When my husband and I brought our oldest son home from the hospital, I just wasn’t right. I didn’t know at the time, but I was suffering from postpartum anxiety. People don’t talk about this enough, but I wish they did. With my postpartum anxiety came some completely irrational fears like accidentally hitting my baby’s head on the door jamb when walking from room to room.
My number one fear was bath time. At the time, we had a newly tiled bathroom with a cast iron tub. I was terrified to bathe our son. I thought for sure he’d slip out of my hands, I’d drop him, he’d knock his head… every terrible scenario played out in my mind on a grim loop. I was crippled with fear and I could not give my baby a bath.
So my husband did.
And, he’s continued to for the past 6 years. Bath time is his thing. I’ll set out pajamas in the boys’ bedroom and now that they’re older, I wait for them with towels. But, bath time is my husband’s time to shine.
This is a perfect example of how my husband and I share parenting tasks.
We both pick up the slack for each other where and when we can. We play off of each other’s strengths and complement each other. We are a team, always.
My husband works long days. He starts most days at 6 AM and works until somewhere between 4:30 and 6 PM. I, on the other hand, work from home as an online educator and a freelance writer and social media marketer. This means that I do the bulk of the heavy lifting of parenting during the day. It also means, for my own mental state, that I cannot be the disciplinarian. I can’t spend 12 hours a day in conflict with my kids. So, my husband takes on the role of disciplinarian while I lean into the role of manager.
I also do breakfast with the kids, get them ready for school and out the door, do school drop off and pick up, coordinate and manage all appointments, play dates, and extracurricular activities.
When my husband returns home from work, that’s when I typically start preparing dinner. At this point, he will usually take over with the kids. When the weather is nice, they’ll play outside: ride bikes, practice t-ball or soccer, look for Proctor Rocks… you get the picture. When the weather is cold or rainy, he’ll make sure they are upstairs in their playroom. This is also the time when I finish up any work that I wasn’t able to get done during the day. Now that our kiddos are getting older and they don’t exactly need the same level of supervision, his main objective is really just to keep them out of the kitchen so I can do my thing.
After dinner, we either go on a family walk or bike ride around the neighborhood. When we return home, Dad reads with our boys in the living room or on our front porch while I clean up dinner. Right now, our boys are in kindergarten and first grade so this mainly consists of guided reading and sight word flash cards.
Next is bath time, and you already know who handles that. While they’re in the bathroom, I usually get towels ready, lay out pajamas, and select clothes for the next morning. Now that our boys are getting older, my husband can be a little less hands-on during bath time so we typically end up talking in the hallway as we wait for the boys to emerge from the shower.
My husband has always done the bedtime routine with our oldest son. It was sort of their thing while I got the baby to bed (even though “the baby” is only a year younger than his brother). Last year was the first year that both boys were in school full-time, 5 days a week. So, Dad started doing bedtime with both boys at the same time. Our bedtime routine consists of going to the bathroom one last time, brushing teeth, dad reading two stories, saying prayers, naming what we’re thankful for, and getting tucked into bed. While he is doing that, I pack lunches and make sure I’ve checked their school folders and packed everything up for the next day.
Once my husband comes back downstairs, I typically wait a few minutes and then I go up for a final kiss and tuck-in with my boys.
Then, we get to bingeing some not so kid-appropriate Netflix.
My number one tip on how we share parenting tasks is that I’ve very clearly communicated with my husband what I can and cannot do on my own. I don’t expect him to just observe and know. I name it. Ultimately, we’re partners, but I also know he’s not a mind reader and if I need help, I need to ask him for it. I also make a conscious decision to always acknowledge what he is doing and not ever wallow in or feel burdened by my own load. We are lucky to be in a partnership and I know that.
While this style of dividing the load works for us, I know it won’t work or even be ideal for all other families. Every family has a unique dynamic and a different schedule.