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Housework & the Stay-at-Home Parent

Nov08

by

Amy -

At 16 all of my friends lovingly called me ‘mommy’. My purse held toys, snacks, bandaids, etc. and was known as my diaper bag. All I’ve ever wanted out of life was to be a mother. Fast forward, of course the only one of my friends that desperately wanted kids as soon as possible would be the one to have fertility problems. After 5 years, countless buckets of tears, and lot of fertility meds, I am finally pregnant!

We are over the moon excited.

Here’s the rub: I’m also the breadwinner. After lots of number crunching we have decided that my husband will quit his job at the end of my maternity leave and will be a SAHD. He’s really looking forward to being a father and getting to spend so much time with our baby, but I also know that he’s just really eager to leave his job as it makes him so unhappy.

We’ve talked some about the change in responsibilities. As it stands now I’m in charge of all house cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, money management, and general house repairs. (I’m an engineer, I LOVE fixing up things around the house.) Hubby is in charge of yard work, the pets, and getting dinner on the table. We’ve already said that he will take over grocery shopping, all meal preparations , and for the most part being the main middle-of-the-night caretaker.

My parents come from VERY (my mother was raised Amish) conservative backgrounds, where the women did everything and wouldn’t even think of asking dad to put in a load of laundry or run a vacuum. When my mother heard of our plan her response was that ‘Well if he’s going to stay home then make sure that he is in charge of the housework too.’ I guess it’s easier for her to be okay with it if our roles just become completely reversed. But I don’t know if that’s reasonable. Not to mention I feel incredibly guilty that I can’t be the parent to stay home.

All that being said, my question for you is, what should I really expect/ask for from my husband when he becomes a stay at home parent. I do not think that he should be in charge of everything. If the roles were reversed I’d hate for my husband to expect a sparkling house and dinner on the table by 5 while I also cared for our baby all day. But it would be nice for him to pick up some of the house work. Even if it was just to do the dishes and keep the floors swept every few days. What is asking too much? What is still putting too much on my plate? What is an even distribution when one parent works out of the home and the other works with your kid at home?

Sincerely,

June Cleaver vs. Rosie the Riveter

Oooohh! Ooh ooh ooh! I love this question. And I love you for asking this question. Hell, the fact that you are even aware that this question is something worth talking and thinking about ahead of time tells me that you guys are going to handle this transition just fine, even without a set-in-stone master chore chart or something.

Because YES: A lot of couples don’t really sit down and hash out the changes in roles and responsibilities that come with one parent taking on the stay-at-home role and one parent becoming the sole breadwinner. And then BLAMMO. Unspoken role expectations meet cold, hard reality.

The stay-at-home parent feels devalued and under-appreciated because the work-outside-the-home parent expects them to shoulder everything home/child/pet related…and still seems to think they spend their days lounging around in PJs, eating bon-bons and taking plenty of naps to balance out the late, long nights with a non-sleeping baby. The work-outside-the-home parent wasn’t prepared for the pressure and anxiety that comes from being the sole source of their family’s financial security and feels resentful over the fact that they’re both “missing” huge chunks of their baby’s day but also not given a chance to decompress at the end of a long, crappy workday. Then the stay-at-home parent is like, “YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF HIM WHILE I MAKE DINNER OH GOD I MISS OTHER HUMAN BEINGS,” while the other parent is like “WHY IS THIS HOUSE SUCH A DISASTER IT’S STRESSING ME OUT OH GOD WHAT IF I GET LAID OFF.”

And then you add in a little extended sleep deprivation and it’s a short hop, skip and a jump into a big, ugly fight about how SOMEONE’S mother stayed home and did it all (with no fancy appliances or car or cable TV! uphill in the show! both ways!) and was happy about it, while SOMEONE ELSE’S mother worked and feminism gender roles loss of career identity blah blah dysfunctioncakes.

But good news! Like I said, y’all are going to avoid all of that crap, simply because you are aware and thinking and — TA-DAAA — communicating with each other about it.

