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My husband and I talked about a lot of things before becoming parents—our values, what kinds of parents our parents had been, and how that informed the kinds of parents we wanted to be. Those were good and important conversations and helped us get on the same page about some overarching themes of parenting.

But you know what we did not discuss? Which parent would be in charge of pediatrician visits. Who would handle researching the best way to introduce solid foods. And, down the road, which parent would take the lead on communicating with teachers. And oh so much more!

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If there is one thing I would love to go back and redo, it is having a very specific conversation with my partner about how parenting duties were going to be shared.

Here's what I wish we'd talked about.


I wish we'd talked about what we both needed to feel comfortable as parents.

My brother was born when I was 10 years old, so I already had a level of comfort with babies. My husband, not so much. When we looked over the possible classes we could take before delivery—breastfeeding, childbirth, and so on—he was very interested in a class called Newborn 101. I thought it was a waste of time, but I agreed to go because it seemed to matter so much to him.

All I remember learning from the class is that newborns look weird when they come out (gray and slimy as opposed to pink and shiny), and you don't need to bathe them very often. Afterward, I told my husband it had been a waste of time, because we didn't learn much.

"I know!" he said happily. "I feel so relieved." For him, learning that being around a baby is way less complicated than he thought it was going to be was a major stress reliever. I didn't realize until that moment that he had concerns about parenthood that were totally different from mine.

I wish we'd talked about working as a team from the start.

When two people become parents through pregnancy, the birth parent is intimately involved with parenthood from the start by carrying the baby—but if the non-birth parent can take on some responsibilities during pregnancy, it sets the stage for co-parenting equity down the road.

When Sheehan David Fisher, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, works with new parents and parents-to-be, he recommends that the non-birth parent stay engaged throughout pregnancy by attending all the prenatal visits, reading books about child development, understanding the changes a developing fetus is going through, spending time around (and holding!) babies and looking for dads' or parents' meetings to start attending in pregnancy. "The more engagement during pregnancy, the better the involvement outcomes in the postpartum," says Fisher.

I wish we'd talked about the big picture of co-parenting.

"I think people can be great dads, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are great co-parents," says Jill Krause, creator of the popular blog Baby Rabies. Krause tells parents to "talk with your partner about what it is to be a co-parent versus what it is to be a mom or dad." And set up the expectation early that you will share not only the practical responsibilities of raising a tiny human (like who handles the inputs—food—and who handles the outputs—diapers) but the big decisions that come with being a parent.

"We talked about a birth plan, how we were going to diaper them, and where they were going to sleep." But Krause recommends thinking even bigger than that and talking about other issues you will eventually face in parenting, like managing social media, asking about firearms in the home before sending a child on a playdate, getting help if your kid needs it with school. Not that you have to answer those questions now, but by talking now, you are setting up your "team game plan" for sharing the small and the large aspects of parenting. "Talk about all the issues together so that it doesn't feel like one person is the boss and the other is the employee."

I wish we'd broken down responsibilities—in detail.

Fisher meets with parents before delivery to sort out who is going to do what in the days and weeks after birth. Making those kinds of decisions in the moment—when you're feeling overwhelmed and sleep deprived—is much harder. Fisher has folks come up with a plan of who will handle some of the early tasks, including making sure there are groceries and diapers in the home, bathing the baby, and putting him or her down to sleep. If one parent is breastfeeding, then the other can commit to picking the baby up when she starts to cry and bringing her to the breastfeeding parent along with a glass of water and a snack, for instance.

When sleep specialist Kathryn Lee, RN, was researching how to help new parents get better sleep, she actually had them sign a contract listing out which responsibilities they would each take on.

Whether or not you go the contract-writing route, putting to paper a brainstorm of all you will need to do and assigning responsibilities will make it so much easier to share the work when the time comes and also be a great reference when the inevitable arguments about who's working harder begin. And, of course, it will be a living document that changes as you learn more about what parenting actually entails.

