Division of Labor

Dirty DishesToday I read a funny story about a husband who “refused” to change his baby’s diaper. The man clearly was not alone with his child at any time, or brought the baby to his wife for her to take care of the problem. It became less funny after I thought about it, imagined if this had been my family, then felt sad and sympathetic toward his wife. How does your family manage the division of labor in the home? If you are a single mom, do you have a family member or other children who help?

When I brought my infant home, I had no experience with babies and did not know how to bathe or diaper a baby. My husband had raised 3 other children, lucky me, and he taught me everything about caring for a baby. I read 5 different books before giving birth, but felt as unprepared as everyone does with a new baby. Our family fell into routines, who does what, that were flexible and changed over time. Babies are all so unique, what works for one does not for another; it is a learning curve like no other in this life. I didn’t know about the “100 days of darkness” new moms experience, or how hard it was to balance life with an infant.

Laundry, cleaning floors and other surfaces a baby may be set down on or use for tummy time, pumping, cooking, taking care of the other children, the night feedings every few hours, taking off work for baby’s medical appointments, grocery shopping, clothing shopping for everyone, balancing checkbook, paying bills, doing yard work, and choosing and purchasing baby gear are some of the items that come to mind. Does one person do all of the above, most of it, or do you split it down the middle? Do you take turns doing night feedings on weekends to allow one good full night’s sleep per week for each person? How do you manage?

Well, here is what works! Communicate about which household and caretaking duties each person will do each week. That’s it. Sound easy? Sure! What it comes down to, is that some form of division of labor between partners helps to avoid resentment and arguments, and makes early parenthood go more smoothly. It can be adjusted over time to work for both parties. This type of partnership also ensures good infant care, a smoother running home, and adequate self-care. I say adequate because self-care is usually on the back burner at first, as it has to be. It takes a great deal of energy to function well, adapt, and learn, especially on so little sleep. Now, if you are a single parent or have a partner who is only home weekends, or travels often, splitting duties will be more one-sided. One size does not fit all! But by trying to share the load, couples can save themselves a lot of stress and frustration. And remember, your baby won’t be a baby for long! It may not feel like it now, but soon you’ll find yourself looking at a picture of your 2, 3, 4, even 5 year old saying, “Where did my little baby go???”

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