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Open Thread: Feminist Co-Parenting


Hate the term, love the practice

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Open Thread: Feminist Co Parenting | A Practical Wedding

Before we had a baby, David hated the term “co-parenting.” Living in a hippy co-op in college destroyed David’s love of both management by consensus, and anything that sounds oozingly liberal (like co-parenting, apparently). I reminded him of this recently, but he was too tired to remember his previous irritation. The truth is, as much as we both find the term co-parenting vaguely annoying, it’s pretty central to the way we try to approach raising a kid. Having an egalitarian marriage is hard work, but there are times that egalitarian parenting feels near impossible. We spend most days trying to remember that we’re supposed to be co-equal at this.

In this post, I’m going to talk about relatively gendered parenting, where one person (normally a woman) ends up being the person who carried the child and/or is the primary caregiver. If your situation is different, we’d all love to learn from you in the comments (seriously). The tricky thing is, both biology and culture lay the groundwork for things being fundamentally unequal. If you end up parents by biological means, after nine months of carrying the baby, a nursing mother is, by default, the primary caregiver. During our early weeks of parenthood, I would spend eight to ten hours a day nursing, with David providing backup support. Even now that nursing has reduced to far more manageable levels, I still have a different kind of bond with our baby than he does. In the kiddo’s mind, Dad is for play and hugs, but Mom is what provides the core stability in his life (nursing = comfort).

But it’s not just biology. We live in a world that is structured in a fundamentally unequal way, when it comes to parenthood. It’s not just that people’s judgement about us having a child in daycare falls completely on me. It’s that in the workplace, there is a near universal unspoken assumption that men have wives to back them up. It’s harder for men to leave work every day to pick up a kid from daycare. It’s harder for men to ask for the flexibility they need to serve as co-equal partners.

All together, and even with the best intentions, you can fall into patterns that you don’t want to fall into. Mom picks up baby from school, because Dad can’t get off work. Mom takes baby to the doctors, because Dad can’t get off work. Mom is the one to run and pick up baby when he falls, because baby starts screaming for mom.  Mom has a hard time functioning during the day, because she’s the one up at night nursing the kid. Creating a true co-parenting situation can be damn hard. It’s more than possible, but it takes a lot of work as a couple, a lot of conversations, a few fights, and constant fine tuning. And I’m not convinced we’ll ever get it quite right, though we’ll die trying.

Recently, APW commenters asked that we compile a list of questions you should discuss as a couple before you start down the road to kids, as part of an open thread on feminist co-parenting. In my book, I was able to put together a concise starter list of questions you should ask before you get hitched, and I imagined this list would look much the same. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that asking questions isn’t exactly the right model here, though knowing how to ask questions of each other is really important. The problem with simply asking questions, is that the answers you give before you have a baby might end up being different than the answers you’d give after you have the kid. This isn’t because “parenting changes you,” but because situations change. You might decide in advance that as in interfaith family, you’ll never have a Christmas Tree. (We did.) And then when the baby is born, you might realize that emotionally, the tree is something you can’t quite give up. (Me! Sigh.) You might decide that you’ll stay home, and then your partner might lose their job, and it all goes out the window.

What’s important, is that you take the time before having a kid, to make sure your relationship is on a solid foundation. (Working on all these issues is a really good idea kids or no kids, but a potential baby really can add immediacy to a situation.) This a great time to consider visiting a couples counselor for a little tune up. All couples have a few issues that they’re working on (and might be working on till the end of time) and it’s easier to try to reach stability on these issues BEFORE you have a baby screaming in your face at one in the morning, who just. won’t. stop.

These are the areas where I’d suggest working on your foundation, before a baby (or two) arrive on the scene:

  • (Un) Equal Division of Labor. Here is where I’m going to suggest something crazy—before a baby arrives on the scene, it’s helpful for the male/non-primary partner to be pulling more than their fair share of the load. The reason that David and I have been able to survive our first year of parenting as well as we did was simply this: David was the cook, and David was the alpha on cleaning. When we added a baby into the mix, I still ended up doing significantly more than 50% of the labor. But if David hadn’t been rocking it out already, I would have been left with nearly 100%, and our marriage might have buckled under the pressure. (Time to teach them to cook!)
  • Money. Maybe, for whatever list of complex reasons, you haven’t combined your finances. I would humbly suggest that now is the time to get on that. Even if you are both returning to the work force, chances are, one of you is going to be taking a big financial hit with maternity leave. Plus, you now have combined your genes, so combining your wallets is nothing after that. That little human needs to be supported by both of you, and you now have a future that needs to be jointly planned for. You have a laundry list of potential things to plan and save for: daycare (or as we call it “private school”), a house or apartment, baby clothes, the kids food, you know, college. It’s not so much fun to say “Your turn to buy him clothes this time,” or “Can you treat me to dinner? I can’t afford it, with daycare, since I make so much less than you.” (That said: we still keep our own checking accounts for spending. Babies mean stress, and stress means you sometimes need to buy electronics without asking permission. Plus, it’s funny to go dutch on dates, and make the waitress think you don’t know each other that well yet.)
  • Sex. If there is a myth of marital bed death, that has nothing on the doom and gloom you’ll hear about never getting laid again after the kids come to town. Unsurprisingly, the reality is more complicated. Sex after kids can be hard. It can be physically hard (I thought six weeks after you were FINE. Then my OB informed me that was… less than the total truth.) Plus you’re tired, there is a new person in your house, your body is different, the works. Having laid the foundation of a good sex life can be your saving grace here.
  • Family. You know that problem you’re having with your extended family(s)? YOU know the one. That thing where you can’t say no to your mom/you’re still splitting Christmas when you don’t want to/your father-in-law is homophobic and you don’t know how to deal/etc.? You don’t have to completely sort it out now. You might never sort it out completely. But now is a really good time to make sure you can have a conversation with your partner about it. If you shut down every time your partner tries to talk to you about your mom’s emotionally manipulative behavior? Do the (shitty) emotional work to fix that situation now, before you’re fighting over how mom’s manipulative behavior is impacting the kids.
  • Career. I swear to god, that after all these years of feminism, it should not be this hard for women to get their careers taken seriously, even after they have kids. But if you find yourself justifying that your job is important, or that you earn good money, or that the work you do is really interesting? It’s time to have a long hard talk with your partner about why what you do is important, and why it will continue to be important (or not) after you have kids.
  • Religion. You have that sorted out, right? If you’re going to take your kid to church, if you as a family are going to talk about God, what it means to you to be Jewish, fill in the blank here? Good. Because if you don’t, totally, exactly, have it sorted, now is the time.
  • Dates. I saved the fun one for last. After kids, it can be really important to prioritize occasionally (or often) getting away to just be a couple. Get into a habit of making each other feel special, and do fun things together now. When people tell you to “Enjoy it, because it won’t be like this after kids,” tell them “No, we’re PRACTICING for kids.” And then go home and practice the sex one too.

So with that, I’m tossing it to you. I’m hoping that lots of you have way more ideas (and experience) with co-parenting than I do. For the parents in the house: How are you practicing feminist parenting? What questions would you suggest couples tackle together before kids? For those of you thinking about kids: What kinds of pre-kids conversations are you having? What are your concerns? For those of you not ever having kids: What is your best relationship advice for us? Let’s discuss.

Photo by APW Sponsor Emily Takes Photos

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Jessica B

    “When people tell you to “Enjoy it, because it won’t be like this after kids,” tell them “No, we’re PRACTICING for kids.” And then go home and practice the sex one too.”

    Get it.

    Also, thank you for this post. I’m looking forward to seeing what readers who are thinking of having children soon-ish are doing to prepare. I know that we’re waiting for another 5 years or so, and that a lot will need to be worked out as far as child rearing philosophies between the two of us (i.e. spanking and why I don’t think it’s good).

    • meg

      Jessica: I totally think that stuff is super important to talk about, but also, it changes (which is good). We both were spanked as kids, and didn’t have a huge problem with it. Now, I don’t think we’d do it. So all the discussion in the world wouldn’t have figured that out for us. NOT that I don’t think everyone should talk about this stuff, you totally totally should. But it’s super fluid, which can be a great thing.

    • CeeBeeUK

      We have a friend who (after we got engaged) told us the same thing. I’m looking forward to starting a family (in a few years). Will it be the same as our relatively easy life now? Will it be worth it to see my incredible future husband become an amazing father? Absolutely!

  • ruchi

    I am a big huge believer in paternity leave. That was the non-negotiable thing we decided upon before he had kids (we were really lucky to both get some paid leave from the state and our employers as well as the ability to afford some unpaid leave).

    In the end, for various reasons, I ended up staying home with my daughter for 12 weeks and my husband ended up staying home with her for 23 weeks. And I think that him taking leave where he was the primary caregiver for our daughter was incredibly important to us staying equal parents. When our daughter was first born, we both were at home for about a month and we were relatively equal. Even though I had to nurse her constantly, my husband did basically EVERYTHING else. And a lot of stuff (swaddling, bouncing, shushing etc) he was much better at. When he went back to work after a month, and I was home with our daughter, I saw him taking a step back, often being like, “You are at home with her, you know what she needs, I don’t know what she needs.” I kept trying to explain to him that I did not exactly know what she needed, but was making it up as I went along, but I don’t think it got through exactly. Then I went back to work and he was the primary caregiver without me, and he realized that I didn’t have magical insights into the baby. And now, we’re both back at work, but on very equal footing.

    • meg

      I think also, jobs can play a part in this. We were both home together for seven weeks, but the difference in our jobs makes the equality question hard. We’ve got one lawyer at a firm, and one person who owns a business. I have a ton of responsibility (I’m the one to manage a team, for example). But it’s easy for things to get shifted to me really quickly, as the one in the non corporate setting. And it’s not just one person shifting it, it’s also the greater work culture at play.

      • Alison O

        Oh gosh, the work culture. No kids, but experiencing acutely the centrifugal force of partner’s medical career in the thick of the residency matching process. About the difficulty for spouses of doctors, one female physician put it, “medicine always wins”.

        Although, in medicine I think it’s part culture (“we are doctors. we are special and fancy and important.” note: partner is not like this) and part legitimate need. I’m more amenable to being flexible around literal ‘life or death’ situations my partner needs to deal with than I am to what passes for a “crisis” in many sectors.

        Still anticipate it will be a challenge.

        • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

          Doctor’s wife here. Yes, the hospital always wins. We’re on a break from residency (he did internship and is now on a 2-3 year tour as a flight surgeon before going back for the last two years of residency) and trying to get pregnant while he’s working fewer hours (albeit with weeks or months away on deployment). Co-parenting is never going to be a complete reality for us because I work half as many hours as he does. He’ll never be able to leave the hospital to pick up a sick kid or do those kinds of things and I’m a teacher, so I can. Overall though, this is more of a doctor thing than a gender thing. We know a couples where dad is the primary caregiver because mom is a doctor and couples in which both partners are doctors and they’re looking at live in nannies or grandma moving in because daycare doesn’t open early enough or stay open late enough and neither of them can go pick up the baby when daycare calls about a fever. It’s not that the workplace questions a dad’s need for flexibility in this case, it’s that there isn’t flexibility, period. It’s like I tell my middle schoolers, fair isn’t always equal. We’ll work toward fair, whatever that ends up meaning for us in terms of the work surrounding kids and home, knowing it’s not going to mean equal.

          • Alison O

            I agree the issue isn’t the medical workplace specifically questioning the dad’s need for flexibility nowadays, but this got me thinking. I do think medicine’s structure is the way it is in part because it’s been a heavily male profession (in some specialties, still very much so). To varying extents, this is the case with almost all jobs. Over the last several decades, workplace and family issues haven’t gotten complicated merely because women started working, and that changed the dynamic of things at home and at work, but they are particularly complicated because most traditional jobs were originally designed for men. This is why it’s still tends to be more complicated now when mom works and dad stays home; the jobs are not gender neutral, even when you still have the same basic structure of one parent home and one parent working.

            Medicine’s also inflexible because of healthcare spending issues, the fact that it’s a 24/7/365 field and one in which telecommuting is generally impossible, a shortage of docs (esp. in primary care and certain geographical regions), people are compelled to work a lot to pay off med school loans, etc. In my opinion, the corporate/service sector really has no excuse for not doing better because they have a lot fewer real constraints than medicine.
            There are not enough docs = real constraint.
            We/shareholders need to be richer (so we must work all the time) = mmm not really real constraint.

            Chicken and egg, though…if medicine were more family friendly, I’d guess a lot more women (myself included) would be inclined to enter the profession, resolving some of the shortage of docs constraint, esp. in primary care. (I know it’s also a medical school capacity issue, though.)

          • Kelsey

            That’s interesting, because I had never really thought about the correlation between lack of family friendliness in the medical field and the lack of female doctors, but its totally true. My favorite teacher in high school decided to switch so that she could be a more involved mother when she was ready to have kids–she wanted to be at the soccer games and parent teacher conferences. I switched from pre-med to pre-pt for that reason (among others. I also really want to get to know my patients).

          • H

            Actually, there’s a whole different debate (since now 50% of doctors coming out of medical school are women; Yes, really, pause to think about that. now for the Yay! cheer) of whether this is a good thing or not, and is causing the shortage of some doctors to get worse, considering there is data showing that women leave medicine to take care of their kids more often than men. Do I believe this? No. But examples (both written by women) of the argument:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/opinion/12sibert.html?scp=1&sq=sibert&st=cse

            and http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/should-women-be-doctors/

            Why? Because the physician shortage is a weird thing. It’s in some specialties but not others. It’s in rural areas, but not urban. etc. etc.

            In any case, I’m absolutely terrified of becoming a mother some day because of this precise issue. My husband and I are both medical students (not in the same year – so matching is a subject we both have no control over and omg. potential stress.) We’ve talked about it and because of the realities of having a baby – it will probably happen in the last two years of medical school or the first couple years of residency, and whoa. that is just too soon mentally. How are we going to get this to actually happen since we don’t even know we’ll be in the same city? Is it even possible for there to be appropriate childcare? Will I feel guilty over this? How will my stay-at-home mom react to this business? I’m sure I’ll get told by everyone that we’re doing it wrong. So um. Yeah. Anyone got personal stories of how they get through it?

            The women at my school have taken to asking the guys who get paraded around as paragon examples what their wives do. Answer: Oh they stay at home. or They’re a student. REALLY!? THIS IS NOT FEASIBLE FOR US. Do you peoples not get it?

      • Kirstin

        The corporate culture is a hard one to deal with.

        My fiance just spent four months doing both his own work and a coworker’s while she was out on maternity leave. He actually lost a number of his own vacation days (which is not only paid benefits going down the drain, but meant we couldn’t travel to visit family together this summer) because he wasn’t allowed to take off work while she was out. While it was frustrating to me and wish they would have come up with a different plan for coverage, I am appreciative that she was given the full leave, I don’t hold that against her at all.

        However, I highly doubt that his company would do the same when the situation is reversed and we have children and it is his turn to take leave. He won’t be given the option to take the full four months, or ask her to cover his full workload. They will tell him he’s too important to be out that long, and won’t give her any of his work. And then if he does get any leave at all, he will be even more stressed because he is still covering his responsibilities. They will, of course, assume the baby is my job. That’s what really irks me.

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      I absolutely agree with this. My husband having significant amounts of time where he was the primary caregiver, and it was just up to him to figure out how to do that, was hugely important in developing an egalitarian parenting relationship.

      But even if that’s not possible, I think it makes a big difference for the primary caregiver to respect the parenting abilities of the non-primary caregiver. Early on I felt like I was better at interpreting our newborn’s cries, but instead of taking her away when he was bouncing her even though she clearly needed a diaper change instead, I made low key, respectful suggestions (“Maybe see if she needs a diaper change?”) and then shut up, and walked away if I needed to. Because seriously, the baby’s not going to be hurt by not getting their needs met immediately. It’s more valuable that my husband felt that I trusted him to figure out what the baby needed, than that the baby stopped crying immediately.

