Planning for a Newborn: Dividing Housework

Just a few decades ago, women were expected to take care of the house and kids, while men made the money. For some families, that tradition still holds, and that’s okay. Other families, by choice or necessity, have two incomes; conversely, not every family has two adults to bring in two incomes. Sometimes, dad even stays home while mom goes to work. If you can hire a nanny and/or a maid, great, but not everyone has that luxury.  No matter how you choose to manage your family, it’s important to keep an open dialogue and maintain a level of equality. Here’s a look at how to divide up parental and domestic responsibilities. 

Plan Ahead

It can be helpful to discuss what's expected of each partner before the baby arrives. Parenthood is a team effort, and quietly assuming mom wants to change every diaper will only start conflict. Some partners naturally step up and take care of whatever needs done -- if the dishes are dirty, one of you does them, if the laundry needs folding, someone does it without being asked. Even if you already have a natural system that works well, a baby can completely disrupt even the most perfect infrastructure. Talk to your partner about what you anticipate needing more help with, or what specific things you’d appreciate them taking over. 

Create a System

For extremely busy households, an adult version of a chore chart can be helpful. Not only is something easier to remember when you can look at it, but being able to check tasks off a list is actually psychologically appealing. Make a list for each room, a chart for each partner, or a general list of things that need to be taken care of on a regular basis. If the thought of charts makes you cringe, find a way to keep yourself reminded. That way no one has to nag, and no one has to feel nagged. 


While you’re at it, remember there’s more to keeping a house running smoothly than weekly chores, and that there’s more than just chores. Talk about who will pick up older siblings from school or extracurriculars, include monthly or yearly responsibilities, like raking the leaves, organizing the garage, or cleaning out the fridge. If you’re a real stickler for plans, schedule time out -- individually and together. 

Keep it Even

There's also no reason you have to hate your chores. It’s easy enough to take care of the things you don't mind doing (maybe she loves folding the laundry, and he doesn’t mind ironing pants). When it comes to the tasks neither of you likes, draw them out of a hat or alternate (she scrapes the gunk inside the microwave one week, he does it the next). The less put upon each partner feels, the more smoothly things tend to run. 


Starting before your newborn arrives will make it easier to work Baby Duties into your schedule. If you’re already in the swing of things, it’s that much easier to add taking out dirty diapers and biweekly baby baths into the schedule. 

Last Updated: October 19, 2017