how can a full-time parent support their breadwinner partner?

A reader writes:

I’ve just been laid off, and we had to take our two young children out of child care due to the expense. My partner and I have decided that I’ll be staying home with our young children for at least the next year, possibly longer if local child care shortages continue. (For what it’s worth, I’m male and my partner is female.)

What advice do you or your readers have on supporting my partner when she becomes the primary (only) breadwinner? She’ll be working from home for at least part of the next year. That’s a lot of pressure on her shoulders, but my overwhelming daily focus is going to be on the kids and running of the household. How can I make sure she feels loved, appreciated, heard and not left out?

The prospect of not working for a year or more is absolutely terrifying to me, but I know that lots of women over the years have done exactly this without complaint – I’m not special. I’m just trying to make sure our family navigates this in a way so that we’ll come out stronger in the end.

Readers, what advice do you have?

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Talk to her! What she needs is going to be different from what others need. Communication is what will get you through this. And it’s not a one and done conversation – revisit the topic over time. Cleaning standards, meal times/preferences, kid time, everything needs to be on the table for discussion.

    1. Anon (and on and on)*

      THIS! Ask her the question that you asked us. And then… keep asking that question. Make suggestions (“would it be helpful if I did X or Y?” “what would you think about a little of z?”), but mostly, just keep the conversation open. Be prepared for her to not know what would help, that’s okay, too! Sometimes people don’t want you to fix things, they just want you to listen. That’s another great question: “do you want advice/solutions or do you just need to vent right now?”

      Frankly, though, the fact that you’re thinking of this at all bodes well for your ability to get through this together. Be flexible, and keep talking and listening!

      1. Bostonian*

        I like your suggestion of putting specific requests on the table and asking if those will help. Sometimes we don’t know everything that we want/need, or it seems too overwhelming to have to think about and come up with a list of things someone else can do to support you.

        1. kiri*

          Agreed fully with this!! It can be really exhausting to have to do this sort of thinking (especially if her job involves that as well). I don’t always know what I want/need, so I do often find it really helpful if my husband comes up with A/B/C options, rather than asking open-ended questions (and I do the same for him).

        2. OhNo*

          Agreed. It can help a lot if you knock out some of the legwork and narrow down the options for household issues before you bring them to your spouse, if you can!

          And that idea also adds another question that can help a lot in these types of situations: “Do you want to have input on this, or do you just want me to deal with it?” That might help you avoid putting too much emotional labor on your wife while she’s working, and specifically helps you avoid falling into the default trap of her being the household manager in addition to working full time.

        3. Hey Nonnie*

          I would also suggest doing some googling / reading on “mental load.”

          There might be a “training period” as you get familiar with what all goes into running a household and raising kids. But after a certain point, really aim to get to a place where you can function largely without your spouse needing to direct you, or to ask you to handle things. We are socialized such that the mental load of managing a household/kids is extremely gendered, often even in the face of explicit agreements otherwise.

          This is a good starting point:

          But there is a ton more out there. So read, learn, and be prepared to fully take on the household manager role so she can be freed up to focus on her work, and so you both have a more equitable distribution of labor.

          Pro tip: one of the biggest issues with this I’ve seen personally is a household task being started, but never finished unless the breadwinner finishes it herself, e.g. the kitchen isn’t clean if there are still wrappers, food crumbs, and coffee spills on the counter. Also, learn and remember details on how to do tasks: which ones are the clothes that need special care in the laundry, like delicate cycle or must dry flat and not in the dryer; flatten cardboard boxes before they go in the recycling (this is required by our recycling company!), etc. It has been extremely common in my circle that the women of the partnership have to go around after and re-do or finish tasks like this. And constantly re-doing tasks is only marginally less work (maybe — sometimes it’s more work) than just doing it herself in the first place.

          Most men don’t do this “on purpose,” but they also like to remain oblivious because it’s very comfortable there. Commit to being uncomfortable until you learn it well enough not to rely on your partner to direct you, assign you tasks, or take tasks over in order to get them done.

          1. Mimi*

            Yes, I would say be very alert to any tasks that y’all have mutually agreed that you are owning, and try to do them in a manner that she doesn’t have to interact with them. If she’s adding finishing touches to something you did, she probably doesn’t feel like you did it well enough. If she has to remind you to do something, making sure that task gets done is still on her plate.

            It’s also worthwhile to be very clear about timing expectations on tasks you own. My dad was stay-at-home for many years, and my mother once mentioned that she would get home from work, tired and badly needing food, and my father would be just starting to putter around the kitchen getting food ready. Yes, he was making supper, but he wasn’t making supper _when she needed it._

            1. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

              Hey Nonnie was correct to call it “mental load”; emotional labor is something different.

              (Specifically, it’s the often unappreciated labor that people do around managing others’ emotions as part of other work – e.g., agonizing about how to bring something up to a partner to minimize their upset and discomfort at being called out, or having to remain cheerful and upbeat at work after being screamed at by a disrespectful customer.)

          2. Cat*

            Ugh. This made me realize that my husband never wipes down the counters when it’s “his turn” to clean the kitchen.

            1. Tara*

              And if you don’t do it afterwards, is he weirdly annoyed the next day that the mess he didn’t clean up is still there? I’ve had to have a few conversations with my girlfriend that if she’s cleaning up after dinner, that doesn’t mean just putting the plates in the dishwasher and rinsing the pots!

          3. CleanAlltheThings*

            Here is a specific example: cleaning supplies
            Someone has to keep track of inventory, and get more before running out of anything. This includes knowing where they are stored, a general idea of how fast items get used up, where to buy them, how much they should cost, what substitutions are good if you can’t find the exact item, and so on. If you have to ask where the sponges are more than, say, twice, you’ve passed the mental load of the whole sponge process back to the other person and they won’t feel they can trust you with taking care of that task.

            1. Non-techy tech editor*

              My husband and I lived in our house for two years before he asked where the clean towels are. I always wash and replace.

          4. Non-techseditor*

            This. Be extra-observant, especially if she’s used to do doing “all the things” on her own. She’ll probably keep doing them, partly out of habit and partly because it’s easier than explaining all the steps. Watch for all those little things you’ve probably never noticed. Does she always make sure there is toilet paper in every bathroom? Notice that it doesn’t magically appear and be sure to replace those empty rolls. Are there doctors appointments/prescriptions to keep track of? Create a shared calendar so she knows you’ve got them covered. If you see her wipe down the table, offer to do it… then do it next time too. If she’s working from home and the kids default to her when they need something, be ready to swoop in before she gets interrupted.

            Sorry, I went on a tangent as if I were writing this for my husband…

      2. JJ*

        Yes MAKE SUGGESTIONS or better yet, tell her what you’re going to do and let her have veto power, NOT approval, like “hey I’m gonna do this unless you’d prefer I not” as opposed to “you have to approve all my ideas.”

        Be aware that asking “what can I do?” or waiting on her to request something is putting the emotional labor back in her court, which is as much labor as her breadwinning work. If you’re in charge of the house, BE in charge of the house. Sooooo many people are like “well, they didn’t SAY they ‘needed help/the vacuuming should be done/they need some break time from kids’ so how was I supposed to know???” Don’t be that guy. The house and kids are your job now, so handle them with the autonomy your partner handles her job.

        1. TheAG*

          SO MUCH THIS!! It’s so wearing to hear someone say “well if you’d just have asked me to do it, I would have done it” (which is questionable as well). You see the dogfood on the porch. Pick it up and bring it in.
          (sorry this might have hit home lol!!)

          1. Kat in VA*

            /former SAHM mom – 20 years! – who went back to work full time three years ago/

            I tell my family I have an enormous, constantly rolling list of personal things as well as household things that I need to stay on top of at all times. Then, an equally enormous list of work things I need to stay abreast of as well.

            For me to have to add YOUR* (to my family “you/your”, obviously not the studio audience here) stuff to MY list doesn’t make my life easier, it makes YOUR life easier.

            Also, sneakily, it also absolves you of all responsibility of doing, well, anything autonomously…up to and including seeing empty dog bowls and hungry dogs, and then unseeing both bowls and dogs because Mom didn’t tell you to fill said bowls and feed said dogs. The Feeding of the Dogs is irrelevant and does not occur until someone commands you to do it? NOPE.

            /Actual conversation that happened at my house/
            Me: Hey, you didn’t feed the dogs, why not?
            Them: You didn’t tell me to feed the dogs.
            Me: Your job is the feed the dogs. It is not my job to not only remember to feed the dogs, but then remind you to feed the dogs. You’re grounded. /lecture about the poor animals being hungry and suffering because Child was waiting for an obvious instruction from me. The dogs are fed every day. You do not need me to tell you to do this. It has not changed since we GOT the dogs, etcetera ad nauseam/

            It’s been slow going.

      3. fantomina*

        If you can’t figure out what to suggest, try looking up a weekly/monthly chore checklist online– I found some for friends who are the spouse always saying “just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” Making the list of chores that need to be done is a major part of the labor of running a household– it’s just that it’s mental labor, so it’s often invisible.

      4. Anonymous Koala*

        This is great advice, but I’d also think about how you’re going to make the decisions that your wife usually makes on household/childcare/etc. issues without asking for her input all the time. A big part of running a household is doing a lot of emotional work – finding numbers, deciding on cleaning/play date/school schedules, staying in touch with teachers, etc. For me the emotional work of household management is just as hard (if not harder) than the hands on work of cleaning, cooking, and childcare, and it’s one place where it can be hard to walk back involvement. It might be nice to talk about how you’ll both handle that shift ahead of time, and let other commentators said, keep revisiting things as needed.

      5. SaraC*

        On a completely silly note, watch the movie “Mr. Mom” for some light-hearted inspiration! It’s a bit dated, but I love the scene where Teri Garr tells Michael Keaton that the job is “to raise quality human beings”. Like I said, a bit dated, but warm and loving, and not wrong a lot of times.

    2. PeteAndRepeat*

      Yes! Communication is the main thing, and leave things open for an ongoing conversation where needs and preferences can shift on both sides. Discuss the division of labor – how will it change, if at all? Are you going to be taking on more household tasks? Is your wife able to help with household stuff during the day while WFH? (Like putting in a load of laundry, or washing the breakfast dishes. That can help lessen the burden in the evenings when you both want to relax after kids’ bedtime.) What’s the plan for the kids – will you be taking them out of the house most days for activities?

      Take it one day at a time, see what’s working and what’s not, be open to adjusting. Look for places where you can take the load off your wife, and places where she can support you, too. Maybe you can each give each other half a day free on weekends to recharge, or plan family activities for you all to reconnect after the work week. The more you can approach this life change as a team, with both of you doing vital work for the benefit of your family, the better off you’ll be. Good luck!!

      Also, if it’s in your budget, you’d probably all benefit from your wife going to a coworking space (or the library, a coffeeshop, etc.) at least some of the time, so you’re not all physically stuck in the house together. Or, if she has a home office, set clear rules for your kids that they can’t go in when the door is closed, things like that. Speaking from experience, it can be really hard to successfully work from home when your young children are also in your home, even if someone else is providing childcare. Lots of noise, interruptions, feeling “on duty” even though you’re not, and all of that.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        ” Look for places where you can take the load off your wife, and places where she can support you, too.”

        This is big. It is really great you are actively looking for how to support her! And asking and communicating is key. But keep in mind, this is going to be a lot of work for you too; if you’re so worried about making her life harder that you don’t speak up when you need help you may end up inadvertently burning yourself out or feeding resentment you never wanted to have.

        All of these other suggestions are great, they will help both of you out a lot. But also make sure you aren’t afraid to ask for help yourself when you need it.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        I second this, especially seeing what is and isn’t working / how things are shaking out as the time unfolds. This is new for everyone and in the same way that you want to make her working life easier, she will want to make your home / kid admin life easier. Not many people would expect any 1 person to do ALL OF THE HOUSEWORK AND COOKING 365, because it’s exhausting and relentless. You’re quite allowed to also want some time off, so be sure that you’re on the same page about that. She will want time with the kids, same as any full time working parent does, and time to relax and recharge, so will you.

        You will absolutely 100% squabble. It cannot be avoided. I know no one in any set-up, no matter how kind and fair and reasonable, who beatifically is always on their very best behaviour and never lazy / selfish/ forgetful, especially with little kids in the mix. That’s okay!! It will shake out as long as you are both realistic and forgiving towards each other. You might have wonderful ideals of Doing All The Things and massively fail to even approach 1/3 of those things. She might intend to absolutely back off, not nag or criticise, totally keep her focus on work perfectly…

        It will be an awesome year and probably quite tricky at times, same as most years LOL, but you are clearly thoughtful and generous and this bodes well for a happy outcome in the end!

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Work out the division of labor for more than just the kids. Does she want to cook dinner or not? Maybe divided up by the days of the week.

      Also figure out a break for you. Does she want to leave her office and walk in the house and play with the kids or does she need break from work before taking on the kids. But she needs to take on the kids at some point for your own break time.

      1. Crystal*

        Yes! This is key. LW needs to make sure to carve out some “me time”. Homemaking is a full time job that earns time off just like any other job

        1. Kasia*

          Yes, I really want the LW to take care of himself too and make sure his wife is supporting him. I think it’s easy to default to breadwinner works, and other partner does everything else but that just means other partner never gets a break.

    4. Momma Bear*

      I agree. And lay out how things will be managed and expectations. For example, one of my SAHD friends has an agreement with his spouse that the dishes will always be done and he will be the primary cook. What works for you? And determine how money will be spent. When I was a SAHP, it was uncomfortable to ask my spouse for money. Maybe determine a reasonable allowance so you always have cash for your own needs and don’t need to worry about gifts, coffee, etc. Communication is going to be key.

      Also, for you, find a parent group, especially one with other dads. You need that support, too. Being home with just the kids all day can get lonely.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        We shared a credit card and assumed any single purchase under $100 was fine, no communication needed, we could trust each other to make responsible decisions. Over $100, make sure it’s ok with the spouse. We still do that. I’ve heard other people set different levels, from $20 to $500.

        1. Lalala*

          ^This works for us too! My husband was a SAHD for a few years — we share a bank account and have a $50 rule like this so we aren’t nickel-and-diming each other to death.

          Also, have a conversation about “great” vs “acceptable.” When I started being the full time worker and my husband was home, I had to adjust some of my standards around housekeeping. Letting go of some things was hard but so worth it for my peace of mind. Give your partner space to make that transition and keep communicating together.

          (The hardest part for me was when my son, who was under 1, switched allegiance from Mom to Dad as “favorite parent.” That was a rough transition… but ultimately I’m so grateful for the relationship my husband and son were able to build together in those years!)

        2. TardyTardis*

          We still do a variation of this–we put all the money into the main account and the house credit card. However, we each have our own credit card, which will be reimbursed up to $X from the main account. We call it our ‘don’t ask don’t tell $$$’.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Adding to this — proactively check-in on sensitive things (for many people those are: money, health, sex, division of labor). If you only talk about those topics when problems arise, they become incredibly loaded.

      With colleagues it’s different, but with spouses it can help for these to be open-ended conversations that you check-in on regularly, not only when things have reached a tipping point.

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      This! Talk about both short-term and long-term plans. Set expectations, and keep up with them.

      My spouse and I were in exactly this position, except he and I only had one kid. During the time our son was too little for day care, I was lucky enough to work from home. Our son was diagnosed with autism when he was three, so care included a lot of testing / occupational & speech therapy / etc.
      – I breastfed until he was 8mo, and I made my own bfast and lunch.
      – Husband made kid food after 6mo, and all dinners, cleaned all dishes during the week.
      – Husband had all diaper duty during working hours. From 9pm – 1am, he did diaper / bottles.
      – I had diaper / feeding duty from 1am – 9am (usually just once at 4, so I was sleeping 9 – 4, he slept 1 – 8)
      – We split chores on weekends.

      Husband also wanted to work on renovating the house, but we realized pretty quickly that was not a realistic option. We reset expectations so that all he had was childcare and light cleaning. Heavy cleaning we split or just left alone.

      To keep me involved, I usually put our son to bed at 8ish, and we kept 8 – 9 as our time. We also planned mom/son outings on weekends. As our son got older, he and I developed some special ‘just us’ routines (eg, going to the zoo 6x one year; dad only came one of those times. I took vacation days for some of these).

      We talked a lot about what would be fair. He had a realistic view of chores and time required. He got bored and asked for breaks when he needed them. He kept our son out of my office and entertained. My husband now works for himself, but is still the main contact for school and most able to volunteer. Teachers love him, but wow is there still a lot of sexism in parenting. Be prepared for blowback from other parents and remember, “This is how it works *for us*, so their opinion is meaningless.” Only what you, your wife, and your kids think works is important.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Start changing the school & doctor contact lists now. Anything she receives in any form, she should forward to you to answer. 8 years and school&doctor couldn’t remember my husband should be primary contact. He works in town: I don’t. I blew up at the nurse who left voicemail rather than call the primary contact who was close enough to pick up our sick child…and it still happens.
        Same with services & bills she’s handled in the past that you’re taking on.
        I haven’t done it yet but I’m thinking of setting up a family email and a family Google Voice phone number, and only using that on all contacts for both of us .

        1. allathian*

          This is pretty much the only time I think a family email would be useful rather than an indicator of, in my book, unhealthy spousal codependence.

