Tips and Tricks
Equality in the childraising domain should begin from the moment your
child is born. Let’s start at this point and move through the
a child’s life to illustrate how childraising can be equally shared.
The newborn period
Mothers in our
culture are expected to take up the challenge of newborn care and
gusto, but here is what fathers can
to establish their equality right from the
- Take as much paternity leave and as many vacation
days as your job allows.
- Learn every baby-related task along with your
Practice throughout each day by doing at least half of the diapering,
changing, bathing, rocking,
- If your partner is breastfeeding, take total control
of the baby for a non-feeding
portion of every
day. After a few
weeks, feed the baby his first bottle of expressed breastmilk pumped by
your partner. Then, if all goes well with the first feed,
continue to feed him at least one bottle of breastmilk every day.
- If your partner is not breastfeeding, do half of all
the feedings while you are on paternity leave.
- Seriously weigh the pros/cons of downsizing your job
on a permanent basis. Then take action
by requesting what you want.
Here’s what a new mother can do to allow
for equality in the early days:
- Make no assumptions that you are a naturally better
parent than your husband.
- Work out your plans, if you haven’t already, for
returning to your job. Ideally, work out a schedule so that you
will be spending an equivalent amount of time (no more, no less) at
home and at work as your husband.
Once your baby is about 4 months old, he has morphed into a much more
interactive little person. You
are entering the phases of first solids, decisions on sleep philosophy,
sitting up and crawling. Here are some ideas for creating
equality during this period:
- Negotiate each parent-initiated change in your
baby’s life through lots of communication. For example, decide
when and how to start solids, which foods to try and when to move to
the next food, what type of meal routine to aim for, and what type of
bib to use.
- Have a serious discussion about your philosophies on
sleep habits. Trade off putting your child to bed
so that each parent does it 50% of the time.
- Navigate the daycare decision together.
- When you are both available, trade off who is ‘on’
with your baby and who is free to wander away to do chores, errands, or
check email. Watch the amount of time each week
that each of you
is ‘on’ alone. Make this time come out as even as possible.
Mix this up with activities when both of you
‘on’ and it’s family time.
- Try very hard not to remind each other of childcare
responsibilities. If one parent begins to own all the
remembering, the other will eventually abdicate this duty and dumb
Your baby is no longer a baby. She’s walking and climbing and
getting into all sorts of trouble. She has a clear personality
and a mind of her own. To keep your equality going during this
may want to:
- Continue to negotiate philosophies and general
practices. Topics include effective discipline techniques, sleep
habits (again), eating habits (again), acceptable toys and activities,
and preschool planning.
- Continue to defer to the ‘on’ parent for daily
- Let each of you establish your own parenting style,
within the boundaries of your joint philosophies.
- Try to avoid a rather unique pitfall of equally
shared parenting: Doubletalk. While you always want to
present a united front and back each other up, don’t repeat each other
constantly. If Dad tells Sarah that she can’t have a cupcake now,
Mom doesn’t need to step in 30 seconds later with the same sentence.
- Make sure you communicate clearly who is ‘on’ and
who is not at all times. Several spats have resulted from
miscommunication about this issue in our house. Learn from our
equality at this stage is much like that of toddlerhood, but you are
becoming even more public about your equal status as you swing through
the play date circuit and hang out with other parents in the waiting
area of kids-only gymnastics class. Some ideas for keeping
equality during this period:
- Continue to break gender barriers in the name of
equality. Fathers can braid hair and take their daughters to
ballet class. Mothers can take them to their first baseball game
and teach them the do’s and don’ts of the backyard grill.
- Get involved at your child’s preschool, if
applicable. Make your involvement equal, or at least not
- Get to know your kid’s friends and their
parents. Again, make this project as equal as possible, so that
you can both be involved in your child’s growing world.
Beats us! Seriously, we can’t comment very authoritatively on
something we have only begun to touch the edge of so far with our
daughter's Kindergarten year. Our children are 3 and 6.
We can guess that equally raising an elementary school child may
involve such things as adjusting both of your work schedules to
accommodate 5 day per week of school pick-up times, making decisions
about summer ‘camp’ enrollment together in the cold of January,
learning how to parent a child who experiences social rejection or
loss, fitting in with all the other types of parents in the PTA, and
helping to facilitate your child’s long-term hobbies according to her
interests. Check the Real
Life Stories section of this website for some details from equally
sharing parents with elementary, middle school and high
school (and beyond) children.
Making it work for you
Hopefully, you can use one or two ideas from above. No solution
works for all couples, and you will obviously need to find your own way
of achieving balance in parenting responsibilities. The most
important concept is equality. Equally shared parenting
lifestyles work best when each parent puts in about the same amount of
time caring for their children, when neither parent is the alpha
parent, and when both parents feel competent and enjoy their time with
Our wishes that you fully enjoy your wonderful children and that they
fully enjoy both of you.
©Copyright 2008 Marc and Amy Vachon