laundry room. My husband is kind of getting the hang of it…we’re still tweaking it.

    • Not that I have the answers, but I was in the same situation, where I couldn’t fathom another 18 years of caring for one kid, let alone bringing another kid into the mix. I realized this resentment was not going to go away, and figured I’d rather try to address it now than let it fester and come to an ugly head later on. It was a tough discussion, but I had to keep reminding myself that I deserve to get as much out of this marriage as he does. I am worthy of care and consideration, and my sanity matters.

      1) I had a major discussion with my husband. We set up a date night, just us, and talked through it. I gave him a heads up beforehand what the point of the date night was, so he wasn’t blindsided and could prepare his own thoughts. But I basically explained that I was not interested in a marriage where I had MORE work than if I was a single mom. He is a contributing member of the household, and I expect him to actually contribute. If not, my life will honestly get easier without him in the house, because I won’t have all the stress of getting mad that he’s not contributing.

      2) I listed out what that means to me. For example, I expect him to know where the spare toilet paper is, and if he sees it’s running low, he is to buy more (or tell me if I’m already running to the store). Same goes for every single thing in the house – I refuse to answer questions like “Have you seen the kids’ water shoes?” or “Sure I’ll do the laundry, how do I do it?

      2b) I also expect him to notice things around the house and proactively do them. He is entirely capable of noticing when the lawn needs to be mowed, or when he could lead a project at work. So therefore he is capable of noticing the dirty dishes, or planning a week’s worth of meals and groceries, or that the kids need winter coats and they’re on sale.

      3) We don’t keep score necessarily on who does what, but we divide primary responsibility for basic regular chores. He does all finance, food and dr appts, for example, and I do all daily scheduling/outsourcing and wardrobe maintenance. Obviously sometimes I pick up milk on my way home, or sometimes he gets the older kid’s winter clothes out of storage, but overall we know who each thing “defaults” to.

      4) With that said, we take the “good coworker” approach – I don’t get to sit and read a magazine while he struggles to finish the dishes, for example. He doesn’t get to golf if I have an entire season of clothes to swap out. Unless we’ve discussed it, one doesn’t get to relax or practice a hobby if the other is swamped.

      5) We try to maintain the mentality that we each should feel like the marriage is making life BETTER for us. If it gets to the point where one would be better off with a divorce, then we’re clearly failing and need to change something. Outright stating that as a “goal” for our marriage really helped us (helped me articulate why I was unhappy, helped him understand what I needed). Both of us have divorced parents and can pretty clearly point to which parent was benefiting and which was sacrificing. We like each other, and genuinely want the other to be happy, so it is an easy mental trick to think of it this way.

      So. That’s my story. We had the talk, things got way better, now we have two kids and a third on the way. I feel much more calm than I did with just one kid, and I feel like we are partners in this thing. My husband has said he feels much more connected to the kids than he did back then, too, and he seems to be happier and more fulfilled in his home life. As of now, we’re happy and we’re still together, and neither of us see that changing any time soon.

      • (former) preg 3L says:

        This is awesome and very helpful to read.

      • I had the talk with my husband last month, and it’s the closest we’ve come to divorce in 12 years. I felt–like you–that I would deal with less as a single mom. I was also wildly unhappy with my life due to work stress, feeling guilty for missing so much with the kids, and being so exhausted (depressed?) that I would fall asleep for the night at 9 pm while he was still up in another room. We had zero time together as a couple and were quickly disconnecting.

        I had to confess, “Hey, I’m a miserable b*tch and I don’t want to live like this anymore. Something has to change! Divorce? I quit my job? We work together to split the housework? I don’t care what we pick, but we’re doing something.” I’m blunt and he’s passive aggressive. The fight lasted for days, but we decided to split the housework more equally.

        For me, the key was to let go of the Better Homes and Gardens Ideals. He’s going to do the grocery shopping, but he isn’t going to pick up creative ingredients for a new recipe or shop sales. Someone is going to run the vacuum (I have a 9 year old–it’s time she figured it out!) and they’ll probably chip the paint on the baseboards or suck up a sock and ruin the belt. It’s not going to be handled the way *I* would handle it, but I can’t do it all.

