Despite being a first-time mum, I found that my parenting style was weirdly instinctual. But was it a parenting instinct, or was it something more deeply ingrained than that? Was it just my personality… that I always managed to ‘get shit done’?
In my job and at home, I’m efficient. If something needs doing, whether it’s writing a report or cleaning the toilet, I like to get it done and out of the way. Talking with my mother-in-law, I realised it might actually be a trait that is predominately assigned to the female. Notwithstanding that there are men out there with equal capacity to get shit done, in my experience men don’t have the same ‘get up and go’ when it comes to household chores.
So when it came time for me to go back to work and for my husband to be the stay-at-home-dad 5 days a week, his lack of… shall we say… methodology, left the household somewhat wanting. And it did my head in.
Fix it until it’s broken
For the first few weeks of being back at work, I considered that perhaps the task of being a stay at home parent was more demanding than I’d realised and it was impossible to keep the house clean and tidy and get dinner on the table. But then I remembered EVERY WOMAN IN HISTORY and their smoothly functioning households, and I realised there might be an issue. Surely, hubby needed to lift his game.
So I started making lists of all the things he should be doing and when. The list was built around what I would do in the same situation. E.g. get up, feed bub, unpack the dishwasher, put the steriliser on, get food out of the freezer for dinner to defrost, put the coffee on, go to the toilet, play with bub… you get the picture. Every moment of the day should be filled with something. I was certain that sticking to this list was the solution.
I quickly learnt that it wasn’t going to work. A few days in and hubby cracked it. With hindsight, I see that my list was condescending. It was the worst form of delegation, where I should have been leaning towards stewardship delegation. But by this point I’d pretty much run out of patience and time, and my only tactic was to give up, cross my fingers and look the other way.
Let it go
Within a week of not having me breathing down his neck and judging his methods, hubby had worked out his own rhythm. It wasn’t the way I would do it, but it worked. Sure, bub and hubby sometimes went a few too many hours in dirty clothes, but they were happy. And fed. And sleeping. What more can a mama ask for?
If you’re in a similar position, or you‘ve noticed your eye starting to twitch at the thought of leaving hubby alone with bub for more than 4 hours, or maybe you’re in need of a break but you’re stressing about the thought of taking a break, here are some tips for handing over the reins and letting go:
- Outline the things that you expect to happen in a day with bub (e.g. laundry, dinner, cleaning, feeding, dog walk…)
- Ask your partner to outline the things that they expect to happen in a day with bub
- Spot the difference, eliminate the ‘nice to haves’ and create a list of non-negotiables (i.e. the things that need to happen to make sure nobody starves and the house is still standing).
Then it’s the hard bit. Armed with your non-negotiables, it’s over to your partner. GO.
And what do you do? You stop worrying and you remember the reason why you’re with this person in the first place. You trust them. They’re capable. And they might not do things exactly the way you would, but that doesn’t mean their way is wrong.
All you need to ask of your partner is that they remember the non-negotiables. The rest is up to them.
After a few weeks of full-time work, I realised how lucky I was. I was less than 4 months post-partum and working full-time in a job I loved, and my hubby was at home doing a stellar job at keeping our bub happy and healthy. And yes, there are some things he does that I would do differently, but in the end the result is the same – a happy mum, a happy dad and a happy bub. And that’s really the only thing we should be striving for, regardless of what form it takes.
Sally Maconochie is a professional writer and project manager with Aurora Marketing, based in Brisbane. She is also a ‘fresh’ mama. Sally has clawed her way to work-life-harmony with the support of a super-hubby (and stay-at-home dad) and a lot of coffee. She spends a lot of her time flying around the country working on multi-million dollar bid submissions, so the weekends at home with bub are even more special.