In 1989, the year I was born, only 10% of fathers were stay-at-home parents. By 2016 fathers made up 17%. That number has continued to grow throughout the pandemic and it is happening for many reasons.
I am a stay-at-home dad because my work is fully digital. Mom, on the other hand, has to go to work every single day because she is a doctor. We’re experiencing a role reversal of “traditional” families where the Mom stays at home with Baby and Dad goes to work.
It has been tricky to navigate this, but I’ve come up with six practices that are helping Mom feel connected as a parent even though she is working outside the home. Hope they can be helpful in your situation!
- “Fed is best” – Doctors used to always tell parents that “breast is best”. This framing around feeding your child can be really damaging to Mom, especially if she cannot be at home to breastfeed because she is at work. Mom is a pediatrician and knows that the new phrase is “fed is best” but she still feels like she needs to strive to produce enough breast milk for our child to eat every day.
As a husband, you need to make sure Mom is able to keep the “fed is best” mentality in mind. So much goes into milk production – food intake, sleep, hydration, stress – that there are too many variables to ask Mom to control.
For us, we’ve bought a box of powdered formula and have set the norm that at least once a day Baby will eat formula milk. This greatly relieves stress on Mom to produce more milk when her time is limited and pumping rooms can be uncomfortable.
The funny thing is that with less pressure to produce milk, Mom may actually be able to produce more of it!
2. Video Chat – Leading up to her first day back at work, Mom was getting anxious that our baby might forget her. She wanted to be able to stay as connected as possible when she has to regularly work 10-12 hour shifts.
Simple solution: FaceTime. If you don’t have iPhones, then there are tons of other solutions like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.
When Mom is eating a meal or pumping, we FaceTime. It makes her feel more connected and that is all that matters.
3. Don’t ruin the surprise – Being able to hear your baby make their first coo, grab their first rattle, or roll over for the first time are moments all parents treasure. We don’t want to feel like we’re missing out on these firsts because our jobs take us away from home.
So it is perfectly natural that Mom had preemptive “Fear Of Missing Out” as she headed back to work.
Our solution? Just don’t ruin the surprise. We all know that whenever your baby does something new the delight at the new action doesn’t wear off quickly. Our baby has been “talking” for weeks and it still lights us up inside.
So, if Baby does something new while Mom is at work, just don’t tell her. Let her come home and experience it with fresh eyes. Not only will it be great for Mom, but you’ll get to see the joy at her surprise which is its own reward.
4. Make your house a home – If Mom is out working all day, she’ll likely want to get some quality time with Baby when the day is over. She’ll have missed reading, playing, cuddling, and all the other fun activities that go along with being with your child.
In my current circumstance, we have one grandparent staying with us and I’m currently on paternity leave. So the two of us make sure that when Mom gets home, that food is ready, chores are done, and the house is clean so that Mom can focus on hanging out with Baby.
If your circumstance is different, the scope of what you do while Mom is away may look different too. Because we have two adults at home, we’re able to cover 100% of the homemaking.
Once I go back to work, we’ll readjust. If grandparents aren’t around, we’ll have to readjust. Whatever your circumstance though, try reducing the workload on Mom when she gets back home.
The science backs this up. If Mom is overburdened and it impacts her emotional well-being negatively that is bad news for the whole family and has lasting consequences for Baby.
5. Give Mom space to decompress – Aside from the actual work, there are a whole host of other stressors that impact Mom when she works outside the home. Morning routines, traffic, interacting with people she may not want to, lack of control over her surroundings – none of these things are fun and they add to the burden of leaving Baby at home.
In my case, Mom has to deal with life-and-death situations on a daily basis. She will need to decompress.
This means that after a hard day of work, she might want to be alone or do something for herself. Facilitate that!
If she wants to go out for dinner with friends or go to the spa, she should. Like I said above in #4, the science is clear – Mom’s well-being is important for the whole family and will have long-term consequences for Baby.
6. Create special moments – So much goes into taking care of Baby. You’re feeding, bathing, changing their diaper, reading them books, etc.
Parents do all of these things, but we all have some things we like to do more than others. I like feeding my daughter because it gives me a chance to sing to her.
Mom likes reading books and playing with Baby, so when she gets home toys are set up and books are near the rocking chair.
If Mom is going to work, then it is important that you help her maximize her time with Baby. You can do that by understanding how she likes to spend quality time and having those things set up for her when she is home.
7. BONUS: Take care of yourself – Whether you’re a full-time stay-at-home dad or you simply work from home, if Mom is working outside the house then you’re going to be busy 24/7.
You’re going to be the keystone of making sure that Baby is safe & healthy and that things get done around the house so things run smoothly. That is not remotely easy.
Make sure that you keep in touch with yourself physically and emotionally. Keep tabs if you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. If you are, be open with Mom about needing support.
Maybe that means inviting a grandparent to stay with you (that is what we’re doing). Maybe it means finding a babysitter who can relieve you occasionally. Maybe it means that Mom and you decide that on certain days you can have some time off to get outside, see friends, and treat yourself.
You will have to decide what self-care looks like for you. Whatever it is, make sure you do it! Mom, Baby, and you depend on it.
Have any other good tips? Email me at [email protected] or DM me at @browndadathome on Instagram.