Who does what?
Should we be 50:50 on who gets up in the night? Can I be a stay-at-home-dad? Our appointments all seem to be about mum and baby … does that mean I should take a back-seat?
Becoming a parent is a whole new world, and it’s normal to have questions and not quite know how it’s all going to work out – or who’s going to do what.
Some of the things we find helpful are:
- Honest conversations: Having regular chats with your partner about how you’re finding things so far can make it easier for you both. Stay calm and keep these blame-free (use phrases like “It’s really helpful/I feel supported when …” instead of “You never …”). Remember, you’re both on the same team.
- Share the load: Homes are generally happier when you divide roles and responsibilities (looking after kids, running the house, bringing money in) in a way that both and your partner are happy with. Regular honest chats help determine who’s keen to do what.
- Ditch the stereotypes: Mum doesn’t have to stay at home with the kids. Dad doesn’t have to be outside doing the lawns. Balance things out in a way that works for your whānau.
And remember – dads can do a lot
You might not be able to give birth or make breastmilk – but you can do a legendary job at things like bath, bed and play time, making dinner, taking baby to appointments (like Plunket!) or for walks around the block, housework, changing nappies, mirimiri/massage, looking out for your partner … and lots more.
There’s always something to do, and taking a proactive approach can help keep the whānau vibe peaceful.
You’re an important part of the family team. Don’t shy away or assume your partner doesn’t need your help.
Being a stay at home dad
The role of stay-at-home dad has become more popular in recent years, with more and more guys choosing to hang up their ties or work boots to stay at home and look after their kids.
What does a stay-at-home dad do all day (and night)?
The same stuff as a stay-at-home mum:
- keeping the kids alive and happy - feeding them, settling them down for naps, visiting whānau, playing and exploring, going to groups or activities, showing lots of aroha/love and care
- house admin - chores, budgeting, making meals.
And just like mum, dads might:
- be at home part-time or full-time
- stay home for a couple of months or for a couple of years
- have a mix of crazy days and amazing days
- find that staying home isn’t for them – or that it’s the best job they’ve ever had.
Everyone’s situation is unique, and things can move and change. Do what works best for you and the whānau.
What’s it like being a stay-at-home-dad?
Chad, who looks after his little lady, Isla, says: “It’s the most challenging and rewarding role I have ever done."
He says, "It is amazing to see Isla develop. Every day is a new movement, word of expression."
But also adds it’d be normal for people to find it tough – and isolating.
There are limited networks for stay-at-home dads and it’s a huge shift to go from the paid workforce, where you’re often surrounded by people, to being home alone with your child, he says.
Chad’s top recommendations for any dads making the decision to stay at home:
- make sure you maintain friendships
- get out and about - being cooped up at home all day can get a bit tough
- there are some great groups to go along to, it can take a bit to get into it, but Isla enjoys it
- just enjoy it. Even when you are awake in the middle of the night, just think those cuddles won’t always be so easy to get.
“Deciding to have some time with Isla has been the best decision we have made.”
Why it’s important to be on the same team
The whole whānau benefits when you and your partner have each other’s back, and are on the same page with your approach to parenting.
Why it’s great to parent as a team:
- consistency (knowing what to expect) makes children feel safe
- it role-models positive and healthy relationships
- it creates a peaceful home environment, and
- you and your partner are more likely to feel happier and confident in your parenting and family life.
Like most things, parenting as a team gets easier with time and practice, but there are also some things you can to set yourselves up to succeed:
- Look after yourself and your relationship – it’s much easier to work together when you’re feeling connected, and mentally, physically and emotionally well.
- For our Māori dads, think Te Whare Tapa Whā and what you need in order to keep your whare balanced.
- We also have a helpful page on how to cope with stress, tiredness and anger
- Talk about how you want to parent, so you’re both on the same page
If things are tough at home, please reach out
As well as speaking to your partner, it can also be helpful to reach out to the boys or a trusted whānau member for advice.
If you need a bit more support, there are relationship counsellors across the country (the Mental Health Foundation has some good advice on how to find a counsellor – you could also give our PlunketLine nurses a free-call on 0800 933 922), as well as peer-to-peer support services (like Dadz Care).
How to find a counsellor:
Dadz Care: Peer-to-peer support service.
Remember – family violence is never ok
- If you feel like you’re about to lash out, walk outside and take 10-15 minutes to cool down and gather your thoughts and emotions. Call one of the boys or a trusted whānau member for advice or to come and pick you up. You can also call 0800 HEY BRO (439 276). This is a free, 24/7 service.
- If you’re experiencing abuse, call Shine on 0508 744 633 for support (this is free and available from 9am to 11pm every day) or the It's Not Ok helpline (0800 456 450).
- If you’re in immediate danger, call 111 and ask for the Police (run outside or head to where there are other people, yell for help so your neighbours can hear you, take your children, and don’t stop to get anything else).
For more information and support, check out the 0800 HEY BRO website:
Are you experiencing domestic violence?