  • Lindsey d.

    Does anyone have any advice about to adjust to marriage at the same time as adjusting to pregnancy/new baby? Our current plan is that I move in in late December, we get married in mid-March and we pretty much immediate start trying for a kid (we’re getting old, y’all. Also, knock on wood). Not sure how all of this is going to work without causing major stress. I’ve NEVER lived with a significant other and I haven’t even had a roommate in five years. We are pretty good on the money (planning to combine accounts immediately after my house sells), career and religion (although I can’t yet promise to give up my Christmas tree either, despite “going Jewish”). I like to think we are pretty good at the sex. The rest… ???

    • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara Downey Robinson

      So I worked in the opposite order (pregnancy>baby>get married) and I think that the pre-marital/pre-baby counseling we got was instrumental in helping us communicate needs so things went way better. And we were really kind to each other as we sorted out our baby family in the larger context of each other’s extended families. That kindness seems so simple, but it really went a long way.

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      Talk talk talk talk talk. I don’t think you need to have everything figured out before the baby’s born, (because anyway how could you predict what issues will come up?) but what was most useful for me was having a very solid idea of how to argue with my husband. Basically think about how you argue about your relationship with your mother in law when you’re both exhausted and you’re PMSing. Try to get to the point where you’re confident you’ll be fair and kind (more or less) to each other even in that kind of argument.

      • Shiri

        This is brilliant. We’ve been together for seven years and I somehow feel like it’s only since we got married a little over a year ago that we learned how to argue. And on the one hand, I think it’s maybe because we’re doing it more, but on the other, we’re definitely actually dealing with the things at hand now when we do argue, and I’m grateful for that. I think it’s a constant process, though, but having the technique is so important, and I hadn’t thought of it that way.

  • Jobonga

    I’m only six weeks into this parenting gig and it’s been so hard to adjust to a new reality from what was a fairly balanced relationship. Nursing really throws everything off! I think for me the major challenge has been trying to avoid letting resentment build between us. My husband has picked up all the cooking and chores and is on diaper duty most of the time. We’re both exhausted and at capacity, but the loads look so different. It’s hard not to feel like the grass is greener over there – I’d love to walk the dog and cook or escape to Target, and he’d like to just sit on the couch with the baby all day (what nursing looks like).

    I think the key is to make sure you both respect the work the other person is doing. It’s hard to be kind to each other when you’re exhausted and stressed. This newborn stuff is temporary but we may also be forming new patterns of behavior and I want to make sure we learn how to treat each other with respect and patience even when we’re not at our best. Still working on this!

    • Anon

      We’re both exhausted and at capacity, but the loads look so different. THIS! We don’t yet have kids (working on it), but it’s a good reminder for sharing the day to day loads too. Just because the loads look different, it doesn’t mean the loads are inherently unfair.

  • Laura C

    I want to stress that this is completely anecdotal, but in my observation, couples do a lot better at splitting parenting work when they both stay home for a while when the baby is born. The people I’ve known who thought first mom will take her parental leave and then dad will take his and that way we won’t need to pay for child care as soon, it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Mom got the baby when it was new and exciting and she set all the patterns, and then dad tried to take over when mom was the Expert Who Knew Stuff (even if going into having a baby, dad had more experience with them) and the baby wasn’t as new and exciting and in general dad just didn’t have as much ownership. Whereas the couples I’ve seen who were able to take a couple weeks together right at the beginning, they’ve built their partnership around this new task more smoothly.

    Of course, for a lot of new parents this is all hypothetical on account of lousy American leave policies.

    • Amanda

      Even if Mom & Dad can have a few days home *together* after the baby arrives – even a week – I think this could work. Simply seeing all that goes on to care for a new child can really open Dad up to a better understanding of what goes on all day once he is back to work (using the stereotypical example here).

      Some of those early days my husband would come home and I would cry and be distressed that I didn’t get anything done that day (and, most likely, was still in jammies). He would reassure me that CARING FOR OUR CHILD was “getting stuff done”. He only was able to stay home one week after babe was born, but he really was able to understand that it’s a lot more than sleeping when baby sleeps.

      And agreed – lousy parental leave in the US.

      • meg

        Oh god. You guys? I think the person who goes “to work” has the easiest job X10. Our month where I was half home with the baby and David was at work? Not our finest. He came home mid day once to change for court, and I was in yoga pants covered in spitup unable to get the baby to sleep, and he was like “Gotta go!” and then I nearly killed him. True. Story.

        Thank god he totally got that being alone with the baby was the harder job, otherwise he would be dead now.

        Also, not everyone is cut out to be home alone with a kid. There is a lot of guilt about women that don’t want to do this, but it’s better for me and the kid when we’re not home together all day, and that’s not uncommon!

        • Rachel

          Meg, I am literally sitting here with a two month old in my arms trying to will him to sleep and wanting “exactly” this a zillion times. J went back to work after the first two weeks and although he works long hours in a stressful environment I don’t think he understands that some days I would happily trade. I go back to work in three weeks and there is definitely a part of me looking forward to it … but oh th guilt on my shoulders.

          • meg

            I loved going back to work. The kid loved going to daycare and finally getting social. Guilt, be gone!

    • ruchi

      My husband took the first month with me and then the rest of his leave after I went back to work. So I can’t speak to whether or not being at home together at first results in more equal parenting, but I will say that I was pretty unable to take care of my daughter on my own after the birth. And I had a vaginal and relatively easy delivery. But recovering from pregnancy is hard. I think our society is crazy for expecting new moms to handle a newborn on their own. If your partner has to go back to work, import help, be it family, friends, or a paid postpartum doula.

  • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara Downey Robinson

    Co-parenting is challenging. In my personal situation there is a lot of mom taking off from work because child had injured himself at school; child is sick; child has done god only knows what. But I will admit that is because I suck at co-parenting and think I handle those issues better than my husband. In reality he handles them just fine. Just not the *way* I would have handled it. Most of my co-parenting obstacles are self-imposed.

    I think the one place we’re really winning in co-parenting is that we really support each other in choices and taking risks. Discipline, yep, total support for each other. Navigating weird family issues, yep. Development/education interventions, yeah (even though it was eventual support on this one). And we support each other in continuing to realize our own personal ambitions outside of parenting while still making sure there is total support for the child in place. You know, things like work functions, hockey, roller derby, teaching classes, crafting -we seem to easily tag team in parenting.

    And one of the most important things we’ve always supported each other in was knowing that hard times won’t last forever. The boy won’t be 2 forever. We won’t have a “dry spell” forever. Eventually folks will expect the boy to be in school and they won’t judge me anymore.

    • meg

      Exactly. “This too shall pass,” is the most helpful thing anyone taught me about parenting. The good (chubby hands! two teef!) and the bad (4:23am wakeup? For REAL kid??) That’s kept me going at every step, actually. I’m glad I was able to enjoy those teeny tiny baby snuggles, even if life was in total disarray. Just looked at newborn clothes, and wanted to snuggle the tiny baby that was once in them (since my huge baby wears 18 month clothes.)

      • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara Downey Robinson

        sigh. It goes so fast. What I wouldn’t give for one snuggle with my tiny baby now. Now as in clear-headed not sleep deprived and able to enjoy that amazing little newborn without fear of breaking him. And so it goes, right?

        • Alison O

          I think this is related to the glee and amazement I’ve seen expressed by many new grandparents, even those who weren’t expecting it. Snuggles and fun and witnessing your own babies raising babies with relatively little responsibility for the yucky parts.

        • erin

          Wait until they hit the double digits, and your precious little baby isn’t a baby anymore and sasses you and wants to wear tiny cut off shorts because “that’s what EVERYONE wears, Mom” and never wants to just cuddle with you anymore.

          That said, the same ten year old can pour her own fucking drinks and takes her plate to the kitchen without being asked and doesn’t need to be carried around and can entertain herself in the morning, etc. So . . . not so bad, after all.

  • ruth

    Being almost 8 months pregnant, I am just SO excited about the timing of this post.

    I feel incredibly lucky as my husband is as invested in I am in having an equal partnership, but OMG, the biological realities of pregnancy and nursing are intimidating.

  • LBD

    Mine would be, if you’ve been putting off going to a therapist together to deal with some of your issues as a couple, particularly communication, do not put it off any longer if you’re thinking of having kids. As I’d mentioned in a Friday Happy Hour thread, my therapist became unavailable due to injury at the same time I found out I was pregnant. The big silver lining has been discovering how far we’ve come as a couple in communication and trusting each other with our feelings since he started joining me for therapy every so often a couple years ago. He’s able to provide me with a lot more emotional support than he could before, and we can talk about hard things without triggering each others stuff, in particular impending parenthood. We’re much better at listening without letting our stuff get in the way, or at least being able to be honest about how our stuff is interfering with our ability to listen. I’m still incubating the kiddo of course (~18 more weeks to go!), but I’m pretty certain based on how we’re weathering the stress of my pregnancy together, that we’re in a lot better place for parenthood now than we were before we got our communication game better.

    • http://alacartealbums.com Jane

      Yes Yes Yes this so much!

      We went in for exactly this, making sure our communication skills were up to par and we were all on the same page before bringing kids into the world in a slightly more challenging family structure (we’re a triad). That was 11 years and two kids ago, and we still go back to the lessons we learned about each other and how we express ourselves (and what buttons we push) all the time.

  • Annie Ms. Preggo

    So excited for this open thread!

    Any words of wisdom for navigating these waters as a stay-at-home mom? We’re still figuring everything out, but staying home is a definite option (with the acknowledgement that it is not a feminist decision, but may be the best decision for my family). I’m a little terrified about losing my identity under a mountain of laundry, housework, and baby chasing. This nytimes article from a few months ago had me rather terrified, and apparently it has stuck with me:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magazine/the-opt-out-generation-wants-back-in.html?ref=magazine

    • Shiri

      I think this article (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/08/201381615448464851.html) is a really good counterpoint to the Times article. I’m childfree at the moment, so I have no SAH advice, but try not to let that article get under your skin – that are a lot of other viewpoints on the “opt out” generation and what’s happening to them now.

    • CBB

      Hi! I’m thinking about this right now as I have a tiny one due in April. I’ve just never been a very ambitious person, nor am I the kind of person who gets bored during stretches of not-working. (I was not that kid aching to get back to school in July, and I truly enjoyed a few months of being purposely unemployed a couple years back.) That having been said, I strongly self-identify as a feminist, and have a lot of cultural shame around the idea of being a stay at home Mom–I would never judge another woman for making this choice, but I’m a pretty harsh judge of myself.

      What it comes down to is this: It’s true that day care will be nearly equivalent to my take-home pay and that my husband makes much, much more money than I do (a recent development, I carried us for a long time), blessedly allowing me the freedom to even consider this option. It’s true that I think I would genuinely enjoy staying home with my baby for a year or so. It’s true that I’m not wedded to the idea of staying “on-track” career wise. BUT, it’s also true that I worry I’ll feel embarrassed, judged, and resentful of myself and of my husband (who is equally supportive of either choice).

      Agh. It’s a minefield.

      • N

        I’m not saying that you should or shouldn’t stay home – you should do what’s right for you and your family. But I personally have always tried to avoid thinking of it as ‘all of my salary goes to childcare.’ Instead, I think of it as ‘part of my salary goes to child care and part of his salary goes to child care’ because it’s OUR child. And I think that investing in both of our careers is a valuable goal because it will ensure that we can both continue to earn income in the future. It’s also important to acknowledge that neither of our time is free. If one of us stayed home, we would be foregoing that income so it becomes a hidden opportunity cost rather than an obvious day care costs. Just a different way to frame it.

        • CBB

          I totally agree–and that’s how, when we were originally thinking about daycare, we framed it. But, when you look at the raw economics, my working or not working in the year after our baby is born will make almost no difference, monetarily, which is where the “my salary” business is coming from.

          Of course, that doesn’t take into account future lost wages from having lost a year on the ladder.

          • N

            It definitely gets harder when there’s an income disparity. We’re struggling with that ourselves, so no advice here!

          • meg

            You gotta do what’s right for you guys, and fuck the noise. Seriously.

          • Chase

            I’m also due in April (whee!) and we’re in virtually the opposite situation – I make more money and have much better insurance, so my husband is planning on being a stay-at-home dad. I don’t know if this would be useful for you, but he’s working on picking up freelance assignments, so if he needs or wants to rejoin the workforce later, he won’t have a glaring gap on his résumé.

      • Bethany

        I don’t have any wisdom to offer here, but I feel exactly the same way. You’re not alone. (And neither am I! Yay!)

    • Rachel

      i don’t know if this will help you but I found joining a new moms group helped me keep my sanity and self in check. you can google MOMS international and find the club in your area.

    • Alison O

      I remember feeling after reading the article (admittedly it’s not fresh on my mind) that the problem was not SAH vs. career but a lack of strong communication and partnership between the spouses and deep reflection on individual and collective values and goals. Maybe an unfair characterization because the article didn’t go deeply into the relationships, but that’s the sense I got…. Like, if it wasn’t the child/career stuff that led to divorce for some of the couples in the article, it would have been something else.

      You can’t predict the future, and you can’t have perfect, complete information to guide you in the present. But I think if you have a strong foundation and you’ve done the work of ‘finding’ yourselves as persons and a couple, then you just gotta have faith.

    • Bethany Jane

      Pre-babies my husband and I worked similar technical jobs, though I earned 1.2 times more than he did (I have the CS degree in the family.) I arranged to take nearly a year leave of absence (living off of savings) after the babies came– since we were having twins and these would likely be our only two children, I wanted to be sure that I felt like I was getting enough time with them. (My husband took two weeks of paternity leave immediately and then took one day a week for the next 9 months afterward.) I wasn’t sure how I would feel but it turns out that I really enjoyed my time away from my job. When the time came for me to go back, I resigned from my full-time job and returned to work part-time (20 hours or less) instead. This is a non-intuitive, non-feminist decision, from a person who considered herself a strong feminist, but I seem to be so much happier. This decision had nothing to do with the cost of childcare and more to do with my using the kids as an excuse to get away from a high-pressure job that was rewarding and draining at the same time. (Choosing to work part-time instead of being a SAHM is based partly on needing time away from the kids (these 14mo boys are exhausting!), wanting to keep my hand in the technology world and bringing in income.)

      As a part-time employee outside the house, I’m doing the majority of the childcare, housework and cooking, but I feel like my husband’s still doing a decent amount. It’s something we talk about and recalibrate occasionally. Some points of friction include my spending time on things that are important to me but not to him (like cooking much of their food myself) or things that he wants to spend money on that I don’t think are worthwhile (like having housekeepers come twice a month (yes I know we’re spoiled).) How do we resolve these issues where the end result is of different values between him & I?

      As someone else noted later on in the comments, having twins is a nice equalizer. And though I wouldn’t recommend it overall, having a C-Section meant that he was the first to change a diaper and do the majority of the care in the first couple of days, while I struggled to recover from major surgery. When he’s around he still does most of the diaper changes but I did have to twist his arm a bit to get him to feed the kids meals (he disliked how messy it is.)

      I think we have further to go and I have a lot more to think about this topic. Our most common arguments are usually based somehow around gender and stereotypes (this has been the case since before we had kids though.)

      • MK

        Your choice seems majorly feminist to me, actually — maybe if we just looked at a “snapshot” of the end, it wouldn’t, but because you tried it out and said “wow, I think I would really like to only work part-time, because of this and this and this reason.” That’s incredibly feminist!

        It would be “unfeminist” if you were like “I have to stay home because babies and that’s the only choice I have –no choice.” But your careful reasoning is what every family should be able to do!

        Best wishes with your boys!

        • Vera

          The only not feminist choice in working/SAHM is “I am a women therefore I have to raise the kids, and my spouse is a man therefore he must work”.

