(New) Division of Labor

In the three years we’ve lived together, my husband and I have (mostly) worked out an acceptable division of labor. We still fight over who does more and who’s messier, but we’ve generally figured out what each of us prefers to do.

Mostly.

I cook unless I really don’t feel like it, then he will. He loads the dishwasher because he insists on fully washing dishes before loading them (I refuse); if he waits too long to load it, though, and the kitchen gets mucky, I just do it my way. And while he deals with the icky kitchen stuff, he never (ever, ever) wipes down the counter or sink or… anything. So I do that.

He does the laundry because 1) I have more clothes and can go longer without doing laundry and b) I invariably fail to finish all the way to clothes-put-away. That said, I did the baby laundry the other day and will probably continue to do so because he puts TONS of detergent into a load (no-no for sensitive baby skin) and won’t follow instructions (like the specific way you must wash cloth diapers).

But I’m feeling like we need to have a sit-down to discuss how we’re handling baby duty. Unfortunately, I have only the vaguest idea what this entails, so I need your help.

Remember, for most of the month of August, my husband will be home with us so I don’t have to worry about preserving his sleep for the sake of his work/ school schedule. We’re all in the same (grumpy, sleep-deprived, stressed out) boat together.

I like to think through “a day in the life” to plan for the future, so here we go (blue is my husband, pink is me)….

Morning:

Baby wakes up

Change baby diaper

Baby hand-off!

Feed baby (breast feed)

Dress baby

Dad gets dressed, pills dogs, etc.

Baby hand-off!

Dad does something…? (What does one do with a really new infant between the eat/ poop/ sleep cycle?)

Mom gets dressed

Adults eat breakfast

… time passes or something?

Change baby diaper

Baby hand-off!

Feed baby (breast feed)

Baby naps

<repeat>

Bath time – Dad!

Bed time:

Dad changes baby into pajamas, reads baby a story, says goodnight

Mom feeds dogs

Baby hand-off!

Mom feeds baby, puts baby to bed

Dad lets dogs out

Middle of the night*:

Mom changes baby, feeds baby, puts baby to bed

*As long as I’m exclusively breastfeeding, I don’t see why we should both wake up (and be grumpy) through the night, but I’m struggling with how to work things so I’m not completely trashed by exhaustion except to ask Joey to do everything except feed the baby during the day, leaving me to nap as often as possible.  I want him to spend time with the baby too, so I figure things like diaper changes and bath time can be his deal since feeding the kiddo will be mine.

Once we introduce a bottle in preparation for me going back to work, opportunities abound, like my husband handling the morning routine all by himself while I sleep longer in exchange for me handling the night duty.

What I don’t have covered here are all of tasks needed to keep the adults functioning, things like laundry and foraging for food (ha). I think we’ll have to have a bunch of easy meals around plus lots of snacks so we don’t have to wait for a “meal” if we don’t want to. I’m almost brave enough to ask my mother-in-law to do the adult laundry (minus undies) to help out like Sara‘s did, but I keep chickening out. This way, she’ll have something she can do to help us (SO HELPFUL) and have a good excuse to come by every week (my in-laws try not to overstep but do want to be around).

I need to find the contact information for the cleaning service we liked and we need to re-confirm our household chore agreements, like if I unload the dishwasher he’ll load it, or if I put the clean clothes away he’ll wash more.  Having a fence will make taking care of the dogs so much easier since we’ll just open the door and send them out rather than chaperoning them. Cats are cake; they remind us when they’re out of food or water and we just do what they tell us. Perhaps we can work out a deal with the teenager who mows the other lawn to mow this lawn for the first month so my husband doesn’t have to worry about that.

So, what am I missing? Where am I way off? Is this too much planning?

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14 thoughts on “(New) Division of Labor

  1. Not that I have a lot of experience, or anything, but I think there will be LOTS more baby sleeping time than you have listed, at least initially. It seems that pretty much all my nephews did for the first two months or so was eat and sleep.

  2. Yes, lots of baby sleep time at first. I think it’s good to think about these things in advance but then to be flexible once the little one arrives. My husband was the primary dog caregiver (and still is really) since I had to feed the baby. I guess I have two things to add. If people offer to help, give them a task. I used to feel bad about saying ok but then thought about when I offer to help. I really mean it so I figure they do, too. And I can’t remember if I mentioned it before but use a crockpot. I really struggled at preparing dinner while hubby was working and I was still on leave. The crockpot made it so much easier because I could prep whenever the baby let me. Seems like she was ALWAYS hungry right before hubby got home. Really puts a kink into dinner prep.

