I realize that most people in today’s modern world are simply looking for a quick fix for each problem as it comes up as opposed to the more in depth problem solving that takes hard work, learning and true understanding to help avoid the problem from continually recurring in the future.We have passed out of the Age of Aquarias and entered into the “Age of Google.”
Accordingly I’ve posted the solution to the problem right at the top and then past the read more, the whole theory behind the problem under that. You can take the swift approach or you can struggle through the equivalent of 8 Facebook posts to get a better understanding of the problem itself.
I’m not judging or trying to be preachy. Really I’m not. I just know that while this might help solve today’s problem, understanding more about the problem itself might just save your marriage. That being said here goes:
HOW TO SOLVE THE “WHO DOES WHAT” DILLEMA
The basic problem in what most perceive as “uninvolved parenthood” is simply lack of laid out agreements between both parents. One parent might be completely content doing all the parental work providing that they get one day a month in a full luxurious day spa and a trip to Rodeo Drive. The other parent might be blissfully happy simply writing the checks every month and not having to change a single diaper.
While I think both of the above are being denied the depth of character and the true value of the life changing experience that parenthood actually is, who am I to judge? If that’s what happiness it is to certain people then you know what I say? Let them be happy.
But if suddenly that check isn’t written and that day-spa trip has to be cancelled and then someone has to change a diaper that wasn’t expected, then friction enters into the equation. But you know what? No matter how perfectly people think they have it planned, it is going to happen. Why? Because that’s how life works: unpredictably, with fevers that don’t fit into your monthly schedules and temper tantrums that weren’t on the daily planner.
Life challenges you and forces you to either grow or perish. And parenthood for some is the raw essence of life itself.
So how to avoid the unpleasantness and friction? Settle the agreements. You know “if blah happens so and so does blah.”
Ideally do it before you have the child. Because once you do, there is no going back. And if you won’t provide for that child, they will either die or wind up with real parents leaving you behind with the label of a “biological” one. Being a biological parent doesn’t make you a father or a mother. Even gods have to earn that right, and when they don’t, their children suffer and then eventually even the gods do.
To quote one of the most brilliant lines ever written in a screenplay: “Mommy is name of God in the mind of a child.” But so is father.
So what do you do? Sit down with your partner (ideally before you decide to conceive, but if it’s too late for that, it’s never too late to set things right.) and write out the following:
FOR THE 6 MONTHS FOLLOWING BIRTH:
1. If Mommy has Cesaeraen birth, who is going to help change the diapers and give baths and help feed the baby for the 2-3 weeks while mommy gains full mobility? (Daddy? Nanny? Grandma?)
2. Who is going to wash the bottles? All the time? Or just once a day? Or once a week? What? (If you buy 6 bottles they will need to be washed and sterilized once a day, less if the mother can regularly breastfeed)
3. Who is going to change the diapers? All the time? Most of the time? (Expect up to 8 diaper changes a day until they hit 6 months old. If you change less than they need they will get bad rashes and generally make life miserable because you were to lazy to do the work to change the diapers regularly. And just because life is like that, even if you do change the diaper often enough, they will also get rashes when you change the diapers enough anyways)
4. Who is going to wash the baby? All the time? Most of the time? Some of the time? 1 time a week? 3 times a week? (They will need at least one bath a day although if they don’t puke or pee or poop on themselves sometimes you can get away with a 48 hour gap)
5. Who is going to feed the baby? All the time? Most of the time? Some of the time? (They will need to be fed every 2-3 hours on an average for at least 90 days and possibly up to 180 days)
6. Who is going to feed the baby when they wake up 2-3 times a night? Are you going to trade from one day to the next? Do the parents have maternity leave to be able to deal with the exhaustion or can one stay at home while the other goes to work? If the partner who has to go to work can’t sleep and therefore can’t work, how are you going to solve this?
7. Who is going to get the baby ready for bed?
8. Who is going to read the baby bedtime stories?
9. What do you do when one parent is sick?
10. What do you do when the baby is sick?
11. What do you do when everyone is sick?
12. Who is going to take the baby for stroller walks?
13. Who is going to take the baby for walks in the park?
14. Who is going to do the grocery shopping?
15. Who is going to do the shopping for the clothes and accessories?
16. If both parents are going to work, who is going to care for the baby?
17. What is the agreed “girl time” for mom to relax and hang out with friends and take a short breather?
18. What is the agreed “guy’s time” for dad to relax and hang out with friends and take a short breather?
19. What are both parents going to do about “hobbies” they had prior to parenthood (because you can for the most part just kiss those goodbye. Seriously, donate that X-Box or playstation to your favorite family member.)