For the record, no, I don’t think your mother is right about this one at all. You have it right, even if you haven’t yet worked it out to every last detail. (Which you don’t necessarily have to do, just yet, though my spidey-sense tells me that you are A Planner and will probably do it anyway. )

You guys are — and will remain— equal partners. Equal partners in marriage and parenthood. The WOH parent does not get to be the boss and taskmaster simply because they bring home the paycheck with the numbers on it, and the SAH parent doesn’t get demoted to voiceless worker bee just because our messed-up cultural priorities don’t assign a high dollar value to the tasks of childcare and household management. You guys have crunched the numbers. You know how much daycare, nannies and housecleaning services cost. Now add in what a back-up daycare/nanny would cost (because sick days, holidays, etc.), plus a personal chef (for dinner every night) AND a full-time personal assistant (to run errands, make appointments, phone calls, pay bills, walk the dog, take the dog to the vet and the car to the mechanic, etc.). And then remember that all those job titles and responsibilities are spread across AT LEAST four or five different freaking people. Egads.

Every household has its own division of responsibility that works for them. Who does the grocery shopping and who mows the lawn and bill paying/appointment making/stay-home-while-waiting-for-the-plumber-ing. It sounds like you guys have a good division now, and your sense of what YOU would feel comfortable with if your roles were reversed will help you navigate the coming changes.

I think it would be quite reasonable to assume that your husband can keep the breakfast and lunch dishes from piling up, and run some laundry and a vacuum around the floor a couple times a week. It would be unreasonable for you to absolve yourself from ever having to do any of those tasks again, or to get pissed off at him for not doing them one day because he took the baby on a social/fun outing, or because he/she refused to nap or was sick. (Not that I suspect you would, but still.) Likewise, it would be unreasonable of HIM to treat the SAH gig as some kind of responsibility-free sabbatical/vacation where you pay the bills while he putzes around on the Internet all day while your kid hangs out in an exersaucer.  (Not that I suspect he would, but still.)

Equal partners, equal contributors. Make that the foundation of your marriage and household and it won’t matter so much when the specifics of your contributions shift. Talk about it, listen to each other, and figure it out together. (And adjust/evolve as you go! Planning to plan means sometimes you end up changing the plan!) Let go of your guilt and the feeling that you need to morph into some do-it-all SuperMom to make up for working, because pfftt that. One day your child might come to you with his/her own post-maternity-leave plan and BY GOD, you’re gonna be able to give him/her way better advice than what your mom gave you, because PROGRESS.

(And oh yes, since I neglected to put this in the first paragraph: CONGRATULATIONS! YAY FOR LONG-AWAITED MUCH-WANTED BABIES!)

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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36 Responses to “Housework & the Stay-at-Home Parent”

  1. trish Nov 08 at 11:30 am Reply Reply

    I’m a primary breadwinner mom and my husband is a SAHD. He does work part time some evenings and weekends, so our situation is a little different. 

    Yes, talk about how much housework he can take on, but also know that this needs to be an on-going conversation. Realistically, very little housework is going to get done in the first few months. 

    There will still be dishes and laundry to be done when you get home. I do a large chunk of the days dishes and keep the laundry going (it literally never stops). 

    Above all. Don’t forget or take for granted what the other person does. DH and I started a habit early in marriage of thanking each other for doing housework — even routine stuff. We aren’t as good about doing it for everything now that we have kids and we’re always rushing around.

    Thanking doesn’t make thing equal, but it does any inequalities feel less like taking advantage. And yes, he thanks me for doing my job and I thank him for taking care of the boys. 

    • Olivia Nov 08 at 4:30 pm Reply Reply

      Saying thank you is such a good thing. We say thanks for cooking dinner, washing dishes and taking out out the trash. And sometimes just a big, “Thanks for taking care of everything.” Goes a long way to keep each other from feeling unappreciated.

  2. Kerry Nov 08 at 12:51 pm Reply Reply

    I was also that person in high school who knew she wanted babies and domesticity and everything comes with it…and now here I am working full time with a husband that stays home with our one year old (and three months pregnant). I think you’ll really love being a breadwinner. Most mothers do have to work, and compared to work AND figure out childcare, it’s such a luxury to just leave the house in the morning and know your baby will be perfectly fine with Daddy. You also sound like a very proficient and accomplished person, and in some ways I feel like the female breadwinner role can be the ideal set up for women like you. It’s so easy for dads with super-competent stay at home wives to end up feeling superfluous in those early baby days, switching the gender roles I think really sets you up to be much more equal parents. 

