It may sound obvious that ongoing, unresolved conflict in your relationship affects the mental health of your baby.
It probably comes as no surprise too that uneven division on housework is a key cause of conflict for new parents. Studies have shown that mothers are more satisfied when housework is divided more evenly between themselves and their partner, but women still do nearly 80% of the housework, even if they work for pay too. And this old fashioned gender-based allocation of labour actually increases once a baby is born.
Interestingly lesbian parents tend to split childcare and housework more evenly. It sounds to me that feminism still has a way to go in the home.
It's been my experience that once a baby is born men really get into the provider role and start working harder and longer, but when I ask their wives/partners what they want the answer is usually the same. They would like the man in their lives to work less, spend more time with them and the baby and help more around the house. A mother would nearly always be happy to sacrifice some income in order to get more help around the house.
How do you get your bloke to do the dishes? Here are three ideas to get you started.
- Sit down together and write a list of all the housework, then split it. There may be jobs that one of you enjoys more, in my house I do all the laundry and my husband does all the dishes. Other jobs may be split between you, like my husband prepares breakfast, I prepare lunch and we take turns with dinner because we both enjoy cooking. You may choose to take turns with some of the really, really unwanted jobs too, like cleaning the toilet.
- If your husband hasn't always done the housework then don't expect him to know what to do. I have heard somewhere (but I'm sorry I can't remember where to reference!) that men actually don't see mess and dirt in the same way as women. One way to work through this one is to get your partner to ask you what your highest priority is. If he has ten minutes before he leaves for work you might prefer he cleans the high chair before the ants find it. Decide which jobs really get you down, and get it done first. It's a really nice habit for your partner to ask you what housework needs doing, and can make you feel much more supported.
- 'The best sex aid a man could use was a vacuum cleaner' according to Barbara Pocock of the Centre for Work and Life. If your partner needs some more motivation tell him men who do more housework get more sex, yes someone has actually studied it. As mother of a newborn sex is probably be the last thing on your mind, but he's probably still thinking about it all the time.
And if you've got one of those brilliant husbands who loves vacuuming, cleans the toilet without you even asking and has a sense of humour, enter them into the Most Mentally Sexy Dad competition!!
Families of the Lesbian Parent Baby Boom: Parents Division of Labour and Children's Adjustment, CJ Patterson, 1995.
Who has the time? The Relationship Between Household Labour Time and Sexual Frequency, C Gager and S Yabiku, 2009.
ABS (1998), How Australians Use their Time, 1997, Catalogue No. 4153.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
de Vaus, D., Gray, M. and Stanton, D. (2003), "Measuring the value of unpaid household, caring and voluntary work of older Australians", Research Paper 34, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne