Dads: How You Can Help
Want to know what question moms get that irks them the most? “Who’s watching the kids?” Or: “Is dad babysitting?”
Because we know you, dear dad, are with the kids. And we know it’s not babysitting (since, well, they’re your kids). The assumption—that you’re the sidekick parent—stings, however. Because no one ever asks you “who’s watching the kids” when you’re teeing off at 6 a.m. on the course or out having drinks with your buddies.
And while these questions from (mostly) well-meaning strangers might be irksome, it’s part of a bigger expectation that mom serves as the default parent, including in households with two working parents. And, this vibe might be in your own home, too—even if it’s unintentional.
Parenting is full of tedious tasks and involves a monumental effort to remember just. so. much. But you can step in and change some of that to co-parent and create more equality in your household. The payoff? A happier partnership, more connection to the kiddos, and a smoother running household. Here’s where you can start:
Take over some of the mental load
The term “mental load” refers to the mentally exhausting task of the organization, planning, and remembering everything that your kid(s) need. One task alone may feel small and even take just a couple minutes to accomplish. But together, they combine into a slurry inside her head that she just might forget her name.
This mental to-do list is long: Where are their school forms? Did I contact the doctor to get them filled out in time for camp? What fingernails still need to be cut? Do they need more summer pajamas? Are they running out of soap? What friend needs a birthday present? And so on.
You can play a huge, earth-moving task for your partner by being the Parent in Charge of a larger, recurring task. Maybe you become the Parent in Charge for your older child’s doctor and dental visits, follow-ups, and forms. Or you’re now the parent who makes sure that the pantry is always loaded with their favorite snacks. (E.g. by setting up recurring Amazon shipments. Make a Costco run every month.)
Be in charge of childcare
Date nights are gold—and you can plan them, too. Along with deciding where to go to reconnect and talk about your week, take the step of arranging childcare, too. It’s made easier through the Helpr network of caregivers since you won’t have to spend time and effort texting multiple babysitters to get their availability.
Don’t wait for delegation
Yes, this is about helping. But the phrase “let me know how I can help,” is, well, a slight get-out-of-jail-free card. Especially if your partner doesn’t take you up on it. Instead, if there’s a long list of things that need to be done on a weekend, for example, choose half and get after it. As for how to divvy them up: If there are tasks that matter more to you or that you don’t mind doing (and know your partner hates), those are good ones to choose. This way, you can both have the leisure time you need for R&R during your precious days off.
Make work work
You know those days where the kids are home—but you both still have to work? We’re talking the Mondays that are school holidays, but not universal holidays. The extended winter and spring breaks. The gap before and after summer camps. The sick days that require lots of TLC? Those days are tough on both working parents to navigate. Maybe your partner has traditionally stepped in as the role of caregiver on these days, while you continued to work as usual.
For some of those days, like gaps in daycare or school, you might want to arrange a sitter through Helpr. However, for other days, you might have to rearrange your work schedule to care for them. If you both work-from-home, this might look like sending your partner to the office in the basement while you take on the role of “summer day-off snack bringer” and “worker.” Soon, you’ll appreciate what a juggling act it is (and how many snacks children require to function).
In an interesting Gallup poll in 2020, men and women were both more likely to say that they perform an equal or larger share of certain household tasks, including caring for children, house cleaning, grocery shop and meal prep, and washing dishes. The reality likely lies somewhere in the middle. Set up a meeting for the two of you after the kiddos go to bed and have a heart-to-heart about what household tasks you both do on a daily basis. This way, together you can come to a common understanding of how you both contribute (you might be surprised!) and make the changes you need to shift to a more equal partnership at home.