    • Kestrel

      Just one tip, from someone who was raised by a mostly stay-at-home mom, and someone who is friends with people who had complete stay-at-home moms.

      For the love of all that is sacred, do something besides be a stay-at-home mom as soon as possible. Just pick something – doesn’t have to be a job – but something.

      I had a great relationship with my mom – she worked part-time as a music director (starting when I was about 2) and most of her work was done at home. So even though I was around her all the time, it didn’t feel like her existence was based around me. There were things she had to do, and I had to learn to deal with that.

      My friends that had 100% stay-at-home moms that didn’t do any work (volunteer or otherwise, except for maybe the PTA kinda deal) all grew up to kind of really resent their moms and had a really difficult time moving out. Their moms are also somewhat lost now that their kids are all adults.

      So just make sure there are other things going on in your life besides just kids – it will be better for everyone in the long run.

    • Caitlyn

      I think you need to realize that assuming staying home with your kid is not a feminist decision is NUTS!! If it is the best decision for your family and what YOU as a woman want – then it is a feminist decision! I know this is kind of an outdated reference, but a scene from the show “Six Feet Under” really stuck with me, in which the matriarch of the family explains to her teenage daughter that staying at home with her kids was exactly what she always wanted to do and therefore it was a feminist thing to do. I loved it (clearly since it stayed with me for so long).

    • Adrienne

      I know others disagree with me here, but I’m a huge fan of the “feminist means being able to make your own choices whatever they may be” type of feminism. As a feminist, I want to empower you to make your own decisions whether they’re working full-time or staying at home. If that’s what you want to do. Personally, I’m just against when you don’t have a choice or you feel like you’re making that choice because you have to.

  • Amanda

    I refrain from using, and even *correct* women (ever so politely) when I hear them using, the phrase “Dad is home babysitting”. Because it is not babysitting if it is your own child.

    Also – when Dad is with baby, if I am home or not, Dad changes/plays with/soothes baby as he sees fit. I don’t “tell” him how to do it, or tell him he isn’t doing it “right”. Let’s be real here – in his 4.5 months with us, I don’t have all the answers! I don’t necessarily know what’s “right” for the baby any more than Dad! Sometimes Dad asks if he’s doing it right – and I always respond with “if baby is warm/dry/happy/soothed, you are doing it right”. We share tips and tricks that we find work for us, but I have forced myself to let go on my type A personality and let Dad parent the way he wants to. Down the road we will of course have to be on the same page as far as discipline, etc.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      I hate that expression with the fire of ten thousand suns and call it out every single time I hear it, because bullshit. “Playing Mister Mom” too. HATE.

      • Shiri

        People STILL say that?! “Mr. Mom”!! Oh, I’m revolted.

    • Jessica B

      I’m not polite about it. I say “you mean PARENTING?” when I hear that. It’s ridiculous.

      I constantly tell people the whole “women are more nurturing” line is a total myth and I know equal amounts of men and women that would make great primary caretakers–I also know equal men and women who would be awful parents. It’s a personality thing, not a gender/sex thing.

      • Jacky

        Yes, the “women are more nurturing” thing is total B.S. I basically freeze up around children and have no maternal instincts whatsoever. But my fiance has some kind of magic way with kids, from babies all the way up to teenagers. Plus, he actually knows how to feed a baby and change a diaper and all that other baby stuff because he helped care for his newborn niece as a teenager. I’m actually a little worried that if we have kids, he’ll be a stellar dad and I’ll be a terrible mom and our relatively-traditional families will secretly judge me for it.

        • lady brett

          yes to the stereotyping bullshit.

          but also, nurturing is not parenting. it is part of parenting. an important part, but if that’s all you have, i hate to say, you’re probably not doing so well.

          that’s one reason it helps to have other folks around. i am, um, not nurturing, but my spouse can totally pick up that slack and i can be damn good at things that aren’t her bag too. (and, obviously, i can *learn*, so while holding a crying kid doesn’t come naturally, if it’s important i can *do* it.)

    • Sarah

      The first time I heard from a father, “I have to babysit tonight,” I asked in all honesty “Oh, whose kids?” He rolled his eyes but it never occurred to me that caring for your own children would be called babysitting. We are right to correct people. It’s unfair to everyone involved.

    • GTA

      I totally called my boss out on this the other day when he said he was taking the afternoon off to “babysit the kids”.

      • Alison O

        I am glad to hear so many folks calling people out. Grinning and bearing it might be more ‘polite’ in some situations, but it certainly won’t move us forward.

  • one more sara

    Talk about the last-name conversation WAY before you think you need to. Number one parenting regret I have is not hyphenating our son’s name because I just never thought critically about it.

    • Kate

      Yes. Can more people talk about this and how they made the decision? We’re still a year or two away from kids, but this already causes me stress. Neither of us changed our name.

      • One More Sara

        Well for me, it’s really hard bc of where we live (NL), legally you can’t hyphenate, and all children produced from the same partnership must have the same last name. So it’s a real all-or-nothing type situation. BUT I could’ve gotten around that law bc our first was born in the US, and then to meet the consistency law, all the kids would have to be hyphenated. Bazinga. Alas, we did not think it through, and Kid just has his dad’s last name. Enter regret.

      • CBB

        Neither my husband nor I changed our name, but mine is hyphenated (mydad’slast-mymom’slast). We decided to hyphenate using myhusbandslast-mymomslast. I felt like hyphenation is fairest for us, and I liked the idea of following the matrilineage by carrying over my mom’s rather than my dad’s last name.

        But I was pretty up front from the early days (basically when we first started talking marriage/kids, long before we got engaged) about this being how it was gonna play out, unless he’d rather the kid just have my name. He was fine with it–don’t think I’d have married him if he wasn’t!

        • J

          This is what my brother and his wife did. My brother and I were named ourdad’slast-ourmom’slast (and both of my parents changed their names to that when they got married, before we were born). When my brother got married, he and his wife both changed it to ourdad’slast-hiswife’slast, and now they have two kids with that last name. Their kids are in elementary school now and, as far as I know, they’ve all been happy with this choice.

      • Shiri

        Neither of us did, either, and this is something we’ve started to talk about. I had sort of promised/assured parents that our children would have his name (his dad was super unhappy about me not changing my name, initially) but now it’s starting to feel different. My husband recognizes that and is open to the discussion, despite his hatred of hyphens. I think my concern is just more that its an enormous decision, and I’m worried my child will end up hating a hyphenated name.

        • ruth

          Neither of us changed our name after marriage, and I am semi-ambivalently giving our kid his last name alone. Largely because our names rhyme, and I don’t want to saddle our kid with Baby Name-O’Name, and also because I am a product of parents who didn’t change their names and grew up Ruth Momsname Dadsname (as I remain) and I don’t really want to choose Dadsname over Momsname (or vice versa). The first name we are giving our baby, however, is a family name on my side, and I expect we will continue that with potential future offspring. It’s not perfect—I’m a little sad that I’ll have a different last name from my child—but it is the best solution for us.

          • Shiri

            Ruth, do you think of your mom’s last name as your last name and it as your brothers’ middle names? (I don’t know if I’m mis-reading). Did your school records and stuff like that when you were a kid have you with a double barreled, then? I’m intrigued by this option… I have friends who did that with their married names, but don’t know a lot of kids with two last names without the hypen – I really think of my step brothers as having their mom’s name as their middle.

          • ruth

            I think of my name as ruth momsname dadsname, and I almost never use ruth dadsname. My mom’s name is technically my middle name, but almost all of my official stuff says ruth momsname dadsname. Much like it would if I were ruth ann dadsname or ruth momsname-dadsname, but I am alphabetized, etc., under dadsname.

            One of my brothers uses just our dad’s name most of the time, but the other brother also refers to himself as nathan momsname dadsname.

        • SamanthaNichole

          Neither my h usband or I changed our names. But when I was humoring a name change of some sort I thought I would add his last name to mine but without the hyphen. I know this is a sticky situation in some states. Has anyone done this for their kids? Ala Helena Bonham Carter? I think it’s so much more elegant than a hyphen. I would love to hear some stories of it being done for kids.

          • Shiri

            My step brothers have this as part of their names, and the only time I’ve ever seen it used is on Facebook. It ends up looking like a middle name, or second middle name, I think.

          • ruth

            I grew up “a la Helena Bonham Carter” and for the most part, I love it. My two younger brothers also have my mom’s last as their middle, and we all enjoy the bonus google-ability (our parents’ names are both pretty common). I will say I didn’t really like not having a true middle name as a little kid, especially with my grandmotherly first name, but that’s really the only downside in my opinion.

          • Remy

            I may be more like Neil Patrick Harris in this regard. (Or maybe not, but I couldn’t think of any celebrities with my name situation, and NPH is awesome.)

            Anyway, I’m Remy Momslast Dadslast, where my mom’s last name is definitely my middle name (no double-barreling here). And, like Ruth, I disliked not having a “real” middle name. As an adult, my name is sufficiently unique with just first and last that the middle name doesn’t much come up — I think my middle initial’s on my resume and I fill out forms with it and that’s all. The major benefit was that I was obviously identifiable as legally/formally connected to both parents with their different last names.

            You’ll have to emphasize it from the very beginning, and the kid will have to learn to explain and spell and correct others who try to put his/her name(s) in the wrong places. They might get filed under Carter instead of Bonham Carter at school, at the doctor’s, or at camp, etc. etc. People will shorten it (I’ve seen this with my friends who have names like Mary Anne or Ella Blue) even after multiple repetitions. Some forms may not have enough space (think sports jerseys, playbills, etc. as well) for both full last names.

            That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it! But if you know how it feels to immediately repeat and spell your name upon introduction, or to have it misspelled in written communication, you get the idea.

          • Mira

            My mother did change her name, but I grew up with Momslast for a middle name and loved it. That’s what I intend to do for my kids.

          • Anu

            I grew up like this. Actually strangely enough my mom did change her name when she got married, but then found feminism and decided that she wanted me to have both their names. So I’m Anu “mom’s first name” “dad’s first name”. I give “mom’s first name” “dad’s first name” as my last name on all forms and when asked. But most people on reading my name probably think “mom’s first name” is my middle name and I get addressed as Ms. “dad’s first name” a lot, even when people can see my last name in front them, which actually doesn’t annoy me as much as you would think. All of this happened in India, where naming is much more fluid, but I haven’t had much trouble in the US since I moved here either. People are curious, but usually appreciative.

          • MDBethann

            Sorry I’m late to the discussion, but I did that double barreled, no hyphen last name for myself and not our future kids. I wanted to keep my maiden name for professional reasons (I write for a living) but also wanted to have the same last name as my hubby. I didn’t want to give kids a complicated last name (and both our last names end in -er so it sounds a bit weird) and figured it was better to take it on myself. Then I’m the same as the rest of the family but different (and it helps when sometimes I want to just be one last name or the other, like signing things)

      • Alison O

        partner’s name [f] [m] [l], in letters: [1234567 + 123456] [123456] [123456789012] = 31
        in syllables: [2 + 2] [2] [6] = 12
        Partner’s first name is a two word family name.

        my name, in letters: [Alison] [1234567] [123456] = 19
        in syllables: [3] [2] [2] = 7

        my name, if combined/hyphenated: [Alison] [1234567] [123456 123456789012] = 31
        in syllables: [3] [2] [2 + 6] = 13

        boy child’s name if we pass on first name (that is, nameS) and both last names: [1234567 + 123456] [123456?] [123456 123456789012] = 37
        in syllables: [2 + 2] [2?] [2 + 6] [IV (“the fourth”)]* = 16
        *Partner is 3rd generation but they haven’t done the numbers thing. But I’m like, if you’re gonna pass on this unwieldy name, at least put a cool roman numeral at the end so you seem slightly less insane/cruel for passing on all those letters/syllables, if slightly more patrician.

        Filing this one under not-gonna-grapple-with-yet.

      • Hils

        We spent the whole pregnancy discussing this. I was adamant that our son have both of our last names. (We each have our own from before marriage.)

        My husband was less… sure. And we basically just kept revisiting it until I made my case strongly enough. His resistance was legitimate (it’s hard to deviate from the norm), but my reasons were legit too.

        Neither of our last names is short, and so our son has a first name, a middle name, and then last name last name (no hyphen, which was my husband’s preference).

        We chose the order based on which sounded better. And we decided the rest would shake out over time. He’d hate us for the long name or he’d love us for standing up for his parents’ equality, for representing his family fully. But that would be his decision.

        We expected family resistance, but they all rolled with it. (It’s very funny to me how many pieces of mail he gets properly addressed, while I am still sent stuff to Mrs. Husband’s Last Name — all from family!)

        We get some comments from nurses and people (“That’s a lot of name!” My answer: “Yup! He’s a lot of awesome.”), but so far it’s been the BEST decision. I love my son. And I love his name.

        • Jessica B

          I love that! Thanks for sharing =)

    • Jessica B

      Does anyone think of giving 2 kids different last names? I like the idea of passing down my last name (and so does the husband), but our names are wicked long and would be hard to hyphenate. I also don’t like the idea of having a last name as a middle name, since there are family middle names that are passed around.

      As a younger child with very little similarity to my older brother, I think I would have appreciated never being asked “Oh! Are you C’s sister?” just because our last name is so uncommon. But I do see the issue with consistency and paperwork, etc.

      • Caroline

        I’m considering it. We both have long, hard to spell, hard to pronounce “foreign” (ie non-English based although mine is anglicized) last names. The idea of hyphenating, while attractive theoretically, is just not manageable with our names. I’d like to pass on my name too though and he really wants to pass his on. (Last boy of the name and all that)

        My big hesitation is that I love having the same last name as my sister. We were always the our-last girls, and I love that. I don’t want to deprive our kids of that. I’m considering it though.

      • Rebecca

        One of my good friends growing up had a completely different last name from her brother, and I think it worked out just fine for them. At least, they never seemed bothered by it. I think my sister would have appreciated having a different last name from me, since we were only a year apart in school and she got called by my name all. the. time.

        We’re thinking of that approach with our future kiddos- my husband and I already share initials (and similar endings to our last names), so hyphenating is super silly. Given that I only share a name with a tiny fraction of my family at this point (and yet they’re all still my family! Imagine!) I’m not really attached to the family name concept. Maybe we’ll give them names that start with the same letter and keep the family initials trend going instead.

      • Margret

        I knew a family growing up with three kids. Kid One had mom’s last name, Kid Two had dad’s last name, and Kid Three was hyphenated. I always thought that was cute and clever. Although I wasn’t in the family’s “inner circle,” the youngest was in my class growing up, and I never saw it be an issue. Also, I think it’s getting more and more common for siblings to have different last names (I have an aunt with 4 kids and 3 last names), so it won’t stand out like it used to.

      • LM

        I’m considering it. I have a long distinctive last name and all female siblings/cousins so we will be the end of the line otherwise, and it feels very important to me. Husband has a lot of brothers but is still attached to his name, so this is the solution we’ve discussed. I am thinking we’ll give the other last name as a middle name so that our hypothetical children can feel connected to us both/each other.

      • Allison

        Just want to reassure you that me and my sister have different names. I am Allison Middle Dad’s Mom’s and she’s First Middle Mom’s Dad’s and we have never had any problems with it. I always like it and thought it was a cool story.

      • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com kyley

        wicked long
        Hi fellow New Englander. :)

        • Jessica B

          Haha, nope, Minnesotan through and through!

          When I posted this I had just gotten done talking with my Bostonian best friend, though. She may influence my speaking style a bit!

          • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com kyley

            Ah, that makes sense!

      • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

        Up until about a year ago I would’ve been all over this, but now part of my job is issuing passports, and all I can say is – if you do this, make DAMN SURE you always have all your documents with you, especially if one parent is traveling with the kid with the other parent’s last name! Seriously – long form birth certificate, letter of consent from the other parent, marriage certificate, EVERYTHING.

