Should dads do less?

When my husband comes home from work, I’m practically jumping for joy at the front door. Of course, my happiness to see him has less to do with him being back from work and more with the extra set of hands and eyes that have arrived.

By that time, I will have been alone with our 18-month-old son all day. I will have gone shopping with a bouncing toddler who is only happy when he can throw breakables from the trolley; tried to work on freelance projects while he pulls on computer cords and tries to smash the screen with a toy spade; feeding him his breakfast and lunch, snacks and drinks while simultaneously doing a superficial clean-up of the house, laundry run, conducting an interview over the phone, walking the dogs etc. 

The moment my husband arrives; he can be counted on to play with and distract our son for an hour or so. I have a bit of time to myself, although usually, I must admit, this is when I cook dinner and tidy up the kitchen. Usually my partner can also be counted on to give junior his bath, get him undressed, sometimes even feeding him at night. I wouldn’t say our household runs like a well-oiled machine – but we have a kind of system and it works. Which I thought, was a good thing. 

But then I read a recent study from the Ohio State University actually says men need to help less with caring for small children. The study says that parents who share tasks like feeding and bathing their toddlers had more conflict than couples where the mothers did all of those duties alone. 

Instead, dads are told to play more with their children. The reason for the conflict is apparently because mothers are critical about the way in which the fathers perform the care-giving. An expert is quoted saying: ‘Sometimes mothers need to learn not to worry about small things that don’t really matter and just focus on the fact their partner is helping with the children.’

Whose mess it is anyway?

But it is difficult to bite your tongue when you get to the bathroom and notice that it is 50cm deep in water because dad has turned it into a waterpark and will not be cleaning up the mess afterwards.

The study showed that when fathers played more with their children, the quality of the co-parenting relationship was warmer and more harmonious. The researchers said the problems parents experienced with co-parenting duties could lead to marital dissatisfaction and could eventually lead to divorce. ‘It’s more than just an annoyance…it’s a big deal,’ warns Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan.

The benefits of fathers playing more with their children have been proven in numerous studies. I don’t need any convincing of that. But in our house, there is no need for more play time. There is, however, a need for more help around the house.

I think it’s up to each family to work out what parenting pattern works best for them. I came to the conclusion that there would definitely be more conflict in our house if my son’s dad performed less care-giving duties. 

So after reading the study – which was forwarded to me by my husband, by the way – I walked over to him in front of the TV. I smiled sweetly and said, ‘It’s time for baby’s bath now, isn’t it?’.

As I walked away, I added sort of off-hand, ‘Oh, funny study that, huh?’ Moments later I heard the bath running and all was well in our home again.

Does the sharing of chores cause conflict in your home?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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