Engaging your partner as a co-parent

When you and your partner are busy caring for Baby, there will be times when things get tough and you need to ask for help. And sometimes the person you most need to ask for help is your partner. This isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean that either or you isn’t pulling your weight or doing a good job as a parent. You’ve both reached superhero status at this point! It’s just that when dealing with the constant care of a newborn and all the new responsibilities that come along with it, sometimes you’ll need a little extra time to talk things through, assess just how your household is functioning, and come up with a new plan for how to move forward with meal plans, dirty onesies, and – everyone’s favorite – 3 a.m. feedings. So just how do you ask for help and make this magic happen?

Talk, talk, talk

Good communication is important for any couple, but it’s especially important during the stressful periods in your life – like, for example, when caring for a new baby. Communicating just what you’re feeling – what you’re excited about, what Baby did that amazed you, what you’re worried about – helps to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page. Maybe you’re the kind of couple that has no problem opening up about these things, or maybe you have to work a little harder to establish and maintain lines of open and honest communication. In either case, you can help prevent problems by striving to be open and honest about how you’re feeling and what you need – including what you might need help with. It’s not easy, but many couples find that communicating in this way brings them closer, deepens their sense of partnership, and allows them to work together as parents in amazing new ways.

Try your best to split the workload

There isn’t always a clear-cut way to do this, but making the effort can help both of you feel valued and supported. Maybe this means if mom is nursing, the other partner tackles diaper duty. If Baby is formula-fed, one partner might tackle overnight wake-ups before 1 a.m. while the other tackles any wake-ups that happen in the early morning hours. Maybe it means that one of you will give Baby a bath while the other washes the pots and pans from dinner. As Baby grows, what “splitting the workload” means will change right along with his needs, but establishing the habit now means that you’ll be better practiced at trying your best to share household responsibilities the future.

Take stock of all the work that’s being done, even what might be “invisible” work

As you aim to split the workload, make sure you recognize the sort of work that can sometimes be overlooked. If one of you is back to work and one of you is home with Baby, know that staying home to care for a baby is hard work. Letting a body that just went through labor and delivery take the time it needs to heal and recover is work too. The same goes for nursing, even it means that mom is off her feet a lot. And paying bills, making pediatrician appointments, and arranging childcare – the list could go on. It’s impossible to share the workload equally until you both understand the effort that goes into all different types of work.

Revisit responsibilities and address what’s not working

If you and your partner have already decided to split the workload in certain ways, but there are elements that aren’t quite working – say, you decided you would tackle grocery shopping once a week with Baby in tow, but you now realize that it’s easier for your partner to do so solo on their way home from work – then switch things up. No family schedule or splitting of household tasks works forever. As your family grows, as schedules shift, and as to-dos change, it makes sense to reassess what’s working and what’s not. From there, you can work to find a solution that works best for your family.

Be specific when you ask for help

Certainly, there will be times you need to tell your partner quite simply, “Things have been really hard lately. I can’t do it all. I need more help.” But it can also be meaningful to follow this up with more specifics, like, “It’s been really hard for me to cook dinner every single night, so can you please help by making dinner at least two nights a week?” Of course, sometimes it can be hard to come up with such solutions on your own, especially when you’re feeling stressed. In those situations, you might ask your partner, “What’s one specific thing you can do to help with our dinner prep?” and then you can have a brainstorming session to come up with options you’re both happy with. Maybe the answer is “I’ll ask one of our family members to make us dinner once a week,” or “Order takeout!” Together you can find a solution.

Call in backup

This is going to be one of the toughest times in your life – little sleep and lots of work – so it’s not the time to just power through and go it alone. You and your partner should know that it’s not just a good idea, it’s actually advisable to ask loved ones – both family and friends – to lend you a hand. This might mean help with babysitting so that you can have an occasional afternoon off – to run errands, hit up the gym, or even just take a nap – to feel a little more like yourself. You might also ask for people to cook you meals – certainly when Baby is brand new, but even several months in. And if this just isn’t cutting it and you have the financial flexibility to do so, you may even want to pay for some extra help – like a regular babysitter, cleaning services, grocery delivery or meal delivery services, a dog walker – if taking some of the to-dos off your plate is of meaningful value to you.

Again, asking for help is never easy, but now more than ever, it’s important to do so. And together you and your partner can confidently take on this wild new adventure that is parenting.

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