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Before beginning, I’d like to acknowledge that this article focuses on parenting roles with an emphasis on behaviors that are the statistical norm for each gender. It is not my intention to exclude readers with different life situations or those who aren’t in heterosexual relationships. So while the situations may not relate directly to you, I believe every mother can find value in these words.
From all the moms I’ve talked to who also struggle to prioritize their self care, the biggest theme that pops up is not being able to find the time to meet their own needs. Do plenty of women live this way? Of course. Is it sustainable in the long run? No. That’s why I truly believe in order to maintain a happy household, happy marriage, and our sanity, us women need to learn to advocate for our own needs, communicate them clearly with our partners, and share parenting responsibilities equally.
I also believe we need to reciprocate in listening when our partners communicate their needs back. Because although this blog is geared toward current and future mothers, there are almost certainly an equal number of men out there who feel their needs aren’t being met either.
Sharing parenting responsibilities is a major focus in my Instagram friend, LaTroy Tillery’s, life.
He’s a father of twins, who grew up in a household where his dad wasn’t present. And while I’m sure there are plenty people with fancy titles out there who are considered to be parenting experts, I doubt many of them have a story as inspiring as his.
Meeting LaTroy now, you would have no idea he grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, raised by a single mother of 6. Especially since his life looks so much different now. Today, he lives happily in Atlanta with his lovely wife, Nicole. Together they have adorable four-year-old twins, Moriah and Josiah, and two puppies, Guidance and Grace. While many of us seem to simply default to parent the way we were parented, LaTroy never had a father figure to look up to. So he has a thoughtful perspective on how to be an intentional, hands-on parent that he had to develop all on his own.
He said the biggest lessons for him in becoming the man and father he wanted to be were in practicing a lot more patience, being thoughtful about personal growth, taking responsibility, even reading books to develop soft skills when dealing with his wife and kids, (like How to Win Friends & Influence People, which I read at LaTroy’s recommendation and highly recommend). He also isn’t shy about asking Nicole for feedback and consulting with other men in his life who have parenting styles he admires.
In a perfect world, discussing the expectations you have for sharing the burdens and responsibilities of parenting should begin before babies are even on the way.
LaTroy believes it’s important to make sure you and your partner’s goals align before you begin a family, or even commit to a long-term relationship together. And for those of us who didn’t get on the exact same page beforehand, it’s still an extremely worthwhile conversation to have as you continue to map out your lives together. I’ve known several happy couples who get to the point where they realize one person doesn’t want kids at all. Or one wants another baby, and the other can’t fathom having more kids. So obviously, the sooner you can have those conversations and come to a compromise, the more heartache can be saved.
But being a hands on parent has never been a question for LaTroy. He says it’s so important to him because he and his wife are teaming up to literally change their family legacy. And clearly, they already have. In fact, he hopes his story will do so much more than that. His Instagram bio says “Inspiring Men To Abolish Curses Of Poverty & Fatherless Children.” Because he believes that leading by example will inspire other men in communities like the one he grew up in, to change their destinies.
Husband/wife stereotypes may be outdated, but there is still plenty of gender inequity in assumed parenting responsibilities.
LaTroy commented that it’s absolutely “prehistoric” to think the male (or either partner for that matter) can just kick back with a beer while their significant other does all the childcare. And I think we all wish that approach was long past consideration at this point, but plenty of studies show there is still extreme inequity in the amount of childcare men and women typically do in a heterosexual parenting partnership. Which isn’t to say those are the only couplings where one partner does more in this area.
So my challenge to you is this: how can you find inspiration from LaTroy’s story?
Could it be that your husband or partner wants to be more involved, but you aren’t letting them? This certainly isn’t the situation for everyone, but I know I’ve definitely struggled at times with being a gatekeeper parent. It’s something my therapist and I discussed when I was being treated for postpartum insomnia. I used to say that I was getting up every single night with the baby and she asked why my husband wasn’t helping. So I explained I was worried he didn’t know “how to do it right.” Since I was the one doing all the research on babies and sleep. Yada, yada, yada.
Her advice was that I better get over that thought real quick if we didn’t want to be back for couples therapy a few years down the road because of how that would destroy the dynamics of our relationship. She explained the vicious cycle that creates. Moms are stressed and don’t get enough time for themselves. Their partners try to help but “do something wrong” according to the mom. So she just does it herself from then on. And… repeat.
