There’s no doubt about it: today’s dads are splitting child care and chores with their spouses more than ever before. But we know the division of labor at home is still far from equal, with moms spending nearly twice as much time caring for the kids on average than dads do. The truth is, moms feel the burden of those extra hours and need their partners to step up. How? We asked real moms how their husbands could be more supportive. Here’s what they said:
Anticipate household needs.
“On top of remembering who has soccer practice, who needs a permission slip signed, and what’s for dinner, I shouldn’t also have to remind you to take out the trash.”
The second shift that moms experience in making the household run day to day is known as the mental load—and it’s very, very real. Even as husbands are taking on more at home, they often look to their wives for direction and instruction—an unpaid project management position that mom didn’t sign up for. So dads, take note: What mom really wants is for you to look around, see what needs to happen (the dishes, the laundry, dinner prep), figure out how to do it, and then get it done.
Support your wife’s goals:
“I want my kids to see that I am a strong, independent woman…that my husband doesn’t make all the decisions.”
For women, new motherhood is all encompassing. Learning how to feed and care for a new human while trying to heal from childbirth and dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions can leave a lot of moms feeling lost long after the kids are out of diapers. So when your wife does express what she wants personally or professionally—whether it be to go back to work, climb a career ladder, pursue volunteer opportunities, start a business, learn a new hobby, or go back to school—show her that you support her goals. Vocal support is great and necessary—it can help your kids see that mom and dad are in an equal partnership—but you also need to give her the time, space and household help she needs to pursue her passions.
“Listen to me the first time around.”
Life moves fast when it involves young kids and two working parents. It’s easy to tune out what your partner is saying after a long day, but what mom really wants is to be heard. The best way to do that is to slow down, listen to what she’s saying, and respond in a way that shows you understood her. One way to make that happen? Set aside time each day to put your phone away and reconnect through conversation.
Share your feelings.
“Dads get a bad rap of having two emotions: happy and angry. I want our kids to know that it’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling, whether you’re a boy or a girl.”
As we teach our kids about emotional intelligence, the most important way for them to learn is to see it modeled by mom and dad. This goes for boys especially. It’s not uncommon for fathers to have been taught that showing emotion is weak, but times have changed. Dads need to work toward vulnerability in front of their children in order to help their kids know that having and showing emotion is not just OK, but important to their happiness and mental health.
Let mom have a break.
“Give me some alone time.”
Between work and child care, the mental burden and household management, all parents need time to step away from responsibilities at home. But for some reason, it just seems easier for dads to get in a little me time sans guilt. Dads need to support and encourage their partners to take time for themselves so moms can recuperate and recharge outside of the house and away from the people who rely on them for everything.
Don’t forget date night.
“Take some time for us.”
Having kids changes a relationship, but that doesn’t mean moms don’t want some romance. And we know that strengthening your partnership makes both of you better parents. So prioritize date night and trust us—mom thinks it’s super sexy when dad takes the initiative. Instead of waiting for your partner to start complaining that you don’t spend enough time together, surprise her with a night on the town and a babysitter already booked.