          1. CleanAlltheThings*

            I have friends that did this specifically for kid stuff. I thought it was weird at the time, but it’s actually useful. They also have individual emails.

    7. Delta Delta*

      Yes! This! And make sure to continue the conversation and revisit. What y’all think works today might not work in a month or two, etc. And don’t be afraid to revise if needed!

  2. Working Mom*

    I would recommend getting those kids out of the house as much as possible, while she is working from home. At the beginning of the year my husband was furloughed, and I (female) was still working full time at home, so he would handle child care on the days it needed to be handled. But as long as I was present in the house, I was still the preferred go-to parent – my daughter would come in to ask if she could watch a show or have a snack, even if she had been in the same room as my husband moments before. It is extremely difficult to have work and childcare going on in the same space, even one parent is supposed to be focused on each (the kids aren’t necessarily making that distinction in their minds), so minimizing that when you can would probably be appreciated.

    1. Justin*

      This. Especially while it’s warm, get to know every single park you can reasonably travel to without too much trouble.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And which parks have splash pads. These can be a lifesaver in the heat.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Yes! And a lot of nature parks have activities for kids, so there’s opportunity for low-cost or free education outings that are fun. Check out all the area’s state and city parks to see what they can offer. And then head to a splash pad after to escape the heat!

      2. Here we go again*

        If you have a big enough yard summer is a great time for outside crafts. My son and I paint outside together. Less mess.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      If it’s possible with the age of your kids work out a visible signal on the office door that indicates that “Mommy can’t be interrupted right now.” This is helpful if you are occupied with the other child and the second needs something.

      My oldest has this down pat – the younger (who starts K in the fall) has it down most of the time.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        And this MUST be enforced. Otherwise it’s just a sham and your kids will know how to get around you.

      2. fantomina*

        I noticed that there’s a new trend on etsy for “Mommy is working– please do not interrupt” signs. An unexpected market niche, haha!

      3. GoBlue4811*

        During the pandemic, I had a picture of a traffic signal on the office door. I would put a check mark on a post-it note on a color
        Red – Do not disturb (on a zoom or a call, etc.)
        Yellow – A SHORT interruption was fine
        Green – Come on in!

      4. Breadwinner Mom*

        And if there is no office (I don’t have one) a folding screen or some other visual is useful. If you have any of those programmable LED lights, I’ve heard they are very useful from many parents of preschool to elementary age kids.

        My kid is younger than the LW’s, it sounds like, but I am actually wearing my ID badge from work around the house to communicate to my husband that I’m working.

    3. Tin Cormorant*

      Absolutely. If there’s a zoo or paid admission park of some kind nearby that the kids love to visit, an annual pass can go a long way towards keeping them busy during the day.

      I started up a zoo membership when my daughter was 2 years old, and it’s been great to decide on the fly that we want to go to the zoo for an hour while my husband’s on an important call without feeling like we have to get our “money’s worth” by staying for the whole day and seeing everything.

      1. tab*

        And if you have family members who want to help, ask them to get you memberships at the zoo, museums, botanical gardens, etc. It’s a great gift that doesn’t take up any room, and is appreciated year round.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yes – this is a great gift idea. Even for adults! My mom has purchased museum memberships for me multiple times for birthdays and it is always appreciated.

        2. 2 Cents*

          You can also check your local library. Ours has passes you can check out for a few days to the local and not-so-local (we’re by a major city) museums, zoos, etc. for free.

          1. hamburke*

            And library’s often have weekly programs! I did these with my kids when they were young and really enjoyed it. Some places let you sign up for all the events at once while others have sign ups 1-2 weeks out so check on it soon!

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          This is our go to gift request every Christmas! It’s wonderful and we always get so much use out of it.

        4. hamburke*

          Im so spoiled – I grew up outside DC and didn’t realize until I moved away in my 20s that you have to pay admission for museums and the zoo!

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I still have culture shock over this when we visit other places. And museums, zoos, and aquariums are EXPENSIVE, too. The nice thing about the Smithsonian is that I can cruise through, check out an exhibit or two and not worry about getting my money’s worth out of the visit.

            1. Foof*

              It’s a good point; if you live in a big coty with lots of museums etc, check online; i know in chicago almost all the big places (art gallery, shed aquarium, science and industry [basically a museum for kids]) etc had periodic free days; great excuse to go!

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        Yes! to getting out of the house for everyone’s sanity
        And a lot of local libraries have free passes to zoos, museums, aquariums, etc.
        See if there are any good children museums, farm parks, nature preserves in your area. In Massachusetts, we have Mass Audubon, the Trustees of Reservations and lots of local conservation areas with great activities and trails

        1. Tea.Earl Grey. Hot.*

          Also, libraries also have fun free activities, too, like storytime and similar!

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            Though check your local library, a lot of library in-person programming is still on hold. But even the online virtual storytimes can be great when you need to occupy kids during Mom’s important call/meeting.

            1. MusicWithRocksIn*

              Yes – Our Library used to have great programming, but they only just opened their doors to allow people to come in (for 30 minutes only) last week. Before that it you could only pick up requests at the drive through window. I think a lot of community resources, especially for kids are going to be slow to start up again.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                OUr libraries are doing kids things in different parks on different days this summer (and did a bit of this last summer with grab-and-go packets, but this summer’s offerings look more involved). Definitely check the websites for your libraries, parks and rec, the local school district, and anywhere else that you can think of that sometimes does kids stuff to see who is doing what. (This summer locally, it looks like we get library stuff in the parks, family movies outside once a week, and a park concert series, but the kids stuff at the farmers markets is still on hold and there’s less indoor drop-in stuff but some day camps.)

      3. Jay*

        We live two miles from a theme park/water park that under normal circumstances I would NEVER have gone to with a small child. When she was 2, we bought season passes that included preferred parking. We’d go right as they opened at 10:00 AM and spend an hour or two at the wading pool, then head home for lunch and nap. No lines, no overpriced food, no feeling like we had to ride every ride and see every attraction. It was one of the best investments ever.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          That is what I love most about our Zoo membership, the removal of pressure to do everything. We can go early in the morning, see what we feel like, let the kid run around a little bit and go home in time for lunch and a nap. Going to the zoo to mostly let my kid play on the playground would horrify me if I didn’t have the membership.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Following on this, now is the time to look into a membership at your local zoo, children’s museum, etc. It gets everyone doing something different and gives your partner time alone in the house, which has become a rare thing in the pandemic.

      Also routine is your friend for finding kids on similar schedules who might like to play.

      1. dePizan*

        If they are in the US, many libraries (although probably not as much in small town ones) may carry passes to some of the various touristy attractions nearby, where you can check out a day’s visit for a small group to some of these institutions.

    5. Shenandoah*

      Dittoing getting out of the house!

      Busy Toddler also has tons of great ideas for keeping the kiddos occupied and learning independent play. (Good for slightly older kids too, not just the 2/3 year old set.)

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      But as long as I was present in the house, I was still the preferred go-to parent – my daughter would come in to ask if she could watch a show or have a snack, even if she had been in the same room as my husband moments before.

      The working parent has to be a grey rock whose vocabulary consists only of the word “no.” Kids are smart; they’ll pick that up faster than they will being lectured to leave Mom or Dad alone.

    7. LaFramboise*

      Yes definitely, and as a librarian, see what activities your local library has for summer reading, and then activities year-round, which are usually no-cost.

    8. Janean*

      Getting the kids out of the house will be helpful for all parties! When I was a SAHM, I loved having something scheduled (a library story time, a music or kids’ gym class, a play date) to force me to get up and moving and out of the house. It’ll help your wife to have some quiet in the house, and it’ll help the day pass more quickly for you and the kids.

    9. Amy*

      Yes, our babysitter keeps the kids out of the house 80% of the day. It’s a lifesaver. Focus is just too hard otherwise and I need quiet for conference calls and presentations.

    10. Witty Nickname*

      My family has been doing this a few years now, including summers when it’s way too hot to do outdoor activities (he can’t be in the sun very long, so even going to the pool or some place cool like that is out because the sun is still frying him) and we didn’t have the budget for a lot of fun indoor activities, so the kids were mostly stuck at home, even pre-pandemic. We had to set some very specific rules with our kids because I was the default parent (down to them walking right by their dad to come ask me if I can get them a glass of milk) for a really long time.

      Our biggest rule is that all requests must go through dad. Every single one. I started easing up on this a bit recently, and it just kept getting worse and worse. So we got strict about it again. He will decide if it’s something I need to be involved in, either right then (he’ll text me in that case unless it is really urgent and he has to come into my work space), when I surface for a break, or at the end of my work day. If they circumvent this (by waiting until he is in the restroom or running past him hoping he doesn’t see them coming into my workspace), privileges will be lost.

      If he has to go somewhere, they know they can come to me if it’s an emergency or something that can’t wait until he’s back (we gave them specific examples of what does and does not qualify). That doesn’t happen often (my kids are old enough that we’ve been able to start leaving them home alone for short periods of time – they don’t have to be watched constantly. With younger kids, they may either need to go with him, or he may need to wait until you can take a break or are done working for the day to run his errands. It’s definitely gotten easier as they’ve gotten older).

      He handles almost all of the housework – the kids also have some chores – and breakfast & lunch for the kids. I manage meal planning, grocery shopping (he lets me know what staples we need and I add those to the list I create from my meal plan), and dinner. I still handle a lot of the mental labor of managing a family – making doctors appointments, planning birthdays, holidays, etc. He took on the management of everything school related. Other than the school stuff, this was really our dynamic when we both worked full time (we all have our strengths. Managing things is one of mine; housekeeping is not).

      The biggest struggle for me is that at the end of my work day, I just want a few minutes to myself to unwind. That used to be my commute. My husband wants a few minutes of grown up company & conversation after spending his day listening to the younger one talk nonstop. Make sure your conversations include this kind of stuff, especially if you tend to have different needs around how you unwind/recharge your energy.

      1. Ann Nonymous*

        I came here to say that both parents will need some down time. When Mom’s done with work, she can’t be instantly handed the kids while Dad runs out the door to the gym. A schedule needs to be worked out so each parents has some daily time off.

        1. Witty Nickname*

          It’s really important, and not something people always recognize. Yes, I’m basically alone all day. Some days I interact with my colleagues more than others, but even when I’m just working alone I’m still in work mode. It’s not downtime at all.

    11. MedGal*

      This. There is also a national stay at home dad group with lots of local chapters. When my husband was a SAHD that was great for him. Plenty of times at parks he got a lot of dirty looks even with a kid in tow. Or directions to the divorced dads area ‍♀️

      Be prepared for people not to comprehend that dad is the primary caregiver.

    12. CleanAlltheThings*

      Oh good one! And if the kids are old enough to get it, just explain it to them. By the way, this will give you a closer relationship with your kids over time, which my male friends who have done this say was absolutely worth it, no matter how much it initially sucked.

  3. Yessica Haircut*

    Aww, this is tough! Hang in there, OP! One of the best things you can do for your partner if she’s working from home is to create really solid work/life boundaries for her. Keep the kids away from her office while she works, make sure household tasks don’t bleed into her work hours, etc. Protect your partner’s “work mode” as much as you can.

    And keep lines of communication open with your partner. The fact that you’re even asking this question in the first place means you’re already doing great. You’ve got this!!

    1. TotallyNormal*

      My advice is to treat parenting as your job – make sure the kids are getting the sake experiences they would at daycare: socialization, opportunities to explore and learn, healthy foods, etc. Go to parent-tot classes at the library or park, etc.

      But also, let yourself have a few hours “off” every evening! My spouse would take our kids out on a long stroller walk after work each evening so I could have an hour to myself. Some nights, I would start dinner, but other nights I would just sit and stare off into space or turn on music or whatever.

      And like the other commenters have said, make sure you communicate! You’re both going to feel like you have been working and stressing all day and need a break, and if you don’t communicate, you’ll begin to resent those evenings when you both need to be “on” as parents.

      You’re already being thoughtful and proactive- you’ve got this!

      1. Rebecca Stewart*

        The best things you can both do is to be firm about Dad being the parent of request. It will also help to get a bit of a routine going.

        It is perfectly possible for even little kids to assist with the daily picking up and maintenance work of keeping house. Yes, it takes longer, but the way kids get the notion that “everyone has to pick up after themselves” is when they do it, Mom does it, Dad does it, it’s just the rule of the house.

        If there’s a certain time of day where her focus is more critical at work than others (say, morning meetings) that’s the time to plan that we’re going on a walk or we’re going to run errands or whatever.

        Also plan some reconnection and date time for both of you. You will need time to be yourself, not Daddy, as well as time to be a couple. Women sometimes get very encouraged to submerge their separate identity into Mommy, and then once the kids don’t need them so much have trouble remembering who they are.

        1. allathian*

          When they learn to pick up after themselves at home, it’s also going to make going to daycare easier as well later on.

          I’m so grateful to my MIL because starting when our son was about a year old and sleeping reliably through the night unless he was sick, she started having him for sleepovers so my husband and I could go out on dinner and movie dates. He’d spent time with her solo even before then, but it was great to be able to go on dates with my husband again and it really helped to remind me that I’m a spouse as well as a parent. My MIL retired early because of occupational health issues, so she was available during the day even when I was on maternity leave and my husband was working long days. When my son was a baby, my mom was still working and needed most of the weekends to recover, so she only started spending time alone with our son when he was a bit older and she’d retired. My son’s still closer to his paternal grandma than his maternal one, but that’s the way it goes. My FIL was and is distant with his own kids and my son’s never spent a minute alone with him, my son’s closer to his step-grandpa than his bio-grandpa. My dad’s very frail for his age, so it’s only now that they can sit and talk that they’re developing anything like a relationship.

          All this to say that the time the LW spends with his children now should pay off with a closer relationship when they’re a bit older. We have long maternity/parental leave, and a coworker returned to work when her kid was 9 months so that her husband could take paid parental leave for 6 months. She told me that it really made each of them appreciate their spouse’s contribution to the household even more, in each role.

  4. Blisskrieg*

    I think you are well on your way toward making her feel valued! My husband’s parents’ marriage was almost destroyed because she made more money than him. This was several decades ago and I know times have changed significantly, but that can unfortunately still be a sticking point in a marriage. Flash forward, and I (female) make more than my husband, and he is absolutely fine with it.

    Make sure that you are treating your stay-at-home as a full time job, so that you are not expecting her to come home at the end of the day and do a ton of chores, etc. However, conversely, make sure that you are treating your stay-at-home as a full time job, and realize that she also needs to support and appreciate you! Household and kids is a lot of work, and you should also not be saddled with everything.

    Your mindfulness should put both of you in good stead.

    1. Llama Llama*

      Yes to this. We don’t have children but when the pandemic started I started working from home and my partner became unemployed due to the nature of his job. And he just started doing all the things I used to do or that we used to split – cooking, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, grocery shopping. It was a HUGE relief and I was very grateful because I was already max stressed out by work and basically the world ending. Taking the childcare is already a huge thing but if you can also do meals some (or most) of the time that could be huge. Women carry such a burden of being the executive of the home. Trying to anticipate those things and then doing them without being asked? You get the husband of the year award.

    2. Sophiab*

      People who get angry that their partner earns more (assuming decent distribution of expenses) are the weirdest. It’s money! You can both have more money. I’ve earned about the same as my partner the past two years, but now got a pay bump and that gap is likely to increase the next few years.

      At some point soon I’ll have to chat with him about paying more in our joint expenses (or just at least put in extra to mortgage payments to get more equity in house – his savings were better than mine, and he put in the majority of the down-payment) I mentioned it when I first got the raise, but his independent spirit rejected it, especially as my job got affected by covid and seemed a bit in jeopardy for awhile

      Living best combo – one high earner with less safe prospects, one medium earner with a super safe job.

      1. Ground Control*

        I’m in the same situation – my husband has a very steady gov’t job with meager raises and no bonuses, and I have a corporate career with bonuses and raises and much higher long-term earning potential but with occasional risk for being laid off. Sometimes he feels bad that he’ll never be able to contribute as much but is like YESSSSSS GET THAT RAISE because extra money is great!

        It doesn’t sound like this will be a problem for OP, but he’ll definitely want to make sure he doesn’t let ANY feelings of jealousy or insecurity about his wife’s career fester.

        1. Blisskrieg*

          A sign of how times have changed :). My much younger sister said her husband had no idea that was a thing! “Why would I care if you make more than me?” He seemed genuinely puzzled. Not only not bothered by it, but completely unaware that it is a thing that people have historically gotten worked up about. Progress!

    3. Overeducated*

      I would put an asterisk on “not expecting her to come home at the end of the day and do a ton of chores,” depending on the age of the kids. Mine are quite small and with one parent watching them, the house just gets TRASHED. There isn’t time to clean up after them fully, much less do all the other house chores. I often hear people express expectations that a stay at home parent should be doing childcare, cleaning, cooking, and all household maintenance during the day, but sometimes…childcare is all you can do.

      Of course division of labor in the evenings is something to work out together and definitely not assume the working mother will do it all. I’m just saying a lot of it may have to wait for the evenings.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        100% agree. He should not leave the chores for her as “women’s work” and she should not assume he is able to do it all because he’s at home. Sometimes keeping kids safe throughout the day is all you can manage!

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Realistically, this may (probably will) include letting some standards slip. Ongoing conversations about what’s essential, what’s non-essential but important, and what can just be left alone can really help here!