    The biggest piece of advice I’d give is to be open minded about who’s going to take care of nighttime wakings. I’m generally skeptical of the more extreme types of gender determinism…but there does seem to be something to the stereotype that mothers wake up at the sound of a crying baby a long time before dads do, and it’s really no fun to be angrily waiting for someone to wake up. Or to try to punch someone awake while still maintaining your sleep zen. Not to mention that if you plan to breastfeed at all, you’ll probably get about five seconds before he comes back announcing that the baby is hungry. The night wakings really aren’t so bad (or at least, not for the one baby I have any experience with), and for me it was kind nice bonding time, and helped my parenting ego to add those nighttime hours into my column of being primary parent. 

    The balance that my husband and I have right now is that he’s generally pretty happy to do chores in the evening that get him out of the house/give him a little autonomy from the baby. I try to do the things that I can do while also being in charge of her….which varies a lot depending on her developmental stage. Back when staring at ceiling fans was the height of entertainment things were a lot easier than they are now that she mostly loves unstacking my piles of laundry. 

  3. Michelle B Nov 08 at 1:00 pm Reply Reply

    My husband works full-time and I work part-time while also staying at home with our daughter. The BEST thing we did was hire a cleaning service to come in once every other week for a deep cleaning. The best thing we’ve done for our family and our marriage, seriously. I’m able to keep up on the dishes from piling up during the day, prepare dinner, and keep things tidy. The time we used to spend cleaning (and bickering about cleaning) we now spend as a family on the weekends. I also found that I didn’t mind preparing dinner and cleaning up after while my husband takes on bath time and prep for bedtime duties. Honestly, I appreciated the break from the kiddo, and it allowed him to spend some time with her after being away all day. You’ll figure these things out as you go along, and decide what you’re comfortable with. 

  4. JCF Nov 08 at 1:58 pm Reply Reply

    I’m a SAHM, and my husband works full-time (and then some).  We have three kids who are now 6, 4, and 3.  Our division of labor around the house has definitely changed over the years as the kids have grown, and I think it is really important to be open to continued discussions about what is/isn’t working at any given time (which it sounds like you’ll be good at, since you’re already having the discussion now).  

    Our division happens to be very traditional–not because we think it has to be that way, but because it happens to be how our individual interests and strengths play out.  I like to cook and I’m good at it; my husband doesn’t like to and isn’t really good at it.  He works in finance and loves making spreadsheets; that’s not really my thing–thus, he deals with our personal finances.  Etc, etc, etc.  

    Anyway, my point is that I think, much like Amy said, it makes sense for the SAH parent to keep up on things that make sense to get done during the day–keeping up with moving laundry from washer to dryer to pile on the bed (though folding typically happens by both of us after the kids are in bed); grocery shopping and many other errands with the kids; trying to keep up on dishes throughout the day; basic cleanup as it can happen during the day (keeping toys somewhat picked up, sweeping under the table after a meal, wiping up pee from the toddler who is potty training); running the vacuum downstairs when the carpet gets scary looking.  Big stuff (like deep cleaning bathrooms, kitchen, etc.) tends to happen on weekends.  

    It helps me a lot that my husband is very gracious by thanking me when he gets home and sees that the house is clean, dinner is made (or on its way), and the kids are happily engaged in a fun activity.  He’s also very gracious when he gets home and the house looks like a toy bomb went off, dinner is hot dogs and baby carrots, and the kids are weeping over the injustice of being alive.  On those days, he changes out of his work clothes quickly and digs in to the work ahead.  This isn’t to say we haven’t ever had to hash out our differences regarding the division of labor, just that each of us tries to get done what we can, cuts themselves and the other partner slack when it doesn’t, and tries to help out whenever possible.  Oh, and ordering staples on Amazon (diapers, formula, baby food, toilet paper, etc.), grocery delivery, etc. are amazingly helpful and should not be overlooked.

    • JenVegas Nov 08 at 2:57 pm Reply Reply

      100% Agreement with what JCF says about having an open and continued discussion about all of this.
      You don’t really know what you’re getting into until you actually get into it with parenthood. So you can have all the plans in the world with the best intentions but find yourself struggling. So DEFINITELY make this division of labor something that is revisited every once in a while. Just to check in with each other and make sure it’s still working for BOTH of you and the baby. Cause sometimes vacuuming isn’t always as easy as it sounds. And YAY Congrats!