20. Who is going to look after baby when mom and dad need some “together time” because you HAVE TO HAVE THAT or you will burn out before the race is even really going. (Nanny? Grandma? Sister?)
21. DISCLAIMER CLAUSE: BOTH PARENTS MUST AGREE TO REVISIT THESE AGREEMENTS FROM TIME TO TIME TO ADJUST THEM BASED OFF THINGS THAT THEY HAVE LEARNED.
And pretty much anything else you can think of that might become a problem. You need to talk about it before it becomes one, or if it already is one, you need to talk it over until you reach a mutual agreement. And if you can’t reach a mutual agreement then realize you’ve hit a point of cancer that will eventually destroy not only the parent’s happiness, but the child’s as well.
You are entering into a life-long contract with a child, and often you enter into it unknowingly in a head first screaming dive off the side of a cliff with an undersized parachute strapped to your back. That again, is life.
And if you can learn how to deal with it, you can learn how to truly enjoy it. And if you think that was too long for your taste or cut a bit close to the bone, then don’t even bother clicking “read more.” But I do hope that helps and wish you the best of luck in enjoying the full depth and breadth of parenthood.
“Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment”
THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM
This part of the post is only intended to be partially preachy. What gives me the right? I’ve done it the wrong way already and made it out the other side and lived to tell the tale and am better for it. I know I am taking up a delicate subject which can be at the heart of a lot of marital and familial friction because I’ve already been there. This post is being written to address three specific people:
1. The person who is a parent-to-be.
2. The parent who feels that their partner incorrectly accuses them of being uninvolved.
3. The parent who feels that they have a partner who is uninvolved in raising their child.
It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom, stay at home dad, both parents working, etc… I’ve received more than 100 comments, emails and messages from mothers stating that their partner is not an involved parent. I’ve touched on the subject in other blog posts but never flat out addressed it.
As in most problems, there are two sides to this one. Actually there are three sides to this one:
a. The father’s point of view
b. The mother’s point of view
c. The baby’s point of view
I’m writing this in an attempt to reconcile the three. If you are the type of parent who is unwilling to change in the face of obvious facts, then don’t bother reading further. And I am stating this to both mothers and fathers. If you aren’t willing to learn, then there is nothing to find here.
However if you are the type of parent that really strives for excellence in all your pursuits, read on.
THE FATHER’S POINT OF VIEW
Some fathers will automatically assume that a mother who is saying that the father should change the diaper, wash the baby, help feed the baby and so on; is simply unnecessarily harassing them. They may even feel that because they pay the expenses that they are doing their side of the bargain. After all they are financially providing for the family. If their partner happens to snap at them about it, instead of pausing for a moment to understand what is happening, normally they simply yell back or get upset and walk away somewhere to avoid facing the real problem which is in front of their face.
Some fathers will assume that they should absolutely do everything and not let the mother do anything.They either happily or unhappily cater to baby and mothers every little whim and either are happy or unhappy about it, but in the eyes of others simply appear to be a slave.
And some fathers will understand that there is a balance to things based off the circumstances of any given situation and will handle that situation accordingly. He does not try to deal with life through fixed prejudices or slavish obedience to status quo or “what will so and so think.” They have the capacity to observe what is right and act accordingly.
While I believe only the last type of father has any real chance of true success at parenthood, I also believe that unless the father is truly just evil, he is simply doing the best he knows how.
THE MOTHER’S POINT OF VIEW
Some mothers will automatically assume that a father who will not change a diaper, help feed the baby, give their child a bath once in a while and so on; is simply being negligent. This may manifest itself in a silent resentment that every once in a while results in an outburst of violent emotion that often expresses itself with the directed precision of a volcano.
Some mothers will assume that they should absolutely do everything and not let the father do anything. They either unhappily or happily cater to baby’s and father’s every whim but in the eyes of many others simply appear to be a fool.
