Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dads: Practical tips and advice for supporting your partner at home

Keeping your relationship strong in the early years of parenting can be challenging. In a landmark Australian study about families in the early stages of parenthood, it was found that by the time their babies were 18 months old, almost a quarter of the new parents reported that their marriage was in distress. An additional 12.5% were separated or divorced by this time. The extent of ‘genuinely shared’ parenting in Australian families hovered somewhere between 1-2%. Relationships Australia has a quiz on how your relationship rates.

More and more dads are doing a great job at sharing parental responsibilities. And they are keen to understand how they can better support their partners at home.

Here are some practical and common sense tips and advice to help support your partner while she is at home caring for the kids:

- Put the shoe on the other foot - Consider how you would feel if your career was put on hold to be at home with a little baby. Women are having children later in life. They are used to working and earning an income. Being at home with a child is very different.

- Help at night - Don't assume that you need more sleep because you need to get up and go to work. The workloads are the same. Often to get a cup of tea or do the nappy change furing the night. If you baby is being bottle fed, offer to take turns. It is a lovely part of the day to get to know your little one.

- Your partner is still working - the difference is that she is no longer receiving an income for her work.

- Being at home is not one big party - Don't assume that life at home involves trips to cafes, tennis and endless social gatherings. Her life is dictated by your child/childrens needs, not hers.

- Praise her for her hard work - cleaning, caring, preparing dinner, ironing, washing, shopping and countless other domestic chores. In a work situation, you have a team assisting you and praising you for the work you do. At home, there is no one.

- Don't argue about who works harder. Both of you need to be respectful of each other's roles in your new life together as parents.

- Get home on time and early enough to help with (or take over) bathing and feeding. Talk to her about her day. It can sometimes be very lonely and isolating at home.

- Prepare dinner once or twice each week. It is so easy to prepare in advance (on the weekend) a lasagne, casserole or curry.

- Give her time to exercise. Exercise is a great stress reliever and contributes to mental health.

- Be aware of the symptoms of Post Natal Depression. It affects up to 30% of new mums. Don't ignore it. If you are concerned about your partner's health, seek advice from your doctor.

- Tell her that you love her. And then do something to show it. For example, take her out for dinner, organise a facial or massage, or organise a weekend activity to get everyone out of the house.

Love, trust, respect, communication and sharing parental responsbilities will ensure a strong relationship that will endure the challenges and joys of parenting.