Sometimes you feel like everyone in the house needs something, and you're the one expected to make it happen. There are diapers to change, homework to help with, and games to go to.... it can all add up and feel like too much.
Being a mother is certainly a big job, but when you have a partner, you shouldn't have to carry the entire load on your own shoulders. Some men are very helpful with the childrearing aspect of family life. They read the parenting books, form opinions on discipline methods, and help prepare tiny toddler-safe meals. If that's your guy, congratulations! The sad fact is that they're not yet in the majority. Many guys just don't get as involved with childcare as we'd like them to.
Why Men Don't Pitch In
Like it or not, many men still see the house as being a woman's domain. This doesn't apply only to families in which the woman is a stay-at-home mom. A working mother can find herself in the difficult position of having to tackle all the kids' needs when she returns from work, even if her husband arrived home an hour before. It can be very frustrating, and it can reduce the efficiency of your household.
Don't label the guys as lazy chauvinists just yet, plenty of men would be more helpful with childrearing if they were asked or were given the motivation. Mothers have been primarily responsible for childcare since the beginning of human history.
From the time the two of you first heard that tiny heartbeat during the sonogram, it was obvious to your husband that this child belonged to you in a way that was primal and special. After a baby is born, even a nervous, overwhelmed first-time mom is expected to instinctively relate to her newborn, while the dad is expected to remain fairly clueless until he's trained to be otherwise.
As the children grow, you need to be vocal about your desire to include your partner in the childrearing, or else he may continue to assume that it's a task best left to you.
It's not only mom who benefits when dad pitches in to help with the kids. Studies show that children whose fathers are involved in their lives in a meaningful way grow up smarter, healthier, and more socially adaptable. A man helping around the house isn't necessarily a modern or feminist issue; even families that hold traditional, conservative values generally agree that a father needs to exhibit his nurturing, care-taking side with his family.
Strategies to Get Him Involved
Let him know you want him to be more involved, and specify the way you want him to accomplish this. Don't nag or accuse him, just let him know it would be better for everyone involved if he could pitch in a bit more. If you need a hand with specific everyday tasks, try and be as detailed as possible. For example, if you'd like him to change the baby's diaper anytime you're busy with dinner (whether preparing it or feeding another child), say so specifically. That way he'll know when his turn has come up, and won't have any legitimate reason to shirk.
Being specific in your instructions to your partner is important in all areas of childrearing, including discipline. If little Katie needs a timeout, let him know how it's done and how long it's supposed to last. Of course, your partner may have his own ideas about what constitutes bad behavior and how it should be handled. While other areas of childcare may seem mysterious to a guy, meting out discipline is easier for him to figure out. Correction and punishment are associated with leadership and strength, which men tend to gravitate toward.
That's why fathers are often planted in front of the TV until one of the kids needs to be dealt with sternly. The trouble is that your philosophy of discipline may differ from his, causing conflict. You also don't want him becoming associated in your children's mind with mainly negative experiences. Balance is important. Try disciplining as a team, so you can balance each other out as you go while presenting a united front to the kids.
Be prepared for him to do things his way. Everyday childcare tasks that usually fall to you won't come as easily to him while he's still learning. Putting him down will only discourage him from helping, so try and focus on what he does right.
Another way to get him to help is to appeal to his love and affection for the children. Not all men are openly affectionate fathers, and many guys seem genuinely afraid to express a lot of tender feeling, but most men do love their kids fiercely, and want the best for them. If you want your partner to take the kids somewhere on a weekend so you can have some free time, you can frame your request in a way that focuses on the father-child relationship. Rather than saying "get these kids out of here so I can have some time to myself", try saying "It would be great if you and the kids could hang out together at__________. They love spending the day with you."
As your partner begins to be more involved he'll develop his confidence with these tasks and will probably be more inclined to lend a hand. You'll see a big positive change in the running of your household, the happiness of your kids, and your peace of mind.
Your sex life might get an unexpected boost as well. When you're less stressed and working in harmony with your partner, you might find that you have more time and energy. After a long day of teamwork, when the kids are asleep, you can reward each other for a job well done.