I have lots of ideas about how parents can more equally share the load of raising kids, because when dads lean in at home, it makes room for moms to lean in at work, and that’s going to be a huge part of achieving true gender equality.
There is a downside, though, of having two very involved parents, and that’s the added work of communication. When you have two equally involved parents, you have to work harder to communicate effectively and often about the kids and the household. Problems that crop up from poor communication can range from double buying items at the grocery store because you didn’t know your spouse had already bought it (we have 6 bottles of Magic Shell in our pantry right now!), to messing up a kid pickup because the information about a change in plans went only to the parent who’s not doing the pickup. I know many women who feel pretty strongly that the work involved to share the load with their husband isn’t worth it simply because there’s so much added work in keeping everyone in the loop. So here are a few things my husband and I have done to make sure both of us have all the information we need to take care of the kids and the house equally.
Shared to do list
A great way to make sure you check in often and know what the other person is up to is a shared to do list. This not only helps divide the work, but it can be a place to share notes about activities that will be handed off from one parent to the next. My husband and I use a shared Google document for this, and we can include notes so the other parent knows the status of the task. Read more here.
One thing we did that made a huge difference in sharing the load was setting up a shared email address. We now use this email address for all school and activity signups so that both of us get notified about soccer practice changes, school events, etc. Read more here.
Using a shared calendar is another great way to keep both parents on the same page. Even if I’m the one handling most of the after school activities and appointments I keep them all on our shared family calendar so my husband can see what we’re up to. That way when he needs to step in he has the information he needs. It also makes him an equal partner on the weekends as we both run around town getting the kids to soccer games and music lessons. Read more here.
Regular status reports
One of the very first tools we used to keep each other in the loop when our kids were babies was a trick we learned from the daycare. Because we were trading off childcare halfway through the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, one parent would be taking over from the other around lunch time, and needed to know what the status was of feeding, naps, and diaper changes. So we wrote email status reports similar to the daycare reports we received that we handed off along with the baby. Sometimes the hand-offs were hectic, and often at work, so the written communication that could be done a little more leisurely was great.
We’ve continued that trend a little less formally as the kids got older. We make sure to take time every night, or even during the day from work, to fill in the other parent on anything that happened while they were away, or any news one of us got out of our teenager in passing so that we don’t annoy him (any more than our mere presence already does) by having one of us ask him a question he already answered for the other parent.
Letting it go
Using tools to keep our co-parenting communication strong is a big part of making it work well. But there’s one other critical piece of sharing the load that is also needed, and that’s the ability to let it go. You are not your spouse, your spouse is not you, and you will absolutely parent differently from each other. And that’s ok. It’s even a good thing! Kids have two parents with different strengths and weaknesses and they can benefit from all the different things both parents bring to the equation.
What this really means, though, is that if you want your partner to truly be doing half the parenting, you have to be ok with them doing it their way, not your way. When your spouse in charge, you can make sure they have all the information they need, and then you need to let go and accept what happens. You may be surprised by things you learn from them about different (and maybe even better!) ways to parent!