  5. Kay Nov 08 at 2:18 pm Reply Reply

    I’d like to echo the advice you’ve already gotten and add my experience. I think the most dangerous thing you can do, besides not communicating at all, is be inflexible in whatever plan you agree on. Be open to changing it and accept that it might just not work.

    I am also the breadwinner and I was frustrated beyond belief at my partner’s inability to deal with night wakings. It very much turned into feelings of “I’m working full-time AND up all night with the baby, rawrr!”. But eventually I had to stop “keeping score” of who was doing what and see us as a team, each with different strengths, in the care of our child. And then 6 months later I got promoted (yay!) and had much less time to spend at home (boo) and suddenly was going back on all my promises about how I’d do housework at night after work and would cook several times a week. It ended up that I carried us the first 6 months and my partner carried us the next 6 months.

    Bottom line: Plan, but in pencil, not pen.

  6. Sarah Nov 08 at 3:47 pm Reply Reply

    Beyond the practical details of working this out, I’d like to comment on a much smaller detail here: to the LW about her mother…..way to go for your MOM that she isn’t shaming/blaming you about not being the one to stay home and that she is open to your husband not only being the one to stay home but also thinks he can handle the housework.  She may have uber-traditional views on in-home/out-of-home work, but I think this shows a flexibility in mind and opinion that is a great start…..and signs of an awesome grandma.

    • kerry Nov 09 at 12:24 am Reply Reply

      I want to second this too. Yay for your mom!

  7. Olivia Nov 08 at 4:12 pm Reply Reply

    My husband stayed home with our first for about two years while he was in grad school and now I’ve been home for 18 months with our second. We had a fair division of labor before having kids with both of us cooking, washing dishes and doing yard work; and other chores were done according to aptitude and interest. I don’t mind laundry and vacuuming and he has a thing about scrubbing the toilet, for instance.

    All of that has remained fairly constant since having kids. The kid stuff is just extra for both of us, and whomever is staying home with them will of course do more kid related chores and maybe wash a few extra dishes because we are home more and using those dishes for breakfast and lunch. And he’s been doing the yard work more on his own while I keep the kids inside and out of the way. But really, same as before, just more of it because we have two more people.

  8. Anna Nov 08 at 5:46 pm Reply Reply

    Same boat! But our baby is one, so here’s my advice a year out. Amy is totally right, nobody gets to assign jobs and you have to sit down together. The working parent needs to understand that the exchange is daycare for the workday. You don’t pay a daycare to do the dishes. That’s a whole different division of labor. 
    Honestly, for the first few months, accept that nothing gets done. Whatever arrangement you make will take months to settle. Be okay with it. Embrace it, it wont last forever. By 4 months you’re over the homebody, dirty house thing. 
    Then divide everything that can’t be done together. If you can do it together, do it! It may seem dumb to both fold laundry, but it is twice as fast, no one has to owe the other, and it helps everyone keep a pulse on the tasks at hand. By both partners knowing how much work each task is, you are actually more likely to get it done alone. We do a ton of chores together, but some days I come home to all he cleaning done and sometimes I spend Saturday doing a little extra. The other thing is grocery delivery if possible in the beginning. Then family shopping once baby is about 5 months. 
    Last piece of advice, weekends=extra baby duties for you.  Dude needs a break.  
    And happy hours all around. We grab drinks or snacks after work as much as possible so that my husband gets out of te house, he has a reason to shower at nap time, and we celebrate the day together. 

  9. DebC Nov 08 at 5:52 pm Reply Reply

    This actually happened to us unexpectedly. Because our son was born at 30 weeks gestation our Drs recommended not putting him in daycare for the first year. We quickly crunched the numbers and figured out that not only was it most financially appropriate, it also fit our personalities best for my husband to take on the childcare and me to go back to work after my (generous) maternity leave.

    It has all been wonderful and difficult. As with anything, huge benefits and sacrifices for all involved. I think that my biggest take-away has been to adjust my definitions and keep things in perspective. Is that the way I would have cleaned it? Would it be my priority to do that instead of this? Often, my answer is no. Because there are a million things to do and we are only two people. And we’re two DIFFERENT people and so we have different priorities/ways of doing things. I am trying (mostly successfully, but sometimes not) to step away and ask myself if anyone is in danger, or if there’s potential for other types of harm. Always the answer is no because otherwise it would be a priority for my husband as well. And then I do it myself. Or I talk with him about why it’s important to me and we discuss pros/cons/etc.

