How Dads Can Share the Load at Home

Dear Dads:

There’s resentment building among the moms of the world. It might even be brewing in your home.

We know you want to be helpful. But asking US what you can do or waiting for US to delegate tasks to you like an unpaid intern that needs an assignment is driving us to the edge.

Your most important role when navigating a global pandemic isn’t that of a husband or even a father (although those are important), but that of a PARTNER.

Now, and honestly always, your wife/mother of your children and you share ownership and responsibility for navigating your family through this journey of life together. So rather than ask what you can do to be helpful or wait patiently for us to give you direction, here are 4 steps YOU can initiate today to build a system that works for both you and your partner through COVID-19 and beyond.

1) Create a shared vision

What does success look like for you and your partner as you navigate the short and long-term implications of COVID-19, school closures, and working from home?

Some days, success might just mean making it through the day without any major meltdowns. Longer-term, success could mean you each get time to exercise every day or that you create a new family tradition your kids will remember fondly.

What You Can Do Today:

  • Ask your partner to sit down and discuss how you want to remember this time as a family. What would success look like at the end of quarantine? What’s important for you each individually? Get specific.

  • Jot down the 2-3 main points to keep you both focused when life gets challenging.

2) Clearly define roles and responsibilities

There are so many daily home tasks. Who is responsible for what on a daily basis?

Breakfast.

Lunch.

Dinner.

Dishes.

Trash.

Laundry.

Home cleaning.

Tidying up.

Home schooling.

Bath/ Hygiene.

Bedtime.

Family fun.

Dog walks.

Food/ Alcohol/ Supply shopping.

Generally watching the kids.

Mail.

Bills and finances.

I’m sure there’s more.

What’s important is you’re clear on who owns what – either daily or weekly – and what's the baseline expectation for each activity. Keep the bar low.

As you consider who is responsible for each of these tasks, I feel compelled to mention that you may each have a certain level of expertise due to “how you’ve always done things.” For example, I am a much better cook than my husband (#sorrySteve), but if we’ve planned for me to work later in the day, he has a few go-to meals he can whip up.

Try not to revert to the default roles and distribution of tasks out of habit. If you need to build competence in a particular task, ask for help initially or proactively learn it on your own.

What You Can Do Today:

  • Map out – on a daily or weekly basis – who is responsible for EVERY key task above. This makes the invisible work that mysteriously gets done more visible to everyone. (You can also task your kids with responsibilities.)

  • Consider, too, what you can eliminate from the task list altogether.

  • When you finish, look over the balance of the tasks to make sure you feel good about how things have been divided.

*Special note to the ladies: Once your partner assumes responsibility for a task, reserve judgment and *ahem* criticism. This morning, my husband was responsible for breakfast. The kids ate ice cream (#sorryagainSteve). But they were full and happy – and I didn’t have to think about it – so I can live with an unconventional meal.

3) Jointly plan your days and weeks

Along with all of the home tasks listed above, you are likely each juggling work commitments. What systems can you put in place to plan jointly for how and when you will each complete critical work activities or calls amidst the various other tasks like homeschooling and meal prep?

In our house, in general, I have dedicated work time in the afternoon, whereas my husband has dedicated work time in the morning. Still, we sit down each morning to discuss the day ahead and make a clear plan for how it’s all going to go down.

What You Can Do Today:

  • Review your calendars together each morning and identify the day’s key commitments, when they occur, and how you’ll handle them. This keeps surprises to a minimum.

  • If you have access to your partner’s calendar, check for conflicts before you schedule any future meetings too.

  • Keep your shared vision at the forefront as you plan.

4) Communicate consistently & adjust accordingly

There is no playbook (Yet! Subscribe now to stay tuned!) for how to work, rest, homeschool, and stay sane with stay at home orders. Direct, consistent communication – especially about what you each need and where you might have to make adjustments is essential.

What You Can Do Today:

  • Each week, spend time talking about what worked about how you’ve been partnering and what could be even better in the following week. Make changes, as needed.

Frankly, sharing the load at home is not all that different from how you partner and support your colleagues at work. Take initiative. Be dependable. You're both on the same team.

Finally, if you still need convincing to take action, or for my TL; DR folks:

Research shows that couples report having sex significantly more frequently when domestic chores are shared more equally. So start dividing those tasks asap!

In partnership,

Moms Everywhere

Sharing the load like a boss.

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