The pandemic has changed the dynamic in a lot of families, but recently my husband and I have made a few big changes to our parenting roles and responsibilities.
Before the pandemic, I was a part-time author and stay-at-home mom to my two sons (largely due to the cost of childcare). When I first started working again, I felt beyond guilty about being away from my kids. I had stayed home for nearly four years, and my kids were attached to me like glue.
But after being stuck in isolation for months without playdates, parks, and preschool, I was more than ready to leave my husband in charge while I holed up in my office working.
Plus, my kids love having my husband home. He’s the epitome of the fun parent. He plays in the mud and gives them piggyback rides. He generally is less anxious than I am, so our boys can truly be a little wilder than when I’m around.
So when another position popped up that was basically my dream job, my husband and I made a shift with the help of a little pressure from the pandemic. We decided it made more sense for me to become the earner when my job paid more and decreased our exposure to COVID-19 since I could work from home.
However, there were a few adjustments we had to make and a few realities I had to accept as my husband took over as the primary caregiver. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
1. It’s OK when my kids rely on my partner more
I found out that my children needed less time than I did to adjust to the new household dynamics. They were ready to hang out with Dad all the time with just a few complaints here and there.
Now when they need help opening their water bottles, getting a snack, or starting something fun, they generally go to my husband first. The first few times it happened, I was not only relieved but proud of my husband for being such a good parent. But then I started questioning things.
Between phone calls, I would hear more cheers and laughter than tantrums, and I second-guessed my entire career as a stay-at-home mom. Did I just suck at being a mom? Why did my kids have so much fun with him and not me?
I was used to bandaging every boo-boo, tucking them in every night, and taking them to explore the neighborhood. When they needed anything, I was always there.
Thankfully, the jealousy didn’t last long after the novelty of having their dad in charge wore off. Our kids quickly went back to their daily tantrums over the wrong colored plate or refusal to put on pants.
2. I can guide our family in a less hands-on way
Kids thrive on routine, and sometimes, so do parents. After years of being a stay-at-home mom, I had finally gotten into an effective cleaning and child-wrangling schedule that revolved around appointments and my kids’ fussiness levels at different times of the day.
At first, I grew frustrated I was stepping on LEGOs nearly every day but soon remembered how difficult it was for me to get into a good balance of cleaning and multitasking while entertaining two rowdy toddlers.
Just barely a week into the shift in our responsibilities, I ordered chore charts and whiteboards for the whole family to reorganize our schedule and prioritize the essential chores as we got into our new routine.
3. The fun parent still needs to set boundaries
When you are not the primary caregiver, it can be easier to shift into the “fun” persona and not want to let your kids be upset with you. But after taking over most of the parenting responsibilities, my husband started saying no to the kids more.
It was a hard transition for the whole family, as he learned to balance household tasks, the needs versus desires of the kids, and pet care of all of our animals. But after he learned that saying no sometimes was necessary, everything started running more smoothly.
4. I remember how important it is to feel appreciated
When you’re the primary caregiver, the stress of keeping children alive, happy, and entertained can feel overwhelming. I often found myself feeling alone and lost in the needs of everyone else in my home.
It made me realize I undervalued my work as a homemaker for years. The stress of taking care of the household, kids, pets, appointments, etc. is neverending. The list of tasks can quickly suck the life out of you as a parent if you let it—especially during a pandemic.
But when I started working more, I started to prioritize my needs more since I easily was able to justify my self-care as a necessity to help me continue to provide financially for my family. My husband, however, now needed me to remind him how important his role is and to nudge him to take time for himself too. So now, I prioritize not only my mental health but my partner’s, and I make sure to let him know that I am grateful and proud of him every day.
As a bonus, we also learned to communicate better after literally being put in one another’s shoes.
Read More: How I Learned to Let My Husband Parent