        Even then, expect delays and lots of prying whenever you travel.

        • Jessica B

          We are getting schooled in proper paperwork presentation right now! We just got married a month ago and a week ago he left for deployment training. The paperwork to get me signed onto his healthcare when we can’t both be present is a NIGHTMARE. I need to get him scanned copies of my birth certificate, SSN card, passport, drivers license, marriage certificate, and probably a library card just so he can show that it all exists and that I am a real person. Add to the mix that we decided that keeping his sister as the person with the Power of Attorney right now and it is just kind of disastrous.

          For the kids, that is a really good tip. Add to the mix that we plan on adopting one child (out of a planned two), and it just seems like it will be messy. But messy can always be organized, and I am an organizer!

          • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

            Yeah, it definitely can be done, but it will require tons of organization! And please remember that, as horrible as us evil paper-pushers can be sometimes, we have your (and your kids’) best interests at heart!

      • H

        I have a friend who is part Swedish and part Hispanic. So he gets a great name that is FirstName HispanicName SwedishName. And that’s what he goes by. And it is awesome. And really fun to say.

      • Vera

        I knew a family that did something like this. The daughter had the mom’s last name, and the son had the dad’s last name. The problem was people often thought it was a blended family (ie father, son, step-mom, step-sister kinda deal).

    • Bethany Jane

      I wish I would have fought harder about this too, but at the time that we were discussing last name changes/not name changes, I felt like I had “won” just to keep my name. (He really wanted us to share a name and flat-out would not consider changing his. Hyphenation sounded dumb in our case, sadly.) And really, when we were discussing this six years ago, children seemed like such a far-off possibility that I was ok with them taking his name. I tried to change his mind when we were actually pregnant but he held me to our previous agreement that they would have his name. :/

      Tonight I asked him if he considers himself a feminist. He said yes and I believe him, but in some ways he still has some old-fashioned points of view.

    • Lindsey

      I’m pretty sure the last name issue is the one thing that truly makes me not a feminist… I want no one to question my children’s paternity or their parents’ marital status.

      • Jessica B

        That’s your choice, and you have your reasons for making it.

        I feel like I’m making a stand that one shouldn’t assume things about my life without knowing me. My husband and I have a good partnership, and we compromise on a lot of things and talk about where we’re coming from all the time.

        My grandmother was a widow in the 1960’s and had two young children. My dad talks about how hard it was for her, especially when she became pregnant with a child out-of-wedlock a few years later. She married the guy, had one more child with him, and had a pretty miserable life because he was an awful husband until they got divorced. Then after the divorce she kept that guy’s last name because it was too much work to change it back to her maiden name or my grandfather’s last name–the cards were stacked against her. She raised 4 kids, 2 of whom did not have her last name for the majority of their upbringing (my Dad and Aunt).

        There are two examples where the marital status of the parents and the paternity of the child could have been in question at any point, even though everything may have seemed kosher.

        The takeaway for me from that was that I will always be my own person with my own resources (the young widowed mother lesson), and that my husband and I will be a team when it comes to raising our kids (the bad husband lesson). Before we have kids we’re probably going to work out a pre-nup type agreement in case of divorce (all my grandparents have been divorced and it severely fucked up my parents and uncles). I will try to never give a shit about what people think of me and my independence, because I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to judge my life and how I build it, just as I try not to question how other people choose to live their lives.

        • Lindsey

          Also very good reasons to make YOUR decision. I will raise children in a fairly conservative, southern town and they will already face the challenges of being Jewish in a Catholic/Christian world, possibly having learning disabilities (if my fiance’s childhood repeats itself) and I’m sure simply the challenges of life in the 21st century (cyber-bullying?). I’d rather NOT add name confusion to that list of possible stressors/complications. And, frankly, people judge… And I’d rather not be judged. Or restricted from entering a hospital room where my kid is bleeding if we have different last names.

          And to be clear, I’m not judging you at all. More power to you. I wish I were strong enough to stand up to the patriarchy on this.

          • Jessica B

            Thanks, and I think those are really good reasons for wanting one family name! I don’t expect to have it easy with the choice I’ve made, but I love that I have that choice.

            And I think you can still be a feminist, if you want to be, as long as you think people should have the choice in how they live their lives and that men and women should have the same choices. I think respecting people’s choices is a big part of feminist philosophy–it’s the fact that they get to make a choice that makes it feminism.

    • Vera

      Neither of my parents changed there names when they married, and I have my mom’s last name. People always called my dad Mr. Mylast, which was very frustrating.

  • mimi

    We are just starting to talk about kids and what ifs, so it’s good to know what we should be talking/thinking about now. Bookmarking this post for later!

  • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

    I’m going to school part time and working full time and we’d to have a baby while I’m still in my program. For leave purposes, I’m physically going to have the kid. I’m terrified that I’m going to be stuck with a breast pump to my chest for 9 months and never see my kid under the mountain of schoolwork and work work I have to deal with.

    I don’t handle fatigue really well and this is worrying me for kids. I mean, when I get tired, I can turn into a cranky toddler. How is that going to work when I *have* a cranky toddler?

    Not to mention that I worry about leaving my wife at home with a mountain of responsibilities (business, baby, cat, dog) while I go off and discuss public policy.

    In other words, SO MANY FEELINGS.

    • meg

      HORMONES is how! Lucky you’re having the kid. Pre-baby I couldn’t deal without my eight hours. Post baby, I do have a limit, but I woke up every two hours to feed him for nine months, and I was pretty successful at work (you judge, he only started sleeping through the night last month ;)

      I see him mornings and nights and weekends, and it’s pretty ok. Sometimes I want to see him more, but like you will, I have a little flexibility. Today we stayed home an extra 20 minutes to read stories, and it was nice.

      Also, pumping is not so bad. Get the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. You’re welcome ;)

      • MIRA

        Pumping is one of my major worries about how-to-deal when I get to that stage

        The place that I work (where I don’t have an office) has ONE room for pumping, which is in a DIFFERENT BUILDING on campus and which must be reserved ahead of time (and even then, it doubles as the womens’ locker room, so if someone takes a shower and locks the door, you’re sol).

        plus, I regularly have 8-10 hour experiments that don’t have more than 20 minutes of downtime. And then I saw these. Does anyone know anything about either of them?

        The Freemie (http://www.freemie.com/)
        The Whisper Wear (http://motivationtech.com/belliestobabies.com/whisperwear/whisperwear.htm)

        Ridiculous? Possibly leaky? A well-engineered, total-fucking-godsend?

        • meg

          I would be dubious about those, simply because the number of pumps that work well are so limited. (Short answer: Medela anything.) That said, once you get used to pumping you can pump in any old bathroom stall (as long as it feels pretty clean), if you have to. The other problem I’d point out with trying to do an experiment while you pump is that your brain turns to total mush, usually, and you sort of stare out into space riding the hormone waves. Reading Feedly is kind of intense and hard when I’m pumping.

          • itsy bitsy

            “… while you pump is that your brain turns to total mush, usually, and you sort of stare out into space riding the hormone waves. ”

            I HAD NO IDEA THAT WAS A THING. I mean, it makes total sense, but I had no idea/had never, ever heard that. It’s always so interesting the things that don’t get talked about.

        • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

          Many short pump sessions instead of a few long ones can also help keep your production up, so a bunch of 20 min bathroom stall breaks could work well.

    • One More Sara

      As far as the exhaustion/crankiness goes, yeah that’s a problem. Good news though! I was the same way, and to some extent still am (4 yrs into parenting), but I find it pretty easy not to take out crankiness on kid. More good news! If your partner is already used to this moodiness, she probably won’t be surprised by much. The best thing I have found when I’m starting to feel the crazies is to ASK FOR A BREAK! go take a nap! ask your partner to get that baby out of the house so you can read for 30 minutes without anyone bothering you. Whatever you need to recharge, try to ask for it BEFORE you have a meltdown.

      • pointytoedshoes

        Oh man. Just last night, I was literally lying down on my floor of my bedroom because I was being super cranky about an assignment for grad school. It was a very quiet adult temper tantrum. And I wondered to myself, how cranky are you allowed to get if you have a tiny cranky human?

        • One More Sara

          Anything goes. Seriously.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          You just have to do it out of their sight.

          My kid got a 10 minute time out in her crib the other day (during which she spent the whole time singing to her bear) because I needed a few minutes to get my cranky in check.

          • Percy

            Since I had my little dude 2 years ago, there have been times where I’ve had to give myself a stern talking to – along the lines of “there can only be one person having a tantrum at a time, and you’re the grown up so it’s baby’s turn now.”

            Basically I’ve learnt that being cranky as well doesn’t help anything, and isn’t particularly satisfying as I still have to deal with the screaming kid afterwards!

          • Alison O

            You know, I do think it’s important not to scare/burden/confuse (particularly, very young) children with your own intense emotions. That said, your comment made me think, I wish my parents were a little more out in the open with their moods and struggles and arguments. I didn’t get to learn much about how to work through conflict, personal and mutual. It’s also a difference in style, though. My parents just kind of let issues and feelings go without discussing them. Feelings are…a large percentage of what my partner and I talk about. Different strokes.

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            Alison O – You are so, so right. In this case, she needed a time out because if she hit me in the face again I didn’t know what I was going to do, so she got a time out so I could get a hold on my frustration and go back to a calm but firm, “No, we don’t hit. Nice touches only.”

            But I think it’s HUGELY important that my husband and I can discuss things (problems) in front of the kid, and that if she sees us fight, she also sees us apologize and make up. We never, ever fight about disciplining her in front of her (I have a friend who does this and the kids manipulate it like whoa), but otherwise, I think it’s healthy to talk about hard stuff with and around your kid. Clearly more around when little, but still.

        • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

          I had to learn the hard way a couple times just how ineffective it is to get angry at/about a cranky baby. It sucks sometimes, but you learn pretty quickly that staying calm and acting positive gives you a much better chance of getting a happy baby sooner. Hooray for the power of incentives.

          Plus it’s funny, staying calm at all costs has become my way of feeling in control of a situation, even I’m obviously not. =) That feeling goes a long way.

          That said, there are times when yep, you can stick them in their cribs for ten minutes and go get yourself back to an okay place, and they’re fine.

    • Marta

      I don’t have kids, but I distinctly remember my mom sending me to my room whenever I sent her over her limit. I just had to stay there until she calmed down. She also had coffee breaks, in which I was not allowed to talk to her AT ALL until the coffee was gone.

      So I guess this is more for older toddler types, but I think the idea is still there.

      • lady brett

        coffee breaks. brilliant. (p.s. we weren’t allowed downstairs on christmas until the coffee was ready, so i’m feeling a connection here.)

        so, not sure i have *good* answers, but with toddlers/pre-schoolers i definitely used the “you are not in trouble, but i do not feel well, and i need you to play in your room. right. now.” (and ‘i can still hear them talking and the door is cracked, so i can cry in the hall while they bathe’)

        but what i recommend most is putting some fucking metal on full-blast and have a family dance party. stress relief. (bonus: watching kidlets rock out is awesome.)

  • AMS

    My husband and I are expecting our first any day now (eeek!) We’ve talked a lot about what we hope parenting will look like for us, and we’re planning on as much of an egalitarian approach as our situation allows. Of course, when kiddo shows up all bets are off, but this is what it looks like so far:
    Parental – we are fortunate be Canadian, and therefore entitled to a year of leave between the two of us. His employer tops up his EI to almost 95%, whereas mine only tops up to 80% so from a purely financial standpoint, really, if one of us should be on leave it should be him. That’s not realistic for us, so he’s going to take roughly three months as soon as the baby is born, I’ll take roughly nine, and we’ll see where we’re at next August!
    Division of labour – currently I do a majority of the household stuff simply because my shift-work schedule is more flexible. When I’m on days he gets to fend for himself, when I’m on days off I do most of the cooking and a good chunk of the cleaning, and when I’m on nights, well, everything pretty much goes to pot for a few days! It might not sound too fair, but it works for us. I work fewer hours than he does, and it allows us to spend the time we both have off together doing enjoyable things. What that turns into when we’re both on leave remains to be seen but so far we’ve settled on that I’m the food provider, he’s the bum cleaner, and we’ll figure out the rest as we go!
    Career – here’s where it get sticky. In the not so distant future, his job is going to have him away for extended periods with little warning. Weeks/months kind of away. Now, with just the two of us, that’s not a problem. It’s inconvenient, and sucky (to use the official technical term) but we can deal. Toss a child in the mix, with child care needs and no family around, and all of a sudden shift work becomes a much more daunting proposition. What this means is likely going to be a pretty substantial shift in my professional life, whether that is in the stay-at-home-mom direction or in a (gasp!) 9-to-5 kind of deal. Either or, I love my job right now, and if anything weighs on my mind it is the prospect of giving it up. I know, people say you meet the little one and a suddenly a job is just a job, but right now it is a huge part of who I am!
    Well, that is a lot of writing to basically say “it’s all up in the air!”

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Am so jealous of your top up. My industry (oil and gas) doesn’t do it, and it sucks.

  • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

    Super excited about this thread. 2 questions:

    1) How do you co-parent equally at night when you’re breastfeeding? How do you spread the sleep deprivation around fairly when only one of you has breasts? Up to now, I’ve been doing the vast majority of nighttime parenting because I’ve been home on maternity leave, so it felt fair because I could potentially nap during the day (ha, like that happened) and he couldn’t. But I go back to work next week and the baby is still up every two hours to eat. He’s four months old and probably doesn’t physically need to eat that often at night, but we don’t know what else to do. Our current plan is to try to stretch his feeding out to every three hours, then four, and Dad will be responsible for all night wakings that happen before that time limit is up, he’ll try to soothe the baby back to sleep (we aren’t going to supplement with formula or waste my pumped stockpile on night feedings when I’m right there with leaky boobs and need to keep my supply up). Of course, I haven’t yet figured out how to communicate about when the next feeding should be when we’re both in that dazed just-waking-up state and can’t add 3 hours to 11 PM to figure out who needs to take the baby. So far it has been easier to get up myself every time than to make that calculation.

    2) I had a big fight with my husband about leisure time and how studies show men get more of it than women. I told him I wanted us to make sure this was equal between us, and if it wasn’t, we should equalize it by taking away some of his ‘me time.’ He is SUPER protective of his me time and flipped out. His point was that if he has more time than I do, I should give him specific tasks to do, ways he can help me out so that I get more time rather than limiting his time on principle. What do you ladies think of this debate? How do you make sure the leisure time is equal, especially when there is a kid involved? Which end do you attack the problem from, limiting the fun time of the privileged party, or taking things off the plate of the overworked party? What if the overworked one is ok with doing everything she’s currently doing, but simply resents seeing the other person spending so much time playing games?

    • Shiri

      From a partnered perspective, I don’t know how you “limit me time” that isn’t giving the other person a task. I know I have more me-time than my husband does (partially because I need it to physically survive) and when it bothers him that I’m reading while he’s cleaning, he’ll tell me and I’ll either help (if I can) or won’t (if I physically can’t) – I guess sometimes I also grouse about it but then participate. I think maybe I’m not sure what the other option is – that one partner is having fun while the other isn’t, but the second asks the first not to help, but rather just not to be having fun right then? Unless I’m misunderstanding, that feels punitive to me.

    • One More Sara

      1) To even the playing field a bit for night feedings, my partner would get out of bed, get baby, change diaper (if needed), hand off to me, and then I would nurse and get baby back in bed.

      2) I think your husband is right. If you want Me Time to be equal between the two of you, I think it makes more sense to try to get more Me Time for you than to just limit his free time on principle.

      • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

        Agree with #1. I stayed in bed at every night waking, husband did everything that wasn’t nursing.

