As a new mom, it can be flattering when your children only want you. No matter if it’s a scratched knee, a bedtime story, or that special way you put on their socks, kids gravitate toward Mom. It can make you feel loved, needed, and (after a while) like you can’t be away for more than a moment. Actually, not even a moment. They find you fast.
Children don’t mean to insult your partner by refusing assistance, and they don’t consciously intend to monopolize all your time. (Even though they often do both.) They simply seek comfort. At all times. And they are used to you.
What’s the best way to share parenting responsibilities?
There may not be an official best way that applies to all situations. There may be places where you want to be the go-to parent, and others you want to share. Even though your partner might already want to share in the duties, you might find you need to be the one to initiate communication. Often dads aren’t even aware of a problem unless we communicate our needs.
If you’re like most moms, the bulk of child interaction defaults to you. Plus, we sometimes overlook our need for space and time to ourselves. If we do recognize the need, we either feel guilty or dread the logistical challenges involved. (If you think, “What would I do anyway?” It’s is a clear sign that you need time to connect with yourself.) Remember, you are a better parent when you have time to recharge your own battery. If you’re in a spot where you want your partner to share the love AND have your kids running to both of you, try these three steps.
Step One: Communicate Your Needs
The first step is shining light on the issue. There’s a chance your spouse doesn’t even realize that you’re not in maternal bliss with your kids hanging on you 24/7. After all, that’s what moms do, right? You might need to let him know that you want a more balanced distribution of hang time (so to speak). Approach this conversation by recognizing the benefit of both parents and different parenting styles (even though hopefully you’ve discussed and decided on your overall parenting approach already). When you frame the conversation in terms of a win-win for everyone, especially the kids, you might get even more buy-in. Even if the issue deals more with your child’s behavior, having a conversation with your partner is always the place to start.
Step Two: Create Bonding Moments
No matter how upset your children get when you’re away, encourage your partner to develop his own way of playing and dealing with tough situations. Hopefully, there are already games and things that your partner and kids do together. You want them to be comfortable with each other when there’s not a crisis. That’s the place to start. Then, practice with the ‘crisis’ moments. If your child bursts into tears when you leave the room, have your partner come up with a game, story, or distraction to lessen that reaction and develop a stronger relationship. If you are the eternal boo-boo fixer, then let your husband craft his signature way of dealing with scraps and bruises. (And this could mean giving him the first aid kit and saying you really need to go to the bathroom, like, right now. Whatever works.) Creating time when your kids play with your partner (especially if it doesn’t happen automatically) helps them develop a stronger relationship that will continue to grow as everyone matures. Sometimes you might be able to be home for these shenanigans, and sometimes you may need to physically remove yourself from their space.
Step Three: Remove Thyself
If you are always available, then your children will always want you. It’s good for you and your children to have some time away from each other. This cannot be overstated: It is good for you AND your kids to have time away from each other. Set a regular ‘mom’s out of the house’ time where your partner takes over. It doesn’t matter what you do with this time, but make sure you honor it. Keep to the schedule to give them time to grow and work out their own system. It’s ok for it to be awkward, for the kids to cry, and for your husband to find his own way of parenting without texting you constantly. That’s necessary for everyone’s comfort level. Note: Be wary of controlling what happens when your partner takes over. The benefit of different parenting styles is accurate, and even though it won’t be like you do it – whatever “it” is – everyone will be happier and healthier. And if the house is destroyed when you come home (thus, feeling like more work for you), revisit Step One and continue the conversation.
These three simple steps have endless variations and may need to be revisited as your relationships develop, your children mature, and your needs evolve. Don’t be afraid to have awkward conversations, speak up for what you need, and persist through any uncomfortable behavior from your child, spouse, or yourself. Changing up the expected dynamic is bound to push buttons and bring up emotion. Rest assured that when you can be away without crisis, you’ll be happier and your family will thrive no matter who’s got the snacks.