I wish I'd given my partner ownership of more logistics from the start.

I really wish my husband and I had talked in detail about responsibilities so that he could have had ownership over certain aspects of parenting from the get-go. We have a general belief in equity, but I retained so much control over the logistics of parenting that I was usually asking for "help" and then having to turn over reams of information in order for him to follow through. We've begun to change that dynamic—ten years later. It's never too late, but starting early is way better!

In a piece in The Huffington Post a few years ago, the blogger M. Blazoned coined a term for this kind of the kind of parenting setup my husband and I inadvertently started off with: "The Default Parent."

"Default parents know the names of their kids' teachers, all of them. They fill out endless forms, including the 20-page legal document necessary to play a sport at school, requiring a blood oath not to sue when your kids [get] concussions, because they are going to get concussions. They listen to long, boring, intricate stories about gym games that make no sense. They spell words, constantly. They know how much wrapping paper there is in the house. The default parent doesn't have her own calendar, but one with everyone's events on it that makes her head hurt when she looks at it. They know a notary. They buy poster board in 10-packs. They've worked tirelessly to form a bond with the school receptionists. They know their kids' sizes, including shoes."

It's exhausting just to read that paragraph, let alone live it. Which is why I suggest taking some time now to consciously set up a real division of labor. Of course, it will change over time, as you each develop different interests and competencies in parenting and as the hours of your paying jobs ebb and flow. But by starting parenthood with a plan to truly share the tasks in those early weeks and months, you will be laying the groundwork for meaningful co-parenting down the road.

I wish we'd both agreed to let the other parent make decisions and mistakes.

Fisher encourages couples to work against the "default parent" set up by making sure both parents have a chance to carve their own path for taking care of the baby without micromanaging each other.

"If somebody feels incompetent or is criticized, they stop trying," says Fisher. "If every time the baby is crying, a dad hands off the baby, it sets up the expectation that mom is the one always solving problems," says Fisher. "I encourage couples to avoid that."

Krause puts a finer point on it: "It does nobody any good for a mom to take on a martyr role or play into stereotypes. You have to give the non-birth parent more credit, show that you trust them and believe they can do this. Allow them to make mistakes, because you're going to make them too, and the last thing you need to do is be at each other's throats when you do."

Here's what some very smart parents did to prepare for parenting together:

"We talked a lot about wanting it to be equal. I was up front about wanting to have the baby because I was pretty sure it was the only way our kid would like me—kids just always love my wife. We took turns getting up at night and still do. We take turns letting the other person sleep in on weekend mornings. We split the evening time so that one of us does pajamas and teeth brushing while the other does books and bed, and whoever puts her to bed gets her up in the morning."

—Amanda, Decatur, Georgia

"In the first few weeks, my husband was great about letting me sleep (bottle-feeding helped with that). We shared many of the responsibilities that come with a newborn. Once he went back to work and I was still on leave, things shifted more to me, which made sense, but the tension grew. My suggestion for new parents is figure out your agreement ahead of time. Are you going to take turns throughout the night? Do you get up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and he takes Tuesday and Thursday? Does he get up with you? I feel like if we had done that, we would have saved a lot of energy."

—Amber, Indianapolis, Indiana

"Next time, I would devise a plan with my husband and delegate who was doing what. I would insist that he be in charge of some of the research and decisions. You look into how we should start solid foods. You decide how we introduce the dogs to the baby. You make a meal plan and cook for the week."

—Jamie, Atlanta, Georgia

This excerpt from STRONG AS A MOTHER: How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and (Most Importantly) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood was first published June 2018; it has been updated.

This is cause for celebration, mama! You are one month into this exciting new adventure, and those precious cuddles certainly help compensate for the lack of shut-eye. (Mostly, at least.)