    • pointytoedshoes

      I definitely understand where you’re coming from (since I like to clean in order to calm down and my partner plays video games to calm down…)

      But I do think the best answer lies in making sure all the “tasks” get done, not in putting limits on leisure time. Because leisure time is going to get very precious with a kid around and you don’t want to make a fun thing into a fight. I say definitely take things off the plate of the overworked party.

    • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

      I see what you mean about it seeming punitive to ‘take away’ leisure time on principle. I guess ideally I’d like him to find something productive to do while I’m being productive. Like if I gave him a list of “honey do” things (although I hate calling it that) and he picks something from it to do instead of playing a game. The thing that upsets me about the situation is me having less fun time than he does, but I look at the tasks I’m doing and there aren’t any I want to pass to him. And it’s not because I find them fun

      Any other advice on nighttime parenting?

      • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

        Haven’t done it, but I’ve heard of multiple situations where the guy always changes the diaper, because the woman is handling the feeding. Also, you can pump and store milk, so if you can bank some, he can use that once a night.

        • Amanda

          The only problem with this is that ideally, you pump every time babe gets fed (in order to keep your supply optimal). So non-nursing parent feeds babe with bottle, nursing parent still needs to get up to pump :(

          I am too lazy to pump at 1, 3, and 5am. Therefore, I will give the babe the boob.

        • meg

          I don’t change diapers very much, because that’s our deal. I think it should always be the deal! I mean, I do input, he does output, amiright?

          • Darcy

            I’m the Input manager, he’s the Output manager when he is home. Done.

          • MIRA

            I am so using this :)

          • lmba

            I didn’t change a single diaper or soothe my son to sleep for at least two weeks after he was born! My partner basically did all the baby care aside from breastfeeding because the “input” was so incredibly taxing. When I finally ended up changing a diaper, it was pretty funny to realize I hadn’t done it yet, despite the fact that I had experience as a nanny prior to getting married and my partner had almost never even held an infant. :) In addition to allowing me a few much-needed moments of rest in the early weeks, it allowed my husband to get real comfortable real quick with our new family member.

        • elsie

          My husband agreed to the suggestion that he be in charge of diaper duty… but then we found that the baby was most fun and giggly during this time, so I had to insist on getting to do it too. (I suppose this reinforces the point about realizing you might need to reassess duties later.)

      • Shiri

        I think that’s fair, the way you’ve put it here. It’s hard to watch your partner relax when you can’t – not because you don’t want to share, but because you can’t share. Are there tasks you *can pass to him, even if you don’t want to? And it’s a mindset change, that it isn’t limiting me time, but making sure me time isn’t his first priority in the house.

        And like Christina McPants, I haven’t nighttime parented, but my sister in law has the set up she describes, and it’s proved really useful for them.

        • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

          Yes, exactly. I feel like he prioritizes his me time above the needs of the family, and that’s why I’m getting this objectionable punitive attitude about it. It seems like in order to shift his priorities he needs to adjust to having less me time.

          • Shiri

            I think part of what you’re seeing (I’m seeing?) here is that if you have to give him tasks, you’re still the one who “owns” all of the home tasks. If you’re the one delegating, then they’re yours to give, and it doesn’t seem like that feels/is fair. Like someone said down thread, you guys are partners, and that means these responsibilities are joint, and the needs of the family have to come first.

            I’m sure that adjustment takes time, but getting tasks done and making sure you feel like it isn’t all your problem isn’t just about the actual not-videogame playing, it’s also about the process he goes through of making that choice/switch, to think about tasks. Because you thinking about tasks to give him is another task for you to deal with.

          • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

            Yes, yes! I’m also feeling the burden of being the ‘decision maker’ when it comes to the baby. I’m sick of being the one to figure out when he needs to feed and sleep and what our strategies for improving his sleep should be. I’m doing all the research associated with parenting. He thinks he’s doing his share, but I’m the one proactively reading entire books on the subject, while he Googles things in response to a crisis.

    • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

      What I am seeing in the second part is a ‘give me specific tasks’ vs. ‘know what needs to be done and do it’ style of housework. Can you assign him a job or two to do before his ‘me time’? – ie, before you sit down to X Box, do a load of laundry. Just make sure it’s something he’ll actually do – my wife detests loading the dishwasher, so I would never ask her to do it, but she loves to vacuum, that sort of thing. Giving people an internal checklist can be super helpful.

      • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

        Yes! I want him to look around and pick something helpful to do as a default when he gets home from work, not go straight to his computer. Even just taking the baby out of my hands first of all

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I had some posts on the teaching to cook post about how recognizing what chores need doing is itself a chore and a skill. For a variety of reasons, I’ll always be better at these skills than my husband. But, like cooking, you can take steps to improve your spouse’s skill in this area. Maybe make a really detailed list of all possible chores and approximately how often they need to be done (a good venting activity, too), and show it to him. If there’s something that always needs doing (dishes, filing mail), give him that heads-up.

          • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

            A friend of mine just made a chore list with extremely detailed instructions for each task so she and her husband can alternate weeks. She wasn’t working for the first few months after they got married and she moved here (Okinawa) so she did everything. Then she got a job and he didn’t really grasp that he needed to step up. His mom always did all the housework, working outside the home or not. I guess the list is helping. He knows what he needs to do and she doesn’t feel like she’s nagging him by reminding him since it’s all written out. I do think writing it was a good venting activity for her as well!

        • meg

          THIS MARY JO YOU ARE RIGHT. First, as far as I’m concerned, when the other party gets home, you are OFF. If I’ve been home with baby, David walks through the door, changes, and he gets the kid and I walk away. I might get online or take a walk or do whatever I want. But I am OFF for awhile. After that, he starts cooking and I take the baby back.

          When there is a baby, there is no sitting down at the X Box, unless you have earned it by doing much more care for the baby than your partner in the last few hours, if you ask me. Or the kid is asleep. In which case, X box for everyone!

          • Kestrel

            Hmmm, this makes me think. My SO and I are both pretty big introverts. We both need alone time after we get home from work to decompress so we don’t kill anyone.

            I think we might have to do a ’20 minutes after you walk in the door’ thing and that might be more successful.

    • Amanda

      Mary Jo – are you me?! 4.5 month old, back to work, not wanting to waste frozen milk on overnight feeds (and frankly, I don’t get to be with him enough now that I am back to work, so I like the extra snuggle time), easier for me just to get up than add the time on the clock! What I have found SO HELPFUL and supportive for me is that my husband will rub my back when I get back into bed after nursing babe, or even just get up with me and chat in the nursery while I nurse babe. Frankly, I don’t know how he isn’t dying of sleep deprivation as I am, but I suppose his wakings are (mostly) less physical, so it’s probably less hard on his body? All this to say – I think night co-parenting is more difficult, yes. But it can be done in a way that can minimize the resentment (if you have it) and the strain of feeling like it’s ALWAYS YOU. Talk to your husband, see if he is willing to roll over and talk with you through the feedings, or even get up to get babe and bring to you, etc.

      As for your #2 question, is it that you are working around the house – say laundry, dishes, etc. – while he is playing games? Or is it that you are both on down time, he is just using his differently than you? If it’s the former, then definitely try to have specific tasks he can help with – load the dishwasher, throw in laundry, take out the dog, etc. And remind him, as a commenter yesterday (the day before?) said — the faster the chores are done, the faster you can have time together for fun!

      Best wishes on the transition back to work. I hope it will go smoothly for you :)

      • meg

        I agree on nighttime parenting. Not feeling in it alone was so key to our sanity. AND. He took the baby when he woke up at six, or whatever, and I slept. He still does :)

        • Amanda

          Oh my, I forgot this important part! Yes! My husband takes over care for the baby from about 5:30am to 9:30am (when h leaves for work and Nana takes over). I am free to go back to sleep, head in to work, whatever… It is GLORIOUS. We didn’t plan it this way, it just… happened. It fell in to place so easily that I didn’t question it. Husband even follows this set up on the weekend. Yes, I sleep in on the weekends :D

    • ruchi

      Do you know how to nurse side lying? I think side lying nursing is the key to getting more sleep at night.

      The way we handled night wakeups when I went back to work is my husband became responsible for everything that wasn’t nursing. I would nurse her every three hours and anything less than that limit, it was up to my husband to take care of her (now she only wakes up once at night, but she’s 7 months.) He also is the one to get her from the crib, change her diaper if needed, and put her back in her crib.

      It’s very equal because we both have to wake up, and it disturbs my sleep a lot less if my husband just brings the baby to the bed, I nurse lying down (and generally half asleep), and then he takes her back.

      Before that we used to have shifts, where she was his responsibility (for everything but nursing) from 9 pm to 2 am, and my responsibility from 2 am to 7 am. If your baby is waking a lot for reasons other than nursing or if they take a long time to get back to sleep, you might find the shifts more fair.

      • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

        No, I do not know how to nurse that way and haven’t tried since newborn days. I could never figure out what to do with my bottom arm. But I could give it another shot. I like the shift idea too. Thanks

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          Side nursing can not work if your boobs are the wrong size. I was like a G cup while nursing and never could make it work. Worth a try, certainly, but don’t beat yourself up if physics gets in the way.

          • Darcy

            Side nursing with G cups took until the three month mark for it to work for us. I had to make sure the kid was low enough, almost at my belly button, then tuck the shoulder on the bed beneath me. It ends up looking like I’m almost rolling on top of her but it works.

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            Awesome! I’m so glad it worked for you. The mental picture is cute. I nursed until 15 months and never could get the hang of it.

          • Alicia

            I always found the head/boob ratio had to be more in the baby’s favour before sidelying would work ;)

        • ruchi

          I couldn’t side lie nurse with a newborn either. We didn’t figure it out until she was six weeks old or so? It might be worth giving it another shot and seeing if it’s easier for you now. I think I side lie basically the way I side lie to sleep, so my bottom arm is just slightly tucked under my torso if that makes any sense.

      • meg

        We did what Ruchi did. I only nurse side lying, actually. Now that the baby is used to it, he really hates to not get to relax ;)

        The bottom arm usually goes over the baby’s head. He now uses my top arm to pet his face. AWWWWW.

      • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

        Is side nursing in bed messy? We kicked the baby out of our bed early on when I just got so grossed out by the constant puddle he was leaving in our bed. The spit-up, the leaky diapers, and we don’t change the sheets as often as we should. Do you have a strategy to deal with potential mess?

        • Darcy

          We have a double layer flannel blanket we toss down where the baby lies. Every few days that blanket gets tossed in the wash with the rest of the baby clothes. I also have a large change pad made from waterproof material and flannel that would work well once the mess factor increases.

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      For #2, I would suggest thinking hard about what you want/need, rather than about what to take away or give to him. Do you need more downtime? Do you need to feel supported and appreciated? When you’re doing a chore and he’s playing a videogame, what’s running through your mind? (He doesn’t appreciate me, I’m not a good enough feminist, I wish I were playing videogames right now?)

      Figure out how to phrase what you want as a positive, rather than a negative. “I WANT to spend half an hour every evening reading a book without interruption” rather than “I don’t want you to play videogames” or “I don’t want to be the only person washing the dishes”. Or maybe it’s just “I want to feel appreciated for all the work I do for our family.” That opens it up for the two of you to work together, as partners, to find a solution, rather than working against each other.

      • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

        Thank you so much for this. I think what I want is to have time to write in the evenings, to see him play with the baby instead of playing a video game with the baby on his lap, fascinated by the screen, and for us to go to bed at the same time because that makes me feel bonded as a couple, rather than him staying up later to get in his game time. Maybe if he helps me out more at night he’ll need the early bedtime too.

        • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

          I ended up compromising on the going to bed at the same time thing in a similar situation. My husband goes to bed with me and we cuddle for 15-20 minutes, and then if he isn’t sleepy he gets up to play more videogames. But I still get my “us time” needs met. It’s all about focusing on the underlying need and being open to whatever creative ways get that met. :)

    • meg

      Mary Joe: Buy “Sleeping Through The Night” and read the sleep research. (Hint: there is no point in soothing the baby back to sleep, because they’ll still need you to sleep.) We sleep trained at 9 months, and I will NEVER wait that long again. Holy shit. Not that sleep training is a walk in the park (it sucks), but the whole family was so much better off when we were sleeping. AND, he started crawling two days after starting sleeping through the night, because his brain was able to finally make the leap.

      BUT! You might not do that. Sleep training takes the backbone to be ready to go for it, which sometimes just takes desperation. So, regardless. I did most of the night time parenting, in that I had to nurse, but David definitely would get up and bring me the baby (or take him back) as needed. And when things got ROUGH, we’d do shifts, which would switch at 2 or 3am, and after that he’d take him and give him a bottle. (But, to be frank, I’m a “whatever works” parent, and I don’t have supply problems, so kid got formula in the early days now and then, and pumped supply.)

      As for leisure time? I say, equalize it. You giving him tasks means you’re still pulling the weight, which is a no go. Work it out however you’re going to work it out (On Saturday afternoon, I will leave this house at 1 and be back at 5, and do what you will). But if he’s playing games, then, you might just need to really sit down and have a heart to heart. There hasn’t really been a time when David was just chilling and I was working, if we were both home. If I’m nursing/ feeding solids/ watching the kid, he’s cooking/ cleaning/ doing laundry/ whatever else needs to be done. And vice versa.

      • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

        Thanks so much for the replies, Meg and everyone.

        I’m against judging other parents for anything short of criminal abuse and neglect because we’re all just trying to survive. I firmly believe you can “never say never” in parenting: you can’t say ‘you’d never’ do something because who knows what will challenge you next month. I’ve been reading a lot on both sides of the ‘cry it out’ controversy, and right now I agree more with the side that says it’s not a good idea to let a baby cry. We’ve had some moderate success with the Baby Whisperer’s pick-up-put-down method, so for now we’re going to stick with that. And if we try the side-lying nursing, and dad bringing me the baby so I never get out of bed at all, instead of me carrying him to the other side of the house and doing diapers at night as well, that might also make a huge difference. That said, I’m not going to say I’m never going to sleep train because I don’t know now just how desperate I could get. Either way, if I do sleep train, I’m not going to feel good about it unless I feel sure I’ve tried everything else first.

        Another issue is the way the night wakings open me up to insomnia. I have a hard time getting back to sleep myself even after the baby is back down, especially around 3 AM. Which is why I’m writing this at 4:30 my time. Any hints for that? You can’t really take a sleeping pill.

      • lmba

        On the other hand, I feel it’s necessary to point out that IT IS OK NOT TO SLEEP TRAIN. There can be a lot of pressure on mothers to produce soundly-sleeping babies. In fact, it can start to feel like the test of one’s parenting choices is whether or not the baby sleeps through the night. There are good reasons to NOT sleep train, and different kids have different sleep patterns, many of which are totally normal and healthy. It’s ok for a mother to choose to sacrifice sleep for a time if she is opposed to sleep training her child for philosophical/medical/personal reasons.

        • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

          So true about the pressure to have your baby sleeping through the night ASAP. The first question everyone asks me lately is “How is he sleeping?” and I am SO SICK OF IT! It makes me feel like I’m being judged as a failure as a mom because he’s not sleeping well. What is it about weddings and babies that makes people follow these scripts every time you talk to them?

    • Jessica B

      First off, what all these other folks have said is great. I’m only here to comment that I once saw a “Super Nanny” episode (at the gym! I swear!) in which the parents of 4 kids had deeply unequal parenting roles with the children. The dad would work all day, then come home and institute “Dad Time,” where for a half hour he would sit and not do anything, ignoring his children even when they were excited to see him, and not even saying hi to his wife. It was disturbing.

      Watching further, it was clear that Mom had no such time, she was expected to be Hands-On-Mom 24/7. Dad was part of choirs and other volunteer groups that took him out of the house, and she was a stay-at-home parent who never got time to herself. It was distressing that such a thing would occur in the 21st century.

      SO! While I’m sure your partner would not be so selfish or misguided as that, it does seem like a set “leisure time” can be a slippery slope.