      2. Rebecca Stewart*

        Yes, although as I said above you CAN do some cleaning with little kids (admittedly, it’s more them getting exposed to the idea than them doing any useful work, but it’s good for them), you can’t count on that. I had one son who was fine as long as I was in earshot as long as Thomas the Tank Engine was on. I had another who I could not stop watching or he would have climbed the bookcase, ready to jump off. With the first one I could keep house fine. The second, not so much; all I could do with him was keep him from killing himself as he dove into life, headfirst, until he got a little older.
        But the good thing is that they aren’t toddlers forever; eventually you get kids who can play quietly and independently and then they go to school, and there’s time for a stay at home parent to do the homemaking that makes things nice for the working partner and for the kids.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I have made about twice what my spouse has our entire marriage. My 70-something mother has asked me repeatedly if my spouse minds and counseled me to not “rub it in his face” that I made more than he does. My spouse actually finds this hilarious – it’s not like he doesn’t benefit from my salary, too. My salary allows us to afford a house (that’s not entirely a money pit) in an expensive area, let us send our special needs child to an expensive special needs school when they needed it, and makes it so, when unexpected expenses arise, we’ve got enough savings that we’re not often scrambling to figure out how to pay them.

      We’ve been married for 20 years, and never once has he suggested I take a lower paying job because his ego hurts – his job pays less but is more flexible and stable and has a pension, mine pays more but is inflexible, less stable, and 401K only w/o matching. He can support me in retirement.

  5. Morticia*

    Remember that even when she’s WFH, she’s at work, so she can’t run errands or look after the kids. Keep the kids with you, and her workspace free of distractions.

    But, don’t try to do everything. Frequently, the caregiver partner ends up doing all the housework and childcare, leading to them being overworked, and feeling under-appreciated. You both deserve equivalent amounts of leisure time.

    Good luck.

    1. No Name Today*

      See also the above comment about childcare is your job.
      You get to split overall household chores, just as if you worked outside the home.
      but also: You can hire a babysitter for an hour or two in the afternoon, or send the kids to a class.

      1. Llama Llama*

        Yes – a class, a camp, grandmas, playdate – make sure you get some time to yourself as well.

    2. Batty Twerp*

      That last bit is important. Just because they’re the breadwinner, they don’t stop being a parent. Maybe she could do bedtime with them? The kids will miss mum and mum will miss the kids – they will both benefit from this.

      And then make sure you and your partner *both* take time to decompress. The start of your last paragraph struck a chord – not only wanting to support your spouse and take on the bulk of the childcare and housework *while also being out of work* (even voluntarily) can be a huge shock to the system. At the very least (and I’d say this applies regardless of the genders involved), make sure you recognise when *you* might be feeling overwhelmed.

      Talk to and with each other.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think this is important.

      You are planning a division whereby in ‘working hours’ your job is looking after the kids and the home, and hers s doing paid work, but you need to try to ensure that outside those working hours your and she are sharing the work that needs to be done, and that you both have the chance to relax and unwind, both separately and together as well.

      try to be realistic as to what that looks like, including thinking about things like how much of the housework / grocery shopping / running the family it is reasonable to include as part of your job, and what should be shared or divided (taking into account what each of you enjoys and are good at, of course!)

      Be mindful of who does what now – for instance, one issue which a lot of couple can run into is where one partner ends up having to organize the shred work – so they may be doing much more of the labor of getting it done – be alert to whether one of you is doing that, as it can mean that the person doing that extra organizational work can feel they are doing much more, while the other sees things as an equal split as both are doing about the same.

      Discuss it — ask her what she wants / needs, and the revisit it to see what’s working for each of you, maybe after the first month and then again 6-8 weeks after that. You might each find that there are things you thought would work which don’t, or which you hadn’t realised you wanted, and it’s both healthier and much easier to address early on, before they become things either of you is resenting because the other hasn’t noticed they are not happy!

      Be flexible: Needs and plans can change.

      Good luck – it sounds as though you are both thoughtful people who can communicate, which is a hge part of what you need to make it work!

    4. 3DogNight*

      You NAILED my thought, exactly! I have been WFH for 10 years, and my hubby just assumes, because I’m here I can take care of…everything. And, in addition, if he can see me, he will talk to me. Doesn’t matter if I’m shoulder deep in a spreadsheet or on the phone, it drives me crazy. I. Am. At. Work.
      As everyone else has said, communication is key. It does make me feel bad when people tell my granddaughter that she can’t talk to me, because I’m working, or they get on to her for being a kid and making noise. Most phones have some noise cancelling, so it’s not like they can hear her. But confirm this kind of thing with her.
      You’re on the right track!

      1. Kat in VA*

        OMG are you me.

        I work downstairs, he works upstairs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to hastily mute myself, turn off the camera, and say, “Hey, I’m on a call” to get a huffy response or “Hey, I saw this video on YouTube.”

        Look, my company has always had a VERY heavy meeting culture (his does not). In Covid, nothing changed, except all those meetings are via Zoom and on camera!

        It’s been like this since March 2020 and even though he knows to not barge over when the blue light is on my camera, he still…does it. All.the.time.

    5. Ellie*

      Yes OP, don’t try to do everything! Otherwise you’ll have a 24 hour job while your wife has an 8 hour job – its not fair or sustainable. My advice is to try to stay flexible, and if something isn’t working, then talk about it. The reality of looking after kids is often very different to how you imagined it would be, so take some time and expect to make a few changes.

  6. anonymath*

    The primary thing I’ll throw out there from my limited experience is that the stay-at-home parent also needs some free time that is child free. So work out a schedule where you’ve got 2 hours a week to just do your own child-free thing. That time alone will also give you the headspace to focus on your spouse sometimes: if you don’t have your own well replenished, you can’t as effectively provide for others.

    Also do lots of stuff outside the house with the kids (like look into Free Forest School etc). It’s sometimes harder for dads to become “one of the gang” at these things but keep it up and don’t take initial awkwardness personally.

  7. Czhorat*

    There is a LOT of mental load in running a family, and if you’re not already you can focus on that. Everything from weekly/daily tasks like meal planning and prep (as well as shopping) to yearly things like planning birthday parties and gifts takes a toll. Finding activities for the kids, signing them up for sports and clubs, etc.

    Taking a lead in decision making can be huge – this is something I’m not particularly great with, but it is important. So, don’t just cook dinner but plan a dinner and tell your partner what it’ll be or ask them if it’ll be OK. Don’t put the decision squarely on your partner’s shoulders.

    Be proactive. Do things before they become crises, or before they are noticeable.

    The other thing – and the biggest one – is to talk to your partner. What do THEY need? What do they find most stressful and where can you can help the most? A family is collaborative, and what one person likes might be anathema to someone else. Talking is always the first step.

    1. Napster*

      ^^^ Take that mental load off her plate. Don’t wait to be told what needs to get done. Take the initiative, from making/keeping appointments to budgeting/paying bills, from meal planning and grocery shopping to keeping the house tidy and cleaning regularly. (Also, don’t be surprised if it takes her a while to get used to this; mental load is so ingrained in many women that we struggle to let it go.)

    2. Kaiko*

      Yes, this. Know what clothes your kids will be growing out of and plan to replace them. Know their shoe size. Have your own relationships with parent-friends that don’t rely on your wife being the intermediary to set up play dates or shop for birthday presents. Book doctors appointments and dental care. Meal plan, shop, prep, and cook. Take on the day-to-day decision making yourself, and resist the urge to check in on everything. Being a SAH parent is often also managing a household, so take on as much of that as possible.

      Also: date nights. Also: she needs time alone with the kids. You need time off. Do not underestimate how much rest you will need, and take it.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes to all of this, but the clothes and shoes really struck me. The amount of management of belongings that running a household with young children takes is astonishing. Do they have the right shoes for splashing in the creek/a sun hat/a bathing suit/snow boots/what shirt can they ruin in this slime activity? Do the winter clothes go into storage for next year or are they definitely outgrown, and if they’re outgrown do you want to pass them down to someone or sell them or donate them?

        You’ve got some toys they don’t play with anymore. What do you do with them? If the puzzle is missing one piece, can it still be passed on to a friend with a younger kid? What’s going to happen to all the random crap that comes into the house from birthday party goody bags and the dentist’s prize box and the time grandma took them out for fast food and they got a toy? And how do you keep the art projects that are temporarily beloved from taking over your entire home?

        One bit of parenting I really enjoy is helping my kids find books they love that are at their reading level and that help them learn and grow – but managing the library books is a surprising amount of work (less now than in the time when libraries were curbside pickup only due to the pandemic and it was all holds-based, but still).

        You want to take them out for the day? Great! Do you have good snack containers and water bottles? Are they clean or are they buried in the bottom of the backpack from the last trip? Did you think ahead when you were at the grocery store and buy food that works when you’re out and about, or did you buy groceries that need to be consumed at home?

        Each bit of it is fine, but overall it’s pretty relentless.

        1. Candace*

          All of this! I can’t believe how much time I spend with two kids on clothes managing alone buying new ones, and everything else you said, with one addition- making sure they actually wear the majority of their clothes and don’t just keep repeating the same four outfits.

          And soooo many art projects! m

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Yeah, the laundry and making sure they wear weather-appropriate outfits and stuff is a whole other set of tasks. But “do we own all the appropriate items in the right sizes in usable condition” takes a surprising amount of brain space.

            Daycare, camp, and school can make it harder than for young kids at home with a parent, since they often want backups, they have rules about what kind of shoes or want multiple bathing suits for morning and afternoon swim, there are spirit weeks and costume days, stuff gets left behind, there are sports uniforms and dance leotards and chorus recital outfits, etc.

        2. Almost done mom-ing*

          This! I was definitely the full-time home manager when my kids were little and I was staying home with them. The youngest are teens now and I work (though fewer hours than my husband), but I don’t think my husband would have any concept of the depth of management that’s required.

    3. Mrs Nesbitt*

      This exactly! The mental work of running a household is much more strenuous than the physical work in my experience. Don’t wait for her to tell you what needs done- notice problems and potential problems and take care of them.

    4. C in the Hood*

      I agree with all of the above. I’ve been the SAH parent & so has my husband. You really need to be the CEO AND administrator of the home.
      As far as practical advice: treat this like a job transitioning from her to you. Have a sit-down & tell her something like: “These are all the things I know I need to take care of. Is there anything else?” Also, get the info you’re going to need to do the job from her (i.e. doctor’s names & numbers, etc.). Once you have all this info, you’re more likely in the long-run to not put the emotional labor on her. She’ll know that you’re prepared to take all this on!

    5. Superb Owl*

      YES TO THIS!

      I am the sole breadwinner for my family and my husband is the stay at home dad. He is great at following directions and does EVERYTHING for our home, cooking, all errands, etc. But I still do the mental work and have to tell him what to do, including often WHAT to cook for dinner. Whatever of that you can just keep running will be amazing

    6. No Name Today*

      Also though, as great and important as it is that OP is concerned about how this will effect his wife, it’s a change for both of them.
      He just got a new job. He won’t be perfect at it. Because there is no perfect.
      But in addition to asking her what she needs from you for work, maybe OP and wife should also decide what having a full time, stay at home parent means. They may have very different ideas. Somewhere between “send the kids out till the street lights come on” and “schedule every minute of everyday.” Seems like a no brainer, but since neither of them have done this yet, (with kids the very age the kids are now) it’s brand new territory.

    7. OfficePro*

      Thank you for bringing up the topic of ‘Mental load’ because I think that it’s an incredibly important and large part of being a parent that doesn’t get brought up enough. It’s not just the running of the household that’s important, it’s the forethought and running mental list that takes up a lot of head space!

    8. ObservantServant*

      Definitely this! The mental load is a big one and it’s usually something that falls on women of M/F partnerships.

      For what it’s worth, my partner and I are in a similar situation, sans children, but with a bonus puppy. I work from home (have for years) and have always made more $ than he does. He got laid off late last year and took over most of the puppy duties (keeping them well exercised and quiet especially when I have meetings), shopping and most of the cleaning. I still cook most meals because I genuinely enjoy it but he started doing more prep, which made it really nice to go straight from working to making dinner (in a clean kitchen with an empty dishwasher, no less). We both used to clean on weekends but now he gets it done late in the week and it’s been a really nice thing to just be able to relax in a clean house on my days off.

      Even just taking over some of that meal planning helps immensely (especially with kids, I would think). I feel like I make So Many Decisions at work day after day that having to make all the household decisions on top of it is a bit much.

    9. Junior Dev*

      re: grocery shopping – I had a roommate who I gave a discount on rent to in exchange for them doing the shopping. I would put items on a shared grocery list app and they would go whenever it was convenient for them. It did a lot to reduce my mental load in acquiring food.

      I think OP doing most of the meal planning, figuring out what snacks and staple items are needed over the week, etc. and putting it on a list the wife can add to will help a lot. That way he’s “in charge of” the area of shopping (can also use e.g. curbside pickup) and she doesn’t have to be responsible for thinking about the stuff that’s always needed, but can add stuff if she needs to.

      1. ObservantServant*

        When my partner first started grocery shopping (something he hadn’t done in YEARS beyond picking up a couple of items here and there), I would set up a curbside order for the things I knew we needed (mainly the center aisle stuff, certain brands, etc). He would pick that up then go into the store for fresh produce, meat and substitutions of the things that weren’t on the curbside order. Saved a lot of frustration and from me having to explain for the 547th time where exactly my favorite salad dressing might be on the shelf and the like.

    10. Petty Editor*

      “Don’t make her your manager” is the single best piece of advice I’ve ever read for this situation and could have saved my own marriage a ton of stress if we had heard that when Spouse became House Manager.

    11. LilyP*

      Definitely agree with this. Also: try to work through minor questions or problems on your own and don’t just default to asking her. Stuff you know she’d have input on or does a certain way, sure, ask. But for stuff like “where’s the cumin” or “are we out of toilet paper” or “how do you clean the oven” or “what’s the doctors phone number”, try to self-help by looking yourself, googling, asking a parent/friend, finding the owners manual, keeping an address book, making a judgement call, etc. If you really can’t figure it out, it’s good to ask, but do a little legwork first.

    12. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      And if your partner has been the one doing most of the mental load and planning, it might be an adjustment for BOTH of you–you realizing how much stuff there is to keep track of, and creating your own system for it, and your partner in letting go of their way of doing things, having some grace during your learning curve, etc. Make sure to communicate during this transition!

    13. nnn*

      Building on this:

      One trap us non-mental-load can fall into when trying to take on more of the mental load is assuming “Well, of course she’ll want to do this thing herself, she’s better at it and/or very particular about how it’s done!”

      If you find yourself thinking this, check in with your wife about whether would actually want to do to the thing, or whether she’d rather have it taken off her plate. (Or if she’d like you to learn how to do it correctly and then take it off her plate.)

      Source: have been spending the last few years trying very hard to get better at mental load.

  8. The Crowening*

    Honestly, even just understanding that she’ll need you to handle the kids and house during work hours is helpful. I would say, speaking for myself… Don’t make her be your manager. If you become aware that something needs to be done – you notice a dirty sock on the floor, a tomato splatter in the kitchen in front of the oven, a kid needs a well-visit appointment made, or whatever – just do the thing; don’t require it to be your partner’s idea. If you’re concerned that she’d want input, you could say “Hey, any issues with me going ahead and scheduling Junior’s well visit?” But otherwise, yeah. My partner is so supportive and wonderful, but absolutely everything has to be managed by me, and it drives me nuts and it has for years. Meal planning? He’ll go to the store with a list and buy the things, but I have to think of 7 days’ worth of meals that will appeal to four people. Sock on the floor? It will stay there unless I pick it up or say hey, would you pick that up? If the kitchen floor is a mess, it has to be my idea to mop it. I don’t understand why I have to be his manager when this house and these kids are 50% his. It’s nice that he will do the things I ask him to, but there is no reason why he can’t put some laundry away or mop a sticky spot on the floor without me telling him to.

    Oops. I’m sorry, OP, I didn’t mean to make this about me! But yeah, that’s the one thing I can think of. If there’s a think you can do pretty easily, just do the thing and don’t require her involvement.

    1. Crowening*

      Chzorat said it better than me. :)

      If you worry that you won’t be able to keep track of it all, keep a to-do list. That’s what all the rest of us do. Requiring someone else to be the brain/memory/calendar of the operation is a really heavy load. I don’t have to be the only one in this place with two to-do lists running simultaneously (home and work).

    2. Properlike*

      A weekly meeting/update session can help with this (at least in the beginning) BUT only if it’s seen as a “transferring of roles/asking questions” — like that medical stuff if it used to be her domain. A family calendar really helps. As the others mentioned DO NOT make her your “boss” that you’re reporting to or seeking approval from because that makes it still her job even if you’re physically doing it. I get really resentful with my husband when he does that.

      1. Breadwinner Mom*

        I think a weekly meeting can be useful as an ongoing thing, but it has to be two equal partners checking in *with each other*, rather than a “reporting to the boss” kind of vibe.

    3. CatCat*

      100% this. Can speak from the breadwinner perspective that it’s completely exhausting to have to still plan most things at home, direct things like cleaning, and respond to Every. Little. Thing. (I mean, I am talking a bunch of texts from the store while I’m at work, “Should I buy X?” After we’ve had the conversation that I find this kind of thing exhausting and just make an executive decision. Like stop interrupting my work day to ask about buying pickles.)

