When you have a baby, you not only have to learn how to care for your infant, you also have to learn how to work as a team with your parenting partner.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, new moms and dads are in even closer proximity postpartum. They’re getting a crash course in navigating their relationships and in creating equity when it comes to sharing parenting responsibilities.
Dr. Whitney Casares, author of the book “The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little“ has tips on how you can successfully share the load with your partner.
Designate a soother in chief if you’re the breastfeeder in chief
If you are breastfeeding, you have a full-time job that requires rest, fluids, and patience to learn and perfect. You are the feeder in chief. You’ll do your fair share of soothing as a function of that job. But your partner should take the lead on soothing so that you can accomplish your main mission: feeding your baby.
You’re not a magician
Accept that you are not a magician and cannot develop a mom’s intuition overnight. You need your partner’s help, and (sometimes, believe it or not) partners have valid ideas! Two problem-solvers are better than one. When I learned to ask for help—especially when I was at my weakest physically and emotionally—I found others around me stepped up and, ultimately, that we became a powerful team. Never be afraid to reach out if you are struggling. There is help and hope, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
Recognize strengths and weaknesses
Parenting is a balance of tasks and responsibilities, and one partner may have more skills or patience for some of them. Instead of evaluating or comparing contributions, figure out your partner’s parenting superpowers. All of us bring amazing things to our parenting partnerships. I see all kinds of parents in clinic—analytical types asking tons of specific questions, the research-focused contingent searching for the evidence behind pediatric recommendations, and laid-back parents letting the stresses of early parenting easily roll off their backs. We all have something we bring to the table.
Get educated together
How does one become an expert in their field? They study. If you are the only one in your family studying up on babies and parenting before or after your newborn arrives, you may feel as if you are the only one who knows anything, and you may be the only one who feels confident enough to take charge.
Everyone learns in different ways. If you learn best by reading, your partner may learn best by attending a class online or in person. Or, your partner may learn best by talking with otherswho have been through it. It probably won’t work to force your partner to learn the exact same way you do, but expect that both of you have a working knowledge of common baby issues, newborn care basics, and proven calming techniques so that you can problem-solve from the same educated perspective.
Take a giant step back
When someone doesn’t trust us or tries to manage us, it can make us feel resentful and irritated. We sometimes even lose our organic interest in the topic and stop putting our best effort into it.
That’s what happens when we don’t allow our partners to play an equal role in taking care of our children. We sabotage our hope of true co-parenting. Instead, be conscious about how to empower your other half to be the parenting boss more often. That might mean leaving the house so that your partner has the space to parent without your eagle eye. It definitely will mean holding your tongue (or sighs, or eye rolls, or judgment) if your partner is not doing things exactly how you would do them. If you both get educated together, you can be equal “experts” and this won’t be so hard.
Above all, learn to say, “I’m sorry”
You are going through one of the most significant changes in your life. So is your partner. There will be times you will implode or explode from the stress of that transition and of our current events. When you lose it, figure out whether there is something to be learned or the pot of water just got a little too hot and boiled over. Learn to say, “I’m sorry” and to consider how to make it better next time. When you and your partner act.