    • beth

      Meg mentioned sleep training, and I cannot second it enough. Once baby reaches 4 months and 14 pounds (give or take on your individual kiddo, but this is generalities), s/he’s ready for sleep training. It will SUCK for a few nights, but it’s better in the long run.

      Weissbluth is my suggestion; the book is pretty dry and boring to read, but the science is sound and what I needed to think about as crying happened.

    • Alison O

      I can’t speak from the experience of being a parent and think it’s entirely possible that my thinking could be quite different if I am someday one… but I am familiar with the challenges of striving for a co-household-managing partnership, which is maybe like Co-Parenting Lite.

      To #1, I think about co-parenting as more of a macro thing than a specific task thing. So, across all the various things required to care for the baby and the household, at the end of the day (or week) the effort/time of each parent works out about equal and is mutually negotiated. Whereas, I saw your question about “co-parenting at night” as more of an attempt to split up the particular job of dealing with the baby at night. Of course, it’s not just nursing, which is limited to one person (unless the other person is a Shakespearian wet nurse or something?); maybe the baby needs a soothing or a diaper change, which the other person is physically capable of doing. But, I can see myself thinking, why compromise both of our nights’ sleep when it could just be me, since my night is shot anyway given the necessity of nursing? That way husband can be more effective at doing other stuff to take the load off me during his waking hours.

      So, the co-parenting wouldn’t necessarily be happening specifically within the nighttime period. BUT my effort would need to be counterbalanced by husband doing other stuff that let’s me relax, like maybe evening tasks (cleaning up after dinner, putting baby to bed, etc.) or morning stuff (making breakfast, walking dog, etc.) so I can go to sleep a bit earlier or sleep in a bit later. Or when he comes home from work we create a routine where he takes baby and I take a power nap, he cooks so I can chill, etc. And maybe on the weekends I have protected sleep-in/nap times, as well, and/or on Fri. and Sat. nights he does help with the overnight stuff since he doesn’t have work the next day, so I get slightly more respite or at least company during the wee hours…

      Don’t know if my thoughts are remotely helpful, but in any event I hope you are able to work out an arrangement that meets your needs better.

      • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

        “why compromise both of our nights’ sleep when it could just be me, since my night is shot anyway given the necessity of nursing?”

        This has been exactly my thinking so far, as long as I’ve been on maternity leave. I think part of the problem is that the extra help in exchange that you’re talking about hasn’t been happening, except sometimes on weekend mornings. Also, I just have a hard time napping in general. I try but can’t fall asleep. I’ve read about how overtired babies have a harder time falling asleep because their brain has some chemicals going and is working so hard to stay awake, and that doesn’t just turn off automatically. I think that happens to me too.

    • http://www.mereader.wordpress.com Mary Jo

      You guys. We have now done two nights of the side-lying nursing with dad bringing me the baby and changing diapers and putting him back down, and I feel GREAT! It is amazing what two nights of less-interrupted sleep will do for you. Husband is feeling it though. I think he now understands what I’ve been going through. We haven’t perfected this new routine yet, of course. Husband is not as good at calming the baby as I am, and the baby seems to cry loudly more at night with this new arrangement than he used to. The loud cries stress dad out because he’s trying to be protective of my sleep and we’re all in one room. I told him the cries don’t bother me even if they keep me awake because I’m not worried about solving the problem myself. It’s probably just the fact that he needs more practice soothing the baby at night.

  • pointytoedshoes

    This is helpful! We’re just starting to discuss timing for kids (I’m both baby-antsy and finishing up a grad school program), so it’s helpful to realize that this pre-work is an integral part of the baby-planning process. (And it’s also helpful to read about spit-up and crying to calm the baby fever down) …

    Side note, I found that our dog helped me mentally plan for parenting — not because dogs are like babies, but because it was this third thing in my house that made us tired and stressed and we fought about. (We had a shelter dog who needs lots of training and it was super-stressful for about 6 months. And then I would try to correct things my husband was doing with the dog…and we’d fight more.)

    And at first, the fights made me worry that our marriage was clearly flawed and we were awful…but eventually, I realized that a) we’re just figuring out how to do this new thing together, b) I could help control it by not critiquing him when he’s stressed (obviously) , but most importantly, c) at the end of the fight, at the end of the day, we were fine. So hopefully that will hold true for kiddos, too.

    • MIRA

      “parenting” our dog has made me realize that my husband is a natural with all this stuff…and I am, um, not. For example: he was the one to realize that she is calmer and happier when she’s following directions and letting us be the boss.

      Also — did I mention that she’s been in my life for two years longer than he has? And that I’m the one who grew up with a dog?

    • CeeBeeUK

      We’ve volunteered to watch my partner’s cousins kids. They’re coming up to hang out for the weekend and we’re taking the kids while they have a night out. I’m looking forward to it as I love this kids and I love seeing my partner with them but I’m half hoping I get puked on to calm the baby rabies.

  • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

    As someone with all the expert knowledge because she has a 19 month old baby (so: HAHAHA NO)… One thing I learned is that everything changes, so quickly, so often.

    I will totally admit that the year I spent on mat leave (thanks, Canada!) was not particularly egalitarian. I had boobs and then I made all my own baby food, because what else did I have to do on a given afternoon? I changed more (cloth) diapers, because I was home when he wasn’t and dealt with most of the night wakings because I didn’t have to go to work the next day. He still dealt with diapers and solid feeding and playing and swaddling and cleaning and all the rest, but it was not equal because, well, I was home and he was not.

    Then I went back to work, and now things ARE much closer to equal. I still cook, but he now does almost all the cleaning. We do roughly the same number of diapers, and the kid doesn’t wake up at night anymore*. The three of us commute together. I take more sick-baby days than he does, but I have 6 weeks of vacation to his 4. I go on work trips and he doesn’t. The bedtime routine can be done by either of us. The list goes on.

    Things aren’t perfect or equally balanced and we still sometimes fight about who does more (hint: if you both think it’s yourself, you’re probably each pulling your weight). But it’s egalitarian. It wasn’t for a while, but then things changed and now it is. Exclusive breastfeeding makes true equality hard. BUT THAT’S OKAY. Things don’t stay the same forever, and that’s the blessing and the curse. (I miss having a tiny baby who would stay where you left her, but I love having a kid who can tell me what she’s thinking about. Birds, normally.)

    *Probably a jinx, but seriously, maybe once a month.

    • CBB

      Can I just, for a moment, weep for having been born in the U.S. rather than just a few hundred miles to the north? A year mat leave makes me sigh with yearning. I want a year, desperately, and will probably end up quitting my job to get it.

      Also–it sounds like you guys are doing it right! This is a great, heartening comment.

      • lmba

        Just wanted to point out that YES a lot of Canadians get great parental leave, but it is not available to everyone. The Government provides E.I. benefits for parental leave, to those who qualify for E.I. benefits (i.e. not everyone by a long shot). And they are not enough for more than 1 person (the parent + the kid!) to live on without a money-earnin’ partner. Also, whether or not you are given a parental leave by your employer depends on the type of job you have, so even if you are taking the E.I. benefits, you may not have a job to go back to at the end of them. In my situation, for example, I qualified for E.I. mat leave but not “employer” mat leave (I worked on a renewable contract basis) so I had to essentially quit my job (terminate and not renew my contract) to have a kid. If I decide to go back to work after my E.I. runs out, I will be on the job hunt.

  • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

    A big part for us was definitely that my husband is the stay-at-home dad. (I wrote a little about that at http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/09/stay-at-home-dad/) Especially early on, I had the biological bonds of birth and breastfeeding, and he had the bond of being majority-time caretaker, which I think felt pretty equal to both of us. If he hadn’t been the one spending the most time with the baby, though, I think it would have felt very unequal, very quickly to me. In the first couple of weeks, basically I breastfed and he did absolutely everything else. (Cooked, cleaned, changed diapers, rocked the baby, bathed the baby, ran errands, etc.) I imagine if I’d been the stay at home parent, that pattern probably would have needed to continue for a much longer time for parenting to feel egalitarian to me.

    Now, with an almost two year old, it’s easier to be egalitarian. Our daughter switches her allegiance back and forth between us based on who she thinks is more likely to stay up a few more minutes past bedtime. Sometimes only mama will do, and sometimes it’s “mama go downstairs, dada come here”. Neither of us take it personally–if I’m the in parent that night, great, I get some snuggle time. If I’m the out parent, great, I get some downtime to myself. It balances out easier.

    In terms of foundation, I think I’d recommend focusing on HOW you talk, rather than what you talk about. Family and religion and money and egalitarian chore division is not usually something you figure out once and then can stay the same for the rest of your marriage. What I found most useful in the early months was having good patterns of how to argue with my husband. Even when I’m tremendously sleep deprived and hormonal, I have pretty good habits set of not catastrophizing, not using words like “always” and “never”, and knowing what emotional buttons I need to avoid. I guess basically I’d recommend (1) assuming you’re going to argue, and spend plenty of time practicing how you argue fairly and kindly, and (2) both of you setting a verbal intention of egalitarian parenting, and THEN (3) discussing some things you think will be the issues that will come up.

  • http://desertlaura@blogspot.com laura

    I love this title “Feminist co-parenting!” My husband and I are treading new waters (for us) and turning the gender expectations upside down. Our little girl just turned 6 months and, after 5 months of maternity leave, I went back to work full time and hubby is staying home with the baby.
    He is constantly asked “when are you going back to work?” and our arrangement really seems unbelievable to some. I know that hubby feels bad that he’s not working, despite our long conversations discussing the pros/cons of him staying home. He thinks I resent him for not working, but I really don’t. The expectations on him are really high and I can see that he gets stressed out about it.
    He also does much of the cooking and the cleaning (I know, he’s pretty amazing!) and I take care of the nursing/feeding, which is still just about every 2 hours.

    We also co-sleep with baby, so finding time (and a place) for sex has been a challenge. But honestly, it’s been a lot of fun as we’re now more creative and spontaneous!

  • Shiri

    I’m just really grateful for this conversation, and it’s supportive, informative, and open tone. I know we said last week that there weren’t many places for these discussions that don’t veer into the awful, and so I’m glad for this.

  • http://Www.thequestionnowbecomes.blogspot.com Alloallo

    As super devastated as I was that I couldn’t breastfeed my twins I have to say it probably helped with a lot if this. Plus, having twins by its very nature means you have to be more egalitarian because there isn’t really an option to have one person be totally in charge – sort of a ‘all hands on deck’ situation. Though I am at home for 8 months and my hubs will take the last 3 (yay UK leave policies) I definitely think we have had to work on being in it together by doing things like alternating being ‘on duty’ on different nights – facilitated by bottle feeding first expressed milk and now formula. We are definitely both totally in agreement that being at home with two babies is about a thousand times harder than being at work! But like meg says, t&h’s was all built in a foundation of us mostly sharing our household jobs pretty evenly pre-babies as well.

    • Autumn

      I also have twins and I think it helped a lot with forcing us to co-parent. Even though we planned to do so all along, I think it’s so easy to fall into traditional roles once the baby shows up and the mama is the milk machine. With twins, you simply don’t have enough arms to do everything yourself all day and night. Two things that did really help us early on:

      1) we instituted a feeding schedule. I know this isn’t for everyone, but it gave us predictability, which we really liked. Also, since our babies were a little bit premature, we couldn’t just feed on demand, we needed to wake them up to feed them to get their weights up. We fed them every three hours: 12, 3, 6, 9, repeat. If I was gone, my husband knew when feeding time was, we didn’t have to track or remember anything, etc.

      2) we split the nighttime feedings so each of us could get a chunk of sleep. We did the 9 pm feeding together, then I would go to sleep at 10, he stayed up and did the midnight one by himself, then went to bed and I would wake up for the 3 am one. We’d both get up for the 6 am one. We did this even when I was on maternity leave and my husband was working. I pumped some, or he used formula for the feeding he did on his own. Even though this meant both of us were a little sleep deprived, I don’t think I would have survived our first few months without this. Also, I think it gave my husband a lot of confidence that he was capable of taking care of the babies without me.

      I have friends who say they can’t leave their baby with their husband because he wouldn’t have any idea what to do. I think the husband has to be given the opportunity to figure it out, and then left alone to take care of the baby as he sees fit. In my opinion, the best way to do this is for the mama to leave for a while! Which is good for everyone.

      • http://www.thequestionnowbecomes.blogspot.com alloallo

        sounds like a really similar experience! we do scheduled feeds (after a few early weeks of trying on-demand when working to breastfeed two babies which was basically hell on earth for everyone)… I know there’s a lot of controversy around routines but with twins I’m genuinely not sure how you’d survive without one.

        The added bonus is, as you say, once the routine is established everyone knows what’s going on or what’s coming up so my husband has just as much ability as I do to prepare for the next feed or deal with things without me. He knows when they need feeding (and can feed them) and when they need a nap etc. We only have a slight issue in that my hubs doesn’t have a sense of smell (!) so I have to do all the bum sniffing :)

        I have a lot of friends with one baby who are very ‘baby-led’ and though I think it works for them, there are times when it seems very much about the intimacy of the relationship between mum and baby. Sometimes I’m a little jealous of that, not having had that connection with my twins since I’ve needed so much help from the beginning and you can’t really be ‘baby led’ with two babies as they’ll lead in different directions – but at the same time I do think it can be a bit exclusive for dad’s and partners who can’t necessarily join in that relationship.

  • lady brett

    we have the advantage of not having (or having less of) the cultural gender baggage around division of labor.
    (of course, gender is always in play, and the cultural craziness totally comes in everywhere, like how even a 20-month-old can read parenting stereotypes and promptly start calling my spouse “mom” and me “dad” or “he” ’cause i do the “dad stuff” and she does the “mom stuff”…and, it’s crazy, but it’s also way more astute than the adults who all assume she’s the “dad” ’cause she wears pants.)

    anyhow, for us the absolute most important thing was to understand that a “fair” division of labor is whatever division of labor makes our family run most smoothly (logistically, sure, but more importantly emotionally). so, it’s not “fair” that i do a *lot* less of the dammit-someone-is-crying-at-3am part, but it is *good*, because she doesn’t become a cranky, sobbing toddler if she misses a little bit of sleep – and that is best for *all of us*. also, chances are i owe her something for it, but we’ll figure that out when it comes up.

    the only other thing that really helped us is that we talked about parenting, theoretically, a *lot* before we did it. and, as meg said, we sure as hell don’t always do it that way, but it means that we are almost always on the same page about the important stuff just from having thought about it so deeply. (talking in detail about parenting priorities is easiest using real-life examples, which *will* make you sound like/be a judgemental ass. get over it (but don’t say it to anyone’s face), those conversations have to happen.)

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      “anyhow, for us the absolute most important thing was to understand that a “fair” division of labor is whatever division of labor makes our family run most smoothly (logistically, sure, but more importantly emotionally).”

      THIS. Similarly for us, I do all the night wakings, which isn’t “fair” exactly (especially considering I’m the one who gets up early to go to work) but works best to make our family run smoothly. If I do the night wakings, I’m tired but functional. If he does the night wakings, he is absolutely nonfunctional and cranky all damn day and I come home from work and nothing’s clean and there’s no food and the kid is wild and it’s REALLY not worth it. :)

      • Mel

        This really struck a chord with me. When I first went back to work, my husband did drop off and I did pickup from daycare. We were always short on groceries, etc, because I could not run errands with the boy. It just stressed me out to no end.

        We swapped (I can’t even remember why now) and now I do drop off and husband does pickup and can easily with no stress whatsoever ALSO grab groceries or the dry cleaning or whatever. I have oidea why it works for him but not me…but why not arrange it that way?

