It's common for couples to experience an imbalance in child-rearing and household responsibilities -- and for the person shouldering the load to feel immense frustration. But it doesn't have to be this way, and it's worth taking the time to reverse the trend. Couples who assume joint responsibility for childcare and household management can benefit from reduced stress levels, better emotional well-being, and a stronger bond. Research also suggests that when both parents are actively involved in their children's lives, kids experience fewer behavior problems, greater academic success, and other psychological benefits. Here are 8 tips for encouraging shared responsibility at home:
1. Get educated. Particularly for families with wee ones, sometimes the weight of basic responsibilities (e.g., bath time, feeding) defaults to the person with more experience (e.g., the parent who has babysitting experience). Enrolling in a basic infant or child care course at a local hospital or parenting center can help equip parents with the confidence to take a more active role with their children.
2. Communicate openly. Do you tell your partner when you're frustrated that s/he isn't pulling their weight? If not, they might not realize that there's a problem. Instead of festering, communicate openly about the problem so you can work on solutions for positive change together.
3. Be concrete. To reduce misunderstandings and the likelihood of not meeting expectations or stepping on each other's toes, be concrete. You can work on this verbally, and it can also be helpful to create a list of household action items and tag a person for each task. For example, instead of vaguely offering to "help clean," one lucky person can be responsible for emptying the diaper pail each night!
4. Set yourself up for success. When divvying up tasks, set yourselves up for success by being realistic and emphasizing efficiency. If your partner frequently has early morning meetings, getting the kids dressed and ready for school might not be a realistic responsibility to tackle, but doing daycare pickup might be.
5. Play up strengths, especially fun ones. Related to #4, encourage one another to align with tasks that play up strengths and utilize his/her unique talents and skills, especially ones that bring joy. For example, if your partner loves music, perhaps s/he could be the point person to attend weekly sing-a-longs with your toddler.
6. Give each other space. If one person is rigid on how things at home should be done, then that person is probably going to be stuck with the majority of responsibility. Give your partner the space to do things his or her way, resist correction, and remember that there's more than one way to get from point A to point B.
7. Express gratitude. A little thank you goes a long way; it can even motivate continued helping behavior. And expressing gratitude is a good thing to model for your kids too!
8. Nurture one another. It's easier to make and receive asks when you're operating at a baseline where you both feel respected and cared for. Don't forget to attend to one another -- help each other out, be affectionate, enjoy one another!
Do you have other tips for sharing responsibility at home? We'd love to hear them in the comments below!
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