        Weirdly, he seems happier doing more work. He cooks dinner on days he works from home, picks up the kitchen every night, helps tuck the kids into bed, is willing to run the kids to dance classes. He’s also put the tablet and video games away and made a big change to hang out with me after the kids go to bed. All we’re doing is laying beside each other in exhaustion watching Game of Thrones–but it’s helping us to reconnect.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I keep reading and not commenting on this thread because I keep thinking about how I had this perfectly egalitarian marriage for over 5 years and it really blindsided me when we had kids that everything changed and he does exactly what he did three years ago when it took us 30 minutes once a week to straighten up the house, and his own laundry and breakfast only for himself, and I am now somehow 100% responsible for everything involving three whole people. And it is fairly depressing because how can someone who is as smart as me have found themselves in this position. And my husband is fairly opposed to changing anything, tells me what I am doing is “unnecessary” – but I don’t think that food that falls on the floor should be there for 4-5 days, and I think our kids need a bath, and sometimes we run out of diapers. My husband has not once since our second child was born taken on a “duty” unless I specifically asked him to do it, and even then he complains.
    If a ten year relationship and five years of marriage still caused me to be blindsided to the baby effect, how can anyone be “safe”?

    • Biglaw anon says:

      I totally hear you. Only have one kid (6 months old), husband would call himself a staunch feminist and agrees we should have equal share of household duties but reality is that I work 50+ hours a week, and do 75-80% of all home duties whereas he works 40 hours a week and still finds time to hang with friends and have at least 8-10 hours a week of hobbies. We both originally wanted to quickly have another child, and I feel up to do it IF I had an equal partner. I completely resent him because to me it appears like plain laziness and selfishness. If something has to be done (bathing/dressing/changing diapers on baby) and he chooses not do it, he knows it will fall to me. And if I hear one more time that he’s tired after I watched the teething baby overnight and he slept in the guest room, I might hurt someone. I think no one is safe. And next time I get a young woman asking me what she should look for in a spouse, my advice will be to look for someone who enjoys cleaning, cooking, scheduling appointments/vacations, and knows how to figure things out on their own like how to put a car seat in or put the brake on a stroller.

      • PregAnon says:

        I think your last sentence is key – baby isn’t here yet, but I end up doing most of the cleaning / organizing / scheduling type stuff. My husband’s saving grace is he can figure things out – if something breaks, he’ll fix it. Example: the shocks on my washing machine were going out, and the thing would walk across the room during spin cycle. He ordered new shocks and replaced them. Same with small motors, plumbing, electrical…whatever…at least I know if something needs to be fixed he can. He is also better at functioning on little sleep than I am, so I’m guessing that will come in handy!

    • Anonymous says:

      Us, too. I do almost everything, resentment builds, I lose it, and nothing changes. DH has also told me that I should just stop doing things/that they are unnecessary. He offers no other solutions, and if I don’t do the laundry, the meal planning, the meal preparation, the cleaning it doesn’t. get. done. I do daycare pick-up, and often DH doesn’t get home until 30 minutes/1 hour after me and the kids. During that critical time, supper’s gotta get made because the kids are hungry. If there’s no plan or no groceries, I am stuck dealing with it. So it’s easier to do things than to have to do triage when those things aren’t done. It’s exhausting having to tell him what need to get done in order for him to do it. I don’t mean to be whiney, but I’ve told him that his action (or inaction) tells me he doesn’t care. And it hurts my feelings that he doesn’t even appreciate the things I do–he just seems to expect me to do it. The thing is–we have a pretty good marriage and he’s a totally engaged father, but the day-to-day tasks tha accompany having little kids are exhausting. It’s taking a toll.

  5. Due in December says:

    This is a really helpful post….I think this is something DH and I will have to really discuss soon. I would LOVE to hear any other main household/family/childcare tasks that others find important that aren’t mentioned here (for the spreadsheet I’m now creating).