      1. Kaiko*

        Yes, this is exactly it. Be an independent adult who trusts their own decision-making in running a household. Mistakes will happen, but it’s not the end of the world.

      2. Crowening*

        YUUUP. I have been the breadwinner our whole marriage, and that’s fine, but having to also stage-direct the minutia of our lives has been A LOT and even though things have settled down significantly now that the children are older, I will never forget the weight of that pressure to make sure both kids had rides to and from school and their activities, while making sure to be available for work (it was a demanding but well-paying job that I loved), ensuring everyone got fed, that sick kids got to the doctor, etc. and to this day I don’t understand why his job meant he couldn’t do any of those things but… MY job meant that I should and had to? I still don’t get it. We still don’t see eye to eye on it. To this day I can feel that weight – and the pressure and disappointment in myself for not doing and being enough, combined with the anger of knowing I really shouldn’t HAVE to do and be all of that – just by thinking about that time period, which lasted about 15 years.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep – I have friends with this sort of arrangement, and yet for some reason school/nursery etc insist on calling the mum whenever the kids are ill or fall over or whatever. Which means she has to break off from her work to take the call, tell them they should have called her husband, then probably call her husband herself to ask him to pick the child up, and so on. So OP needs to make sure any schools or childcare providers have their number listed as the primary contact – and if possible, that they don’t have their partner’s at all, because if it’s a heterosexual relationship then people will just default to ‘calling Mum’ even when Mum is working full-time and Dad is in charge of the childcare.

          1. Jay*

            I am Old and so when I was a kid there were no cellphones. My mother didn’t have a paying job and was usually home when we got in from school, but her days were full of various things that kept her on the run. My father was a doctor and so could always be reached. His primary office was in our small town two miles from school. Every year my mother wrote CALL CHILD’S FATHER FIRST in big letters on the top of the emergency contact card. Every time they needed to call a parent, they tried to call her. This included the day when I was 14 and became suddenly ill during math class. I went to the nurse’s office and asked her to call my father. She insisted on trying to reach my mother. I lay there with fever and chills for nearly an hour before she gave up and called Dad. He immediately came to get me. When I told him the story, he got very quiet. I found out later he dropped me off, made sure I was settled with some soup and Tylenol, and went back to the school where he very quietly and very thoroughly chewed out the nurse, because in the hour she’d spent trying to reach my mother he had left the local office and driven over to the county hospital 25 minutes away, so her delay not only left me miserable but also cost him an extra hour out of his day. It never happened again. That was 1974. It’s disturbing to know nothing has changed.

            1. Here we go again*

              I’m so glad my daycare knows to call my husband. My spouse is self employed and he creates his own schedule. I’m the breadwinner and I have a set schedule at work. But my husband picks up our son from daycare 99% of the time.

    4. AAG*

      I was going to say a schedule is absolutely vital. It should be visible to everyone/available for changes. Like 8-9, kids have breakfast, 9-10, park, 11-12, crafts, 12-12:30, lunch, 12:30-1:30 kids quiet time/dad laundry, etc. etc. It will help your partner to know approximately what she can be expecting you to do/where she can be expecting you to be at various points in the day. For example, she has a choice of when to schedule a Zoom meeting (you don’t always have a choice, but when you do…) 9-10 looks excellent, 12:30 to 1:30 with the laundry, not so much, the rest of the day, I can make work. If it’s posted, she can also proactively say (or if you’re both working an electronic schedule, just go in), “Hey, I know you usually do crafts 11-12, but super vital meeting, any chance on Tuesday you could do crafts 9-10 and park 11-12 instead, so I can have quiet.”

      The schedule will do so much for your communication, allowing you to both proactively plan your workload (and yes, with kids, it’s a workload). Proactivity is really important. I second you blocking time on that schedule for yourself. If 12:30 to 1:30 is “Dad time,” quiet lunch time, that’s okay. You don’t need to fill every kid-free minute of your day. Good luck!

    5. Marina*

      Heh. During the early part of our breadwinner/SAHP split, the phrase “I don’t know” became my best friend. Where are the kids shoes? I don’t know. What’s the pediatrician’s phone number? I don’t know. Should I buy milk? I don’t know. Most of the time I DID know (knowing where the kids shoes are is my superpower or something, it’s weird) but saying I didn’t know firmly positioned my husband as having the ability and power to figure things out without me. Sometimes (frequently) things didn’t get done the way I would have done them, and yes we had some well child visits that were a month (or two, or three) late, but that’s okay! Part of my spouse taking ownership of the mental load is me believing in his ability to handle the mental load. Try saying “I don’t know” a couple times and see where it gets you.

      1. LD*

        Oh this so reminds me of a story my sister told me about her husband. When they married he was already a home owner with appliances and everything. A couple of weeks after they were married, he came to her and asked her how to use the washing machine. She looked at him and said, “I don’t know. It’s your washing machine.” Things have changed since then, but she’s still good at reminders that she is not the owner of all household cleaning jobs.

        1. Caraway*

          Oh, my (male) boss did something similar with me (female) once! For reference, he was a single dad with grown children, so had successfully done the very hard work of running a household and raising children on his own. We got moved to a new office space, and he had a million questions for me about how long I thought it might take to reheat his soup. I don’t know, dude! I’ve never used this microwave before either! I said, “oh, I don’t know!” “Hmm, I’m not sure!” “Just pick a time and see how it goes!” before he finally stopped asking. He was overall a great boss, but that particular moment was not his finest.

      2. Cccc*

        Yes! I “don’t know” where we keep band-aids, because other people (including kids) need to know where we keep the band-aids!

        Make sure that doctors/daycare providers/etc. know that you are the primary parent. This may take quite a bit of reinforcement.

  9. Princess Deviant*

    Good for you for asking the question.
    Are you looking more for specific advice from people who have done this before?
    If that’s the case I can’t say that I have any advice to offer, other than talk to her and ask her what she needs, and balance that with your own needs.
    Just because you are staying at home looking after the children it doesn’t mean that you need to do that too after your wife has finished work and comes home.
    And household responsibility is still a shared responsibility.
    It’s something that you can discuss with her in a bit more detail because you know the particulars.

  10. wolfmama*

    Make sure that you designate some time for her that’s not part of her workday just for her to decompress however she prefers – don’t let it all devolve into work and family time only. Evaluate what you need to stay sane and set clear parameters for what you’re going to commit to in terms of self care and make sure you’ve expressed that up front and set a check-in a little while down the road (about a month is good).

  11. Darth Brooks*

    I was a stay-at-home mom for several years, but the things that helped my husband were taking the kids out of the house to the park/zoo/etc. during the week but also planning for us to do things together on the weekends. There might be some envy on either partner’s side for being able to drop everything and go to work, or being able to hang out with the kids. Communication is super important, along with the common mindset that you’re a single family unit, not just individuals. The money in the bank isn’t only the breadwinner’s money, for instance.

    Having a one-year goal will be helpful. You guys can get through it with communication and patience.

  12. Orchidsandtea*

    I would like to throw a fireworks show recommending the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky. After reading the book out loud together, my partner has not resented me for 3 solid years now. And I feel equally supported and appreciative.

    It has you and your partner sit down and look at what actually has to be done to keep the household afloat, what y’all can let go of and what standard to do things to, who is doing it right now, and how you can each get time to do the things that make you feel like yourselves.

    This is seriously one of the most practical tools I have ever found for creating a functioning household and preventing resentment.

    1. Orchidsandtea*

      Specifically, it addresses the whole management issue that several commenters brought up above.

      We had that same problem, and I won’t say it’s gone now, but we have easy ways to talk about it and address it without hard feelings.

      1. Lyn By the River*

        100% recommend this book. Specifically, I went through the list of all the things in one section of the book and marked the ones that I did, the ones I thought he did, and the ones we shared. I had him look at the list to see if anything was inaccurate (it was mostly correct) and it helped him see how much I was actually taking on and he recognized he needed to do more. We will need to revisit the list again as our lives shift and kids get older, but this book has really helped — especially with a partner who actually cares enough to want to be a good partner. For those stuck with people who don’t … big hugs to you (and find a way out if you can – i’ve been in that kind of relationship too and it was so much better once I got out)).

    2. Katie*

      I was thinking of this book as well. Even if you don’t do the exercises, look at the cards/lists of potential tasks as a jumping off point for discussing what might need to be done to keep your home and kids’ lives running smoothly, without having to come up with a list from scratch.

  13. Mel*

    There’s a thing (and I’m completely blanking on what it’s called) that occurs when women work/ men stay home with the kids- the women tend to still bear the tasky things like making the grocery list, planning meals, setting up drs and dentist appts, etc. (This absolutely occurs in my house). It’s seriously exhausting. I think one way to support her is remembering to help out with stuff like this (of course you may have already been doing this, which is amazing!)
    Date night if possible, letting her have “me” time. Open communication and figuring out what works best for y’all. Good luck!

        1. ThatGirl*

          That’s not actually what emotional labor is, though the term’s been coopted a bit. Mental load is more accurate.

          1. Texas*

            Yeah, emotional labor refers to having to manage one’s own emotions to perform their job duties of creating a specific emotion (eg, satisfaction, happiness) in the customer. Like having to calmly and politely interact with a customer who is hitting you with a shopping cart or screaming obscenities because they brought an expired coupon.

            Mental load is the term I’ve most often seen wrt managing households, because there’s not just the completion of tasks, but also keeping track of and knowing what needs to happen to complete those tasks. (If Person A says they’ll make dinner tonight, but still expects Person B to know what’s in the fridge, what people’s food preferences are, where and what to buy, etc., Person B is still carrying the mental load of putting dinner together)

    1. introverted af*

      It will take some time to get all of those things on your plate if your wife has been the one managing them. I would look at a possible weekly/bi-weekly meeting to discuss and plan ahead. Take plenty of notes but start getting those things down for your to-do list so she doesn’t have to worry about them. Even better if you can have a bigger meeting up front and discuss what the next 3-6 months in your house look like and what needs to happen. This doesn’t mean she’ll be completely uninvolved in these things of course, but if you can step up on the planning side, that will surely help a lot.

    2. Allie*

      I can’t tell you how tiring it is just deciding what to make for dinner every night. After working I just don’t have the brain power to decide.

      Meal prep/planning and doing the shopping is huge.

      1. Mel*

        Right? It seems like most places have grocery pickup which is awesome, but having to figure out what we’re eating every day and ensuring it gets ordered is a lot. No, we can’t eat hamburgers/ pizza/ tacos/ spaghetti every night- not helpful.

        And yes, I think mental load was the term I was thinking of. Thanks y’all!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        That’s one thing I like about meal delivery services. Three nights a week, I don’t have to decide or plan anything. And one night a week we discuss what looks good – with pictures – instead of him saying “you know that thing with vegetables? in a bowl?”

      3. Alice*

        Start keeping a dinner diary. Note every day what was for dinner. Easiest (for me atleast) is a cheap small-format paper calender I keep in the kitchen. Once you have done this for a bit meal planning becomes much easier. Just look back a few weeks or months and pick something. It means that meals for the week can be easily decided on Sunday evening (for example) and shopping lists already made for the week.

        I learned this trick from my dad who was the meal planner and cook growing up. He had years and years of dinner diaries in the end.

    3. bubbleon*

      +1 this is exactly what I came to say! The mental load is a significant thing people don’t often take into account when discussing the balance of household responsibilities. I don’t get the sense that OP will let it slide since he’s proactively asking about it, but it’s important to remember that “What do we need from the store?” is significantly different than “I’m running to the store, is there anything special you’d like me to add to the list I’ve already created?”

    4. Former Young Lady*

      To add to this — get the extended family/social circle in the habit of phoning you first. Wives in hetero couples are often presumed to be the family social coordinator/corresponding secretary by default; this is often accompanied by the assumption that we have all day to listen to someone’s stream-of-consciousness on the phone.

      If you can run interference on this kind of communication, it will help tremendously.

      1. Lora*

        “this is often accompanied by the assumption that we have all day to listen to someone’s stream-of-consciousness on the phone.”

        OMG this. When I was in college, working 35 hours/week (as much as I was allowed by the terms of my work-study) and a full time student AND doing undergrad research that ate up about 30 hours/week in field work, my (female!) neighbors and family members would happily keep me on the phone for two hours at a time, completely ignoring all my “that’s great well I have to get back to work sooo–” with their “oh and one more thing!”

        What was so important that they needed to tell me? They got (item) on sale at the store. The dog looked funny and farted, should they rush it to the vet? They heard a thing on the newsradio program which in fact they already knew because they read a book about it three years ago, did I also know that the Pope was covering up aliens visiting Earth? Their mom started watching WWE wrestling and there’s all these characters that are ridiculous with their costumes. For TWO HOURS EVERY DAY, and “hey, I don’t have a ton of time, Then-Husband can handle this” was for whatever reason unacceptable and provoked absolute hissyfits about what a terrible woman-friend / cousin / niece / daughter-in-law I was.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      You’re talking about the mental load! And this is SUCH A THING. There’s a great cartoon about it by an artist named Emma, if people want to Google it. This is something I’m dealing with to an extent right now. My husband is not currently working (though he’s doing a time-consuming and demanding class online), and we have a young baby. I work from home full time during the day while he cares for the baby two days a week. My mom comes up to take care of the baby two days a week to give my husband more time to work on his class. I am using a vacation day every week for the fifth day. (I have LOTS of time and am happy to do this, it’s not a problem.) But even on days when I’m not on primary childcare duty, I am dealing with most of the mental load of keeping track of nap times, wake windows, bottle times, etc., as well as some of the physical stuff, like preparing and washing bottles and solid meals. Some of the physical stuff (e.g., solid food prep) I do because I am the one who took on the mental load of researching how to do it properly/safely and therefore know how to do it. And one day my husband will have to take on a lot more of it, especially when I start going back into the office a day or two a week, and then I will have to take on the mental load of training him and giving him resources to use when he’s not sure. That is exhausting to think about.

      1. Frank Doyle*

        Alison has covered this situation many times in her advice — you need to just stop doing those things. Let your husband and your mother figure them out. Let the responsibility fall back on them. Prepping the food is one thing (although also, send them links to the same articles you read?), but washing dishes and setting alarms should be easily figure-out-able by grown-a$$ humans.

      2. anonforthis*

        I just want to say I see you – and this is the situation of so many! As a word of advice, we use a house manual – since we had multiple caregivers for our kids when they were babies and I had very specific opinions about napping, solids, play time, etc and a manual was a life saver because it allowed whomever was caring for the baby to have a guide. Communication sheets that lay out specific schedules and ask the caregiver to record milestones in the day are also hugely useful. I have a private instagram page with nothing but photos of my kids’ meals, so caregivers can have an easy reference point. We keep meal staples on hand (huge batches of steamed vegetables, varieties of cooked proteins, etc.) in the fridge so all a caregiver has to do is assemble. Of course much of the advice is “let them figure it out!” but there are tools you can use for training. Good luck to you!

    6. Meep*

      Yup. If you’re staying home with the kids and she’s working, all the “house” stuff becomes your job. That means that you need to do it, and that you need to remember when to do it, do it autonomously without assistance, and do it well enough that it passes muster by any competent adult. At this point, if you’re the stay at home spouse, it’s not you “helping” her with stuff like this – you do it and bear the primary responsibility for it and she may “help” you when her job permits.

  14. Dust Bunny*

    My mom stayed home off and on when we were kids and my parents’ system was that the partner with fewer professional responsibilities took on more domestic work, not because, in this instance, it was Mom, but because it makes sense. They are retired now and Dad has taken over a lot of household stuff now that he’s no longer working an outside job.

    A lot of household responsibilities are a lot easier to get done within normal business hours: Grocery shopping, trips to the post office, making appointments, etc., so as many of those as you can keep her from having to juggle on evenings or weekends will be appreciated, and you’ll probably find you’re glad to have them done so you can spend the her off time together.

    And, yes, communication is the big thing.

  15. egallison*

    My dad stayed at home most of my childhood while my mom worked full time. I didn’t know this until much later, but an issue that came up for them was that my mom worked all week and my dad did the kid and house stuff all week, so they both wanted the weekends “off” to spend time on their own hobbies or social things.

    So maybe making sure you BOTH have time “off” (even/especially from handling the kids)?

  16. Jack Straw*

    Advice from a friend who was recently in the same position — treat your at-home job like a job. The skills you’ve honed at work will apply to the running of the household.

    Her biggest help was creating goals for the week/month/year and tracking the progress. Use a calendar. Schedule events and routine events/outings.

  17. Me*

    For everyone saying well just ask her. You aren’t really being helpful.

    I’m sure he will. But since this is a new experience for both of them, sometimes it can be hard to know what you will need before you are in the situation.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking ideas from people who have navigated this before.

    1. JRR*

      Right? Of course OP will also ask his wife. But she’s also new to this particular family setup and may not anticipate every need.

      The point of this letter is to seek advice from other parents who have already gone through this experience.

    2. Soup of the Day*

      Seconded! It’s thoughtful of him to try and figure out what he can take on without needing to bother her with it.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      You’d be surprised how often a partner doesn’t think to ask and just jumps in and starts doing something thinking they are helping the other person.

    4. Alianora*

      And it’s also helpful not to put all the planning/the mental load on her. “Just ask her,” kind of makes it seem like it’s still her responsibility to manage what her husband does while he’s staying at home.

