HOW TO GET YOUR PARTNER TO HELP OUT MORE
Becoming a parent is something that throws everyone’s life into chaos. Nothing is ever the same after a baby comes along; including a relationship.
You would be surprised at how many times I get messages from people saying “my partner / husband / wife never helps out, how do I get them to help me?” or “how do I get my other half to see I need help”? Both questions usually make me sad, because parenting is a team effort – on all fronts.
However, sadly a lot of women (and men!) out there, who are in a relationship, feel like they’re doing this parenting thing alone.
I have been very fortunate to have a man in my life who is more than happy to share the responsibility, but the road hasn’t always been smooth. Because one thing I’ve learned about being in a relationship, communication is key. It’s very easy to communicate in our brains and forget to verbalise it to the other person. My husband often says ‘you need to tell me when you want something because I just don’t think about it”.
So I’ve done a little research, and written down my own thoughts as to what you can do TOGETHER as a couple to ensure this parenting thing is done equally.
1. THE PARENTING ROLE
One thing everyone needs to remember, and I did touch on this above, is that “helping out” is not the same as “sharing the responsibility”.
By “asking for help”, you are implying that YOU are the one who does it all and needs help. In fact, parenting is actually something which requires shared responsibility.
If you are in a relationship, and have a child, then you are both equally responsible for looking after the child. Just like before you had children – you probably divided up the housework, or took turns cooking dinner; parenting is the same.
However there will always be things in life which means “the balance” is not always precisely 50/50, and that’s fine. Sometimes a partner works longer hours, or someone enjoys cleaning more. Life isn’t a perfect balance all the time; it’s more that a relationship is about supporting each other in one way or another.
If you thought life was hard before having kids, then having kids is really going to throw a spanner in the works. It’s very easy to get consumed by everything baby related – feeding, burping, sleeping, REPEAT times a thousand. This also means things get overwhelming, and suddenly something small becomes something huge.
Someone doesn’t wash the dishes turns out to be a signal for World War 3.
Not that I’m a professional in any way, but my biggest piece of advice is talk to each other. Tell each other what you want. Often a lot of arguments in our house came down to the fact that we can’t read each other’s minds.
Don’t only talk about what you want, talk about how you’re feeling. I know it sounds corny but parenting strips us bare, wears us down and drags us through the mud. It’s bloody difficult. So the more open and honest you are with not only your partner, but yourself, the easier it will get.
If you’re the partner here, and someone is asking you for help – then please listen. Breathe. Take it in. Communicating in a relationship is great, but listening is also great. There’s nothing worse in life than asking for help and no one listens; especially when it’s said directly to your face.
If you’re the one asking for help, then you need to listen too. Listening is a two way street, just like communicating, and relationships.
4. LET THEM HAVE A TURN
When you first have your baby, it’s easy to want to do everything, because you feel so close to them. Often the partner doesn’t get the opportunity that you might, in which case you need to let them have a turn.
It’s really important that your other half feels like they’re playing their part. Settling a baby, once you have fed them, is one way you can do it. I used to feed the kids, and then get Phil to put them to bed. Often because I was too tired to do it myself, and my husband had no problems falling asleep easily (bastard!) …
Again, you will need to talk to each other honestly in order for this to happen. Don’t expect them to read your mind – ask that they do something. Or offer “would you like to do this?”.
5. DON’T CRITICISE THEM
Everyone learns differently, but most of us learn the best by practising; and making mistakes. We all make mistakes. Try not to criticise your partner if they don’t do something the way you do it.
We all do things differently, and just because your partner chooses to do something in the complete opposite direction to yourself, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
One of the best ways I learned (and it wasn’t easy), was to leave the room and just let Phil sort it out for himself. He has a wonderfully relaxing way of parenting, which works beautifully with the kids. Did I stress the first few (thousand) times he looked after them alone, heck yes – but it is necessary.
Even if you’re breastfeeding, you can feed your baby, hand him to your partner and go out for a walk. You’ll then come back refreshed; and partner and baby will have had a chance to bond.
6. TALK SOME MORE
I am always adamant that talking is the key to a lot of things in life – and if we were more open and honest, life might be simpler. Keep talking about what you want and need; and how to work through it together.
“Hey Phil, I really need you to help me with dinner so that I don’t have to worry about it because I’m finding it really hard to do everything at 5pm” OR
“Maria can you please make up the bottles before you go to bed; it just means I have less to worry about when I wake at 1am”
Parenting is bloody hard. There’s no denying it, but it’s truly an amazing journey.
Feeling like you’re doing it alone, when you’re in a relationship, makes it a thousand times harder.
If you’ve done all of the above, and you’re still feeling like you do everything: housework, cooking, cleaning, washing, raising babies, etc; then perhaps you need to take a look at your relationship. You need to start communicating with each other, and truly sit down and chat about it.
We ALL know it takes two to tango. So if you’re truly struggling to communicate, and be listened to, then perhaps you need to take a step back.
I’m certainly no professional, however I am a firm believer in both parents pulling their weight. So if you’re having serious problems, then perhaps seek counselling..