One of the happiest moments of your life is the day you bring your first (or second, or third) baby home from the hospital. In the days and months ahead, you will experience incredible highs and moments you will remember for the rest of your life. That’s the good stuff. But rearing an infant is also filled with tedium, work and sleepless nights. The introduction of a new child can be incredibly stressful for both parents, leading to bickering, fights and even alienation. Here’s how to better communicate with your husband about chores to ensure things go as smooth as possible after you have a baby.
Division of Labor
You and your husband may have a pretty good routine going with housework. Whether you evenly divide chores, trade off, or one of you does more on the weekends, don’t expect that division of labor to hold after you have a baby. New parents often underestimate how much more work there is to be done once you have a child. Your domestic duties will now double, as you have intense laundry, feeding, changing and other things, which all need to be done relatively quickly. You no longer have the option of waiting a few days to wash soiled laundry. It’s easy to get frustrated with your partner when he is slow to do the chores. Many women find themselves snapping at their husbands. In return, many men snap right back and start insisting on a kind of tit-for-tat. It’s not unusual for men to say, I washed the bottles last time, so you get to do the laundry. This kind of communication is bad for both of you, leading to resentment and anger.
The best way to deal with the added housework is to have an open conversation about division of labor. If you previously did things 50/50, it may be appropriate for the man to pick up the slack and do more housework. (Conversely, if dad is staying home with the baby all day, then mom should agree to do more chores). And if your husband was used to you doing 80 percent of the housework, you should be up front about needing a lot more help than that.
Speak Your Mind
When I say “speak your mind,” I don’t mean start an argument. To me it means, “tell your husband what you need.” For a variety of reasons, women have been conditioned not to say what they need. Sometimes we find ourselves storming around the house angry because our husband hasn’t swept the floor and taken out the trash. It may seem obvious to us that this work needs done. But we can’t assume that he knows it needs to be done. Don’t assume – speak your mind. Tell him how he can help you rather than wanting him to figure it out for himself.
Accept the Work
For men, it’s also important to accept that there will be more work with a small child. If your wife is saying she needs help with something, you can’t have a knee-jerk reaction that she is nagging. Procrastination just won’t work with a baby, and it will only make your wife ask you again. If you think she’s nagging you, the cycle of frustration and bickering continues.
Make a Checklist
To avoid having so many conflicts when you are already tired and running on fumes, make a checklist on what needs to be done each week and each day. There are many printable checklists online so you don’t need to start from scratch. Take one hour every Sunday to look at the week ahead and balance your work obligations with what you have to do to take care of baby and keep the house in good working order. Always make a list of “what not to do” to help you prioritize. That means you should both relax about things like cleaning the ceiling fan or organizing your closet. Those can wait, since baby’s needs are paramount. And remember, the house doesn’t need to be clean from top to bottom. A checklist will help you both relax and focus on the most important things first.
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