    5. Delphine*

      Also nothing wrong with stating the obvious! Sometimes we don’t realize it until we hear it.

  18. Forrest*

    Yes — it’s great that you want to support your wife, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking she has the harder job and your needs are subordinate! Staying at home minding kids is VERY HARD WORK. Think about what you’re going to need– time away from the kids, social time with adults, structure in your day, that kind of stuff. Take responsibility for that stuff by planning: “and on Saturday mornings, I’m going for a long walk / meeting X for breakfast / going to regular sportsball” “we’re meeting X and their kid on the playground every Tuesday morning, and Wednesday we’ve got dancing”.

    Don’t assume that as the non-paid-work partner you’re responsible for all the housework. Housework isn’t just something you can happily add on top of minding kids because you’re not *really* doing anything. Personally, I can tidy the kitchen, load the dishwasher, put a wash on and hang out clothes whilst I’m with the kids, and we’ve got a good routine for cleaning the bathroom together (although– it uses an AWFUL lot more squirty stuff than I would use if I was doing it by myself!) but I can never get hoovering or much tidying done with the kids at home.

    I don’t know whether this sounds like the opposite of the advice you were asking for, but honestly, having been on both sides of this, taking responsibility for your own needs (rather than wearing yourself out and then collapsing / blowing up at your partner) is a huge part of supporting them.

    1. Forrest*

      (Honestly, OP, I get where you’re coming from, but I’m a little side-eye at ” I know that lots of women over the years have done exactly this without complaint – I’m not special”. And lots of women DID complain! A lot! And we were right to, because it’s f’ing exhausting!

      Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you’re taking on a traditional female, low-status role and she has the traditional male, high-status role, that you have to behave like your role is lower -status and easy and that your needs don’t matter.)

      1. ThatGirl*

        He shouldn’t assume he’s responsible for all of the housework, but he also shouldn’t assume his wife will handle it all, or that she’ll “manage” it. He should do what he can, when he can, including dishes, laundry, wiping down counters, making grocery lists, etc.

        And yes, he should also make sure he has downtime for himself – that they both do.

        1. Forrest*

          hmmm– I guess this is a real “bring your own baggage” question”

          My immediate assumption on reading “my overwhelming daily focus is going to be on the kids and running of the household. How can I make sure she feels loved, appreciated, heard and not left out?” is that LW would try and do *everything* and wear themselves out. I’m so interested that everyone else’s assumption is that LW is not seeing half the labour that’s performed in the household and won’t take that on. I have no experience of raising children in a hetero household, so I just forget that’s a pretty widespread way of doing things!

          1. ThatGirl*

            People are definitely bringing their own baggage, no doubt.

            But there’s also an entrenched sexism in American parenting, where mom is “in charge” and dad “helps”. I am not a parent. But I am in an opposite-sex marriage, and I see it play out both with my friends and sometimes even in my own house on a smaller scale.

            To be fair, there are many m/f couples & families who don’t operate this way. It’s not universal, and it is important to avoid burnout on both sides. But I don’t think it’s unfair to point out things that many of us have seen play out in many households.

            1. Forrest*

              oh no, I don’t think it’s unfair at all! I mean, none of us knows what LW’s tendencies are, so hopefully he can pick the advice that’s most relevant to him.

      2. Junior Dev*

        My take on that was that if he hadn’t put it, some people would be criticizing him for not acknowledging it, implying that he was asking for special treatment or credit for something women are expected to do without complaint.

        I’ve had my letters run by AAM before and reading the comments section can be brutal, even though I think Alison moderates quite well and we are one of the more reasonable and civil comment sections online. So I don’t blame him for wanting to pre-empt a potential criticism.

        1. Forrest*

          Sure, and I don’t think I was mean, I phrased that as gently as I could! But “I am only the SAHD, my wife works SO HARD” is another way of devaluing what’s traditionally women’s labour, so it’s worth pointing out.

    2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      I haven’t raised kids, but when I was home with minimal work to do over COVID and my partner was working a long-ish hours job, I realized my policy that made me enjoy housekeeping and not feel resentful was–bread-winning partner should not make the mess WORSE. I enjoy tidying and cleaning and organizing, but if every morning I was having to clean up my partner’s midnight snack mac n’cheese pot or take-out dishes, THEN I got resentful

  19. Alex*

    Running a house and children contains a lot of administrative-type labor. I have no idea how your household functions, but the majority of hetero American families, no matter who’s working, women do the bulk of that planning/worrying/managing tasks. It will be a transition for both of you if that’s how your household currently runs. It’s ok to do things differently than your partner does, so long as they get done and everyone is reasonably safe, fed, clean and sane at the end of it. To that end, it might be helpful to have an explicit conversation with your partner about how things will change, but that you will still get them done. Invest time/energy in scheduling & planning —-that way each of you can get some alone time both together and apart, and you can plan for a date night/babysitter once a week or however often you can afford it, to keep your partnership and individual lives viable during this shift. Kids thrive on routine, so building one will help reduce everyone’s stress and make it clear that Dad is the parent in charge during the workday.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Yes – there is a lot more than “doing” the household work. There is a tremendous amount of simply “planning” the housework and errands as well. Taking on the meal planning, grocery list making, etc. as well as going to the store for groceries – that’s all part of the job.

  20. Beth*

    Commit yourself to taking over the general tasks of managing the household: not just kids and cooking and cleaning, but managing appointments, medical care, household maintenance, vehicle maintenance, meal planning and shopping, proactive event and social planning. You don’t have to take over all of this, but recognize that it’s there, and that you should be taking the lead on it.

    As others have said, sit down and discuss what she needs and wants, what she would prefer not to have to do, what she would rather do after consultation and what she would rather not have to be asked about — and LISTEN when you do that.

    My personal belief is that one of the most exhausting things about household management is the cumulative weight of thousands of small decisions, especially open-ended decisions. After a grueling day of work, which is almost entirely high-stakes mental effort, I do not want to have to exert additional mental effort to make low-stakes decisions.

    As an example: I do enjoy hearing “Let’s order dinner tonight”, but not when it’s followed by “What should we order?” That not only hands the decision to me, it requires me to come up with the options from which the decision must be made. Try “Let’s order dinner tonight. Would you like sushi? Pizza? Mexican?”

    And read up on emotional labor.

  21. DeweyDecibal*

    Look up free events in the area and get the kids out of the house when you can. This is also a great way to meet other parents and get adult interactions for yourself! Lots of libraries are reopening and doing story times again. Local museums will also often have free or reduced admission days on a semi-regular basis that you can keep an eye out for. If anything, find a local park that you guys like and go regularly. Have a conversation with your wife abut division of labor and what both of you can realistically take on in the household.

    Also, read about emotional labor and think about how its divided in your relationship. It tends to disproportionally fall on the women in heterosexual relationships. If she feels like she needs to be planning the kids and your day on top of working full-time, that can be stressful!

    1. DeweyDecibal*

      One super helpful thing my husband did when he became a stay-at-home dad was meal planning and prepping. We really like this website/app called plan to eat- you upload recipes, plan them on a calendar, and then it generates a grocery list of everything you need to buy.

    2. OyHiOh*

      A plug for movement related activities too – splash pads are easier than pools to negotiate with young children, ice or roller skating can be very effective as an inducement to take naps/go to bed on time depending on age of child. My local ice arena has mid day open skate hours for kids who are homeschooled or not yet in school.

  22. blink14*

    My mother worked from home for many years, beginning when I was in preschool, and continuing the same work from home routine with when my sibling was born. The biggest rule of the house was when her office door was closed, she was at work. Unless there was an emergency, no one was allowed in, and having her be separated in a totally difference space reinforced that.

    My brother had a nanny who would also watch me after school. She would take my brother on outings or to scheduled classes, like a baby music class, toddler gymnastics, etc. Usually they would be out for several hours a day.

    Gentle but firm enforcement of “mom is at work” really helped emphasize that while she was working, the nanny or other parent was the go to. A schedule also really helped. We knew that except for the rare occasion, our mom would finish work in the late afternoon and be available the rest of the evening. Keeping to a schedule is a huge way to provide stability and consistency for kids, and again reinforces the boundaries around work time and work space.

  23. Mr. Cajun2core*

    I have been in nearly your exact spot, except without kids and my wife worked outside the house.
    The first thing I would say is to take over as many household job duties as you can. That includes but is not limited to, laundry, dishes, shopping, cooking, etc. I know that you will be taking care of the kids which is why I said, as much as you can as opposed to doing it all (which is what I basically did). My wife said that the biggest thing for her was the grocery shopping.

    Now, I know that she will be working from home at least part of the time over the next year but if there is a way you can do this while she does work from home and if at all possible, do it when she goes back to on-site work. When she gets home, have a snack/drink/what ever ready for her when she gets home. My wife said she really enjoyed that. When she gets home, just ask her how her day was and just listen. Don’t try and solve the problem, don’t respond except for support, just listen. (Google and watch the video “It’s not about the nail”.)

    Also, try and listen and keep any open for when she does get home. When she does get home, open the door for her (or at least unlock it) so that she does not have to fumble with her keys, briefcase, purse, etc. That is actually something that I appreciate when I return from work when she is not-working (think teacher with summers off).

    However, I think what someone said aabovei s the best advice. Just ask her!

  24. NYWeasel*

    So, this is essentially the arrangement my husband and I set up. First, we talked through all the chores and bills, and figured out proportional splits, either time or money wise. (He had a job that took up ~20 hours a week during the school year, so he wasn’t without his own source of $)

    Weekends were either “full family” (ie we ALL go do something) or His/Her splits. I’d get one day for whatever I wanted to do, he’d get the other. If I needed to go somewhere over the weekend, he’d get all of the next weekend. We made sure that we split outside care equally—he didn’t get to always get the extra time when a babysitter or grandparents were watching the kid.

    The easiest way to get mad at each other is if one feels like they do more work all the time. That’s why we put so much energy into equitable splits on the “me” time. Good luck!

  25. JRR*

    Ensure that she remains an equal part of the children’s lives even though you will be spending more time with them.

    When I was the breadwinner for my young family, I really appreciated that my wife took the lead in planning recreational activities for the whole family–big family vacations and camping trips, but also lowkey evening and weekend actives. Things like that take a lot of preparation when you have kids, and wouldn’t have happened had my spouse not made them happen.

    So much of the time I enjoyed with our children and many happy memories are thanks to her.

  26. Abogado Avocado*

    Get a bound notebook. Interview her and put your notes in the notebook.

    Here are a selection of topics for your interview: (1) Get ALL the details about the kids that you don’t currently know: who they play with, when their annual MD appts are, what their favorite foods are, any medications they need to take, etc.; (2) If you have pets, get the same info; (3) Whether she grocery shops one day a week or several and whether she meal-plans before shopping (some people do, some don’t); (4) Regarding house-cleaning, when it’s done, the products used, and how far it extends (e.g., do the sheets get changed that day, does the wash get done, do the towels get washed?); (5) Any home details you don’t already know, such as when the furnace and air conditioning get their regular check ups and who does that. Do the same for any appliance — such as the refrigerator and washer/dryer — that occasionally may need adjustment or repair; (6) Anything else she has done that to date hasn’t been your responsibility. It may take a her a couple days to remember all she does.

    Then, once you know all she has done in addition to work, ask her if there’s any task she wants to retain. Just because she’s the breadwinner doesn’t mean she wants to do nothing but work at her job.

    At this point, you should have a sense of the shape of your housekeeping duties. The next step is to start planning how you’ll meet them. You likely will need a calendar and you may also want to get a loose-leaf binder to insert warranties, repair information, etc. for household appliances, and fixtures, if you don’t already have that. In other words, you’re going to treat this like getting organized for and working a job. And while you won’t get paid or a pension for this “job,” you will get decades of payoff for being there for your kids at this time.

    I wish you much luck, although I sense you’re going to be great because you’re asking for advice here.

  27. Napster*

    I may get some pushback on this, but I stand by it based on personal experience. She’s the sole breadwinner — help her bear that pressure by watching your spending. Create a budget together, and stick to it. I know that her earnings belong to the family, not just her, but going from two incomes to one income can be financially precarious.

    1. Mr. Cajun2core*

      You will not receive push back from me but full support. Spending needs to be watched by both of you. Speaking from experience as our household budget was basically cut in half when I got laid off.

    2. Forrest*

      but do make sure that budget includes “stuff for when you’re out with the kids”! Being out with kids is much, much less stressful if your budget stretches to “stop for an unanticipated coffee and a snack”; “buy a drink/wipes/new pants”; “we thought we could walk but you’re knackered, I’m knackered, let’s just get the bus”.

      My partner went through a phase of feeling like she couldn’t spend any money when she was out with the kids, and it just meant that she came home with everyone in tears and I had to break off work to come downstairs and calm everyone down. Obviously, you plan to take snacks, clean clothes, water, wipes, hand sanitiser, socks, hat, sun cream every time you leave the house, but since just forgetting ONE THING (or even needing 4 pairs of pants when you only brought 3) can ruin a day, having some flex in your budget relieves so much stress.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Yes – my dad always credits my mother with our family’s financial success. My dad points out that my mother managed the household budget and found ways to save money that more than equaled what her after-tax income would have been, had she been working outside the home. Now, that was the 1970’s and women’s options were much more limited than today, but the point still stands that the stay-home parent can still contribute significantly in a financial sense by managing the household budget.

      1. Chinook*

        Do not discount the money that can be saved with a SAH parent, if you plan properly. With more time to watch the stove or oven, you can cook more from scratch (and, at the very least, the need for take-out gets reduced). Regular cleaning and maintenance can reduce repairs down the road. So much of what we buy for convenience can be done at home if you have the time (even if it is waiting for something to dry).

        1. Retired(but not really)*

          One thing to think about in regard to budget is that you are not only budgeting money but also time. If you need to allow a morning or an afternoon for “me time” it is well worth paying a neighbor to babysit for those few hours. Or agree to trade off with taking their kiddo(s) to the park or whatever another day.
          Get to know other stay at home dads!
          Check if nearby churches have a parent’s day out program. These are typically drop in programs one or more days a week at a reasonable rate.

    4. Silicon Valley Girl*

      This is so important but not just budgeting, they need to do some practical financial planning — where do they want to be in 5, 10 years? Buying a new home, saving for kids’ college, saving for retirement, what major life milestones are important to this family & how will your one income support that? Having some idea of where this is going financially can help reduce the burden on the sole breadwinner.

  28. Ginger*

    Lean into keeping the kiddos entertained. It will fill your days and help you find a new routine that works.

    Craft projects, local parks, playgrounds, outdoor time, there’s lots to do.

    This may sound cheesy but have the kids make a card for mom saying thank you – just being appreciated and acknowledged that she is working hard and missing some of the fun.

    Consider making plans for fun activities on the weekend too so mom can be included and everyone has something to look forward to.

    Meal plan – figure out who will cook when and what. It shouldn’t fall to one person – you’re both working full time, just in different ways.

    And finally, keep talking about what’s working and what should be fine tuned. You got this!

    1. Diana Farmer*

      The crockpot is a magnificent thing for this! I have cooked whole meals, breads and desserts in mine, it’s not just soup and stews!

      Ex. Take a whole chicken, put it in the crockpot with montreal seasoning, add 4 potatoes (scrubbed and poked with fork). Cover with foil 6-8 on low. Dinner is done and add an extra veggie for the other side.

      Cobblers are fantastic in the crockpot too :)

  29. StressedOutWorkingMom*

    First, good for you for even asking — just thinking about and being mindful of your partner’s burden is a great first step, and one a lot of people, employed or staying home, fail to take!

    My husband and I have been in a similar setup for a couple of years now. I am not going to lie — it’s hard. Neither of us has ever really wanted to be a stay-at-home parent. Kids, as dearly as we love them, just suck up energy and time and patience!

    I think the most important thing is to talk about all of the tasks that need to be done and arrange who will be responsible, and commit to following up regularly on how that division of labor is going. I am in a few groups of women who work outside the home, and one specifically for those whose husbands stay home. The absolute biggest complaint I see is unequal division of labor! Think about who will be doing the cleaning, the dishes, the cooking, the scheduling, taking kids to doctor appointments, etc, etc. Neither of you can assume that the other person has a heavier or lighter load–talk about it! If it’s not working out, change something.

    Also, when I was working from home in the early pandemic days, I was basically locked into a room. I did my very best to keep the kids from seeing me, particularly the toddler who could not understand why Mom wasn’t holding her. My husband brought me coffee, lunch, and water–again, mainly to keep the illusion in the kids’ mind that I was not home at all, like they were used to. That really helped us, and, frankly, helped my husband remember that I was not available during the workday to chat even though I was home.

    1. Junior Dev*

      I like the idea of bringing the working parent food and drinks! It’s also nice to have someone remember this for you if you tend to get really caught up in work and forget to eat/drink.

  30. Commenter 765*

    Look for “stay at home dads” groups. When we had this arrangement, my spouse found it was a good way to get out of the house.

  31. Richard Hershberger*

    I have no specific advice, but encouragement: I was out of work for nearly a year when my daughter was about one year old, making me the primary care provider. The out-of-work part was stressful, and child care is a lot of work, but it overall was a wonderful experience. We really bonded. Even now, with her a surly teenager, we spend father-daughter days together. (Nowadays this usually involves me spending money, but it typically is at bookstores, so I can’t complain.)