    Our situation is a little different in that (1) we work the same # of hours, but I’m an attorney and DH does shift work (3 days a week), so there will be days we are both working (where DH can’t really do anything but work and I will have to be the “default”), days we are both off, and days when I am working and DH is off (where DH will likely be the “default”). I enjoy planning, and am much better at it, and so do almost all of the family finances, creating shopping lists, buying clothes for both of us, planning vacations, etc. On the other hand, I’m able to do some of that from work, whereas DH can’t do that. DH does a bit more of the cooking/cleaning/laundry, though we both pitch in there.

    DH does work with babies for a living, so I’m hoping that will give us a leg up in terms of his comfort in taking care of a newborn. He gets 2 weeks paternity leave once the baby is born, and then after my leave is up, we are hoping to both work part-time for a month or two so we each get time at home as the “primary” parent. Also, my expectation is that because DH has at least 2 non-working days each Monday-Friday, I may schedule appointments but he will actually go to them, and he will be the default parent in charge if our kid gets sick and can’t go to daycare.

  6. EB0220 says:

    We are definitely not totally even, but it feels amazing to me because my husband traveled 4 days a week for years 0-2 of parenthood. So I ended up feeling like I was doing everything. This is so much better, even if it’s not completely even.

    Running the household — We outsource house cleaning (once a week), lawn care and groceries. I submit the grocery order and then pick them up on the way home from work. He usually keeps the laundry going since he works from home, and I fold and (sometimes) put away. He does a lot of the day-to-day annoying house stuff (take the trash in/out, get the oil changed, pick up random parts/lightbulbs/etc.).

    Day-to-day parenting (fun stuff): We split this up pretty evenly with our older daughter, but I mostly manage the baby.

    Day-to-day parenting (duty stuff): We’re pretty even here, too. My husband and I split daycare duty pretty evenly. He cooks and I clean up/load the dishwasher.

    Planning for the family (near-term): Me. All me. Dr appts, parent-teacher conferences, babysitter scheduling, etc. etc. Annoying but they are both on my health insurance and go to the doctor at my office, so that defaults to me naturally. Each item does add up.

    Planning for the family (long term): This is pretty even.

    Extras: I do most of this stuff, I guess. But I’m not that good at it so I don’t do much! And what I do, I enjoy.

    • EB0220 says:

      I should have mentioned one big source of inequality: I’m still nursing our 10 month old, including 1-3 times a night and bedtime, so I am always on baby duty. Usually it’s not too bad but when she’s sick it’s pretty tough.

  7. (former) preg 3L says:

    I read these threads and the comments and think, “wow I’m so glad I’m getting divorced.” So, nothing helpful from me.

    • NewMomAnon says:

      Yup, the comment about “would I be better off if I was a single mom?” rang very true for me. I finally realized that being a single mom would mean that I at least knew the parenting and household management expectations of me (I do all of it) and could organize my life in a way to minimize the things I actually need to do, instead of neogitating every point with someone who could just dump extra responsibility back on me. It also means that if I need a babysitter at night regularly to keep my sanity, that factors into financial child support instead of leading to husband saying he’ll take the baby, then backing out at the last minute.

  8. Maddie Ross says:

    Honestly, in reading a lot of these, I feel pretty lucky. Day to Day fun (although some of what Kat finds fun – bathtime UGH! – I don’t) and Day to Day duties are split pretty evenly. I do a bit more in the morning because I wake up first (get baby out of bed, feed baby, feed dog), but when I have to leave early for work or am traveling, that’s all on my husband. Most days I do drop-off and he does pick-up from school. But again, this all changes if I am traveling or if one of us has a board meeting/happy hour/dinner in the evening. Because Dad gets home first with the baby, he does more in the evening. He’s great about feeding the LO, but not about starting a family meal. I’m basically letting this slide for now though. He’s happy to feed me after the LO is asleep – he just can’t figure out the juggling of starting dinner when he gets home with the LO.

    I probably do more of the near-term family planning (doc appts, etc.), but I think my husband would be happy to do it if I asked. I think with this, because I took charge in the beginning when I was home on leave, it just never occurred to him to do it.

    Long term we’re pretty even. I handle the 529, but only because it comes from my checking account each month. He did the research and selected the state. Most decisions in the LT category are joint decisions, discussed over time.

    Extras? Well, they don’t normally get done. LO is over 2 with no baby book. I’ve printed a couple of pictures, but mostly just when I am printing gifts for family members. My husband is actually the one who backs it all up on shutterfly each month, but that’s probably because he’s more techy than me.

