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8 things women can do to get dads more involved




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Before we had children, my husband and I talked about being equal partners around the house. But I find myself doing a lot more than 50 percent — especially since what he does do, he doesn’t do right. How can I get him to be more involved?

For most couples with kids, one of the biggest stressors is the division of labor in the home, in part because even the most egalitarian couples tend to slip into traditional roles (meaning that mom does more of the housework and childcare than her partner). The more equitably domestic tasks are distributed, however, the happier wives (and husbands) are with their marriages. So resolving these issues may be critical to the health and success of your relationship. The following steps will help make the division of labor around your house a little fairer.

1. Look at it from his perspective. Women tend to measure what their husbands do around the house against what they do. Not surprisingly, on that kind of scale, many men fail miserably. Men, though, compare what they do to what their fathers — or their male friends and coworkers — do. On that scale, most husbands feel pretty satisfied with themselves and their contributions around the house.

2. Don’t ask for help. Asking him for “help” reinforces the idea that you’re the primary parent. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t do his share. But using the word “help” makes it seem like whatever he’s “helping” with is really your job and that you should be grateful.

3. Adjust your standards. “When my husband says the kitchen is clean he means that the dishes are in the dishwasher,” one mother told me. “The counter can still be filthy, and the floor can still be covered with dirt.” You need to be more accepting of his standards. After all, there are a lot of different ways to change diapers, play, teach and entertain the children. Yours isn’t always the right one.

If you adjust your standards, your husband will be more involved in the household and with the kids. No child ever suffered long-term trauma by having her diaper put on backwards or by going out of the house with oatmeal stuck in her hair.

Because you may begin to notice the unswept coffee grounds before he does, one of your biggest challenges may be to close your eyes to the mess and learn to live with it.

4. Go on strike. Let your husband know that you have limits. A well-timed “your arm’s not broken, do it yourself” may occasionally be a helpful reminder that men and women are partners in parenting. Your husband will certainly get the message when he runs out of clean underwear. But you need to stick to your guns. If he senses that you’ll give in before he does, he’ll never learn to do his part.

5. Be (a little) insincere. As a group, men generally dislike doing things that make them feel incompetent. At the same time, they’re suckers for compliments. So, one of the best ways to get your husband to do something he doesn’t like to do is to praise him — even when you know you could do it better.

Television characters from Lucy Ricardo to Roseanne Conner figured this out long ago, and the same applies in real life: sweet-talk soothes; nagging only irritates. Tell him what a great job he’s doing already and ask him to do the same thing again. Indirect compliments are effective too — let him hear you raving to a friend about how well he’s done something. Sound manipulative? Maybe, but it works. The more he feels that you’re noticing and appreciating his efforts, the more he’ll do. Guaranteed.

6. No gatekeeping. Many women take charge of the household and childcare because they want to be in control. But too often, being in control means pushing their partner out of the way and not letting him participate. For other women, control isn’t the issue: they just assume that men are either uninterested or incompetent. And men get the message: many find it easier to just back off.

By the time women become mothers, most have had years of subtle (or not-so-subtle) training. Female role models are plentiful, as are resources. But good male role models are rare, as is information specifically designed to help men prepare for fatherhood (the exception being the books and other resources I’ve created for dads).

The moral of the story? Let your partner try to figure things out for himself before you jump in. Men and women have different approaches to the same issue and fathers need the confidence that comes only with practice. Letting him develop his own parenting style will also give your family twice as many baby-care options.

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