If you are a stay-at-home parent then you know there are many things you and your working spouse handle differently.
However, you both work long hours, your day doesn’t just come to an end with nightfall, and you have to get up the next day and do it all over. Again and again and again.
Through observations in a stay-at-home dads group I help admin, I have noticed some issues between SAHDs and their spouses. Luckily, my wife and I have learned some things along the way during these past six years of my being at home. Here are some suggestions you may want to keep in mind:
1) Let it Go.
Sorry if you are now singing that Frozen song. You are going to need to let your at-home dad do things his way. I know it is hard and some things are going to bug you, like he wipes the counter counterclockwise instead of clockwise, but we are hoping you can let that slide. Suggestions on how to make things more efficient are fine but, in the end, he will want to do things his own way. Imposing your will on him may just shut him down more. Let him figure it out and come up with a style that suits him best.
2) Don’t Nag.
Nothing is going to motivate him less than constantly asking him to do something. We are aware of our shortcomings and, in most cases, we try to find that balance between caring for the kids and managing the household duties. Give him some time. Sometimes, things go by the wayside because we get overwhelmed.
3) Set Clear Expectations
Sit down together and communicate what you expect to be accomplished each day. Some couples think just managing to keep the kids alive and healthy is enough, but others may have greater expectations about cleanliness, meal preparation, etc. Make sure you end up on the same page. This will help cut down on problems later.
4) Cleaning House
If he is anal retentive when you met, this is probably carrying over into your lives with the kids, maybe even more so. But, if you remember a time when he didn’t meet your household cleanliness standards, this is more than likely what will continue when you add the kids into the mix. Cleaning sucks and there are lots of things most people would rather do than scrub that space between the toilet seat and the tank, like play with their kids. Do a floor check. Get down on the ground and play with the kids. See things from their level. If you are disgusted and would rather put a blanket down before lying in that filth, then it is time to put in your Mr. Clean earring.
5) Help Out When You Can
This is a big issue with most stay-at-home parents, male or female. We know you have been working all day and you may have to work into the night as well but any assistance you give us is going to be much appreciated. Men tend to internalize issues until they build up and are afraid to ask for help because we know you are doing so much already and don’t want to start a fight. This is where clear expectations come into play (see No. 3). Tag team the nighttime routine. Ask your husband how he usually does things so you can stay consistent. That is really going to help him the next day with the kids because deviation is going to cause problems with his routine.
6) Communicate Effectively
If something must get done and his hasn’t done it, tell him in a way that does not attack him. Men tend to get defensive when our shortcomings are pointed out. I often have difficulty with criticism because I respond better to praise. “Sandwich” the request between some compliments on what we are doing right. That softens the blow and makes us more willing to work on our weaknesses rather than just pointing out what we aren’t doing right.
7) Pencil Us In
We know you are tired (and so are we) but please — work us into your schedule because WE want to be in your inbox. Plough through that work together. (See what I did there?) It relieves stress and helps you reconnect with each other despite all the stuff you have to do. Instead, do each other.
8) Give Us Some Space
We need “guy time” as much as you need girl’s night out. Offer to watch the kids so he can see that action movie you would never watch with him, or suggest he get together with the guys at a restaurant or bar to blow off some steam. You know how it is at bedtime and on weekends. Imagine your incompetent co-workers hassling you all day. Same deal. Sometimes we just want to drive to Target to walk around aimlessly without someone asking us for something.
9) Take Time For Yourself
We want you to be as rested and sharp as possible because you are providing for our family and you deserve it. If you need some time alone or away from the kids, just ask. He plan to occupy the kids for a bit so you can nap, catch up on work, or head out to the store by yourself. Just know that eventually, your husband and kids will be coming back.
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Chris Bernholdt, a former public school art teacher, has been a stay-at-home dad since 2008. A father of three, Chris writes about his adventures as a stay-at-home dad at DadNCharge, where a version of this post previous appeared.