    For the poster above who’s husband was leaving a lot to her, my best advice is just to leave him with the baby for a couple of days and let him figure it out. Go to a work conference. Go to a college reunion. Make him realize that he can handle the baby alone. And realize just how much you do.

    • mascot says:

      Yeah, we are pretty similar to this first paragraph, but with an older child. Both of us feel like we are giving 100%, but I am sure the actual amount of time put in varies day to day.
      For near-term, I do more planning for the activities and vacations bc I like to plan. Both of us are capable of scheduling appts for kid, dogs, etc. and we switch off who goes. Long term is a joint decision. We have no baby book and our photographic evidence of our child lives in the cloud and on our computer/phones.
      Overall, it works even though the work is hard. When one of us feels like keeping score out of frustration, we sit down and talk it out.

    • Yup. I think I’m very lucky because my husband and I are very evenly split (and my sister good-naturedly jokes that my husband does all the work in the house while I relax all the time).

      Running the household — Both husband and I work pretty long hours (I’m in-house, he’s an exec at a hotel company), so we outsource housekeeping and yard work. I cook dinners because I enjoy cooking, husband will do the dishes (except for on nights when he has other household chores). Dry-cleaning picks up and drops off on our door step (life changing!). I primarily do laundry, but husband knows enough to help out with that. He keeps his eye on diapers and kid stuff (bath soap, toothpaste, etc.) and will order replacements on Amazon, I keep my eye on all our food for restocking. Each weekend he takes one of the kids to Target with him and I take one of the kids to the specialty grocery store for food for the week.

      Day-to-day parenting (fun stuff): Basically split 50/50. My husband travels more for work, at least once or twice a month. But I’ll go out to dinners after work more often, so it evens out.
      Day-to-day parenting (duty stuff): 50/50. When I was at a law firm, I did a lot more sick-kid duty because I could work from home easily. Now that I’m in a new job, my husband has really stepped up and stayed home for the sick kids. Otherwise, I usually do pick up and drop off because daycare is very close to my office.

      Planning for the family (near-term): All me. I’m more “on the ground” for school activities, etc.

      Planning for the family (long term): All husband. He’s much better at finances, saving, big picture things.

      Extras: I just made everyone do family pictures, so I think this is me. I’ll make us go to museums, the park, plan outings, etc. If it were left to my husband, we would play at home every day with the kids. Husband and I are both the types that always need to have a vacation on the calendar (even if it’s a long time in the future), but he usually does the mechanics of flights, hotel, etc.

  9. CPA Lady says:

    My husband works nights so I basically do 95% of everything all the time when it comes to hands-on baby care. I do wake up with her 7 days a week, bedtime 5 days a week, daycare drop off 5 days a week, pickup 3 days a week, and take care of her on the weekends from whenever she wakes up ’til he gets up in mid afternoon. I also do all the planning short term and long term and all the extras. I am absolutely the default parent, but I knew going into it that I would be at least for the foreseeable future.

    However, what keeps me from losing my mind are two things:

    1. My husband does 95% of running the household and is very conscientious about it. He cleans, grocery shops, does daily chores, mows the lawn. I do basically nothing other than the occasional unloading the dishwasher or throwing in a load of laundry, and my tolerance for mess and dirt is higher than his.

    2. (And this one is personal, obviously)- I combo fed my daughter on purpose from a young age. For some reason, when I was pregnant and looking into the terrifying unknown abyss that was “I’m about to have to do this all by myself 95% of the time”, I decided that being 100% responsible for her nourishment on top of that was just more than I could handle. It also helped because on my husband’s nights off from work, he could bottle feed the baby and be up with her if she was fussy at night. So I started getting consistent full nights of sleep at least a couple times a week starting when she was about 6 weeks old.

    As far as him asking for instructions, I basically told him to figure it out himself. Those nights he stayed up with her at the very beginning were very helpful for his learning curve and for getting confident in what he was doing.