    Oh, I do have some advice. Don’t let the kids park themselves in front of screens all day. This isn’t a screentime-is-bad take, but a bond-with-your-kids take. Take them places (with no wifi). A park with a good playground is ample. Or walks, or whatever. It is like being a dad with joint custody doing fun stuff on weekends–but without having to get a divorce.

  32. Detective Amy Santiago*

    So I don’t know anything about running a household with children, but I do have one piece of advice for you OP since you say the prospect of not working for a year or more terrifies you.

    If you don’t already have one, set up a Linked In profile and connect with as many of your former coworkers as possible. Also follow important companies in your area/industry to keep up with trends/information/etc. This will help keep you in the loop on what’s going on so that when you are ready to transition back to working, you won’t feel as lost.

  33. ItsJustMe*

    I don’t have advice, but as a woman who is the sole breadwinner I appreciate you asking this question.

  34. EngGirl*

    Discuss what you both need to make this work and be prepared to revisit as necessary.

    I know a ton of people who made this decision and it’s fine for like 3 months and then the stay at home partner starts to feel taken advantage of and like they never get any down time from the kiddos and housework, and the working parent gets resentful of any housework they have to do because the other partner is home all day and they just want to not have to worry about it on their time off.

    Communication is key

  35. Quickbeam*

    OP, if you don’t know how to do something (pay bills, work the washing machine, etc) figure it out now so that it isn’t a skill you need to bother the WFH parent over.

  36. Reality Check*

    Just coming here to chime in with the many others who are saying to relieve your wife of the mental load. Take charge. Make the decisions. Don’t constantly ask her input on every little thing. Don’t make her ask for things all the time. My husband did this when I was the breadwinner, and I hated it. It didn’t make me feel supported – it increased the load on me!

  37. Allie*

    Strong agreement to getting the kids out of the house. When COVID hit my son was home from daycare. Even if it was supposed to be Dad time, he would come and try physically get me out of my chair or cry for me if he was in the apartment (he was only just 2). It was very hard.

  38. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

    Two words “be competent”. Do what needs doing without running everything by your wife first. Don’t worry that you might do something differently than the way she would do it. Learn to say “Don’t worry, I got this” (said in a loving, reassuring way). There is still a tendency for people to think of Dads as “babysitters”, rather than competent parents who can get things done as needed.

  39. Anonymato*

    For me (not the most eloquent but hopefully it makes sense): Some sort of agreement on what kids needs/should get every day on your watch. My partner sometimes gravitates towards putting his time towards household projects while “on duty” and says: “oh, the child is fine, he is playing/watching TV”. Yeah, that’s great, they are fine right now, but won’t be at the end of the day. The child’s needs for connection, exercise and rough & tumble, crats or whatever your children specific needs are not fulfilled. And their nails are not cut and their hair is not detangled ;-) I then I need to handle these “more energy-requiring” activities when I come “on duty” or we all suffer the consequences. My partner bulks at being prescribed what to do with the child, but I’d rather that the lawn was not cut for another few days vs me trying to deal with this while needing to put extra time into a work project right now. You might not like crafts, but if your wife is not available to oversee them, and the kids like them, it’s part of your job description now. And in reverse, if your wife really wants to do crafts with her kids when it’s her turn to hang with them, don’t do them during your time no matter how they beg ;-)

  40. Diana Farmer*

    Block off an hour or so a week per kid to have 1-1 time with each of you and a date night just for you 2 every other week. Date night can even be drive to a park, sit and just talk for 2 hours about everything OTHER than the kids, work, house, bills. Then once a month have the “family business meeting” where you discuss all those things and include your kids! It will help them understand as they get older what it takes to make a household run. Have a “no tv, game night” (I usually do Fridays), loser has to do the dishes :). Finally, schedule an hour or so a week of “me time” for each of you. You all need that connection and turning off time. Sometimes it can feel like one more chore, but it really will help in the long run.

  41. CubeFarmer*

    Maybe the better question is to ask families about their pitfalls in the one-income scenario. My mother was SAH in the late 70s and was miserable. One hundred percent unhappy. I honestly don’t know what kind of child-care options would have been available to them if they had looked, and what kind of support network my mother had (I suspect not much.) I remember my mother saying to another woman, when she didn’t think I was listening, “I didn’t think it would be like this bad.” I don’t have kids, but my sister has two (who are now tweens/teenagers,) and partially based on my mother’s experience, she went back to work and she and her husband got the childcare.

    The only advice I can give is to talk to your wife. You both should be continually assessing the situation financially AND psychologically.

    1. J.B.*

      It doesn’t sound like it is a voluntary situation so I’m not sure focusing on misery helps here. Perhaps how they can best balance between each other.

  42. Merry R.*

    I skimmed the comments, and from what I read, no one touched on the guilt she may be feeling. She might be worried that the kids will like you more, you’ll be their favorite, that they will feel like she’s abandoned them. Obviously, these fears are unfounded, but I’d maintain an open dialogue with her about how she can feel involved with the kids while still managing her work responsibilities. You can play a role in that: hyping the kids to see mom, prompting the kids to tell her the best part of their day, taking over some more housework in the evenings so that your wife can relax/play with the kids (eg: maybe she loves the bedtime routine, and wants to do that while you decompress downstairs – you need rest too).

    You also need to vocalize your needs. It isn’t just about you supporting her, it’s her supporting you. My husband and I both work, but since he works from home, he takes on the brunt of the housework since I work longer hours and he has more downtime during his day. We have a discussion about once/twice a month about how we can improve how we support each other, and it’s been really beneficial in making sure that neither of us are holding on to any resentment/issues for too long.

    1. Shenandoah*

      Yes – I think this is a great comment, particularly your first paragraph. That working mom guilt can feel really overwhelming. Even just a random “You are a great mom” from my husband can really help.

  43. Georgette of the Jungle*

    Get the kids enrolled in summer activities if you can – camp, YMCA swim lessons, local state park trips, drag queen library story hours, etc. Get them and yourself out of the house at least a couple times during the work week. If these coincide with set weekly meetings your wife may have, so much the better!

  44. knitcrazybooknut*

    This isn’t directed at you, since you’re clearly working hard to anticipate what she’ll need, and that’s amazing! But you might want to read a little about emotional labor, if only to make a list of things that you’ll need to handle.

    If there’s ever been a point of contention around housework between you, be sure you’ve addressed that or added it to your daily schedule. If there are some things you’re “blind” to, consider getting a housecleaner for a couple of hours a week if you can afford it.

    In the first month or so, have a specific time/day when you ask her what you’re missing, and be open to her suggestions.

    You’ll both need time to vent about work — you about home, and her about her job. Be clear about “I need five minutes to vent to you, and I will listen to you after that”.

    You can do this!

  45. theothermadeline*

    When my siblings and I were young and my mom was a professor with the summers off, she always had it a sacrosanct part of the day where she’d take a nap. She’d be on the couch in the family room where she’d put us in front of a movie, but it was quiet movie time and she would be asleep and we had to respect the quiet time. And because we wouldn’t buy new VHSes unless we promised to watch them multiple times we would frequently watch the same movie day after day . Figure out if something like that is good/possible for you (while ensuring they also don’t just go bother your wife) but know that you are expending a ton of energy too.

  46. President Porpoise*

    On the flip side –
    I am the sole breadwinner in our household, and my husband is the SAHD for our two small kids. It is very hard work – and I have a front row seat since I work from home. I take breaks with the family and act as the overflow relief valve when he needs someone else to keep an eye on the kids for a few minutes throughout the day. I try to be supportive and helpful: doing lots of household chores on weekends so he can have days “off” as well, holding the budget, emptying the dishwasher while my tea brews, etc. I really, really appreciate the love, care and attention he gives those girls, and the excellent job he does of managing the house. What can I do to show that I do not take his efforts for granted? I’m terrible at this sort of thing. (And I do ask, but he gives me no answers which of course makes this more difficult).

    1. MarinaS*

      A quick and sincere “You’re such a great dad and I love you” goes a long way! As do a hug and a kiss.

    2. ThatGirl*

      You know him best; think about what he values. Is it time to himself? Time with friends? Gifts or words of appreciation? Family activities? Try to give him those things.

      Also, tell him – sometimes it’s just nice to hear.

      And, last thought, if there are any responsibilities you can afford to take off BOTH of your plates (cleaning, occasional childcare, whatever it may be) – it’s OK to throw money at problems.

    3. Breadwinner Mom*

      YMMV, but I try to do is notice and comment on something specific when I’m showing appreciation. I’ve noticed that when I receive compliments like this they stick a little more than generic “great job” or “you’re a great parent”.

  47. AthenaC*

    See what “mental load” you can take off her plate that she may have been doing before – budgeting, meal planning, monitoring household supplies, scheduling doctor and dentist visits, keeping track of registration deadlines for school (if applicable). She’ll have things she does / prefers to do, but if she can give you a couple of them that frees her up to focus on work.

    Treat your role in the house like a job. You’re human, and you get to have “off” days, but try to frame your role as something at least somewhat professional with regular expectations. Dishes get done, cleaning gets done, maybe send the kids to the playroom while you cook or wash up. If it’s helpful, think of the state you want the house to be in regularly / every day / every other day / at least once a week by 5 p.m. – whatever works – and then arrange your time to work toward that state.

    Leaver your wife alone while she’s working. If you can at all avoid it, DO NOT “just ask one question” or “just show her a funny thing quick”. She’s getting enough “quick questions” from people at work – don’t pile on with home stuff. Obviously, small children are going to want Mommy sometimes, so ask your wife what will work. Maybe she takes lunch to be with the family, maybe she eats lunch at her desk, helps you put them down for an afternoon nap, and you two take a half hour in the early afternoon to reconnect – whatever that is.

    Good luck!

  48. Mayflower*

    My husband took care of our child for over a year while I worked full time. His biggest recommendation is to join a dad group that meets regularly at each other’s houses. Your sanity will be tried, much more than you think, and a group of like-minded fathers, along with a chance to get out of the house, will save you. You can look on Facebook and NextDoor, and if you don’t find a group (stay at home dads are far and few between) start one! Another great option for getting out of the house is to join a gym that has kids areas and programs – some even offer free babysitting while you work out (or just sit comatose on a sauna bench, who’s to tell…).

  49. drpuma*

    Make a point to check in with each other on a weekly or even daily basis. My job is meeting-heavy Fortune 50 9-5 while my partner has a lot more flexibility to set his own schedule. Thinking about our own experiences, there may be days where your wife can and wants to have lunch with you and the kids, or even has a big block of no meetings (or can block off time on her calendar) to spend with the kids so you can have time to yourself. On the other hand there may be days when she has a big presentation, back-to-back meetings all morning, she’ll need maximum internet bandwidth and really the best thing you can do is get the kids out of the house entirely. Depending on your wife’s job this can change day-to-day, so make sure you keep talking about and revisiting what works for both (all!) of you.

  50. TvrH*

    Talk to each other, and have regular family meetings. Build a schedule/calendar together. Plan outings, meals, chores, write down routines, bedtimes, rising times, when is mom working from home. Work outings around the work from home days when possible. Are the kids school age yet?

    And keep having regular family meetings. Never let things fester. Being a stay at home parent to two kids is a real job, you’re raising the next generation. Think about the possibility of part time work for yourself in the future, once you’ve established a routine. Good luck! You’ll be fine.

  51. MarinaS*

    My husband has been the primary at-home parent for 8 of the 9 years we’ve been parents.

    Keeping communication open is important, as others have said. Things will change, sometimes on a weekly or even daily basis. A formal or informal check in monthly or weekly is a good idea – talk about what’s going well and what isn’t working, for BOTH of you. Things start going wrong when one partner is feeling resentful.

    If you haven’t been the primary parent on duty before, you’re going to need to be proactive to get your kid(s) to see you as the primary caregiver now. Don’t trust that they know to get you first and leave mom alone when she’s working – actively make sure you’re keeping an eye on their needs and getting to them first if they start to go for mom. After about a month or so they’ll get into the habit of going to you and you can relax a bit, but it takes a little while!

    The two most important things are 1) the two of you are a team, and 2) express gratitude to each other. It’s easy to fall into a scarcity mindset where you’re competing against each other for free time, or sleep, or who’s working hardest, and that’s the most counterproductive thing. You have to approach every problem and every scarcity as a team to make sure you’re both getting what you need. Working as a team also means figuring out what both of you are good at and not so good at. I do a lot of the phone calls and scheduling, even though it might “make sense” for my husband to do those while I’m working, and he washes the dishes even though I could do those after work, because that’s what works best for us. There aren’t a lot of societal norms yet for breadwinner wives and stay at home husbands, so mostly you’ll need to ignore what you “should” do and focus on what works for your family.

    And express gratitude – it means so much to me when I’ve had a hard day at work or miss my kids or feel guilty and my husband randomly thanks me for working hard to support the family. And similarly I let him know that I appreciate the time he spends with the kids and the work he does on the house. Even a quick “Thanks for taking out the trash” goes a long way. Get in the habit of saying thanks for at least one thing every day.

    1. JessicaTate*

      Yes, this is amazing. I think it related to the things that came to mind for me:
      For you: Don’t inadvertently guilt trip her about her work. I’m the higher (not even sole) earner in my home, and even the truly loving, well-meaning, “You work too hard, honey” comment can make me feel guilty; like he might be implying I’m prioritizing work over our family. Since she’s your sole breadwinner, there’s this other level of pressure merging with the pre-existing mom guilt she will feel… just don’t add to it (accidentally).

      Second is the WFH element. The being proactive part is important. But I also think BOTH of you need to really explicitly teach the kids boundaries around Mommy at work. She needs to be able to “go to work” at home, and kids need to learn what that means and what behavior is expected (i.e., she’s as unavailable to Dad and Kids as if she were downtown). No wavering or exceptions. Consequences. If they discover if they whine loudly enough or long enough, they can get midday cuddles, they will do it. (Think about the boundaries we teach even pre-k kids at daycare about where we do and do not go in the building.)

      And lastly, I would advise OP: Call HER out if she’s not showing you the trust you need (i.e., letting go) to fully take responsibility as SAHP. In other words, if she’s telling you that you’re doing X “wrong” or correcting/re-doing household or parenting stuff because it wasn’t “right”… You need to call that out. Unless your way is inherently unsafe or dangerous, it’s OK if you load the dishwasher differently, or don’t fold the kids’ clothes Marie Kondo style, or whatever. You need her to trust you, trust that you will figure out a way that works, and not micromanage your work in the home. (I say this because my partner had to call me out on this when I was doing it. I didn’t see it, and changing that behavior was hard, but important for us.)

  52. Superb Owl*

    Definitely second the advice to make sure you have non-kid time to avoid the burnout, but also make sure she gets some too.

    I always feel compelled when I get home to “tag in” or take the lead role on the weekends because he was with them all week. But I also need decompression time because work is stressful for me too (though my husband’s job being with the kids all day is harder). So make sure she doesn’t bear an unfair load on her off-time, except during designated times where you’ve agreed you get a break.

    Also: you are setting a great, feminist example for your kids – I believe the only way to get away from care work defaulting to women is to show kids examples of men doing care work. So for my kids, especially my son, to see the care work falling on dad and not mom means that (hopefully) if my son finds himself in a hetero family set up in adulthood, he won’t assume his wife will take on the brunt of the work.

  53. A Brew Yet*

    Ready for this suggestion???
    Treat this opportunity to be a stay at home parent like your job. I’m serious. This is your new job and you need to approach it exactly that way.
    Keep a written schedule. Just like your work calendar.
    7am: Breakfast for kids – kitchen
    8am: Kids dressed, rooms cleaned, beds made, laundry
    9am: Breakfast for boss (wife) delivered to her after 8:30 team meeting concludes.
    9:15am: Outing with kids – could be errands, shopping, park, library, craft store, appointments etc.
    11:30am Expected time home
    11:45am Picnic Lunch Outside
    Etc. Etc. Etc.
    This approach saved everyone’s sanity during some of our families transition from stay-at-home to work and back.
    The schedule was shared with the kids when they were able to understand, it became a keeper of notes back and forth and shopping lists and chores.
    I know it seems very regimented, but it particularly helped my husband in his work from home transition to feel in control of something and gave everyone an idea of their part in the new normal.
    When the tables were turned, my husband built in a 1/2 hour appointment into most days at the same time so that he could come and be a part of the family, participate in cooking, take a walk with the kids, chat with me etc.
    I’ll think if you try it for a week you’ll find that a really defined schedule is a big help!

  54. SarahB*

    My husband works a full-time plus job, and I work part-time. He often doesn’t get a break between calls for lunch, so I bring him lunch. If I make myself a cup of tea or a snack, I bring him one too.

    He’s inordinately appreciative of these things.

  55. Daisy-dog*

    Personal complaint:
    My husband has often had a lot more free time than me. He was recently unemployed, but he prior to that he was a fulltime student and before that was a teacher. In contrast with him, I have had very little time off and very little flexibility. I will note that we do not have children (I am female – see not on little flexibility).

    It annoys me if he does *all* the fun things when I am working. For instance, he was friends with other teachers and during the summer they would go on outings during the workday. He still has friends with some flexibility and they now make plans for days that I am working. This means that when I am done with work, he doesn’t feel like doing anything fun. He already saw the movie that I wanted to see or recently went to some activity that was more fun because it was less busy. I have discussed with him that I fully support him wanting to use his time off to enjoy himself, but I would like to be included sometimes.

