It may be true that fathers are more involved in their children's day-to-day lives than ever before, but it's also true that women still take the lead when it comes to child-care responsibilities ... even when both parents work full-time. As a result, women are more drained and more frustrated than their male counterparts—and generally more than happy to let you know about it. For the sake of women and marriages everywhere, there are ways to establish and maintain a better balance of responsibilities. (Can we get an "Amen"?)
Discuss what is fair when it comes to child-rearing responsibilities. You may not agree on what is fair, but it helps to understand one another. A good rule of thumb—especially for dual-income parents—is "Once we are home together, we are each 50 percent responsible for child care." Obviously, flexibility on a day-to-day basis is always in order. If one parent had a particularly strenuous day and really needs a break, he might ask for a night off ... but it should be mutually understood that "breaks" aren't always possible, and that in the long run the 50/50 balance needs to be maintained. And it can't always be "talked out." Sometimes, if one parent is very exhausted and the other is very, very exhausted, it isn't worth debating who deserves a break. Flip a coin if you can't agree.
Be encouraging and fairly noncritical of the less-involved "other parent." The less-involved parent is not likely to do things as efficiently or expertly as the more involved parent would. A mother who asks her husband to "watch the kids" may expect him to interact with the kids in a constructive and creative way, only to find out he is sitting in a central place and simply observing them. (Men tend to follow directions literally.) Be specific about what you want and be willing to express appreciation. (Yes, he probably doesn't express enough appreciation for all you do, but show him appreciation anyway. He'll feel good about it and maybe he'll take the hint that you could use some pats on the back, too.)
Avoid negative labels. As strongly as you may feel it, claiming that the less-involved parent "just doesn't care about the kids" will only invite a debate, not create a real solution. It's true, the husband may temporarily comply with your wishes under that kind of pressure, but he'll resent it, and you'll both lose ground in the long run.
The less-involved partner who agrees to more involvement should be open to your ideas, and the more-involved parent needs to meet her halfway. Imagine an example where your less-involved partner gets more involved but is gruff with kids (or acts too much like a kid herself that no one seems to be taking charge). You complain, then she gets annoyed at your complaint and says, "I'll do things my way, you do things your way." Now what? The best approach is to find common ground rather than insist your way is best. But each parent must be willing to accept some of what the other suggests.
Motivate the less-involved parent. Remind him of the payoffs to being more actively involved (and that doing his share of childrearing is a form of foreplay to you). Truth be told, if your husband is more involved with the kids you are freed up to do other things. You will feel less irritable if you're treated more fairly, and that may very well open the door to sparking your romantic urges. (The number one reason for low sexual desire is fatigue. If you're more energetic because your mate is helping out more, your sexual relationship will probably improve.)
Regard "shared responsibility" as a process that needs regular adjustment and alignment, rather than a problem that can be solved, once and for all. Whatever agreements you reach, there will always be exceptions to the rules. Illness, extra work hours or increased demands from children can tip the delicate balance you and your spouse have agreed to. So view this issue as ongoing, one that requires periodic discussion and realignment. Having to talk about "who does what" again isn't a sign of weakness, it's just part of the parenting process.report abuse