Making the decision about who is going to be responsible for what within the context of your
family system can already be a tricky task to navigate. Throw a baby into the mix—this becomes
even more complicated. For most, having a baby means taking on a whole list of new
responsibilities while maintaining the responsibilities you’ve had all along. Whether you’re
talking about who is going to do the grocery shopping, to work outside the home, or to get up in
the middle of the night when your baby wakes up, it’s important to make at least some of these
decisions on the front end so as to ensure that both you and your partner feel a sense of
partnership and equality. If this is not done ahead of time, or at the very least discussed
intentionally once your baby arrives, you set yourselves up for what I like to call, defaulting.
Defaulting is a fairly common occurrence where one parent, we’ll call them “Parent B“
(generally the parent who IS NOT primarily responsible for feeding) tends to make the
assumption that the other parent, “Parent A” (generally the parent who IS primarily responsible
for feeding), has whatever the task is on hand covered. This is not done from a place of mal
intent but from a place of Parent B’s lack of awareness.
The reality is, parenting has a steep learning curve where most develop a system on the go.
Parent A completes tasks because they simply have to be done and Parent B often falls short in
stepping up to the plate because it seems as though Parent A has it under control. The result: a
big ball of resentment. While I am talking about the importance of delegating the big
responsibilities, I’m also talking here about the importance of discussing the seemingly smaller
ones. These are the ones that tend to be overlooked and as a result, add up over time.
Responsibilities like who is going to sit next to your baby at dinnertime, who is going to carry
your baby up the stairs when you get home, and who jumps out of bed to pop the pacifier back in
at night are just a few examples of such seemingly small tasks that when one parent finds
themselves having to perform each and every time, can lead that parent to wonder whether they
are in this alone. So moral of the story, sit down with your partner before your baby is born and
regularly thereafter. Discuss potential tasks and who will take primary responsibility for
performing them. Regularly check in after your baby is born to assess for new tasks that are
likely to pop up and your partner’s willingness to continue performing tasks they have previously
committed to. Most importantly, whether you are Parent A or B, please take note of all the big
and little things your counterpart does on a daily basis and ask if they could use a hand or a swap
out from time to time. Don’t just assume that your partner will do whatever needs to be done and
even if a particular task has been clearly designated your partner’s responsibility, regularly
express appreciation and gratitude to them for what they are doing. At the end of the day,
whether you are Parent A or B, doing these few simple things will likely result in your partner
feeling more appreciated and seen.
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