I still remember the feelings I felt when I first became a mom. Suddenly there was a tiny person who was depending on me to make decisions for her and care for her every need. I felt the weight of that responsibility, while also experiencing a kind of exhaustion I had never known.
Meanwhile, I was not the only parent to experience this shift in responsibility. While my body had done the work to grow this person and then bring her into the world, my husband would also bear the weight of responsibility for caring for our new daughter. We would navigate becoming parents together, and learn how to share responsibilities and work together in a whole new way.
There are three things about co-parenting I wish I could go back and tell myself as a first-time mom.
- Your spouse cannot read your mind. I remember that lonely feeling sitting in the baby’s nursery feeding her after coming home from the hospital. I could see my husband sitting on the couch watching television, as if nothing had changed in his life. He did not know that I needed his company and his support because I hadn’t told him. The bottom line is, if something is needed or expected, it must first be communicated.
- Let him learn alongside you. This is his first baby too. He needs to learn to change the diapers and dress baby. Don’t just take over when he tries to pitch in. Letting him play a role allows him to bond with baby, which will impact their relationship for the future. Don’t criticize him if he does things slightly different than you. Learn alongside one another, and learn to work together.
- Find a way to share more responsibilities. Don’t live under the illusion that you can “do it all.” You have someone to co-parent with. He is there to share your load. It’s OK to delegate tasks you would normally do, because you just had a baby. Ask him to cook dinner, do the dishes, or run to the grocery store. Take advantage of paternity leave and go take a nap or a shower when you can. You don’t have to do this alone. Trying to will only make you bitter.
It was so important for me to learn to communicate with my spouse, and to work together at parenting. By setting that standard of working together, sharing the load, and communicating well from the very early days, you will set a good standard of expectations for the future.
Wendy is a breastfeeding, baby wearing mother of four who lives in central Illinois where she blogs at TheMessyMom.net.