Encouraging Equality In Parenting

November 1, 2022

My son (Theo) was born in January of 2021, during the 4th lockdown of the pandemic (here in Toronto). He is the definition of a pandemic baby – conceived, born and his whole first year of life happened during this epic, awful and unprecedented event in our lives. 

Being born during a lockdown meant that Theo wasn’t held by anyone other than mom and dad (except for the nurses and doctors in the hospital) for weeks. I am by no means complaining about this fact, since this experience allowed us to bond with him in such a way that probably can’t be duplicated if we were constantly interrupted by family and friends that all want their turn to cuddle him and smell his baby head. However, we will be the first to admit that it was hard and daunting to do it all by ourselves for our first time as new parents – but we didn’t have anything to compare it to, so we navigated our way through it with the help of google, facetime and a ton of patience.   

We are so fortunate to have the option of a 12-month or 18-month maternity leave here in Canada (I opted for the yearlong leave), what wasn’t very lucky was that my entire leave happened during the pandemic but … c’est la vie. A year off to spend with your baby is incredible, exhausting, fun, unforgettable and a sure-fire way to make you the default and often preferred parent. The inability of being able to join any Mommy & Me classes or physically get together with friends made maternity leave lonely and hard from a social aspect and it added to Theo’s separation anxiety from me since for more than half a year I was never not there. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love being the preferred parent (who wouldn’t?!) but its not a popularity contest and I would much more prefer it if Theo ran to or cried to us equally. The problem with being the preferred parent is that sometimes you feel like you are standing in the way of your partner having the same close relationship you have with your child. I am fully aware that the preferred parent will change as my child grows up – chances are when he’s a bit older he will want to do things way more with dad than with his mom. I’m not looking forward to the day when he won’t want me to kiss him goodbye in front of friends because it’s soooo embarrassing – I know these changes are coming and I am not looking forward to a time when he won’t just want his mommy for everything. However I don’t like feeling guilty that my husband gets the short of end the stick when it comes to getting attention or quality time with Theo – so here are a few strategies we have applied to our everyday life that encourage all relationships to flourish and as an added bonus makes our house run smoother. 

Encouraging Equality In Parenting

1. Take turns doing the bedtime routine – the whole thing or just parts of it. 

I would say our bedtime routine has been consistent since Theo graduated from his bassinet in our bedroom and moved to his crib in his own room. We have always done some combination of bath, jammies, books and milk. Some days one parent does bath and jammies, the other does books and milk. Some days one parent does it all and the next day we switch. No matter how we break it down – we have decided that we each get to be the one that bring him to his room and do good night songs and cuddles every other day. To this day we still get resistance some days because he wants mommy to do it – but we try to stay firm and explain it is daddy’s turn today and it will be mommy’s turn tomorrow. The best way to alleviate the resistance problem is to make myself scarce for a bit – which in our house is going down to the basement to get some alone time catching up on a show, reading or getting in a bike ride. Win-win, mom gets some me time and dad gets a toddler that is not bending over backwards trying to get mommy to hold him instead. 

2. Provide opportunities for one-on-one play while the other parent is occupied. 

Not so much a strategy as much as a necessity in our household to be able to cook dinners or get certain chores done that can’t be completed with a toddler at your feet. While playing all together or going to the park as a family is so much fun and we can see how much Theo loves it – it is not a reality we can provide daily, when dinner needs to be cooked, laundry needs to be done and bathrooms need to be scrubbed. Our toddler is at that stage where unless he can contribute to the cooking process – such as helping put toppings on pizza or things in the blender for smoothies or pancake batter – he is a hindrance to the goal. We take turns making dinner and getting to spend one-on-one time playing with Theo and according to my husband the type of attention he gets when I’m not there is more meaningful, and they both enjoy their bonding time. 

3. Split the tougher chores equally – the doctor’s appointments, the drop-offs and pick-ups at daycare and the sick days. (Obviously only possible if careers/jobs allow for such a flexible arrangement).

My husband and I are fortunate that we can flex our work schedules to be able to each do either drop-off or pick-up from daycare. We have also figured out how to handle sick days – which with a toddler in daycare feels like there are more sick days than healthy ones. We take turns staying home full days or have even done half days and traded off at lunch on days where we both have meetings we can’t reschedule. Not going to lie – a sick toddler and full workload leads to both parents asleep 10 minutes after the kiddo is asleep. However, splitting these hard days is not only beneficial in the way it gets us to appreciate the work our partners put in, but it also teaches our kid that he’s always in capable hands during a tough time – no parental preference required. 

Going on adventures, cuddling to watch Thomas & Friends on a sick day and playing before bedtime are all wonderful memories we are creating together. However, it is the way we are splitting up the other mundane but necessary tasks that is making our household run relatively smoothly and encouraging our little Theo to engage, depend on and relate with both of us in an equal manner. 

-Daniela Cojocariu-Gullins

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Get early access to upcoming podcast guests, solo episode topics, what to expect on the blog, merch drops, and anything else I think you’d enjoy. 

Expect the unexpected.