Although it's only been a few weeks since you officially met your latest love, you're probably already amazed by how quickly your teeny snuggle bunny is growing and changing. Unlike those first few days when your sleepy newborn's eyes were rarely open, your baby is likely now eagerly studying objects within a few inches of their site and reacting to sounds. Their favorite sights and sounds of all? The people in their family.

After months of pregnancy, the extreme physical accomplishment of delivery and possibly the initiation of breastfeeding, your body needs time to recover. As you go, remember that while your baby may always be on your mind, it's healthy for you to make space for self-care, too.

While you continue to adjust, here are our favorite items to keep in your tool kit (for you and baby) at the 1-month mark:

To get sweet dreams while room sharing: Ingenuity bassinet

bassinet

Experts recommend sharing your bedroom—but not your bed—with your baby for the better part of the first year. If space was already at a premium, a compact bassinet is the perfect solution.

$129

To free up your hands: 4moms mamaroo swing

mamaroo swing

You may not want to take your eyes off your adorable baby, but life does actually require you use your hands every now and then to take care of things around the house. If your checklist includes tasks in the same room, a soothing swing can help keep baby content for a few precious minutes.

$219.99

To get through marathon nursing sessions: Boppy nursing pillow

nursing pillow

Whether from the breast or bottle, it can feel like feeding baby is your full-time job right now. Make it less of a workout with backup from a nursing pillow, which can take on a second-life as a support for your sitting baby in just a few short months.

$39.99

To start your bath-time routine: The First Years newborn-to-toddler tub

infant tub

Bath time is an important element in most nighttime routines—starting from the very first days! Focus more on the hands-on bonding without worrying your baby will slip and slide around a great big tub with a bath that is just their size.

$18.99

To celebrate baby’s first milestone: Cloud Island muslin blanket and frame set

milestone blanket

One month of life is a big milestone, both for your baby and you! Documenting how quickly your baby is growing each of these early months is a gift you will love looking back on for the rest of your life.

$21.99

To help with postpartum recovery: Frida Mom recovery kit

frida mom postpartum

Labor and delivery is a major event, mama—and our bodies are firmly still in recovery mode at the 1-month mark. If anything, life is probably only speeding up right now, so be sure to take care of yourself.

$49.99

To conquer early morning wake-up calls: Stars Above robe

stars above robe

Chances are that your baby has taken the place of an alarm clock. When the wake-up call comes too early, it helps brighten the morning a bit by having a comfy and cute robe to slip on.

$29.99

To get some letdown backup: Up&Up nursing pads

nursing pads

As you may have learned by now, breastmilk doesn't only flow on demand. Should you decide breastfeeding is your path, nursing pads will give you the protection you probably didn't anticipate you needed so you don't leak through a shirt. (Don't worry: This will ease as your supply is established!)

$7.56

To hydrate: Simple Modern pink water bottle

water bottle

It is always a good idea to drink more water—but especially now! Make it easier on yourself with a water bottle you actually like carrying around. Bonus points for being able to open it up for a drink with just one hand.

$19.99

To snack one-handed: Good & Gather snack bars

Good and Gather

You know when the baby last ate. But, what about you, mama? Keep some tasty nutrition bars on hand to simplify snacking when time and free hands are limited commodities.

$4.29

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

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How often do we see a "misbehaving" child and think to ourselves, that kid needs more discipline? How often do we look at our own misbehaving child and think the same thing?

Our society is conditioned to believe that we have to be strict and stern with our kids, or threaten, shame or punish them into behaving. This authoritarian style of parenting is characterized by high expectations and low responsiveness—a tough love approach.

But while this type of authoritarian parenting may elicit "obedient" kids in the short-term, studies suggest that children who are shamed or punished in the name of discipline face challenges in the long-term. Research suggests that children who are harshly disciplined or shamed tend to be less happy, less independent, less confident, less resilient, more aggressive and hostile, more fearful and at higher risk for substance abuse and mental health issues as adults and adolescents.

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The reason? No one ever changes from being shamed.

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