    We now have two amazing and rambunctious boys and have been negotiating and trying to perfect our methods for the last 5 years. We’re not perfect yet and never will be but we’re (mostly) enjoying the journey. What we thought would be our lives for one year is now OUR LIVES. And it works. It will for you, too.

  10. Jenny Nov 08 at 6:01 pm Reply Reply

    A couple of practical things:

    1. Be prepared for your husband not to do some housework like you would do it or even how you would like it done.  You may have to pick some battles on what is going to be important.

    2. I’m not married, but I know that one of the (small) battles that my parents had over this type of thing is that my Dad just didn’t see things that needed to be done.  Part of that could be because he wasn’t the primary caregiver, but part of that was simply because was a man ;)   Obviously, you don’t want to give him a ‘to do’ list, but realize that he might not SEE what needs to be done around the house (i.e. laundry—out of sight, out of mind) and maybe at some point he’ll find that a list is useful.

    • Holly Nov 08 at 6:15 pm Reply Reply

      Second this SO MUCH. My hubby has no problem if I leave him a list at any time – because he literally will not see what I think are glaring things that need to be done. He’ll walk around a pile of laundry directly in his way for DAYS if not told to please bring it down and put it in the wash. And be specific if you do want him to do something in a certain timeframe – saying “could you clean the bathroom this week please?” will likely translate in his mind to “Sunday at halftime in seven days” when you really meant “Wednesday at the latest.”

    • Kerry Nov 08 at 8:19 pm Reply Reply

      This extends to childcare too. One of the most glaring differences I noticed early on with the stay-at-home dad thing is that our daughter just needs about half as many outfits as any other little girl I know, because playing dress-up just doesn’t make his priority list. Pajamas all day, every day! Another big difference for me was realizing that my husband was not my nanny…he was going to get to make his own decisions about her meal times, how they spend the day, etc. It was a lot to let go of for someone who likes being in charge, and who considers raising children to be her number one priority (and who has been reading an internet advice column that centers on babies fairly frequently since college), but I am growing to respect his unique parenting style and feeling less like his crowds mine out as time goes on. 

  11. Holly Nov 08 at 6:10 pm Reply Reply

    I’m surprised this hasn’t come up yet in the comments, so here’s my two cents: Drop your standards for when/how often chores will get done to about 10 percent of what they are. and then drop them even lower – and be OK with that. I’ve been both a breadwinner and a SAHM in the 2.5 years at different times since my first came along (my second is now about 4 months). And regardless of which role I was in, particularly during the week, my husband and I could each manage ONE chore on weekdays other than feeding/tub/bedtime for our kids. Sometimes its the dishes. Sometimes its folding a load of laundry. Ocassionally its a toilet cleaning or vacuumng. errands = nada. deep cleaning = haha yeah right. yardwork = what were you thinking? Even if we had “time” in the evenings, after 8 when our kids are in bed and the dinner food is put away, well. 8:30 is a nice bedtime when your kids are tiny and you’re in the trenches :) Or you just want to veg out. Or you have exactly 20 minutes until someone cries and you’re going to make use of that with a little adult fun. Or you want to go for a walk by yourself because by yourself! So YES have a plan, I’m a planner too and I love lists and schedules and flexibility as you need it. But also know that you’ll be shifting to an extremely less “productive” gear of life for at least a couple of years :)

    • Autumn Nov 08 at 7:01 pm Reply Reply

      Standards are lower, and that’s a good thing.  I wasn’t super uptight about everything being perfect before our daughter was born (she’s 2) and things definitely slid a bit.  

      I work 3 days a week, and I’m home with her 2 days.  I consider a good day is the dishwasher is unloaded and reloaded with the dirties that occur, she and I are fed, and I have something started for dinner (at least defrosting . . .) and a load of laundry done.  Folding, not so much.  Introducing Laundry chair, the place where all the clean clothes get piled out of the drier.  I’ll wash and dry his stuff, but he can organize his dresser how ever he wants.  The best part of my day home with her is when all of that stuff is done, and she’s still sleeping.  A glass of wine and a book for me for the last 30 minutes of her nap.  Mommy time.  

