When you use formal agreements with your partner: How to divide and conquer working parenthood

Posted On Aug 02, 2021 |

By: Rebekah Nanfria, Associate Certified Coach at 3Be Coaching

One of the most common challenges for new parents comes down to the simple question:

“How in the world do we get everything done?!” I mean, like, seriously… logistically speaking, “How do we keep life functioning?”

Pre-baby, most couples have established a way to manage the day to day - cooking, cleaning, shopping, errands, bill paying etc. Maybe you did them together or maybe you handled your “own stuff” or maybe you fell somewhere in between. The reality of adding a baby to the mix means there is more to do and less time to do it (because, you know, you’re keeping a tiny human alive). At this stage, a “divide and conquer” approach can be highly effective. Consider creating a system with explicitly stated agreements about who is covering what. If each person knows what they’re responsible for and “stays in their lane,” life will flow more smoothly. Roles that are blurry and uncertain result in wasted time and domestic tension. “You didn’t take the trash out! - You said you would!- No, I didn’t!” UGH! GAH! “We’re out of coffee! Why didn’t you buy any? You didn’t tell me you finished it!” &%@! What was once a simple misunderstanding can escalate quickly when mixed with sleep deprivation, a fussy baby and the general overwhelm that accompanies early parenthood.

Think about a project at work, each team member has clarity on their responsibilities. When that’s not the case: balls get dropped, time gets wasted, work gets repeated, fingers get pointed in blame. You wouldn’t let that happen at work, so what if you apply the same principles at home?

Start with making a list of all the things that need to be handled. Next, get together and answer the question: ”Who’s it?” Are you outsourcing it? If not, which one of you will be “owner” of that role or job? The other person can help out occasionally, but who will take primary responsibility?

As you divvy up the tasks, consider whose skills are best suited to each responsibility. Is there a task one of you enjoys? Or let’s be honest, sometimes the question is: Which one of us dislikes this role the least? Feel free to change who does what periodically if you’d like, just be sure there is clear communication.

“For example: as a general rule: I don’t touch garbage and dislike emptying bags or rolling bins to the curb. By communicating this, I am striving to avoid confusion and make space for other tasks I’m primed to fully own and execute. My husband doesn’t do dishes. No guilt leaving a dirty plate on the counter and no wondering if the dishwasher is “clean” or “dirty.” These agreements work because they are specifically that: AGREEMENTS.”

Here’s an important tip: 

Once primary ownership over task(s) is taken, the other person does not get to comment on WHEN or HOW the job is done. If this becomes an issue, consider scheduling a negotiation meeting to address it.

By planning upfront, you’ll gift yourselves with time and energy to spend on more of the things you love!