    The thing I find the most frustrating is the lack of time for myself/lack of time to hang out with friends. Because of my husband’s schedule, he gets a few hours to himself alone in the house each day and usually sees his friends once a week because the baby is asleep by then anyway, and I’m there with her. I get so jealous and want to punch him when he complains about being tired. I think I just need to get a baby sitter once every week or two. Or we both need to get normal jobs. Something. The way we’re living right now does not feel sustainable.

    • Lorelai Gilmore says:

      I would highly advise getting a babysitter, maybe for one night a week, who can pick up the baby, bring her home, and get her into bed. Having to do the pick up and bed time routine every single night is exhausting. I think you need one free night – to be used for work, a massage, seeing friends, a book club, whatever.

  10. So I’m going to let you all know how it works once baby comes, but I have a bizarre situation that is far from ‘the norm’.

    I work a fairly demanding job with a distinct busy and slow season. Busy season, I work ridiculous hours, but only for 2 months. Slow season I work a normal 40 hour week. Husband works a contract-style job where he is gone for approximately 10 weeks at a time (and not necessarily available by phone or email) and is then home for 10 weeks.

    When he’s gone, I obviously do everything around the house/yard/etc. When he’s home, he does 90% of everything. The man even knows how to wash laundry and separate everything perfectly. We discussed this bizarre dynamic for several years prior to deciding to start a family, and I basically waited until I could answer this question with a yes: Am I okay with being a solo parent for at least half my life?

    Right now, the plan is basically for me to do the solo thing, with lots of support from family and friends, while SO is at work, and for him to be the primary parent when he’s home. I’ve already accepted that he will be the ‘fun’ one, and I’m okay with that.

    I’ll tell you all how it goes.

  11. I started to type out a detailed response, but it basically comes down to this: We’re both putting in almost 100% of our time to kids and family responsibilities, and how specifically it all shakes out really doesn’t matter. My husband works longer hours, so I end up doing more at home, but he’s helping out from the time he comes in the door. We both do our best to make time for workouts, watch a movie together at home once or twice per week after the kids are in bed, and to get a babysitter and go out together for an evening 3 times or so a month. We very rarely go out with friends solo – we hang out with couples on our date nights. I just don’t really think either of us has more to give, so we don’t, and some things slip. I’m the one who posted a few weeks back on the weekend thread saying I’m contemplating leaving my job for a few years when the last baby is born later this year. The more I think about it, the more I’m sure about it.

  12. The thing that worked best for us is to divide the responsibilities 50/50 and we don’t interfere with the other person’s jobs. I do laundry, “cruise director”, shopping and finances, he does cooking, day to day pickup (we have a cleaning person come once a week) and general maintenance. There are hiccups, like when he finds out that there’s nothing for him to cook because I bought weird things while shopping (or just didn’t shop at all), but mostly it works. I did have to learn to let go (so I don’t get to complain about dinner since I didn’t make it), and also be more assertive about building in alone time.

    One thing I don’t like is that since I drop off, if there’s a kid who’s sick, it’s my problem to deal with it (he leaves before I wake up). On the other hand, since he picks up it’s his problem to make sure all kids are appropriately fed before getting shuttled to their evening activity, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.

  13. hoola hoopa says:

    We started off with fairly even roles in the marriage – but when our first was born we both spent several months to a year SAH. It’s a really helpful experience to have lived both sides of the coin (SAH and breadwinner) – partly for ‘walk in the other man’s shoes’ sort of way, and partly because we’re literally cross trained for all the household/childcare duties.

    Running household: Mostly him, as he does most of the cooking (while I’m with the kids) and cleaning (while I’m being oblivious). I do the meal planning and the pickup/organization. We share laundry duties and usually shop as a family.

    Day to day parenting: Mostly me. I definitely spend more time when there’s a nursing baby in the house, but it’s closer to equal with the older kids. Some days/weeks are heavy for one parent, but it’s generally balanced in the long run.

    Planning near term: Me. He handles some medical and buys a couple of Christmas gifts. Everything else is me. In fairness, I usually don’t mind. I’m always thinking further ahead, enjoy the research/planning, and tend to care more.

    Planning long term: Hahahaha. No one.

    Extras: Me, with a few exceptions.