    So my advice to LW is to ensure you know the level of fun that your partner will want to participate in when she is done with working. Will she want both children exhausted and ready for bed when she is done every night? Or will she want to have some fun with them at the end of some days? Ensure you strike the right balance where her day is not all about work and your day is not all about keeping the kids out of the way.

    1. Nope, not today*

      This is a good point. I’m a divorced parent and as the primary custodial parent (and the mom) I get all the default parenting duties. I make the doctor appointments, set up lessons and camps, force the kids to shower and do their homework, email with teachers, etc. Meanwhile, at their dad’s house, they get to do fun new things every single time they see him! Which is great and I’m glad he does stuff with them. But sometimes they go see a movie with him I’d looked forward to seeing, or they’ve already been to the amusement park with him. And I spend all my non-work time doing the drudgery of parenting and am never seen as the fun parent, just the one who works and yells a lot (because they are too tired to shower from being out late on a school night to see a movie). So yeah, just make sure she doesn’t get left out of things she wants to be involved in!

  56. Analyst Editor*

    This is more a perspective on being a stay-at-home parent and dad, but I think your well-being and harmony in your family are important to supporting your spouse. So, with that said:
    I think it’s great that you will get to spend time with your kids. Being with them all day is not easy, but it gives you a close bond and insight into their skills and development you just don’t get if you only interact for four hours in the evening before bedtime. (If these are small children, I believe you’ll also be less likely to “helicopter” because you’ll have a better understanding of their physical skills, risk tolerance, and general judgment and how it grows day by day.) And also, the fact that kids get a lot more time with their fathers these days than in the days of yore, and I think that’s awesome both for girls and boys.

    I think an important thing to have understood is:
    1) As the SAHP, you have the full responsibility for the kids during the day. That means, you solve problems and don’t interrupt unless it’s an emergency; you don’t go to her for every question (“where are their clothes? Which detergent do I use for laundry?” Etc.) And you don’t just check out at exactly 5 PM when she signs off, and don’t kick major issues to the evening for her to deal with (e.g., a giant spill you leave for her to clean up).
    2) AT THE SAME TIME, it means that she doesn’t get to micro-manage you or criticize you for how you do things. You will make mistakes, and it will be hard, and there will be TV (avoid the Ipad if you can though), but YOU as the primary caretaker decide the schedule, the food, the discipline approach; and if she has issues with it you can discuss it calmly when the kids go to sleep, and definitely not fight about it in front of them.
    3) You both need at least a little child-free leisure time at regular intervals. One thing I struggled as a stay-at-home parent was asking for time like that for myself; but then my husband was working a lot and also didn’t get a lot of time for himself.
    4) You should have an understanding of what a fair approach to finances and your spending should be.
    5) Consider having some kind of part-time childcare option if you can afford it, even a little bit, to have time for each other, and to have a backup in case you need to, say, go to the doctor yourself or take just one child out.

    Some helpful resources and/or, I think, thought-provoking takes:
    I love Dr. Psych Mom’s blog for many things relationship- and child-related, but here are two posts that are helpful to YOU as a SAHD on taking ownership of how you spend time with your kids, and on perspective of a breadwinner mom:

    Also if you google “Financial Samurai Stay at Home Dad”, you might find interesting views. This is one, but there’s not one specific post that I like concisely, but several of them are interesting:

    Good luck!

  57. I'm just here for the cats*

    I’m not a parent but definitely ask her what her needs are.

    One thing I’ve heard from people is that the kids don’t understand why they can’t go talk to mom. If she doesn’t already have a dedicated space can you make a place somewhere comfortable away from where you and the kids would be? Preferably with a door so she can close it. Also, make sure that the kids understand that although Mom is home she is not available. Kids can be weird and sometimes only want one person. I remember babysitting when the dad was home sleeping (he worked nights so had to sleep during the day so I babysat when they couldn’t go to grandma’s). They would want to go into his room and ask him stuff. Make it clear that Mom is not “home”. Maybe have some sort of ritual of Mom saying goodbye to the kids as she goes upstairs to work.

    Also taking the kids out of the house when they get too loud, especially if Mom is going to have an important meeting.

    Also Kudos to you for this “The prospect of not working for a year or more is absolutely terrifying to me, but I know that lots of women over the years have done exactly this without complaint – I’m not special.” Some guys wouldn’t get this.

    Good luck!

    1. Anonymato*

      If the kids are younger, I think a visual board with both the daily routine/schedule and a photo of the parent who is on duty might be helpful. You can redirect them to it throughout the day whenever needed and it empowers them to be able to see it themselves.

      And the response they tend to understand when they want Mom to be the one to cut their sandwich is: “It’s Daddy’s turn.” (Just like with sharing toys, they still might not like it, but they understand the concept).

    2. Atalanta0jess*

      This is so true. My son will only let me put on an audiobook for him. Could dad do it? Of course! Will he accept that? Of course not. (And we haven’t really tried to change this, for various reasons.)

      For my job and my kid, it’s fine. He can pop in for a minute, most of the time. He knows not to come in when I’m in meetings, and I hang a red piece of paper on the door when I’m not interruptible for longer periods. Other kids might not be able to handle the flexibility. Keeping firm boundaries around it is definitely easier.

  58. Atalanta0jess*

    This is a great question. I am the working parent, currently working from home, and the mom. My male spouse is the stay at home parent. We have a five year old and a baby. It’s honestly really great.

    Things that are helpful for me:
    *Verbal appreciation for my work, and understanding that there is pressure that comes with being the breadwinner.
    *Open conversation about how you will (or won’t) share before and after work parenting duties. What does being the stay at home parent entail? Cooking dinner? Doing dishes? Just child care? There is no right answer here, it depends on your household and your kids, but explicit conversation will likely be super helpful. Same with what parenting during work will look like. In our family, I’m still nursing so I do interact with the kids quite a lot during my work day, and I like that, but there are some needs I have around it.
    *Recognition that being with the kids is still work for me, even though it’s not my “job” – so when I’m done with my money making job, I come home and start my second shift….it’s fun to be with my kids, yes, but that’s not “me time.”
    *Yee gods yes, bring her food. The words “lunch is ready” are the best in all of human communication.
    *Just give each other tons of grace. Both jobs are hard. (But if her job is decent, yours is probably harder.)

  59. Chauncy Gardener*

    I have segued in and out of the workforce over the course of my career, especially when I was consulting and my son was younger. When I was out of the workforce, I adjusted to picking up most, if not all, household type duties., but husband kept the yard work because he likes it. Then when I went back to work, my husband and I would adjust again. Communication is the biggest key to success here.
    And don’t panic, OP! It is very common now for both men and women to move in and out of the workforce as needs must. I think the biggest blow for me the first time was changing how I thought of my personal identity, which had been way more wrapped up in my job title than I ever realized (that was quite a shock, I will say)! Give yourself time to adjust and give yourself permission to enjoy your time with your children and being at home. Good luck!

  60. learnedthehardway*

    I’ve been in the situation where I was the primary breadwinner, and it does take a real adjustment from the stay-at-home parent to do this. My spouse had to find a way to feel proud of what he was doing and to reframe their sense of self-worth. You may need to do the same, and so you should recognize that it is a big change for yourself and how you view yourself.

    The biggest thing (I think) that would help is that you approach your role as stay-home parent with the goal that your spouse feels you have done the job. Maybe not the same way they would have done it (and they need to recognize that your way may be different, but it gets you to the same place in the end), but so that they don’t feel they have to re-do it because it was done only halfway or poorly.

    I’m not talking about rising to an impossible standard of household perfection. I’m talking about not doing the job half-assed so that your spouse comes home and has to redo everything themselves. There is nothing more frustrating than putting in a full day of work, coming home to a spouse who is convinced they are a full partner as a stay-home parent, and then having to re-do all the tasks because none of them are actually done.

  61. Pretzelgirl*

    Don’t forget about yourself in all this. It can be hard and overwhelming to be the stay at home parent. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t forget time for you as well, like working out, a hobby or time with friends. Also if you can afford it, maybe look into to some day camps in the area. This can be good, to leave some quiet time for your wife and you as well.

  62. Artemesia*

    I have been the person in both of these positions. When my first baby was small I ws doing my dissertation and my husband was the breadwinner. My husband was out of work for a year when he followed me for a job — we didn’t expect it as his career was going well, he was being recruited by other firms and was on a partnership track, but breaking into his profession at early but not entry level status and in a community without contacts turned out to be monstrous. After he had re-established himself, I lost my job in a merger and it took me a bit to catch on. Homelife adjusted each time.

    I think the most important thing for a man in this position is to really commit to the household maintenance part of the equation. Women tend to automatically do this, but I have observed several men who simply don’t adjust their contribution to the housework when they are out of work. He needs to keep the house clean, thoughtfully plan things for the kids to do, and do the cooking during the week. Without being asked; as a matter of course. If he picks up most of the household work, it will make life so much easier for his wife especially when budget is tight. Caring for a young kids is a lot of work but it is also a lot of fun if you lean in to it and plan outings, activities etc to do with the kids. You will look back on this time as a gift. BUT really upping the housework will make this work for the year.

    Also plan a way to have a social life with your wife. At least once a week you need a kid free date night. when we were young we were part of a baby sitting coop which allowed us to be able to go out without the expense of babysitting which is huge when your budget is tight. Developing a family social life with similarly situated friends can help too. Take turns BBQing dogs and burgers and maybe having the kids watch a movie while the parents socialize.

    Use the change in roles to sort through relationship issues and how you will deal with them.

    A lot of this stuff needs to be considered and discussed; after the first month, touch base about how it is going and how it needs to change.

    I was lucky in that my husband stepped up when I was the breadwinner and I did when he ws.a

  63. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    So, I’m assuming your finances will be tighter than they were in the past, even without the expense of daycare. I have only one piece of advice–NEVER complain about being short of money. As the sole breadwinner, that’s likely to hit her as criticism. Cheerfully find cheaper/free ways to occupy, feed, and clothe yourself, the kids, and the whole family. And occasionally saying that you appreciate all she’s doing won’t go amiss, either–I hope she’ll say the same to you!

  64. Boof*

    LW it’s wonderful of you to try to research and prep – I’m sure you will do great. Of course #1 is communication and figuring out what works best for your family and dynamic.
    “Generic” advise that may or may not apply to your particular situation and age of your kids (sounds like they need 24hr care and aren’t in school or anything yet)
    — try to get them out of the house when your partner is working from home. Maybe it’s parks, maybe it’s a membership to some gym with a sitter service for a few hr a day, maybe a combination of the above. Hopefully your partner has a sequestered home office area too, and make sure kids don’t raid it when she’s working.
    — Communicate yes, but don’t vent about the kids etc! The difference is that communicating a problem is more like “this is a problem I’m trying to figure out how to solve – can you help” (either with ideas that you think might work or ask if they have other ideas). Venting is “blowing off steam” / complaining and mostly just expecting your partner to provide commiseration or emotional support. Maybe this is a no brainer or not but it’s something I had to establish with my partner that it was EXTREMELY stressful to get a bunch of texts about how the kiddo is crying and they’re frustrated while I’m at work and seeing patients and can’t do a thing about it. Very guilt inducing, and sets up a bad negative dynamic where she might also feel resentful at feeling pressure of having to do two jobs at once.
    — work out a schedule on who does what when. Is she ok with making or picking up dinner X nights a week? Which nights? If you can help with meal planning, cleaning schedules, etc that would be huge; if you guys want to split some things, do it
    — it’s hard but hopefully each of you can “schedule” a little downtime periodically – maybe with a nanny or babysitter, maybe it’s just swapping who’s watching the kids, but make sure you each have time for exercise or hobby or something, even if it’s not a LOT of time.
    — reassess periodically, like every few months, what’s working well and what could be better
    — kids change fast and the schedule will change too

  65. White Squirrel*

    As someone who is the current SAHP (I’ve been in both positions) the biggest things are that once my spouse is home, we are both parents and that we both need some time off with friends or a date night.

    That said, I do the majority of housework and we meal plan on the weekends for the next week and they do cook or help cook some meals (because I find this the most onerous task and they don’t).

    The hardest task is the keeping track of everyone’s appointments, sports physicals, papers for schools, camps, speech therapy, etc. This is a heavy mental load that I bear the most of at the moment. I have offloaded most Scouting responsibilities to my spouse because they’re active in the organization. Mostly, try to anticipate this stuff and don’t leave it up to your spouse to tell you what needs done (I think this is regardless of whether you both work or not.)

  66. animaniactoo*

    This is a combination of personal experience and stuff gleaned from years of reading advice columns. In no particular order:

    • Take pictures of stuff that is happening and share them with her when she’s ready for them – whether that’s throughout the day or when she gets home.

    • Don’t immediately drop childcare on her as hers to do as soon as she gets home. (I mean, you might need a setup where she takes 5 minutes to breath in being home and then you go take a walk or off to decompress yourself for a half hour or something, but it shouldn’t be “great, you’re home! your turn, I’m off duty!)

    • When you go to the grocery store, make sure that you are shopping for the food and snacks that she also likes even when nobody else does (i.e. don’t be so focused on buying for the family or for you/the kids that you leave out her individual preferences).

    • Don’t dismiss her thoughts about what might be happening with the kids at any particular moment as something that you know better than because you’re with them all the time and she isn’t. Even if you think she’s wrong. Take a moment. Think about it. If you disagree say why you disagree, but agree to keep an eye out for what she’s talking about – and then do that.

    • KNOW YOUR BUDGET. Don’t put pressure on the budget by suggesting things that are going to be hard to do, or overspending the weekly grocery allotment/etc. If you think there’s a case to be made for spending a little extra now for something specific and getting X benefit from that, then make that case – and get her agreement to do that. Make sure that you are conservative about when/how you are asking for this.

    • When she wants to talk about work/her day/her commute – do not counter with your own story of how hard your day has been with the kids. Talk to her about her work stuff or whatever out of the house stuff she wants to talk about. Hear her. Support her ability to talk to you about it whether she’s just looking to vent or wants to brainstorm. This doesn’t mean don’t talk to her about your day with the kids. Absolutely do! Just not in the middle of when she is trying to talk about hers.

    • Ask her what she needs from you. I tend to think that the above is kind of universal stuff. But. Everybody is different – and it just might be that none of it is what she wants, and what she wants is something else. You won’t know that unless you talk to her and hear what she thinks/says.

    • Expect that some of this might change over time. What works for now might not work in 3 months. Check in.

    1. Forrest*

      • Don’t immediately drop childcare on her as hers to do as soon as she gets home. (I mean, you might need a setup where she takes 5 minutes to breath in being home and then you go take a walk or off to decompress yourself for a half hour or something, but it shouldn’t be “great, you’re home! your turn, I’m off duty!)

      Gosh, I disagree so hard with this, and the “do not counter with your story of how hard your day has been”. It sounds like the advice columns you were reading where those 1950s housewife ones with things like “freshen your lipstick and make sure the children don’t disturb daddy” !

      1. animaniactoo*

        Interesting. I don’t understand why given that I strongly caveated both pieces of advice (and others) with the point that there were trade-offs to be had there and there was room for both parts.

        1. Forrest*

          Is your person experience from the breadwinner side, stay-at-home parent side or both? Ive been both at different times and currently we both work 4 days a week and have one full day at home with the toddler and the older one for 3-6 hours after school (school finishes at 3pm on my partner’s day off, 12noon on my day off.) Both of us love the time with the kids but absolutely think that a day at work is by far the easier option!

          1. animaniactoo*

            It feels to me like you’re taking what I said and applying it to your specific situation and using that to attack and dismiss all of what I said because it doesn’t fit your specific experience.

            But there’s a lot of range of experience out there from easier to more difficult kids and options for breaks for SAHPs that some can build into their days (no, not all, but some) and easier to more difficult jobs and commutes.

            One of the things I was careful to say is that while I think the things I talked about are generally universal that it might not apply to the LW and/or their wife and that talking to her was going to be the best gauge of what was going to work to support her – which is what the question was about.

            Certainly if you found something different, I think it’s valuable to say “In the case of this, what worked for me was that” and give your personal experience. But you can do that without dismissing what I have said as if there’s no realistic possibility that it could be true for others.

        2. Owler*

          I think the key to this is how old the kid(s) are and how much attention they need during the day. I was a SAHM to a child who didn’t nap from ages 2-5 and who was glued to my side when she wasn’t at preschool (even for a shower). *Especially when she was 2-3*: as soon as her dad walked in the door, I needed him to be the “on duty” parent so I could have a half hour to myself. We didn’t really figure it out well in the beginning until we talked about both of our needs.

      2. Mr. Cajun2core*

        I think there is a middle ground with the “do not counter with your story of how hard your day has been”. Unless something out of the ordinary happened I would still suggest to let her go first. Then you can talk about your day. As the person who originally posted the comment said, do not talk over her when she starts “unloading” but that is advice that should go both ways.

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I think there’s room to compromise between “thou shalt not ambush thy spouse” and “your evening job is as the eye-candy hand-servant.”

        1. Forrest*

          I mean, my starting point here is that the person who has been at work has had a much, MUCH easier day than the person who has been minding one or more small children, so of course you take over everything you can and release the person who hasn’t had a break in 9 hours! That’s not an ambush, it’s the very least the person who hasn’t been minding kids can do.