And some mothers will understand that there is a balance to things based off the circumstances of any situation and will handle the situation accordingly. She does not try to deal with life through fixed prejudices. She understands that more than anything she wants a happy home for herself and her children to live life in. She also understands that communication and being willing to talk about problems is the greatest weapon she has against those things that would seek to deny her that happy home.
While I believe that only the last type of mother has any real chance of true success at parenthood, I also know that no familial situation is so simple as to be encompassed in one simple essay or categorization.
THE BABY’S POINT OF VIEW
The baby’s point of view is very simple. They need love and care to survive. A parent in the truest sense of the term is not necessarily a biological one. Just because you gave the sperm or the egg to create body of the child, it doesn’t make you the parent.
That’s right, being a parent isn’t a natural god-given right. You have to earn it.
You don’t just walk into a company and say “I control every decision made here and determine which way the company is going to go.”
That’s just a company. What thinks you can do that for another human being? You have to earn it.
It is earned through thousands of hours of dedicated work towards helping that baby survive.
It is earned through holding them when they wake up from nightmares and are afraid of the monster in the closet.
It is earned through helping them change their diaper because they can’t do it themselves yet.
It is earned through feeding them because they can’t feed themselves yet.
And it is earned through perhaps the toughest thing of all: living with that child 24 hours a day and providing them with perspective on life until they have enough experience to realize their own. That means saying no, when the easier thing is to say yes. That means sharing with your partner every single challenge that comes with raising that child.
That is the basis of something that the child can give you that no amount of money or success can give you: A deep and unconditional love that expands you as a person and makes you more aware of both the frailty of life and the beauty of it.
If you think that last statement is philosophical hog-wash, then you simply aren’t a parent yet.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
The most important thing for anyone who is considering becoming a parent is to sit down and list out the agreements of what each parent will be responsible for. This is so unbelievably important you have no idea. And DO NOT think to yourself “Oh I know my partner and exactly what they will do.” Love is blind, but unpreparedness is simply stupidity.
You don’t throw 20 sailors on a boat and assume that they all know naturally what to do. That boat ends up on the bottom of the ocean. And so will the marriage that progresses into parenthood without firmly understood agreements.
If you didn’t do this and are now with a child and discovering how painful it is to not have those agreements, the only thing you can do to resolve it is to sit down and make them.
THE PARENT WHO PROVIDES
In today’s society the world has separated the roles of parents to “primary caregiver” and “primary financial provider” or different wordings of the same thing. Some people think that because they bring the money, they are the “provider.” Not true. Providing financial support is only one half of the equation and no more important than the person who provides the care.
Let me be frank:
You can find people who can provide money anywhere. Finding someone that provides care and love is far rarer.
If you are a working mom who has a husband that can provide love and care for you and your child. You are truly lucky.
If you are a working dad who has a wife that can provide love and care for you and your child. You are truly lucky.
If you are both working parents and somehow have the tenacity and courage to still have enough room in yourselves to love each other and your child, then you really don’t know how lucky you are.
That being said, if you work an 8 hour work day, your excuse of “providing for the family” ends when that work day ends. After that is over, it is share and share alike.
Let me state it simpler: being a parent is the only job in life which is a 24 hour a day job.
There is no hiding from it. You can’t turn the baby off like the computer at the office. They are going to keep crying until you feed them or change their diaper or comfort them. And the longer you try to avoid it, the closer you will come to the insanity of irresponsibility.
If your partner is a stay at home mom, or a stay at home dad and you have this utterly absurd notion that they “have the easy job” then you simply need to have the child all to yourself for a week. There is no more exhausting job than being a primary caregiver during the first years of parenthood.
Once the child starts going to school or you get a nanny, then it becomes infinitely easier. But until then, it makes the Boston Marathon look like a 5″ inch sprint.
So get over your prejudices and preconceived notions about what parenting is and “parent up.” For dad’s that means “Man up.” Each parent has to give 100% to even cover 75% of the baby’s needs. The math doesn’t make sense to a scientist but it certainly does to successful parents.
To help you resolve how to do all that, I’ve listed out an agreements form both parents can go through. But if you’ve read this far, then you’ve already it.
Good luck and have a great day.
The Clueless Father