Is parenting with a partner ever truly equal? For most households, the answer is no.
It’s no secret that the role as a parent has been highly gendered for centuries, which has continued to set the standard of having a “primary parent” even now, regardless of sex and gender. By having balanced resources, support, and responsibilities, we can create more equality between parents.
Be a fly on the wall to our conversations with Michael Perry, Founder and CEO of household management app Maple, and Sarah Hollingsworth, Founder and CEO of baby registry site Poppylist below. Both are on a mission to create parental equality, and so far, have succeeded:
What We’ve Done (and Should Keep Doing)
1. Introduce a New Generation
It’s true for anything that with every generation, there’s progress made. In this case, it’s new parents breaking the traditional roles defined by legacy thinking. “I am really happy to see women standing up and calling out household inequality, and even happier when men accept this inequality and rise to change it,” Perry says.
2. Create Better Resources
There’s countless books and websites angled at the mom or birthing partner, which is a problem. “When you frame or market it as ‘helping mom’ or ‘for mom,’ it implies that it’s solely Mom’s responsibility,” Perry warns. “And it’s not. It’s not 1950 – it’s 50/50.” Hollingsworth agrees, stating, “When I think about dads specifically, I think it’s an utterly under-served market and one of the easiest ways to radically increase support for moms. Equal parenting should be front and center of every product and brand’s mission if they’re in the baby industry.” That being said, there’s two resources she recommends dads and non-birthing partners checking out:
- Maple is an app (yes, Perry’s!) helping to even the household workload that traditionally has been the burden and responsibility of the mother.
- Dadditude is a self-care parenting app helping dads be more reflective, confident, and productive in their family life.
3. Remove Taboos
A big one? Bottle and formula feeding. “This lightens the feeding load off the mother and allows the dad or non-feeding partner to contribute to this demanding schedule, especially in the early days,” Hollingsworth states. Another benefit is how it’s helped lift shame from those who are unable to breastfeed for whatever reason. More and more, “fed is best” is trumping “breast is best.”
What Else We Can Do
1. Edit Your Language
While many households don’t have heterosexual parents, much of the inequality caregivers experience today began with gendered roles. “One of the most prominent ways we’re focusing on breaking down the gender divide in baby planning is our awareness and commitment to using non-gender-inclusive language, which avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender,” Hollingsworth explains. Examples of words Popplist uses, that you can too: parents, non-birthing partner, spouse, partner, people, and y’all.
2. Write it All Down
Literally all of it. Perry recommends working with your partner to document every single task and responsibility that goes into running a household and a family, either on paper or in a digital spreadsheet like Maple. When you write down who’s responsible for each task, you’ll quickly be able to see if one person is taking on more than the other. Then re-divide the responsibilities, taking turns claiming tasks that are owned, from start to finish, by one person. “Taking self-accountability and being an active participant in a household is paramount to it running effectively,” he says.
This does come with a caveat though: “If everyone in the household is happy, then don’t fix something that isn’t broken. Some families want to remain traditional and we respect that everyone has to do what is best for their family,” Perry adds.
3. Speak Up
“Communicate to your partner the specific help you need, and why it’s important they contribute to the planning,” Hollingsworth advises. She then provides some tangible examples you can consider asking your partner to own:
- Ask your partner to read reviews and find the highest safety-rated car seat.
- Ask your partner to locate the nearest fire station, and take the car there with the car seat to be properly inspected. You can both learn how to install it = a task you can do together!
- Your partner can be in charge of scheduling the hospital tour, researching any/all COVID restrictions, etc.
- Ask your partner to take the lead on organizing a meal train. Your partner can send it out to your community that’ll be waiting to support you as soon as the baby arrives.
- Ask your partner to share their favorite childhood books, and add them to the baby registry. Making each other feel considered is so essential during this transition into parenthood.
If you don’t have a partner and are entering parenthood solo, swap out “partner” with a close friend/family member. Someone would love to help you with any of these!
“Change is happening,” Perry explains. “There are more men today taking part in active parenting than ever before, but it’s still not enough. The trend line is there, we just have to accelerate equality.” Hollingsworth agrees, saying, “While all of these improvements are great, we still have a long way to go to ensure that raising a human with a partner does not fall on the responsibility of just one member. It takes a village.”
Advocating for parental equality does too.