Many mothers struggle with a husband that doesn’t help with the baby and likely feel frustrated and overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are ways to help correct this that will lead to a happier family and relationship!
Studies show that it is common for husbands to help less with household and childcare duties than mothers (by as much as 35%) despite the fact that over 60% of families have two working parents. Mothers should not be afraid to ask for help, keep communication open, and encourage their husband to bond more with the baby early on.
How do you create household equality, encourage your spouse to participate in household upkeep and childcare activities, and nurture your relationship? The balancing act can be difficult.
Why do husbands not want to help with the baby?
It’s likely when you first got together with your partner you both decided that if or when children come along, you would both be active parents and supportive partners. Sounds like a great plan, right? Often times the reality of having children doesn’t always match with what you had imagined or planned. People and situations can change when babies are welcomed into a family and that can mean that sometimes the duties are split unequally between parents, which can lead to stress, resentment, and other unfortunate relationship issues.
As society works on closing pay gaps, gender equality gaps, racial equality gaps, and other inequities, there are still some that have escaped us, like household inequity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 60% of US households with children under 18 in the home have two working parents and, according to a BLS Time Survey, women who work are still picking up more of the household and childcare responsibilities at home-as much as 35% more. And women who are full-time parents? They’re clocked at working up to 97 hours a week!
Balancing relationships, a career, family or social engagements, and community involvement is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Add to that an unending list of chores and the relentless demands of child-rearing and it’s no wonder that women are tired!
Let’s be fair, it’s obvious that men do more at home or have more involvement with their kids’ day-to-day than in 1950, but despite society’s best efforts, women still tackle more duties around the house and in the nursery. This is not just a US issue, studies in other countries like Great Britain and Sweden show that women are spending up to 60% more time on unpaid work related to household or childcare responsibilities.
Furthermore, in households with stay-at-home-dads women were spending up to 45 minutes more per day than their spouse on housework or childcare duties.
Is this inequity created because men simply don’t, won’t or can’t help at home?
An article in The Atlantic put forth few theories on the why behind the uneven split in the home claim that there are deeper issues at play other than simply, “My partner is lazy.”
- Your Partner is Blind: No, not really, but a suggested reason for the cognitive difference is that men and women literally just see things differently. For example, a male may not see scattered magazines as untidy while a female may see that as an affront to her housekeeping standards and add that to her to-do list. Your partner may not walk into the living room and see the same list that you do. They may just simply see the living room and not the dust, fingerprints, crumbs, or scattered toys…
- Motivating Factors: Your partner may not see the same opportunity in a task that you do. A great example offered was that a woman may see Valentine’s Day party at school as a way to fill an afternoon at the kitchen table by heading to the craft store, organizing a Pinterest-perfect craft, and spending the time to help kids with scissors and glue. A man may not understand the value in all that extra time and effort choosing to head to the drug store grabbing candy and a box of cards instead.
- Simply Cannot Help: While, yes, most women will pick up the slack at home and act as the primary parent while also juggling professional duties, men may not be able to create the flexibility that women can at work. Most employers expect working mothers to need flexibility and understanding in balancing home-work dynamics, but do employers offer that same sensitivity to men? Likely not. Your partner may feel obligated to work strict hours or pursue additional responsibilities and opportunities at work or risk professional scrutiny.
- Sexism: This isn’t the kind you’d expect. Some men may avoid contributing to household or childcare duties because expectations that it may lead to criticism by a spouse. Surprised? One study showed that women were more likely to delegate a task to a child than their spouse because they didn’t believe their spouse would do it properly or up to standard.
These theories may not address all the reasons behind the inequality in childcare and housework. Some women suspect that their partners may not be interested or willing to help with children or housework. While that is unfortunate, there may be some psychological explanations if it seems your partner simply, “Doesn’t wanna,” when it comes to diaper changes and dishwashers…
The 1994 publication, The Gift of Fatherhood: How Men’s Lives are Transformed by Their Children, offers a few explanations as to why women may perceive that men are disinterested or uncomfortable with childcare:
- Delayed Involvement: Many men think that pregnancy and infancy is a time of closeness only between a mother and child. While that time is unique for the mother-child relationship, that doesn’t mean that Dad can’t be involved or excited! Men who feel intrusive or left out of those early stages may experience problems forming a bond with their children later on. The older the child gets, the more awkward a father could feel attempting to create a relationship with the child so they may forego efforts altogether.
- Rejection: A father can sometimes feel rejected if a child prefers not to spend time with him.
- Burden vs. Joy: Parenting is taxing, relentless work, and an overwhelmed parent can sometimes think of childcare or spending time with kids as a “to-do” rather than a joyful task. Dads who have demanding work schedules, stressful relationships, or other outside stressors may have trouble keeping it from spilling into their time with kids and view that precious time as a roadblock to “more important work.”
- Parenting is for Girls: Some men think (or are told) that women have an easier time parenting-that it comes more naturally to women. Men who think or believe that parenting is only for women may view themselves as incapable of being a good parent or that being soft and attentive is an afront to their masculinity.
