When my daughter was a baby, my husband and I had no idea what we were doing, and so we tag-teamed on most parenting tasks. We’d sit together in a cramped bathroom and give our infant a bath, take turns making helicopter sounds while feeding her spoonfuls of of mashed avocado, and change her nappy with one person holding up her legs and the other person wiping. Eventually though, as she grew older and we became more capable, we realised: Nobody’s got time for all that!
We started divvying up the responsibilities because we discovered the obvious — you can get more done with a divide-and-conquer approach. Some families take the concept a step further. In attorney Rebecca Fike’s house, there is a designated “morning parent” (her husband) and an “evening parent” (her).
On the podcast Best of Both Worlds With Laura Vanderkam and Sarah Hart-Unger, Fike talked about how this sharp divide gives both parents more freedom and allows them to better connect with their three children.
Her husband, she explains, takes the AM shift: “He runs the whole morning — he does breakfast for the kids, he gets them up, he packs their lunches and he gets them to school. I have no part of that at all.” That way, if Fike has an early-morning meeting, she can just get up and go, guilt-free. And if she’s home, she can relax and chat with the kids at the table — no need to stress about whether their teeth are brushed or if their backpacks are by the door, as that’s the morning parent’s job.
Later on, she takes the PM shift, giving her husband a chance to unwind. They still have lots of family time, but no one has to be “on the clock” 24/7. “It works really well for us,” she says.
This type of setup, of course, can only be created by families with two parents living in the same house. And it probably won’t work if your children are very young. (Try explaining “Mummy’s off duty right now!” to a two-year-old banging on your bathroom door.) Also, it takes a certain amount of trust in your partner and in the system as a whole. (If you start feeling like the parenting workload is way off, it’s time to re-strategise.)
Still, if it is an option for you, designating a morning parent and an evening parent can give each partner a chance to recharge and perhaps build a life outside of raising children. And that can make everyone in the home happier — the kids included.