Dad’s short paternity leave breeds resentment—but you already knew that

You’ve just welcomed a baby. Along with the joy is the sense that your world has just been flipped upside down.

In the ideal case, your partner is right there with you as you try to make sense of diapering and feeding—because two sleep-deprived brains working together is certainly better than one.

But then, just when you feel like you may be getting the hang of it, your partner will probably go back to work: A 2014 study from Boston College found the average American dad took two weeks of paternity leave while a 2011 report from the National Center for Health found the average working mom takes 10 weeks off after baby is born. According to the Pew Research Center, another one in three women becomes a stay-at-home mom.


That means there are, on average, a minimum of eight weeks where mom is navigating the most demanding job of her life without backup at home.

That, says Erin Barbossa, LMSW, can be one of the most challenging transitions of all.

“Even though one partner is working outside of the home in a more typical work setting, the other is at home working too, but the job is brand new,” Barbossa says. “The tasks change daily before you can learn them, the boss only speaks in crying, and it's mostly isolating. There is nothing normal about this new job.”

In her experience working with couples navigating the new parenthood, she says this regularly results in some resentment on behalf of the parent staying at home—and that can simmer long past the first weeks a parent is back at work.

As Barbossa explained, a new mom at home may envy that her partner knows what to expect out of his day or, at least, can go to the bathroom without company.

Barbossa’s professional experience is backed up by a 2011 survey that found 50% of stay-at-home moms reported feeling like they never got a break from parenting—while 96% said their partners got replenishing “time outs.”

With that kind of unaddressed disparity, it would be easy to let resentment build. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’s how to work through the new dynamics in your household:

1. Talk early and often

Before baby arrives, don’t just discuss the logistics of parental leave and who will return to work when—aim to also have honest conversations about the expectations for when that leave comes to an end. Then take the time to do that with every subsequent addition to your family.

“Every child is a massive recalibration of equality in a relationship,” Barbossa says. “The more you can front-load with each other about expectations, desires and values, the more you can prevent deep-seeded issues.”

2. Know that “fairness” is a moving target

Barbossa notes that just when you seem to attain “balance,” you should expect the demands to shift again. (Parenting lesson #1!) And just as you’ll go on to talk with your kids about how life isn’t always fair, that’s something that’s also essential for us to recognize.

What that doesn’t mean is burying your emotions until they feel overwhelming. Rather, Barbossa says to communicate your needs and “validate what your partner brings to the fairness equation.”

3. Work together outside of work

According to an October 2017 study, marriages suffer when moms feel like they are sacrificing their careers and doing more than their fair share at home. To counteract that, licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney says couples should work together to strike their ideal balance of work and domestic responsibilities.

“Some dads deeply wish they could have more time with their kids,” Whitney says. “They may be envious to be missing out on family life.”

For some families, this may very well mean that dads scale back on work—or, at least, know they are the ones responsible for unloading the dishwasher at the end of the day.

4. Take care of “what’s on your side of the street”

If you begin to feel resentment toward your partner—who is likely just trying to do the best he can—it’s key to look inward.

“You need to get clear about your values and about when you've missed opportunities tell your partner what you're hoping for and what you need,” Barbossa says. “At the same time, you have to walk the walk and find ways to appreciate him, if you are asking him to appreciate you.”

5. Speak openly, but kindly

Research from The Gottman Institute shows that when partners approach disagreements gently, they are more likely to find a solution. As Dr. Julie Gottman said, “Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger, but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

When it comes to resentment stemming from changing responsibilities, this may mean remembering that your partner is also going through a big transition. And while he may be able to eat lunch on his own time, he’s also making sacrifices. With this in mind, it’s easier to approach your conversation from a place of mutual compassion.

6. Give yourself grace

Paired with wonky sleep hours and the other challenges of new parenthood, Barbossa says it’s common for moms and dads to feel like resentment is “the beginning of the end” or a sign the marriage is in trouble.

“These fears are a useful message that something needs to change, so don't ignore them,” she says. “But at the same time, treat your relationship with compassion and know that you're both doing the best you can, even when it might not seem that way.”

The early days after a new baby arrives are a big transition for everyone in the family—and your partner’s return to work is sure to stir up some big emotions. As long as you’re both committed to working through them together, you should feel confident you’re on the right track.

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Tenth & Pine: Gender-neutral and butter-soft basics for littles + bigs

In 2016, after a stage four endometriosis diagnosis and a 10 year battle with infertility, Tenth & Pine founder Kerynn got her miracle baby, Ezra Jade. As a SAHM with a Masters in Business, she wanted to create a brand that focused on premium quality, function, comfort, and simplicity.

She sought out premium, all natural fabrics and factories that shared her core values, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing methods with fair and safe working conditions for employees. As a result, her made in the USA, gender-neutral designs check all the boxes. The sustainable, organic basics are perfect for everyday wear, family photos and any adventure in between.

Lucy Lue Organics: Sustainably and ethically-produced modern baby clothes

This family-owned and operated business was started by a mama who wanted out of corporate America after the birth of her son. Thoughtfully designed to mix-and-match, Lucy Lue's sustainably and ethically produced collection of modern organic baby clothes only uses fabrics that are "environmentally friendly from seed to seam." Their gorgeous, earthy tones and comfy, minimalist styles make the perfect addition to first wardrobes from birth through the first years.

Sontakey: Simple bracelets that speak your mind

Sontakey has been such a hit in the Motherly Shop that we knew it was time to expand the line. And since these beautiful mantra bands look so stunning stacked, more options = more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.


"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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