  3. I think it’s great to plan ahead, but I had a really hard time accurately imagining what life with baby would be like. The first couple of weeks are just kind of a crapshoot schedule-wise. You might be feeding him every 20 minutes for a couple of hours and then he’ll fall asleep for awhile (or not!). What was most helpful for me was to just have the offer of whatever help I needed when I decided I needed it. Our plans to have my husband take a nighttime shift have gone out the window because it turns out I’m just better at sleep deprivation than he is…and if you’re breast feeding, there is only so long you can oversleep before engorged boobs wake you up anyways! But I think you’d be great to start with your plan and then just know things will change every day.

    • @E @ Oh! Apostrophe, I wonder how these personality details will play out for us, too. Like, will I be more likely to fall apart if I can’t get X number of hours of sleep in a row since I’ll be hormonal and feeding him? Or will the fact that my husband can’t sleep through the night anyway be good?

  4. Yeah the feeding times could be totally random, also be prepared for cluster feeding in an evening which could mean feeding for a good few hours, so dinner tended to be the man’s job to fix and then eaten over a baby’s head! It’s hard for me to help out on this because I had a baby with severe reflux who breastfed 17 hours of the day and didn’t barely sleep and if did sleep had to be held upright so there was very little sleep for anyone and a lot of screaming and me sitting on a sofa day and night for four months being a zombie.

    I still think a plan is a good idea and I can’t recommend freezing a whole load of meals beforehand enough! Also slow cookers are awesome, then you can cook whenever you get chance and know that it will be ready whenever.

    • @Rosalie, You reminded me to get signed up for that meal-making service again. You go and spend an hour putting together a bunch of meals that get frozen, and they’re awesome. Pricey, but really neat. I’ll go sign up now!

  5. Well…because you asked…you are WAY over thinking this. But, as I have learned, most moms-to-be do (myself included back in the day). Scheduling takes some time to ease into and by ‘time’ I mean at least a month…and it always changes due to the temperament of you and your baby, the environment, whether or not you are successfully breastfeeding, growth spurts, etc, etc.

    My honest suggestion is to sit tight, know you can’t plan it and if you can’t keep from trying to make a plan, at least don’t let it stress you out.

  6. I love schedules, but I don’t think there’s much of a point in having one at first beyond making sure the baby eats frequently, since newborns don’t have consistent rhythms (there is no difference between day and night for them either). Once they are a little bit older, a schedule makes more sense (I wrote about my daughter’s daily routine at 11 weeks here: http://opinionationblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/daily-schedule-little-r-at-11-weeks.html)

    Things that helped me: assigning all non-baby chores to other people for the first month (remember that you will be bleeding, in pain and weak); taking numerous naps and not keeping to my old bedtime/waketime; and handing the baby over to my husband whenever I felt stressed out (it worked better for me to have him as an on-call backup person, rather than responsible for specific times).

  7. Can I just say that this made me tired reading it?? I think it’s awesome to plan as much as you can and try to figure out a system for you and the hus before baby gets here. I definitely think that if you can get your mother in law to do some household laundry, that would be a huge help for you!

  8. I recommend (if your baby can handle it) learning how to nurse lying down as soon as you can. This was game-changing for me (even with an awesome sleeper)!

    Adding bottles so my husband could help with feedings helped a lot, too. Plus he’d been a bit jealous of the bonding I got through nursing, and it was nice to let him in on that.

    I got several recipes from martha stewart’s website for freezer meals. A few were misses, but it was SO nice to have dinners (and leftovers for lunch) that just had to be popped into the oven! And at that point, hot food > taste.

    I’d recommend keeping cut up fruit, veggies, nuts, cheese, etc ready to go during the first couple of months so you can just grab when you have a minute. A lot of eating was grazing for me at that point.

    Our Bradley classes recommended having a list of chores for visitors to do so when they ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?”, you have an answer. We didn’t do this, but it seems like a good idea.

    It will take a while to have a schedule, but we had a basic *routine* which I’d found mentioned on websites. The mnemonic was EASY, and stood for Eat, Activity, Sleep, You-time. At the very beginning, the activity is likely to be diaper change & sing a couple of songs. I liked having that bit of structure for our days (and obviously wasn’t ever like, “No sleeping! It’s time for an activity!”) We do have pictures which, in retrospect, are a wee bit ridiculous–trying to help her play with blocks when she’s 5 days old, but no harm done and now we know for next time.

  9. I have issues with people saying, “all the baby does is sleep”. I just had my first child 4 months ago. Its true, they sleep a lot. Just not consecutive hours. And when you’re not accustomed to getting up every three hours (the getting up to pee during the night is different) – it takes a toll on you. I also felt guilty about napping. For me, pumping and then having my husband take care of one night feeding while he was still home with me was so so so so amazingly helpful. Don’t be afraid to pump and let someone else feed every once in awhile.

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