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Not particularly pertinent, but cute: my 19 month old calls grandma and other grandma and grandpa all the same name: mama. Her grandpa is a gruff farm type with bushy mustache, and I love that she runs up to him yelling “mama”. I’m mommy, my husband’s daddy, she calls a dozen people at daycare by name, she has a large vocabulary… So it’s not being unable to say it. It’s just… these people are mamas, I guess. I approve of her fighting against gender baggage in names?

      • lady brett

        that is awesome (some people are just totally mamas). also in non-pertinent naming humor, our kids called my dad “dad” because that’s what i called him (they called everyone else by name, but i couldn’t remember to teach them that with my dad).

      • Marta

        My sister used to call my grandpa “The grandma with no hair.”

  • stefanie

    my partner and i are not only queer but also have really different levels of physical ability/capacity. i’m able bodied and she has dealt with chronic pain and disability her whole life. one thing we’ve spent a lot of time talking about as we think about having a kid is how to build a sense of equity into the venture when she simply cannot do as much as i can when it comes to the unavoidably physical work of parenting (or the concurrent additional physical housework, laundry, etc). we are trying to bring a disability justice analysis to the conversation, and account for amount of energy expended of total capacity rather than just acting like we both have the same baseline. kind of like contributing percentage of income to our joint bank account rather than a set amount when we make wildly different amounts. but i wonder how that will hold up to the sheer exhaustion of the real life experience…

    i’d love to hear what others do about this from the trenches–how do you find balance when you aren’t on equal ground in terms of physical capacity?

    • lady brett

      i have no advice on this, just wanted to say thanks for bringing it to the conversation.

    • Emmy

      We’re not queer and we don’t have a baby yet, but I also have chronic pain and fatigue while my husband is super able-bodied (ultramarathoner and triathlete). The fact of the matter is that we don’t split domestic work equally. But this reminds me of something Carolyn Hax always mentions in regards to raising two+ children: you don’t try to be equal, you try to be EGALITARIAN. Like you said, we both try to do the same percentage of our total ability, even though the actual number isn’t equal.

      Also, I do a lot of the non-physical work in our relationship: planning, decorating, thinking about the future, reading about different things, philosophizing. So when it comes to child-rearing (or trying to conceive), I read a whole bunch of stuff and then give him the Cliff Notes. When you look at the whole of our relationship, we are equal. Even though he does more housework.

      • Shiri

        Oh, ladies, yes. I’m in Emmy’s situation, too, and my illness and subsequent limitations are one of the biggest factors in why our relationship functions the way it does. I actually wrote about it a little bit here (http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/10/undergraduate-wedding-planning-with-a-chronic-illness/). It’s something I’m very worried about for kids, especially since I’ll hopefully be the one pysically bearing them. I worry about my energy level, I worry about him feeling responsible for everything, I worry about the ability to nurse, etc.

        I love the way Emmy thinks of it, as equitable, and I’m the planner/researcher/etc in our relationship, too. That makes me feel much better about how we split things, and about what we’ll both bring to parenting.

        • stefanie

          glad to hear from of your experiences, shiri and emmy. shiri your post about wedding planning was so moving and needed for me right now.

          thank you both for sharing. i so resonate with what you’re saying about fearing what it will be like–my sweetie talks about that all the time. in fact, it took me awhile to realize that her general fear and hesitation when approaching the topic of kids was not about being less excited than i was about it (which is how i interpreted it at first), but rather a very rational response to honestly looking at how it might make her pain that much worse or our relationship really hard.

          it also feels scary because it just feels so uncharted. which is bonkers, right? because obviously all kinds of mamas and papis and aunties and grandparents and others are parenting all the time with myriad different bodies and abilities. we just never get those stories!

          also, i should have said so in my post (it’s just so obvious to me that i didn’t think to mention it) but my love brings a multitude of non-physical and absolutely vital labor to the relationship that i don’t, and is 100% an equal partner in our relationship no matter how much she can or can’t vacuum the stairs or won’t be able to carry the baby very much. and i have no doubt about what a phenomenal parent she will be.

    • Paranoid Libra

      Although I am not a parent yet, I have been dealing with arm pain for years when carrying heavy things. I had fears about not being able to really carry around a child. Then I discovered baby wearing was becoming quite popular and in my case is probably how I will deal with it when the time comes. Not sure if that could help your partner out a little more on the physical side even if it gives her just a few extra mins of it.

      Also I would look into a mother’s helper as they are called. Someone to have around to just assist but not necessarily babysit. They can help her or you out around the house with some phyiscal stuff whether its vacuuming or even just holding baby and some diaper changes.

      I think you guys need to look into the it takes a village philosphy on this and get help from family or hire help to get you guys by.

  • Rachel

    as far as co-parenting goes we are still working on it with our two month old but are really struggling with the division of labor. one thing we have succeeded at is nighttime feelings: we both get up and handle it together. this helps and makes it feel less isolating and resentful. We do use formula but one changes his diaper while the other makes the bottle and then whoever isn’t feeding the baby sits nearby and helps with whatever they can (I.e. keeping the other awake burping, etc.)

  • Katy

    Another big area to discuss is decision making. There are so many decisions to make with a kid – pacifier or not; vaccines now, delayed, or skip; should we use tylenol or not when the baby screams 5 hours straight; sleep; scheduling and attending doctor appointments; weighing medical options without a clear diagnosis; child care (interviewing nannies, visiting daycare, arranging babysitters); how to start solids; weaning from the boob, bottle, pacifiers; discipline; choosing which rules to make and enforce; how to enforce rules; …

    I initially thought my husband and I would talk through each and every decision and reach a mutually agreeable conclusion. That’s a joke – for one, there’s just not enough time. And, he doesn’t care about a lot of it.

    Some of these decisions are not a big deal either way (purees vs baby-led-weaning, whatever), and some can have a huge impact on the entire family (child care, sleep, and medical decisions). There is an emotional burden that goes beyond the time spent investigating options and forming a decision.

    My advice with this is to regularly check in with you partner — is one person burdened by the decision making, or does one person feel like they don’t have a say in parenting decisions?

    • meg

      This is super interesting to me, and I’m curious about how it shakes out for other people. This literally never occurred to me, possibly since our parenting philosophy is basically, “Whatever works.” So, you know, pacifier or not has never been a point of discussion, nor has food choice, nor have bottles, etc. Which I suppose maybe means that BOTH of us don’t care a lot about it as long as it works? And then the other stuff, we tend to agree on, or just give in to whoever cares more. IE, skipping vaccines was never a question, I kind of liked one daycare more, so that was that.

      So anyway, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty curious how it works for others.

      • Katy

        I’m interested in more discussion about this, too. As with other aspects of parenting, there is a lot of judgment around women making family decisions – they’re controlling – but it’s not that simple.

        • KC

          There’s judgment about women being controlling, but they’re also the ones who tend to be culturally getting blamed if something goes “wrong”.

          No kids here, but even just being married, people have thrown judgment at *me* not at *him* for really stupid stuff (like, thank-you notes for presents from his extended family to him/us)(which is kind of bogus since they don’t send thank-you notes to us, but whatever. Generational things, I assume?), which makes me want him to get it right so that they quit blaming me, which, when he doesn’t care, is definitely in tension with my general wish to not “make” him do things.

          And I’ve seen the “the kid’s mom should have spotted that illness sooner/made a different decision/how could she have let that child out dressed like that”, and not much “dad” blame. So, as long as society is holding moms responsible for *everything*, there will be at least some who feel pressured to “keep up to the standard” on everything (while dads get off the hook on those things, which is also dumb; what, it’s a horrible crime against humanity if a mom fails to color-coordinate her child’s apparel, but it’s endearing and unsurprising if a dad can’t? That seems kind of insulting…)

      • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

        Sleep training and vaccines have probably been the biggest decision-making processes for us. For instance, with sleep training, one of the things that makes it work is consistency. Both of us had to agree on what method to use, how closely to follow it, and what to do when the baby didn’t do what the book said she would do. Because I was working and my husband was at home, he was the one making all the on-the-spot calls for naptime. We had a lot (a LOT) of conversations on days when the baby didn’t nap on schedule and I was frustrated because I felt like my husband wasn’t following the plan we’d agreed on, and he was frustrated because he felt like I didn’t trust his judgment calls of when the plan wasn’t working.

        I suppose the decision-making process mostly feels fraught when “whatever” doesn’t work. When we try something, and it doesn’t work, and we have to figure out what to change. Our baby has not been a very by-the-book kind of child… we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out plans D through Q after A, B, and C went by the wayside.

    • karen

      I agree on the amusement about of talking all parenting decisions through in advance – not just the timeframe and care factor but also that I never expected to have to make a decision on that factor (do we have a position on juice consumption? the availability of art supplies?) aw well as the one parent on duty needing to make a call on something right now.

      With our child (3 tomorrow – my god, we survived 3 years), we talked out broad parenting philosophy stuff before he was born, which along with our general family values, gives us a framework for making decisions. (Also Meg’s ‘whatever works’ philosophy shows up here as well) And we have a rule about backing up each others’s calls – if you are the one there and you make the decision, it is going to be the best decision you can make in the circumstance and on the available information. It helps that we both have time solo caretaking, so this isn’t a one-way rule.

      Having said that, and making the whole thing sound harmonious, some of the worst fights of our marriage have been about parenting decisions. The arguments have been not so much about about the outcome, but the way in which we argue (I tend to research things to death then use that as a blunt weapon, he tends to go by instinct and have less time to research) and suddenly a parenting decision discussion become a discussion about how we treat each other, how we value our families of origin, etc… It gets messy.

      My experience is that is we keep discussion about the decision just about that decision it works a whole lot better. And bearing in mind that children are resilient and sometimes compromise is a valid option.

  • MIRA

    I am so excited and thankful for this thread! I’m about to read through the whole thing (a little late to the party), but I just wanted to say thanks!

    Also: my partner and I are in the planning-to-start-trying stage, and the most useful concrete step we’ve taken is to read Bringing Up Bebe together. A kind of baby planning book club. It has stimulated some really great conversations between us about education, discipline, values, and what we think it means to be a kid.

  • MIRA

    Okay, a question for everyone.
    Screen time – how do you manage it?

    I worry about this, because my partner and I both agree that we want to limit child screentime, but we have a TERRIBLE time limiting it for ourselves. I feel like this is something to work on — other ways to have down time — before we introduce a baby into the mix

    • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

      Both my husband and I work in the computer games industry (with me working from home with the baby), and while we don’t really do TV, in our downtime we like to play videogames, read articles on the internet, and watch movies. It’d require a big lifestyle change for us to avoid “screen time,” and our attitude so far has been kinda “Eh, he’s been crawling around and exploring and playing with his toys all day, watching a video on YouTube with us isn’t going to rot his brain.”

      We don’t plop him down in front of a screen to keep him occupied (yet, haha. He’s only 8 months old, but once he’s a toddler, I’m sure we’ll get desperate for half an hour of quiet), but we don’t hide those things from him either. The modern world requires knowing how to navigate computers, so we’ll do the best we can to teach him how to use one effectively and (ideally) in moderation. :)

    • Rebecca

      This is something I feel very strongly about as a kid who had limited screen as a child and also from what I know about how negatively TV (less so computers and iwhatevers) can impact child development.

      As a nanny, I’ve seen screen time have hugely detrimental (and scary, like being able to quote full infomercials at age 5 scary) effects on kids but I also know what a life saver it can be. I think the goal should be to minimize screen time while not driving you or your partner crazy by absolutely forbidding it or feeling bad for using it as an “out”

      That being said, the most effective strategies I’ve seen use predetermined limits like 1 hour per day. My favorite system is where the kids all got a certain number of marbles per week (each counted as a half an hour of screen time) and they were allowed to use it whenever. But when they were gone, that was it for the week, no exceptions.

      As for yourselves, maybe try to limit major use to when the baby is sleeping? Or allow your partner some time while you occupy the baby?

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Eh, my toddler is exposed to a lot of tv, but other than dancing to the music, she doesn’t seem to care. She enjoys watching hockey with daddy for a good 7 whole minutes before she gets bored and goes and plays with her dulpo train. I figure that our family watches a lot of shows and that she’s an addition to the family, so…

      But she also goes to a daycare with no screen time ever. Therefore I don’t feel that bad if we watch a sitcom together during dinner. Is it the best parenting ever? No. Does it work for us? Yes.

      Oh, also, other than hockey? No live tv. Jesus, the commercials on anything aimed at kids are TERRIBLE. I feel like I have ADD after watching some of them.

    • ruth

      I was surprised to learn that my husband didn’t feel like limiting screen time was especially important. Granted, we both grew up with fairly few restrictions on this stuff and are pretty successful, creative, active people—but there are so many more screens available to children these days! Until I was ten, my family had one television (with no cable). We got a computer and cable in my late elementary school years, and a Nintendo was the first thing I ever saved up my money for. My husband’s mother was an extreme luddite and he grew up with even less technology than I did.

      I think, though, that what’s important is not substituting screens for quality time. Playing together, eating together, reading books, developing critical thinking skills when it comes to the media that is consumed are all so much more important than obsessing over whether a kid has spent his allotment of screen time.

      And also, death to the parents who take iPads/etc. away from their children in restaurants, on airplanes, etc. That is a make-it-work moment where you must think of the common good!

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      Having a toddler has definitely lowered my screen time in the evenings. When she sees me with a phone or computer she wants to play with it too, which is perfectly reasonable. If I want her to not have screen time, I need to suggest we go outside or play with blocks or read a book… together. Honestly “down time” by myself is not in huge supply while the toddler is awake. I have my downtime with her, which is spent playing, not doing my own solo leisure activities, and my downtime when she’s asleep, which does still involve a lot of screen time. :)

      Also, games on my iPhone are pretty good at keeping her occupied and quiet in public places, but a sticker book has proven to be waaaaaaay better.

      • Autumn

        You know, we also don’t want our kiddos exposed to much TV (they turn 2 this week) and we dealt with it by simply turning the TV off when they’re awake. We used to watch TV while we fed them, then stopped when they started noticing it. My husband cheats on this rule more than me, he’ll watch sports on a Saturday afternoon when I’m out running errands, but that’s not really the kind of TV I’m worried about. Honestly it makes our time with the boys much nicer to have none of that background noise. I’m not saying every waking minute I’m actively playing with them, I may be reading the paper while they’re working on blocks, but I’m not zoned out, you know?

  • Sarah

    Oh boy. We are planning to start a family soon and my major concern is division of labour. It’s a major concern in our marriage (for me) because I feel I do more than my fair share already and I have some insight into just how much a child will change things. One issue is that my husband owns a business and I can take a year of maternity leave. I recognize just how lucky we are that I can take the time off and because of his job we can afford it, but this will set up a natural inequality I’ve been fighting so hard against. What will parenthood look like for him when he comes home at 6:30 (on average) and the baby goes to bed at 8:00? It will be drastically different from what parenthood will be like for me when I get 3 hours of sleep and he doesn’t get home until 6:30. He doesn’t seem to be fazed by any of it but that’s his style. He deals with things as they happen, not before.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Year of mat leave? Put the (slightly older) baby down at 10 and and they’ll sleep until 10! I hate mornings, and did my best to keep the baby to my ideal schedule. (Which was better than her ideal schedule: sleeping window of 2 am until 2 pm.) We we started doing mommy/baby classes, we switched to 9-9 within a week. There’s no particularly reason to keep a kid on an 8-8 schedule if you don’t need to get up for work and don’t like those hours. My husband wanted more baby time, so 10-10 was great from like months 2-7.

      Also. You can have naps. Infants nap like 4 times a day – you can totally take one of those periods for you to sleep too.

      As I said upthread, we weren’t equal when I was on my year mat leave. Now that I am back to work, things are.

