It’s a nice idea, but is equally shared parenting a myth more than a reality? If parenting equality is your aim for when you have children, or you’re looking to re-address the balance, find out how to share parenting responsibilities.
Our tips for sharing child-raising and equally shared parenting:
1. Practice a mindset of shared parental responsibility before baby is born
Our advice for new parents looking to share responsibilities equally? Put the idea of a “primary parent / caregiver” aside and start as an equal partnership before birth. Partners can read up on the same pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting books, attend prenatal appointments and classes together, shop for and source items for baby, and be involved in getting baby’s room ready. Not only will this bring you closer, but it will also mean you’re equally informed and sharing the mental load of parenting from the beginning.
2. Share childcare duties fairly in a way that works for your family
There are lots of ways to share parenting duties. How you choose to do it will depend on your individual work situations, personalities, lifestyles, even family upbringing. In an ideal world, you would both be sharing all childcare duties equally, but that may not be possible or desirable for you.
Other ways to approach the parenting style of equally shared parenting are:
- splitting your time into shifts “on duty” e. g. one parent takes early mornings and the other takes mid-morning to lunchtime
- each partner having allocated tasks e. g. it could be that one parent feeds and the other settles to sleep; or
- playing to your individual strengths and priorities e. g. perhaps one parent packs the day-bag and the other organizes activities
Talk to your partner about how to support each other in more challenging periods, for example, when baby is sick. And don’t forget to allow for time when you’ll both be “on duty” and sharing parental responsibilities—and enjoying family time—together.
3. Make sure each of you get your share of baby bonding time
However you divide parenting and household duties, try to make sure you’re both equally hands-on with your baby and get plenty of good bonding time in. Lots of quality time with each parent will bring lots of emotional benefits to everyone and will make baby more comfortable with being cared for by both parents. It also means you both get to share equally in the joy and fun of parenting!
4. Tackle the mental load of parenting
One area where it’s easy to fall into stereotyped parenting roles is when it comes to the mental load of parenthood, which can often fall disproportionately to one parent. This includes all the hidden work—from planning the family calendar and researching things baby needs, to communicating with caregivers. It can take up a lot of time and mental space. This may result in an emotional burden where one parent becomes “the planner” in the partnership. So think beyond hands-on tasks and take the parental decision-making and behind-the-scenes effort into account too.
5. Accept that you'll have different approaches to parenting
While you both want to work from a shared parenting philosophy, you also need to accept that there will be differences in your approaches to parenting. “Maternal gatekeeping” or “paternal gatekeeping” happens when a parent finds it hard to relinquish responsibility. Try to let go of the idea of there being a “right” way of doing things and allow your partner time and space to attune to your child’s needs and figure things out for themselves as a parent. Constant correction or guidance may undermine their confidence and lead them to becoming more “hands-off” than they would like, while leading to parental burnout for you.
6. Keep communication open, and be flexible to change
Just as your baby develops, so too will your parenting evolve. That means your plan for equally shared parenting may need to change from time to time. What may work during the newborn days might not be the same once one or both of you go back to work, for example. There will be times when you may need to compromise on how equally you are able to share certain tasks. Be open and honest with each other about your individual needs and concerns. Ask for help when you need it. Keep a shared family calendar so you both know what’s going on with your child’s schedule.
7. Communicate your shared parenting approach with your support network
Let friends, family, and any additional caregivers know that you’re sharing childcare duties and so are both go-to contacts when it comes to queries about your child, whether that’s what your baby might like as a gift or whether they have any allergies to foods. You could try setting up a joint email address or messaging group for baby and parenting-related communications.
Make getting to know other parents a joint effort too, through parenting groups, regular activities, or chatting to parents of other children at daycare. When it comes to equally shared parenting, consistency is your friend. It might take a little while to get into the rhythm, but soon it will seem like second nature to you, baby, and everyone else!