Between diaper changes, cooking, cleaning, walking the dog, and many sleepless nights where Evelyn would only fall asleep with me, there were times where it felt like I was doing 90% of the work. Trust me, I hear how it sounds, because it sounds dumb, selfish, and wildly unlikely. The truth is still the truth, though, and I am certain that I am not the only person who has felt this way.
As a new father you are not all that important in the beginning, especially if your better half is breastfeeding. The “job” of a new father is fairly limited as the little one is mostly mommy dependent. Just be helpful, thoughtful, and present. Pretty easy job description. Basically, a status quo scenario.
However, this will change and it will bring new challenges in balancing parental, familial, and work duties. For me, the change occurred when Heather went back to work full time and Evelyn went to daycare.
Suddenly, I had to work different hours to manage daycare drop-offs and/or pick-ups. I was doing tons of cleaning, cooking, dog walking, groceries, baths, bedtimes, midnight feeds, etc. I had entered a brave new world, one where my role as a father was evolving as well as my role as a husband, and provider. This is when I felt like I was carrying 90% of the workload. In my mind, I was doing everything and being told that it still wasn’t enough. It was all getting overwhelming.
Somewhere in the middle of a sleep deprived, reddit-infused, internet binge I came across some insight from another parent. A Redditor (sorry I don’t remember your username) put this stage of parenting into perfect context for me. They said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that you aren’t carrying 90% of the workload even though you feel like you are. You are, however, probably doing 90% more work. And so is your better half.
Having a kid results in 180% more work for the household. So, if you feel like you are covering 90% of things, it’s just because you aren’t seeing the other 90% of it. Rest assured your partner is also feeling like they are covering 90% of the new household chores. In reality, you are splitting the new responsibilities 50/50.
Most of this extra work going unrecognized, because it happens when you’re too busy to pay attention or see it happen. Think dishes piling up in the sink. When you see them in the sink it means that something wasn’t done, but if the sink is clean you spare no second thoughts for how, why, or who made it happen. All this work is being done in the background for the benefit of everyone.
The simple idea that the work is being split 90/90 made everything more manageable. It served as a reminder that Heather and I are a team. That we both do everything we can for our new family. That I am not alone and that someone else is looking out for me too, whether I see it happening or not. That context made this whole transition less overwhelming for me and allowed me to be more appreciative of all the work she does as well.
If you find yourself thinking the workload is unevenly divided, I recommend talking about it with your better half. There is a good chance you feel the same way. All you may need is a little 90/90 perspective to make things manageable again.