Despite positive shifts in society towards co-parenting, research released today from WaterWipes has shown that parents still use terms more suited to the parenting styles of the 1950s.
This can impact on new parents confidently discovering together what is best for them and their new family, once they go beyond the first couple of weeks with their new baby and become a working family.
The study of 1,000 parents with children under five years old, revealed that 78 percent of parents equate the parent responsible for financial support as the ‘main family provider’. It also uncovered that over half of parents admit to referring to either themselves or their partners as ‘babysitters’ when one is taking care of the children.
The research launches a new campaign by WaterWipes, 'The Parents’ Pact', that is challenging traditional perceptions of what it means to provide for your family. The campaign champions parents’ recognition of the value of the different roles they and their partner play in contributing to the family unit, and to support each other as parents and individuals on the parenthood journey.
Relationship expert Sarah Abell, says: “The transition from being a couple to a family is an exciting yet challenging period. Following the first few weeks of baby’s arrival, pressures are soon to be felt as couples experience a shift in identities which is most prominent when one parent returns to work.”
“Whilst many couples today are determined not to slide into gender-stereotypical ways of parenting, it can be hard to navigate new ground without a map, especially when parenting language has yet to catch up with the co-parenting models that we see an increasing number of Millennial parents wanting to develop.”
Abell continues: “Many dads today find themselves facing two, seemingly conflicting demands in the early days of their baby’s life – a sense of increased financial responsibility with a strong desire to be involved and engaged with their new baby and partner. In fact, the WaterWipes research showed that at least a third of men found it difficult to leave their partner to go back to work, feeling guilty at leaving her alone. New Mums can find the transition even harder as they find themselves left to cope with the constant demands of a new born on their own.
"Perhaps, this is why it is time that we saw ‘providing’ in much wider terms than just finances. New parents are much more likely to see themselves as a team if they can move away from labels such a ‘breadwinner’ and ‘stay-at-home mum or dad', and see themselves as providing together for the family – whether that is love, care, support, engagement, space or finances”
“The important thing to remember is that, however roles and responsibilities are divided, today’s parenting is much more about pulling together than who does what. When both mum and dad feel that they are a team providing for their baby, with all that entails, the better outcomes they are likely to experience, for their child and their relationship.”
“Just remember, you and your partner have got this covered; stay connected and approach parenting as a team. To put you at ease on even the trickiest of days, here are my top tips for when two become three (or more!)”
- Create a united front – Make decisions and face challenges together. Talking in terms of “we”, “our” or “us” will help to keep you united. For example, “How can we budget our money this month?”. Only agree to solutions that work for you both and don’t be afraid to renegotiate if something isn’t working.
- Mind your language – When referring to yourself or your partner, phrases such as “the provider”, “babysitter” or “stay at home Mum or Dad” only reinforce traditional stereotypes. Remember you’ve both fostered the same role in providing love, engagement and care for your baby despite the different avenues you may take to get there.
- Start as you mean to go on - Whether it is choosing a toy for baby or going to an ante natal class together, it’s vital that you involve each other from the beginning of your parenthood journey to build confidence between yourselves as Mum and Dad.
- Consider each other’s needs – The smallest thing can lead to an argument when you are tired, stressed or over-whelmed, though don’t presume your partner will know how you feel. Speak to them and let them know what you need, whilst also looking out for them. If one of you needs an extra lie-in, time to exercise or a night out with friends, make it happen. It’s as important to give each other space as individuals than it is to connect as a couple.
- Don’t keep score - It’s counter-productive to compare notes on who has had the hardest day. Whether it’s tiredness, hours worked or money earned, always remember you are on the same team so pull together and show appreciation rather than scoring points.
- Tune into each other - Carving out time to be together is not always easy but necessary for keeping allied. Take up offers of babysitting so you can spend quality time and always show an interest in what each other has been up to during the days when you’ve been apart.
- Keep the spark alive - Small, affectionate gestures such as a kiss, cuddle or appreciative comment can go a long way on a hard day, and it’s a precious reminder that you are all each other needs.