  • Julianna

    As I approach the 20 week mark in 2 days, this post could not have come at a better time! Thanks for the great discussion so far. One of the questions I have is about additional sources of help – grandparents, sitters, daycare, etc… In our situation, my husband will probably be able to take a total of 1 week off from work right after the birth (boo!). I will have about 6 months at home, based on how my due date worked out with the semester timing and my teaching load this year (yay!). Some of that at-home time for me does need to be working, though (research, just not teaching). We’re trying to figure out a bit what we’ll want in terms of my mom or his mom coming to stay for an extended period of time after the baby arrives – when to do that, how long is reasonable for them to stay, how much is helpful/necessary for me surviving if he has to travel early on, how to arrange care so that I can attend some professional activities over the summer, etc… Thankfully, both moms are super on board with “coming to visit = coming to *help*, not being a guest who is waited on” so I anticipate it being a pretty positive source of assistance, but still not sure what to even tentatively plan for.

    anyways, I’m just curious how other folks navigated this – how much external help did you find useful/necessary, at what points in time, what form did it take, did it help off load/prevent resentment between partners by bringing in those external resources to take up some of the load otherwise falling solely on one partner’s shoulders, did it become intrusive or yet another source of resentment, etc… ? We have already started partially outsourcing the house cleaning to help alleviate/balance some of that workload, for example.

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      We LOVE it when family visits. Love love love. Like yours, my family is very on board with genuine help, and it makes a huge difference. My parents visited for two weeks after the baby was born (arriving two hours before her birth, by pure chance) and although they stayed at a nearby hotel were over pretty much all day every day. They did most of the cooking/cleaning and all of the grocery shopping/meal planning/errand running, which allowed my husband and I to focus on the baby. Now that she’s a toddler, their most recent visit involved taking her to parks, children’s museum, storytime, etc while we got some downtime.

      One thing to consider during the newborn phase is whether you intend to breastfeed, and if so how comfortable you are flashing some nipple with family members around. It frequently takes a couple weeks to get the hang of nursing discretely, and if you have any issues with nursing the last thing you want to worry about is trying to figure out a nursing cover or nursing shirt while also trying to figure out how to latch on. For me personally, I ended up being a lot less modest than I thought I would… after labor and birth, only showing a nipple here and there seemed like less of a big deal. ;) But your mileage may vary.

  • Bethany Jane

    This might be a little tangential to feminist co-parenting, but I am also curious about how to raise feminist children. I have 14 month old twin boys and I want to raise them to be feminists. Am I already sabotaging this effort by going to work part-time since they were born and letting my husband be the primary breadwinner? Can I counteract this by explaining how I used to earn more than dad and was senior to him at work? When they get older shall I return to work full-time (even if I’m not sure I want to) just to set a good example?

    Additionally, I’m just now starting to think about the constraints of growing up male in our culture. I’ve been so focused on women and equality there I didn’t think as much about how men aren’t permitted/encouraged to show emotion. Thankfully I’m starting to re-think my assumptions and hopefully can find ways to help my boys express themselves fully.

    • Mira

      You and your partner made a joint decision for you to work part-time and for him to be the primary breadwinner. The key word in there is “decision”. You decided. You thought about it. You were able to decide, unlike many women of past generations. You chose the best option for you and your family. You didn’t just slide into a role because you felt it was expected of you or because social or legal constraints dictated that you had to. And deciding to work while you still have young children is a TOUGH decision that you most certainly did not take lightly. That all sounds pretty feminist to me.

      I have purposely never had a full-time job simply because I dislike working full-time – it drains me and prevents me from being able to pursue other interests. You don’t need to be working all time and pulling in a huge salary if you don’t want to, solely to demonstrate feminism to your sons.

      Making sure your partner is up to speed on your intentions/worries is crucial as well. Ensure that he’s properly involved in childrearing and household tasks. You work part-time outside the home, why shouldn’t he work part-time inside the home? This would set a valuable precedent, in my opinion.

      • Bethany Jane

        Thank you for the reply, it’s very helpful! I love this point of view.

        I also appreciate that you have decided not to work full-time either. It _is_ draining (at least to me) and it seems like my productivity goes down with more hours worked.

        I will continue to work with my husband on working inside the home– it’s been awhile since he’s cooked us a meal. :)

        • Alison O

          I am not working full-time right now. I am actually not working at all. Since June 1. It’s great. I feel extremely lucky to be able to do it. There is nothing in my area I could do with my level of education that I’d want to do, and it’s not worth it to me to move. Plus, I’d probably only find a job I’d like in a big city, but I’m in nonprofit work so financially it would practically be a wash what with moving costs and paying so much more in rent.

          Serendipitously (for sad reasons, though), it has also turned out to be sort of necessary due to some serious issues that have come up for my partner over the past couple months preventing him from driving…which is a problem when he is supposed to be interviewing at different medical residency programs all over New England and the rest of the country.

          I know my parents aren’t really thrilled…mostly from the standpoint of thinking I’m really talented and capable or whatnot, and I’m not making the most of that. In any event, I think I’m headed back to grad school to enter a profession that is hopefully something I will feel like is worth spending my life doing, as opposed to watching the days go by feeling like a hamster on a wheel.

          Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I think there are a decent of people out there who could work less and would like it but haven’t admitted that to themselves yet or are afraid of the judgment of others, etc. And a lot of fields are all-or-nothing, so if you want to work part-time or less, it’s not an option. It’s awesome you can do it!

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Feminism is about SO MUCH MORE than just work. It’s teaching your boys AND girls to cook and clean and value other people’s opinions and choices. It’s talking about rape culture, and teaching them about cultural gender norms and how to try to resist the terrible gendered messages that start at birth. (Girls don’t like cars, they say. Tell that to my 19m old.) Teach them about consent and body autonomy and that No Means No. Teach them that everyone is allowed to love who and what they love, and that masculinity is so much broader than trucks/beer/sex. Teach them that it’s okay to cry and okay to talk and okay to have feelings.

      That, to me, is what matters when raising kids, girls or boys. Working is an important question, but so much less important to me than raising a child who is comfortable with her body and choices and right to say no.

      A few posts that suck with me:
      http://www.mommyish.com/2013/06/20/teaching-your-boys-not-to-rape-women/
      http://www.mommyish.com/2012/08/17/doing-my-best-not-to-raise-rapists-515/

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      One of the things I’m trying to do with diversity issues in general, is making sure that my husband and I are not the only people that our child is exposed to. We take her places where people look differently than us and have different family arrangements. We read books about people in wheelchairs, and with many shades of skin, and with two dads or two moms or living with grandparents. We try not to gender her non-gendered toys or characters in books, which has been kind of shockingly difficult, but seriously, does that baby doll wearing purple really prefer female pronouns? I think if you find lots of examples of families where the mom works and families where both parents work and families that have more or less than 2 parents and families that have parents with a variety of genders, that goes a long way to normalizing the idea that women can and do work. You don’t have to be a stand-in for every woman in the world.

    • LBD

      I just wanted to say we recently found out we’re having a boy, and we’re right there with you. My feminist parenting dreams had all kinds of awesome ideas for raising a take-no-names feminist girl, but with a boy it’s certainly less obvious. I’ve been searching for books without finding much (I find a lot of books with religious leanings all about raising “manly” boys though). Like you, my goal is to focus on emotions and that my son grow up feeling/knowing it’s okay for him as a dude to have/express emotions. I imagine there were also be a lot of conversation about consent as he gets up towards that point. But aside from those things, I’m not really sure. We decided to have the kiddo now because I’m unemployed and thinking of changing careers, and figured now was as good a time as any, so I also worry about how having a “traditional”-seeming family arrangement, at least early in his life, will affect his view of women’s roles. I think there are so many resources for raising feminist girls, I wish there was more out there for raising feminist boys.

      I think this isn’t off-topic at all! I know my husband certainly worries about being the major male role model in our impending son’s life, just like I worry about being the major female role model. As my husband is not very traditionally masculine, it’s brought up a lot of anxiety for him, not wanting his son to be bullied like he was as a non-conforming boy, yet raising a feminist, comfortable-with-his-emotions, boy. It’s a conundrum. We hope living in such a liberal city will help.

      • Alison O

        I would say aside from emotions/communication and consent stuff, another thing that jumps out to me is to teach them to cook/clean/do laundry/etc.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      You can raise your boys to be feminists by raising thoughtful, productive, empathetic and compassionate human beings. You teach them to be feminists by the way you and your husband interact with one another so they see how people should treat each other. You teach them to be feminists by teaching them to respect the private space of others and that they are not entitled to touch other people without their permission (this directly addresses aspects of rape culture and patriarchy). Feminism is as much a role of activism as it is a mode of thinking. If you start to view it that way, you will see that teaching your boys to be feminists isn’t defeated by your decision to stay home with them. :-)

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com kyley

      My mom used to take us to church every Sunday for many years, and then on the drive home she always asked us questions about the service: What did we think of the readings? What was the sermon about? Did we agree with that message? Etc. I owe my spirituality to those conversation in the car ride home much, much more than to the hour each Sunday sitting on a pew.

      Talk to your kids. Ask them questions. Ask them to think about hard questions. If you watch a tv show with them, that has sexist elements to it, discuss that with them. That’s the part that will most help your sons be feminists, imo.

  • Mira

    I have beef with the term “co-parenting” simply because it suggests that the alternative is one partner always being intrinsically less involved in “parenting”. I would prefer it if we worked (by example) to redefine “parenting” to evoke whatever model of parenting parents choose!

    That said, these are all points that I have been pondering over the last few years as we solidify a plan to start a family. Maternity leave and pay here is generous, but paternity leave/pay is a measly two weeks and there’s much less work flexibility for men, as you mentioned… what about the remaining 3 or 4 years until the kid can start nursery school??? Why is that all on my shoulders?

    Raising a child is a job with a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week work pattern – I don’t think one partner should be excused because they spent 8 hours working elsewhere, while the “primary caregiver” is saddled with this job that never ends. I want my partner to be confident and comfortable with all aspects of childrearing, even if I end up doing the majority of the work involved. It kills me to see one parent fumble over basic things and fail to understand why particular things are done, all the while having to continually consult the other partner (“Where do we keep the bottles?” “How do you fasten this thing?” “How do you cook spaghetti?” etc etc)

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      Heh. I ask my husband where X baby thing is all the time. Mostly it seems to be a personality thing, though, because he’s pretty particular about how he likes things arranged and I find it easier to go with his method than to watch him follow around behind me moving everything I just put down.

      I think part of it too, though, is that we’ve found it easier to each have our own realm of expertise, rather than trying to be equally expert in all things. He is the expert in how to stack the dishwasher and what supplements go in the baby’s milk and where the toys go and what layers of baby clothes are appropriate for the weather. I am the expert in whether the steak is cooked through and checking the car’s oil and researching vaccines and preschools and signing up for baby classes.

      That’s probably not what you meant–I totally agree that the “bumbling dad/controlling mom” stereotype is icky. But it might be worthwhile to think about whether the partner who’s continually asking questions in the nursery and the kitchen may be in the reversed position when they’re talking about 401(k)s or planning a birthday party.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Frankly, I don’t even like the term “co-parenting” though it can be a useful term. For us, we have negative associations with the word and I’m very particular about the language I use so we just say “parenting” over here.

    Our focus isn’t really that things must be equal in form and appearance as much as it’s making sure that everyone’s needs are being met (all 3 of us). This was a point to which we evolved after realizing after 9 months of baby that the focus on on all things being equal just wasn’t working for us. Communicating our needs to one another has been very helpful to us achieving a good balance of parenting and we no longer feel so depleted and like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel except for the kid getting older and out of the toddler phase. “This too shall pass” has been helpful but so has just being able to sleep all day on a Saturday while my husband takes the kid to the park and other adventures.

  • itsaprocess

    “If you end up parents by biological means, after nine months of carrying the baby, a nursing mother is, by default, the primary caregiver.”

    For some reason, I have consistently avoided taking up the argument that I’m about to embark on. Part of that is because I’m not exactly sure how to say it, and I’m afraid I’ll say it wrong. But I know that this is a community filled with shittons of love and trust, so I’m going to lean on that and try to explain my point.

    Which is, that I really want this to be a less cissexist place. I am cisgender (the opposite of transgender, if the term is new to you), which is probably why it’s taken me awhile to mention this (yay, privilege!). But this quote, no. Sorry. Women are not the only people who give birth to children or nurse them. A vagina (or a reproductive system capable of carrying a child and nursing them) is not required to be a woman. There are wonderful people in this world whose bodies, genders, and identities do not fit into a the binary system that uphold “man” and “woman” as the only options. And this world punishes them for it, for being who they are.

    Y’all, if we are going to be a space where folks can truly dig into the shiny and the icky about relationships and society, then this HAS to be part of the discussion. Folks (like me) who comfortably exist as the gender that we were assigned at birth are no more deserving of this amazing space than those who do not.

    If you’re interested, here is a great post called “Not your mom’s Trans 101″ that I found to be particularly helpful to me: http://tranarchism.com/2010/11/26/not-your-moms-trans-101/

  • erin

    I’m going to be crucified for this comment, but here goes: there is a very easy way to avoid the trap of becoming the primary caregiver after giving birth: don’t nurse. I’m not saying it’s right for everyone (obviously!) but I think our culture has taught us that women MUST be the primary caregiver in the first year because of nursing. If you find yourself in that position, and nursing is not something you feel strongly about*, then don’t do it! Unless your kid is like me, ha ha, and ends up allergic to formula. Still super sorry about that, mom.

    *For me, NOT nursing was something I felt strongly about. After an extremely difficult pregnancy that stole both my mind and my body and turned them into something unrecognizable, I was not about to spend the next several months to a year sacrificing my body further. And let me tell you, being able to sleep at night? Totally worth the haranguing phone calls (yes! phone calls!) I received from LLL.

    • lmba

      Hm. I’m not sure that becoming a primary caregiver is a trap. It might not be what you want, but… it kindof needs to be done, right? I mean, unless a child’s parents are available to provide care for equal amounts of time, somebody has to be the primary. That’s not a bad thing, and it’s not the same as being non-egalitarian.

      I mean, if you’re also working full-time or whatever, then of course you don’t also want to be responsible for the majority of baby care. But you would likely not be exclusively breastfeeding in that situation anyway, right?

    • MIRA

      Thank you for saying this.
      Also, that’s shocking that LLL harassed you like that.

      I’m not even pregnant yet and I already have a lot of preemptive guilt about about the fact that it may simply not be possible to pump in my job…and then I remember that lots of babies are raised on formula and do just fine (like, um, ME).

    • http://raisingthedough.wordpress.com Marina

      While I totally respect anyone who doesn’t nurse for whatever reason, I don’t think the decision of being the primary caregiver or not was particularly tied to the decision to nurse or not for me. I’m still nursing my 22 month old, and have been back at work since she was 3 months. And there are certainly a lot of female primary caregivers who feed formula. I think the “woman must be the primary caregiver” cultural bullshit runs much deeper than a nursing/formula decision… I see nursing as more of an excuse for the bullshit than the actual reason for it.

  • Em

    I know I’m extremely late to this thread, but I just wanted to point this out: while I definitely agree with the egalitarian parenting model you’re calling “co-parenting”, it’s not my understanding of the meaning of the term.

    As far as I know, “co-parenting” is when the parents are parenting together without being in a relationship with each other…. for example, divorced parents that decide to continue parenting together. It’s fairly common in the queer world… think a lesbian couple who shares parenting duties with their sperm donor (often a gay man). The child has three parents, two mamas and a papa, and all three adults have a chance to have a child of their own.

    • Counterculturalist

      That’s what I thought too :) I know people who do that.

  • Counterculturalist

    Love the idea of co-parenting it seems so child-centric; searching for a suitable loving caring partner who is well suited for children, and not seeking someone who will make all your romantic dreams come true. But, however, I’m not sure this (your post) qualifies. Usually co-p is when you have friends team up together to platonic-ly raise children, like Em said a lesbian couple and their [gay] baby-daddy, or a gay couple and their baby-mama (who is usually a single-mom-by-choice). I think you’re just ‘parenting’ lol.