Guest Post by Claudine Wolk, author of It Gets Easier and Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.

blog post image of man and woman looking away from each other

You may not notice the power shift in your relationship after you deliver a baby right away. The shifting is subtle. It’s little things. You might notice that your partner who was always first to empty the dishwasher is leaving that chore to you. Perhaps your partner was the grocery shopper and now leaves it to you. The shift might come in the form of purchasing habits. Has your partner been asking you about packages delivered to the house with a raised eyebrow or commenting on your new yoga pants?

These are all signs of a power shift in the relationship that you may experience when you take your family leave for 6 to 12 weeks after the birth of a baby.

“What is going on?” you think. When did this change develop?

Here is the scary truth. You may want to sit down.

Your partner may actually think that you are enjoying “time off” and that household chores have now become your complete domain. I know…I know, the nerve! Take a deep, cleansing breath.

If your partner works from home or if your partner also took off in those first few weeks after the birth of a baby, they certainly know that babycare is full-time and all encompassing. As the weeks progress, though, and you are still the care-giver at home or if God forbid, you decided to be a stay-at-home parent, your partner may be thinking that you are now responsible for child care, household responsibilities, and
spending less money because… you are no longer making money or not making as much money as you once did. It is an ugly phenomenon and its wrong but it happens.

The first step in addressing the power shift is acknowledgement. The first step in addressing this power shift is acknowledging that it exists. The second step is to communicate your concern with your partner.
It is uncomfortable to talk about money issues, childcare issues and chore responsibilities.

Here are some tips:

  • Find a time when you and your partner are in a relaxed state and the baby is down for the night. Explain that you have noticed some changes in each of your duties and you want to talk with your partner about these changes and figure out what your partner is thinking. Hopefully your partner will embrace an honest dialogue. He or she may explain that they thought that since you are home now that your responsibilities regarding the home increase. Don’t blow a gasket. Take a deep breath.
  • It is important for you to understand that there is a societal opinion out there that being a stay-at-home parent… for any period of time… is, now hold onto your seat – a way to get out of work. Gasp. I know, I know. The sheer horror of that misguided sentiment. Every stay-at-home parent knows that taking care of a baby is the hardest job in the world bear none. For those who have not done it full-time, however, they simply don’t understand the difficulty of the job. Your partner is out in the world and may be listening to those on the outside who believe that being a stay-at-home parent or care-giving during family leave is “lucky, easy, and a way to get out of work. “
  • I know that it is frustrating but this is your opportunity to have an honest one on one talk with your partner. It is probably one of the most important conversations that you will have in your relationship. Taking care of a baby is a lot of work. Your job is to keep your baby alive. When your partner comes home from work, if your baby is still alive, you have done your job. Anything else that gets done in the meantime, is a bonus. You do your job during the day – taking care of the baby – and your partner does their job during the day and when you both are home, you both need to contribute to the house and the baby care. Period.

Things you can do to continue to retrieve your power back in your
relationship shift:

  • Do It In Front of Them. If you do have a chance to do some chores at home, make sure that you save some chores to do in front of your partner, i.e., emptying the dishwasher, folding clothes, etc.  Your partner needs to SEE the work you are doing and that chores are not completely magically while they are at work.
  • Keep Your hand In the Finances. Resist the urge to hand over the finances to your partner. Stay active in what is spent and what is saved. I know you are exhausted and one less chore is a blessing but money is the #1 reason couple’s fight. It is important to keep your hand in it.
  • Don’t Criticize How They Do It. When it comes to the housework, grocery shopping and laundry, your partner may not do things exactly the way you do. Let them do it their way. By criticizing your partners contribution, you are lessening your power!  
  • Don’t Criticize How They Care For the Baby. When it comes to baby care, your partner might not do things exactly the way you do. It is important for them to develop their own relationship with the baby now and in the future so try to bite your lip and unless asked for help, zip it!
  • Do Things Alone. Make sure that you take time to do things for yourself occasionally and have your partner watch the baby without you. It takes practice to understand how to take care of a baby and your partner needs that practice. Insist on your own time away from the baby. Remember that you are part of your family, too, and that you need to take time for yourself doing non-baby things.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. It’s important for the chat with your partner to iron out these issues. You will be saving yourself a lot of resentment and setting a great example for your kids down the road. I.e., Mom counts too! © Strength 4 Spouses LLC, 2023.