      The other thing we do is each of us gets a day to sleep in on the weekends.  I usually do on Saturday mornings, he takes sundays.  Its so refreshing and just nice to think “the child noises I’m hearing now aren’t my problem to deal with”.  

  12. Autumn Nov 08 at 7:04 pm Reply Reply

    And another thing:  On the SAHP will deal with all night wakings.  Communicate!  I felt so bad for one of my friend’s martyr like attitude of “he works so I must get up” with a 12 month old who never slept through the night.  She got up 2-3 times a night for over a year cause she felt she wasn’t working so it was her “duty”  She was a wreck.  You might benefit from giving your husband a “night off” just so he is well rested, depending on how your baby sleeps.  

    Congratulations!  Your planning and communicating will help you be a great Team Mom and Dad:)

    • -k- Nov 08 at 10:22 pm Reply Reply

      I work from home part time and my husband works outside of the house full time. Cosleeping and breastfeeding have made it practical for me to take on night wakings. I do them all, and he is on breakfast duty. He cooked breakfast pretty much every day for most of our daughter’s first year of life; these days we usually flip flop on weekends so that I do breakfast and he does lunch/dinner. But especially when there were/are sleep hiccups it is such a relief to not have to deal with a baby on the hip and moving eggs around in a hot pan with one hand, not to mention being able to eat without juggling a tiny human. 

      TL:DR version: even if he does the night wakings there are things you can do to ease the burden. 

  13. Melanie Nov 08 at 8:34 pm Reply Reply

    I agree that communication is the key and knowing that things may change even daily. I’m a SAHM who had a great professional job before so I have a complex about making up for my lost income (much more than to be brushed off by the cost of child care). I think of housework and all things child related between 8 and 6 as my job. I guess my goal is to make it so that evenings and weekends can be family quality time. I cook dinners and do clean up while DH has quality time with the LO during bath time. Realistically when he is home we probably split baby duty 60/40 and I’ve covered the majority of night wakings since his paternity leave.
    Now with that said… I am not Wonder Woman and some weeks our house doesn’t get cleaned how I like it and some nights we have bean and cheese quesadillas for dinner. If I ask hubby to sweep the floor or vacuum once in a while he doesn’t get to complain. My post is getting long but this is what has worked for us for 21 months. I will also note that I can get more actual cleaning done now that DD is old enough to want to “help.” Now I just have to giggle about the little footprints running through my freshly mopped floor.
    Congratulations and good luck! Don’t be afraid to ask each other for help when you need it and I think someone already said this but don’t keep score because it will never be even.

  14. Julie Beth Nov 08 at 11:23 pm Reply Reply

    Congratulations, and you’re obviously going to be awesome. This is a totally assvicey, but I’d like to second the idea of bed-sharing – especially if you’re breastfeeding – even for a little while. It’s worth a think over, because if you feel you’ve missed a lot of time with Wee Baby during the day, that bonding at night can mean a lot for both of you PLUS you will all wake up less harshly when all you have to do is barely open your eyes to stick a boob in. And sleep saves everyone’s sanity. Good luck!

  15. Meera Nov 09 at 12:04 am Reply Reply

    The differing standards for quality and frequency can be an issue where prior and ongoing communication is really helpful. What helped us as to sit down and agree on how often things needed to be done and what was included. It sounds nit-picky, but it can be surprising how different interpretations of “clean” can be! And then revisiting them as you go depending on resources. While housework goes up, leisure and entertainment expenses generally go down, so maybe getting a cleaner might be in the budget after all.

  16. JR Nov 10 at 2:55 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve gone from working full time to part time to currently SAHM. One thing we argued over was what time my husband would get home.  It varied greatly and I was always mad when dinner was burnt while waiting for him.  Now he texts me when he leaves so I have a better time frame to start dinner.  I like to do meal prep during nap time so dinner is easier.  It is amazing how much longer things take when you may or may not be interrupted to take care of children. Another challenge is that I need to make sure to include him in parenting decisions and discipline- he’s ok with me taking lead but would like to know the plan.  As for chore distribution, I find that things that can be interrupted easily (like house keeping and laundry) are easier to get done when I’m home during the day.  Yard work is tough because who wants to be interrupted with a crying baby 20 min into a dirty job.  One of us does yard work in the evenings or on the weekend.  I try not to plan more than one errand out of the house because I find it hard to schedule around naps and everything else.  Final advice is to be kind to eachother and appreciative of what you do and it will all work out ok.