There is no way out of this except giving up control. (Which is an illusion in the first place, she reminds me!) It’s a really hard habit to break, I’ll be the first to admit. But once you do, you’ll wonder why you weren’t allowing yourself to sleep through the night or get some me time during the day, sooner. I mean really. How much could really go wrong when another responsible, loving parent tends to your child instead of you?
LaTroy also said with twins, it’s a whole different ball game.
They had to prepare ahead of time and be a lot more organized than they may have otherwise been. But they are finding that putting systems in place is the best way to keep their household running smoothly. In their household, they both do whatever needs to be done. In my household, we each have specific tasks or areas of expertise. It doesn’t matter how you do it, what matters is the household and parenting responsibilities are divided equally enough, so neither of you gets burned out mama.
Here are 8 tips LaTroy and I came up with to team up with your significant other on parenting responsibilities for a more harmonious home and to find more me time.
1. Your partner will typically meet your expectations. If you don’t expect them–or allow them–to do something or perform in a certain area, they probably won’t try. So give them space to parent in their own way and make mistakes. Because you certainly aren’t perfect either.
2. That goes along with being flexible to other caregivers doing things differently than you. And guess what? There is more than one right way to give a baby a bath. So as long as the situation is safe, let it go mama. Let it go. Micromanaging is not going to get you anywhere you our your partner want to be. Again something I struggle with from time to time. But LaTroy says the worst thing you can do is break the other person’s ego. Never say they are doing it wrong. Give them confidence and verbal reinforcement.
3. Show appreciation to each other. This is huge in my household. My husband and I both thank each other and build each other up constantly. I mean literally all day. “Thanks for making breakfast babe, thanks for all that you do to make our house so cozy, thanks for letting me sleep in, thanks for watching the baby so I could work out.” On and on. It might sound corny, but it goes a long way. It’s also something Author, Dale Carnegie, mentions to go back to “How to Win Friends & Influence People” for a minute.
4. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, do a brain dump with your partner of all the things on your to do list. Prioritize what needs to be done first, together. Then have your significant other help you tackle a few things from the list. The incentive for the other person being, if you don’t have so much on your mind, you have more attention to give them, the kids, the house, and yourself.
5. He also recommends if you or your partner are readers, to check out For Men Only and For Women Only to gain helpful perspectives about the way the opposite gender thinks and operates. Through the book, he learned to ask his wife what she needs help with when she seems overloaded. So if that’s not enough incentive for you to buy your husband a book, I don’t know what is.
6. I’m so glad he mentioned this tip because it seems obvious, but is easy to forget in the heat of them moment when we are stressed out, overwhelmed, or upset. It is: ASK FOR HELP if you want it or need it. He said women don’t understand how much power they have to “set the temperature of the house.” I’ve never heard this described before, but I think it makes so much sense. Your partner wants you to be happy, but you can’t wait around for them to figure things out on their own.
7. We also talked about the issue where some male partners feel less connected to babies than mothers tend to be. To that he says simply, “be super direct, encourage them to participate, and invite them along to be a part of the fun.” As their connection with the child grows, the more enjoyable it will be for them. Plus, it often gets more fun for everyone, the older babies get.
8. Another great idea was presented by a good friend of mine who trades weekend days with her husband. Each of them take an entire day to themselves while the other cares for the baby solo. Whatever it takes, whatever works, both parents need to find time off from both work (whether out of home or in the home) and childcare throughout the week. Both partners don’t just deserve that. They need it.
LaTroy says he and his wife are raising their future friends, and I absolutely love that perspective. No doubt about it, raising kids isn’t always easy. But it sure is a lot more fun when you do it together.
If you want more positive, uplifting parenthood content from LaTroy, here’s where you can find him, his wife Nicole, and their adorable twins on Instagram. And I cannot recommend joining LaTroy’s email list enough to follow along with his story and be inspired week after week. Finally, look for Nicole’s blog coming soon. She’s an incredible woman with a vision in her own right.
Let me know in the comments below what other ways you and your partner work together to share parenting responsibilities.
If you’re interested in gaining some expert insights, check out this amazing Parenting in Partnership e-course by my friend Modern Mommy Doc, a pediatrician and self care expert.
And feel free to check out my little self care gift shop if you want to treat yourself (or pamper a friend) with something special today while supporting this blog and mama-owned businesses!
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