  14. Meg Murry says:

    My husband and I have swapped back and forth as to who is the parent handling more childcare and who is the person with more demands careerwise – he runs his own business and was really slow during the worst of the most recent economic downturn, then I took 1.5 years working very part time after our second was born. I am very grateful that despite my husband never having been around young kids before we had our own, he is great with them, especially once I let go that its ok if he does things differently than I would, as long as no one is in eminent danger of losing life or limb.

    Everyone else nailed a lot of our lives above, but one thing I will add is – don’t let the school/daycare assume you are always the parent to call. It drove me insane when my son started kindergarten that so many of the forms listed (in this order): home phone, Mom’s cell, Mom at work, Dad’s cell, Dad’s work, other emergency contacts – because sure enough, that was the order they called, nevermind that I worked 45+ minutes away and was never near a phone and my husband was rarely more than 5 minutes from the school and had a cell phone always attached to his hip.

    I finally wrote a note that I emailed to his teacher and had the secretary attach to his emergency contact forms that said something to the effect of:
    -in case of serious medical emergency call in this order: Dad cell ###, Mom cell ###, Dad work, Mom work, Grandma 1, Grandma 2, Neighbor
    -in non urgent cases (sick but doesn’t need an ambulance, forgot lunch etc), call: Dad cell ###, Grandma 1, Grandma 2
    -to get ahold of us to talk about a situation, email: mom email, dad email, etc

    It finally got the point across that just because Mom is the first one on the pre-printed form doesn’t mean she’s always the one to call, and then we got a new (woman) principal that got it and re-did the forms to allow for a contact priority list like I listed (and changed the language to Parent/Guardian 1/2, since we have a lot of 2 Mom or 2 Dad families, but that’s another story …)

    • hoola hoopa says:

      YES! YES! YES to not accepting being the default parent for school/daycare. It’s taken quite a bit of work to ‘train’ school and daycare to not call me first and just leave rounds of voicemail, especially once we moved to a suburb where many mothers SAH – but well worth the effort!

    • This is very interesting to me as I’ve had the opposite problem with our preschool. Even though DH is a SAHD and needs to receive all the class emails, I want to be on the class and school email lists too so that I know what’s going on. It took a year and a half (once second child was halfway through the year with the same teacher) for me to get on the class email list, and I still don’t get the school-wide emails. Why is this so hard?

      • Meg Murry says:

        It took me a while to get on the email lists as well, and I’m still not on the “school is closed” phone blasts, because apparently the system is set up as allowing only 1 phone number per child and I stopped fighting it. I have friends with join custody of their son who have been fighting this hard though (it’s not like joint custody is a new concept, I don’t understand why the relatively new phone blast system was setup that way), and finally gave up and got a Gmail account that forwarded to both of them and a Google voice number that they both check.

        Before I managed to get the school secretary to add me to the email lists, I went into my husband’s email settings (with his permission) and set it to forward all messages from the school and my son’s teacher to me as well so I was at least in the loop.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m glad to hear this is a fixable problem. Our kid goes to a school where very few moms work, and I am so sick of the school calling me and me telling them that I am not the default parent and they need to call my husband. After a year they are still not trained, so it may be time for a note.

    • In House Lobbyist says:

      That is brilliant! I love that our preschool form says “does the mother work outside the home?”. I laugh every year.

  15. Regular poster, anon for this. says:

    I’m a lawyer in big law and work a reduced schedule which is still a 40 work week but my schedule is pretty flexible aside from deadlines, spouse is a fed with a fairly non-flexible, unpredictable schedule. Baby is less than a year, so we’re still working out the kinks.

    I usually do most of the work in all of the categories. Probably a combination of being better at it, having a more flexible schedule, and maternal gatekeeping. My husband wants to ‘help’ but isn’t very efficient and wants to be managed, which is almost as much work as doing it myself (or maybe more, because then I wonder if it’s done).

    To be fair to my husband, while I do the lion’s share of household/parenting stuff, it’s not because he’s out having fun with his friends, it’s because work has taken over his life. He hates that, and knows it’s a problem, and we’re trying to fix that.

    I know I need to address some of this with him, as the resentment is building. I think I’d feel less resentment if I wasn’t the higher earner and in a less secure job.

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