- Babies Prefer Mom: While sometimes it seems that kids prefer to be with their moms they love and need their fathers just as much! If it seems to Dad that baby might just “like mom better” he may simply opt-out of interacting with the baby to save himself from the rejection or awkwardness of forcing his presence on someone.
- Conflict Avoidance: Some couples may have a difference in parenting styles or disagree with how the other handles situations with the kids. To avoid disagreements, it may be easier to just withdrawal and leave the parenting up to Mom.
It’s important to find out why one parent may not be as involved when it comes to domestic duties. Clear, open communication is key to creating a healthy home environment where both partners feel supported and involved. If perceived inequities are causing a strain, consider seeking some professional help from someone like a marriage counselor or family therapist.
How much should my husband help with the baby?
According to a Pew Research study, since 1965 fathers have tripled the time they spend at home with children. However, it also shows that mothers’ time with children has also increased over the same time period.
Ideally, Dads should aim to spend some time with their children each day. Currently, the BLS shows that the average man spends less than one hour per day on household chores or childcare. However, it may not be clocked minutes that matter, but the quality of the time spent with children or on household work.
Husband is not interested in the baby
That may not be the case!
Maybe your partner claims he’s “just not a baby person,” but sometimes bonding with a child can take time. As Dr. Aaaron Hass shared that oftentimes men view infancy as a mother-child bonding time and may not feel needed or necessary until the child is old enough to play or bond in other ways rather than feeding, burping, and holding.
Husband leaves me alone with the baby all the time
If you’re feeling that your partner has no strings attached when it comes to the house and baby that can be both frustrating and isolating for you.
Hopefully, you’re able to articulate this feeling to him and let him know it hurts to be alone and it’s frustrating not to have help and support with your child. He may actually think that since babies are meant to be with mothers, he may not have an important role to play. Be sure to communicate your needs clearly and without judgment or resentment.
Remember a few paragraphs above, men see situations differently than women, so if you seem to be effortlessly handling it all he may not see a need to pitch in. However, if he actually believes it’s your responsibility, then it may be time to seek outside help or, at the very least, have a conversation about how he can better support you and how he can form a bond with his child from the start!
Should dad help with the baby at night
This task usually falls to mom – breastfeeding or not – and it’s shown that mom loses more sleep than dad when baby comes home. While night nursing and feedings fall to mom, dad can get up with baby too. Dad can bring a baby with a clean diaper to mom for nursing and back out to sleep, can help prepare a bottle, and feed baby a bottle.
It’s up to you and your partner to determine what’s going to work best for your family, but, if mom is needing help at night then hatching a plan for better sleep with dad is a must-do!
Husband won’t wake up with the baby
Just as frustrating as it can be taking on all the nighttime responsibilities is having to start the day before the sun comes up. If you’re nursing or have determined that nighttime responsibilities are up to you then getting some extra sleep in the morning can make a big difference. But if your partner hits snooze or somehow sleeps through a crying baby you’re no doubt rolling out of bed irritated.
Be sure to define clear expectations or share ideas on how you can get the rest you desperately need while also encouraging dad to participate and share the sleep-deprived joy of parenting. Create a routine that starts with dad and ends with mom at night.
What if my husband doesn’t help me with anything?
Like a broken record, it’s critical to clearly communicate the need for help and the importance of an equal partnership-especially when it comes to childcare. Be sure to understand why your partner doesn’t participate in the home and how you can create a more symbiotic relationship. Both parents have special things to offer their children.
5 ways to get a husband to help with baby
Looking for ways to encourage your spouse to experience and participate in parenting? Try some of these methods to get your partner involved!
- Start at the Beginning: When you first crack open What to Expect you can get your partner involved in the pregnancy! Invite your spouse to childbirth, breastfeeding classes, or even doctor visits.
- Ask for Help: From the first day home from the hospital, the simple act of asking for help can create the habit of offering help or seeking ways to be more helpful-especially during those early days where diapers and nursing are non-stop and good sleep is a memory.
- Encourage Dad to Bond: At the beginning, this can actually be asking a lot, especially for dads of breastfeeding babies. There is a lot of work and not a lot of reward when it comes to caring for a newborn. Simply encouraging your spouse to be involved and praising their attempts can be encouraging. There are a lot of ways for dads to get involved with a baby-changing, soothing, rocking, reading or strolling with baby are all great ways to share the load and help with bonding.
- Don’t Do It All: Mothers may have a hard time relinquishing control of some daily tasks due to efficiency or meticulous standards, but allowing your partner the chance to help (even if something isn’t done perfectly) will help them learn and anticipate some duties alleviating some duties and encouraging a more active role at home.
No doubt parenting is easier said than done. Work with your partner to clearly outline expectations, express needs, and communicate effectively and often as a team to help both parents have a less stressful, more equal role in childcare and household duties. You can and should have these conversations often and, if needed, enlist some professional help to mediate these types of conversations like a family therapist or marriage counselor.
Everyone benefits when parents work well as a team!