    • Kate Nov 10 at 5:05 pm Reply Reply

      The variable arrival home messing with dinner is one of my major pet peeves as well. I would always call in the later afternoon and ask when he was leaving work but after a few dinners got ruined because he’d decided to stay later without telling me I went the other way and started waiting for him to get home before starting dinner. It only took about a week of not eating dinner until 8 pm before he got pretty good about letting me know what his ETD/ETA was and sticking with it. Another thing that helps with this is using the crock pot. I always thought it was silly because I was here all day (more or less) but it turns out that it’s much easier for me to prep dinner in the morning and throw it in the crock pot than be trying to cook at 5 pm when the kids are craziest. Then once it’s cooked you just leave it on warm and it’s ready whenever you are!

  17. Kim Nov 10 at 5:03 pm Reply Reply

    This may be something you determine later.  I am the SAHP.  However, I do not handle sleep deprivation well at all – I go psychotic pretty quickly.  My husband, on the other hand, has sleep apnea and has dealt with sleep deprivation all his life, so he could cope.  He always took at least one night waking (pumped milk.)

  18. Kim Nov 10 at 5:09 pm Reply Reply

    Here’s the other thing that surprises people: how dirty the house gets when there are people in it all day every day.  BC, I’d clean the kitchen at night, and there’d be a cereal bowl in it when I came home.  Now – I use that kitchen 2-3 times a day, and in between I’m carting kids around, packing snacks, etc., etc.  People talk about the increased laundry, but the mess is not all due to the fact the SAHP is busy or tired or lazy.  The house is being used, period.
    (We got cleaners.  I love having cleaners.  I drive a van with 226K miles on it, but someone comes in and makes sure that my toilets and floors are clean, and that is awesome.)

  19. Kate Nov 10 at 5:10 pm Reply Reply

    Am I the only SAHP who isn’t solely responsible for grocery shopping? Surely we can’t be the only people who think grocery shopping with kids is a PITA and to be avoided at all costs. So, my husband does all of the quick trips during the week on his way home from work and I do a bigger trip on the weekend if necessary. 

    • Autumn Nov 11 at 1:12 am Reply Reply

      I only have one daughter (she’s 2) and she loves to go grocery shopping with me.  She gets mad when we go home without going to the store, even if just going home from day care (I work 2-3 days a week).  Now if I had more children, I might change my mind, but now it’s a big exciting thing in our day.  

    • Olivia Nov 11 at 2:51 pm Reply Reply

      I’m the SAHP and I do the grocery shopping alone. I drop the kids off late Friday afternoon at husband’s work (he’s a high school teacher) and I go shopping. It’s a nice little break at the end of the week for me.

  20. Jill Nov 11 at 8:30 am Reply Reply

    I agree that this is one of those things that will evolve over time.  In the beginning with a newborn nothing will get done (and later on you will wonder why because how hard is one baby?).  I am a SAHM to 4 kids 4 and under.  I have gone through periods of my house being complete chaos and times of having a pristine house just because I liked it that way and had a kid (or two kids) at ages when I could.  I nurse and have typically dealt with all the night wakings (my husband is military and either up at 4 to go to work or out to sea so I’m on my own).  If he is on leave or home on weekends we alternate night feedings and also who has to get up with kids in the morning and who gets to sleep in for an extra hour or so.  Also on weekends we try to have one person take kids somewhere while the other does a deep clean of the house.  During the week I keep things liveable-level clean (right now I have two almost-crawlers so I vacuum daily, but at times it’s been worse).  I agree with Kim (above) that the house just gets way more dirty when people are in it all day.  And also Kate (above) that grocery shopping with kids is its own special hell.  We usually have one person go do a huge shopping trip or go with only one kid so it’s more manageable.  Good luck, OP, and congrats!

  21. Maree Nov 11 at 8:34 am Reply Reply

    lots of the above is great so I won’t repeat it. Just wanted to say as a SAHM is that I look on cleaning, meal prep, shopping and kids as my ‘job’ at the moment. This however doesn’t make me a servant! This means that I don’t do things others should do for themselves (think picking up after yourself, rinsing your dish, making your own bed etc). The level that others should do for themselves varies with their age and ability. Also since all these things are a ‘job’ I do get to call in sick occasionally, take a day off now and then and also renegotiate my duties if necessary!

    I think where couples go wrong is that they both find their new roles really hard and assume that the other partner has it easy compared to them when in reality both working and caring for kids is really difficult at times.

  22. Wade Nov 11 at 5:10 pm Reply Reply

    One suggestion on night wakings with a tiny baby — we found that if I got up, the baby was always hungry.  But if he got the baby, then sometimes she’d just go back to sleep:  ”Food?  No?  Then I’m tired.”  Once we got her mostly sleeping through the night, night wakings were my problem, since she woke up, nursed, then went back to sleep and there was really nothing for him to do.  Then when we night weaned, it was back to Dad’s turn.  So figure again it is something that may change!  

  23. Suzy Q Nov 12 at 7:44 pm Reply Reply

    No advice  from me. Just sincere congratulations on your pregnancy. I wish you all the best!

  24. Danielle Nov 13 at 10:33 am Reply Reply

    I have to agree with the other commenter who said to drop your housekeeping standards by 90+ percent. There are just so many things that need your time. I’m not saying to let the house become a health hazard, but as long as you’re keeping up with the sticky/germy messes you might have to let some of the other stuff (are there really parents who vacuum twice a week??) go.

    Also, one other thing about those night wakings. If you’re working full time and breastfeeding, your baby might start reverse-cycle feeding, which I discovered was a thing when I went back to work with my second (now six months old and still doing it). Basically, since they’re away from you for long stretches during the day, they’ll nurse frequently at night to keep your supply up.

  25. Hermia Nov 13 at 7:02 pm Reply Reply

    I work and my husband stays home, and I do/have done all of the night wakings. Partly b/c for the first year we were nursing anyway, and partly b/c it just worked out that way. When we needed to do some heavy-duty night weaning (and b/c I was at the absolute end of my rope), my husband took over nights for a few weeks and got her sleeping again. We’re about to do that again for a final push. 

    Housework has been a constantly-shifting arrangement. My husband works part time in the evenings, so he doesn’t have a ton more time than I do, so we’ve both done the best we can and left it at that. And then this year I put my foot down and we got someone in to clean. So now every other week we have to pick up all of our junk and someone else comes and wrangles the dust bunnies into oblivion. Much better.

    Oh, and don’t be a gatekeeper. Your husband will parent differently than you might. That’s ok. Also don’t let him do the same to you. If life on weekends looks different than life during the week, that’s ok. Short of hitting or neglecting, neither of you is going to be doing it “wrong.”

  26. Jillian Nov 21 at 6:55 pm Reply Reply

    1. Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    2. One thing I didn’t see above: If at all possible (If you have paid maternity leave), have your husband “start” as soon as the baby is born. I’m the wage earner in our family and the three months we had together as a family both times I had a kid are among the sweetest time of my life. If you can possible do that for yourselves, do.
    3. We found that, very quickly, the kid gets a vote on division of labor. Whenever I am home, I’m on point for caring for our boys. They miss me all day, and are very invested in getting my attention when I get home. That’s both wonderful and exhausting. My husband tries to take all the night duty, but often the boys insist on me. I don’t see them all day, so I’m not prepared to say no to that.
    4. I would extend your discussion beyond the “what” to the “why.” If I came home to a nuclear meltdown house and my husband had been piddling on the internet all day, I’d be mad. If I come home to a nuclear meltdown house (not uncommon) because my husband is doing awesome things with the boys, that’s totally fine. Sometimes the house is a WRECK and we are much happier as a family since we agreed to just not care about that.
    5. For us (YMMV) a clear division on chores works very well. We both like to cook, so we do kind of divide that on the fly. If no one feels like cooking, sandwich night! But I literally do not know how to operate our washing machine and he does zero child scheduling (doctors, schools, haircuts, etc). However the division breaks down, and we do sometimes switch it up, our rule is “no complaining unless it is a VERY BIG DEAL.” I don’t offer my opinion on how he’s cleaning the house. I’m just happy it gets done at all, even a little bit.
    6. In the first few months you will be in a lovely kind of triage mode. Forgive yourselves and each other absolutely everything as you work it out. Other people have made that point, but it bears lots of repeating. Give yourself the kind of care and compassion you would want for your child.

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