          1. Boof*

            you’re assuming the person at work gets a break? There are many days I don’t. Yes I think it’s important to make a nice greeting and a moment to breathe/enjoy home for a moment or two before diving into a list of more things to do. I’m sure SAHP wouldn’t appreciate being immediately told all the things they need to do once they handed off the kids either.

            1. Forrest*

              But if neither have had a break, why would you have a presumption that the working-for-money person needs one sooner?

              1. allathian*

                It also really depends on the kids. Sure, if you have a wild child who’s more likely than not to climb the bookshelf as soon as you turn your back you won’t get much of a break. I guess I got lucky because my son was able to focus on building brick towers for 15 minutes easily when he was 2 years old (I went back to work when he was 2 years and 3 months). Naturally I needed to keep my eye on him at all times, but it wasn’t as if I didn’t get to sit down at all while my husband was at work. My son also took two naps until he started daycare, so I got the chance to rest a bit too while he napped, or prep lunch or whatever.

                I guess I’m food motivated or something, but I certainly never missed a meal when I was a SAHM.

      4. MarinaS*

        If childcare and being the SAHP is a real and valuable job, expecting someone to transition immediately from one job into another without a five minute break isn’t a reasonable expectation. Treating being the parent on duty as something that someone can just step into without even five minutes of transition time is devaluing that work.

        1. Forrest*

          I really disagree. I meant if I’ve been at work, I’ve probably been able to have a lunch break, maybe commuted, maybe had a couple of other breaks to go to the loo and so on. Days when I’m with the kids, I’m on duty from whenever my partner leaves the house til she walks in the door or comes down the stairs from her office. I think it’s much easier to take over and manage your transition when you’re fresh to the kids and you haven’t heard today’s song/story/joke/complaint twenty times already than it is when you’ve been hearing it non-stop for the last hour!

          1. MarinaS*

            That’s… just plain not true for a lot of jobs?

            And even if the person working outside the home does have a slow-paced office job, I still think both parents and children would benefit by them taking off their shoes, hanging up their coat, and washing their hands before being solely responsible for childcare. Parenting and partnership isn’t about a constant contest of Who Has It Worse, it’s about being a team.

            If my husband said, “By the time you get home from work, I genuinely can’t parent for even another five minutes and I need you take over immediately,” as a short term solution I would do that. But I would also work towards a different long term solution, because if my partner is mentally at that point every day, there’s a lot of things in our family that are not working for them and should be changed.

            1. Forrest*

              Well, ok, your mileage may vary! I’d see it the other way around, though— if I wasn’t ready to start answering questions about My Little Pony, telling the six-year-old to set the table, asking the three year old why she’s naked, denying requests for ice-cream for tea etc as soon as I came downstairs, something would be very wrong. That doesn’t mean my partner’s ready to run (usually)— it means she’s making tea, AND telling the six-year-old to set the table, AND answering questions about My Little Pony, AND asking the three year old why she’s naked, AND denying requests for ice-cream etc, and the sooner I can reduce the load to just “cooking tea”, the better!

              I’m not really talking about being “solely on duty”, just being prepared to take on being the focus of the kids attention WHILST I’m washing my hands, hanging my coat up or whatever. I’d see it as akin to taking over at the end of a healthcare or food service shift or something: you don’t make that person wait any longer than you have to.

  67. 867-5309*

    OP, You will need an occasional break, also. I do not have kids but from what I’ve seen and heard from others, spending ALL DAY with the young’uns is exhausting. And doing that day-after-day is a job. Negotiate with your partner for what your downtime looks like – is it one night a week you go out with friends or a 30 minute window once a day that you get to lock yourself in the bathroom or a long bike ride on Saturdays. Whatever makes sense.

  68. Turanga Leela*

    Some thoughts from being on both sides of the parental leave divide…

    Talk in advance about how you’ll divide the childcare when she’s around. Will you do 50/50 childcare when you’re both there? Or will she do more when she gets home, because you will have been with the kids all day?

    Think as well about other household tasks—who will do the laundry, cooking, etc? There’s no single right answer, but get on the same page so that she doesn’t come home and think, “He’s been home all day and hasn’t even done the laundry?” while you’re thinking, “How can I get anything done while I’m watching the kids?” Make a schedule and then revisit it as time passes.

    A good rule I heard is that unless you explicitly talk it through, no one should be relaxing while the other person is working.

    Finally, as much as you can, get stuff done with the kids during the day. Take them to the park to get their energy out, give them their baths, etc. Otherwise, it’s easy to get in a pattern where the kids veg during the day (playing in their rooms, or screen time, or whatever), and then the working parent gets home after a full day of work and has to do a lot of high-energy parenting.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Will you do 50/50 childcare when you’re both there? Or will she do more when she gets home, because you will have been with the kids all day?

      If she is going over 50% to relieve you, can you delay that an hour or more so she isn’t going straight from the frying pan into the fire?

    2. TootsNYC*

      as the kids get older, have THEM do the laundry; clean the bathroom with you; etc.
      This is so powerful for everyone.

      1. James*

        Our kids are old enough that we’re doing this. It’s important for everyone. It gives the parents a break, because we all need it. It also helps the kids by giving them responsibility, teaching them valuable life skills, keeping them active (scrubbing floors is really good exercise when you do it with your muscles), and serves as a useful punishment option (not the happies consideration, but an important one because kids inevitably misbehave).

        As I keep telling my kids, one day they’ll be on their own. When they are, they’ll be glad they know how to do this stuff.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I agree with what you’re saying, although I wouldn’t use chores as a punishment. They’ll learn to do them, sure, but they won’t learn that it’s just something that has to be done even when you don’t feel like it. You’ll just raise kids who feel that chores are punishment if you do that regularly.

          1. James*

            I’m not advocating using ALL chores as punishments. To give an example: We have large dogs, so managing poop is an issue. One kid is assigned poop patrol, and does it regularly. If one of the other kids is obnoxious, however, we may have that other kid clean up the poop. Or, when I was young my mother would have us clean the cabinets if we acted up. It needed done, but not very often, so doing it when we were misbehaving was sufficient.

            I get what you’re saying. And I agree for the most part. I just also think that this is a useful tool in the parenting toolbox.

  69. Breadwinner Mom*

    I’m in your partner’s position – we had a baby during the beginning of WFH, and around the time I needed actual childcare, my husband was looking for a career change anyway. So he started being a full time dad and part time student while I kept working full time. I have so many thoughts but I’ll limit myself to the 3 things I feel are most important. :)

    1) You also get to get your needs met! A lot of women feel like they are working 24/7 when they are the primary parent, which is true, and also shitty and unfair! Absent some really specific workloads (presidential campaign manager, medical resident, military deployment), both you and your partner will benefit from regular – daily or near daily – “me time” while the other partner is on kid duty, and longer chunks a few times a week for hobbies, friends, working out, etc. No one can tell you exactly what that looks like – it depends on you and partner’s skills, abilities, interests, and budget, and the needs of everyone in the family. I just encourage you not to fall into the trap of thinking that working from dusk to dawn is the only or best way to be supportive. I believe we are both better parents and better partners when we are taking care of ourselves as well.

    2) Getting your needs met includes social/emotional needs, and you can’t put all of that on your partner. For whatever reason, in many (cishet) couples I know it seems like the mom joins a mom group or five when she is pregnant/has a newborn, keeps a running text chain and follows a bunch of parenting instagrams. And the dads just… don’t. They don’t seem to seek out “dad friends” until their kids are school age. (There’s also some research to back this up, a higher proportion of cishet men have no close relationships outside of their family members/spouses, particularly as they get older. Obviously I’m aware this isn’t universal, so just ignore if it doesn’t apply to you.)

    Speaking from experience, it’s really hard to be another adult’s only friend. My husband had gotten a ton of his social needs met at work, it turned out, and then he switched to spending the day with a pre-verbal infant while I was interacting with adults. Many evenings, we both needed really different things, but he lacked other sources of adult interaction. So, if work + your spouse has been your main social outlet, this is a really good time to branch out and build some more community. As someone who’s often struggled to make friends outside of work or school I’ve found kids and dogs to be fabulous icebreakers.

    3) Communication isn’t going to be a one-and-done, it’s ongoing. Things will probably change – kids get older, weather changes, school starts, maybe you pick up a part time job or decide to take a class or something. Have some kind of recurring time with your partner where you can check in about how stuff is going, and bring stuff up if it’s not working, ideally before it’s become a huge source of stress or resentment. Believe what your partner tells you about their wants and needs, and strive to be honest about your own. Stay open, curious, and flexible, resist tunnel vision.

  70. AnotherSarah*

    I vote for a weekly meeting to check in–what’s working, what’s not, what’s on for the week, who’s cleaning what and who’s responsible for what appointments, and when does each partner get time alone or fun time with the kids? My partner and I have done a weekly meeting with the same basic agenda (discuss state of house, go over the next week’s commitments, plan a grocery list, etc.) each week, and it has continued to work well since we’ve had a kid.

  71. Bob's Your Uncle*

    I think a lot of great advice has been shared already, so I’ll only add that you should make sure your wife has what she needs by the time she needs it. If you know she likes a snack at 4pm, make sure that are clean dishes and space on the counter, don’t be mopping the kitchen floor at the time.
    Housework is also work (often more demanding and less rewarding), so I don’t say this to downplay what you do, but for you to know that chores sometimes can be moved around the day as needed, whilst job duties normally can’t.

  72. Bloopmaster*

    So many great comments here, especially around communication/negotiation.
    1) Remember that this isn’t really a “how can I support her?” scenario as much as it is a “how can we support each other?” scenario. Nobody’s job is inherently easier here–although you’ll be tempted to make comparisons.
    2) Agree to “discuss before you bust” (aka have a conversation BEFORE one of you gets to the point of being completely fed up and resentful toward the other).
    3) Have a plan for your long-term employability outside the home. I’ve seen too many stay-at-home parents need to (or want to!) step back into the workforce and they often haven’t done serious planning beforehand, which means they have no recent resume content or demonstrable experience. This does not mean you need to have a formal part-time job or kill yourself with a side hustle, but you should absolutely think about doing something in the professional realm: volunteering a few times a month, running formal activities that your kids might be doing anyway (scout master/soccer ref/etc.), doing occasional self-study/professional development in your previous (or other!) career field, or taking up a hobby that you can use to demonstrate some kind of skills and growth. Think now about how you’ll rebuild that resume if the time came. It’s also an insurance policy for your family in case your breadwinner gets laid off/falls ill, etc. and since it sounds like OP wants to work again at some point, there’s no reason no to be ahead of the game.

  73. Rosie*

    Lots of people have given great tips for practical items!

    One more that isn’t so obvious.

    I was the sole (female) breadwinner for years and my (male presenting) partner stayed home with the baby. One thing that often gets lost in couples where both people have been earners is that it is *stressful* being the only one bringing in money. So if your partner hasn’t been in that position before, be prepared that she may feel extra stress about appearing reliable, doing a good job, building good relationships with work people. She may be anxious not to do anything to put her job at risk. Ask her how she’s feeling about that periodically, ask how you can help her with that anxiety (keep the kids away during X big weekly meeting, etc), and encourage her to talk to a therapist if it seems to warrant it.

    1. TootsNYC*

      as the female wage earner in my single-income dual-parent household: yes.

      I have such sympathy for men who are their household’s sole income. It’s a lot of pressure! Add to it that this person is normally carrying the health insurance and…

  74. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I agree that it’s best to ask her, and keep asking her. Some might be glad you’ve stacked the dishwasher, others would prefer you made sure the kids were ready for their bedtime story with Mummy, no having to cajole them into cleaning their teeth.

    However, remembering the days when I dealt with the kids while my partner full-timed, you might just be too exhausted to help her in any way, and it’ll be her picking up the slack for you when she gets home.
    People always used to ask me what I did with my time when I was at home with the kids, and I always told them that I’d never worked harder than when I was paid to work. 24/365, never mind 24/7. And even when your partner is in the kitchen, a kid will come to you while you’re having a much needed soak in the bath to ask for a drink of water.

    1. Jay*

      The only thing that resolves that last issue, in my experience, is ruthless, consistent, unchanging refusal to help. “Ask Dad.” “Dad’s in the kitchen.” “Dad knows where the water is.” “I can help you in an hour; if you need something now, go tell Dad.” I worked part-time when our kid was little and when I went back full-time it took a while to redirect her. She eventually figured out that it was faster to ask Dad in the first place.

      Of course, nothing’s perfect…..she was 20 and a college sophomore when she was chased out of her dorm by the pandemic. I was working full-time from home; her dad was retired. We had to go through “ask Dad” all over again.

      1. allathian*

        Well, at least she could get herself a snack or cook for all of you, shower without being told she stinks, and do her own laundry at 20, I hope…

  75. Roeslein*

    Whatever you do, please make it clear to your kids this is not a “sacrifice” for you, but rather is what you want to do and how you feel your talents are best used. No child asks for this and it puts un unbearable weight on their shoulders. I really struggled as a child with feeling that it was my fault my mother didn’t have the career or life she wanted. (I only found out as an adult that her not working had nothing to do with me.)

  76. James*

    Background: I travel extensively for work. As in, I once paid my rent and the property manager asked who I was. I had to bring my wife in to verify I was allowed to pay the rent. The apartment was in my name, but the manager hadn’t seen me for 9 months (I’d come home during that time, just never encountered the manager).

    Here’s my $0.02:

    –Communication is key. Everyone’s needs are different, and therefore this is the only really general piece of advice you’ll get. I know some breadwinners who want their spouse to dump the kids on them 100% after work–it’s not that they want to give the spouse space, they just want to spend all their time with their kids. Others need a lot of time to decompress. Some couples split the chores one way, some another, some hire the chores out. The only people that matter are you, your spouse, and your kids. So make sure whatever you do works for all of you. And bear in mind that this isn’t a one-time conversation; it’s going to be a running theme in your relationship.

    –If you find yourself saying “This is how we do things” to your spouse, step back and figure out what you did wrong. That’s not a criticism of you; it’s something my wife and I have had to work through. That phrase is on par with throwing your spouse’s stuff onto the driveway–it tells your spouse that they are not part of “we”, that they’re not part of the household. That will end your relationship fast.

    –Acknowledge that the lion’s share of the housework is going to be on you. The scheduling for the kids, the cleaning, the cooking (unless your spouse enjoys cooking, or you hire the cleaning out, or something). That’s the nature of the beast; you have more time to deal with it. One of the biggest fights I had with my wife was over chores. I’d work 70 hours a week away from home, and she expected me to do half the household chores in addition to lawn care and home repairs. This lead to a point where I was so physically exhausted that I was falling asleep at the wheel. She was working, so she was busy of course–but I was 300 miles away. (For the record, I still do the laundyr; I stay up late, and it’s something I can easily do while watching TV.) What specific division of labor works for you is up to you and your partner. What works for me, at least, is for her to do the routine stuff, while I do the non-routine stuff that she doesn’t have the skills for, such as felling trees or installing new appliances.

    –Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I do the construction-type stuff around the house because I grew up doing it. I once helped double the size of a house, from helping dig the foundation to helping wire the thing. I can build a house starting with “Here’s a woods and an axe”. My wife can usually differentiate between a box-end wrench and a ratchet. That’s not a criticism–she’s an amazing cook, while all my experience was grill-and-fryer stuff. That influences our division of labor. Sure, after a 70 hour week I’m tired–but I’m also the one who knows how to put in the appliance, so I get to do it.

    –Set aside money in the budget for each of you to play with. One issue my wife and I have had is that I was more or less removed from the budget for a while–“our” money didn’t include me. That’s not good. Setting aside money that the other person can spend however they want, without your input, helps prevent that.

    –It’s hard to do, but remember to assume positive intent. No one does something without thinking it’s the right thing to do. So if your spouse does something you see as stupid, strive to figure out why and to not be defensive. Like I said, it’s hard; you’re both tired, she’s stepping on your toes, and you’re angry. It’ll happen. But as soon as you start getting defensive and resentful, it’s all over but signing the divorce papers. It’s one reason a regular date night is so important: it reminds you why you married this person, which helps maintain the assumption of positive intent.

    Hopefully this helps! I figure, if someone else can learn from my mistakes there’s at least some value in them!

    1. Boof*

      Yesss, echoing that there is the “family budget” (what you need to keep up food, shelter, education, and any other ongoing joint/child/household expenses), there is “savings” (retirement, what have you), and then we split the rest into “personal money” meaning SPEND IT ON WHATEVER YOU WANT NO GUILT. I was feeling like an grouch when my husband kept coming to me with buying x or y toy for himself and I don’t want to run a budget or figure out if it’s reasonable but some are expensive and IDK if it’s something we should do on the fly! Now we have our budgets and I just say “it’s fine if it’s in your budget!” (really the question of should I buy it because of price just doesn’t come up anymore and it’s great). I mean I don’t mind talking about buying stuff because of other merits, but just because I earn the money doesn’t mean I want to be the one yesing or noing all the personal pleasures!

  77. Jay*

    Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Listen, listen, listen, listen. Work hard at understanding each other. Don’t assume anything. Check in about your plans and make sure she’s OK with the general direction. Agree with what everyone said about figuring out what needs to be done and doing it without waiting for instructions.My husband is amazingly handy and I’m very grateful that. When we first owned a house, he made all the decisions about his DIY projects, which often included repairing things. So he would decide the dripping faucet in the shower was not a priority and I’d just have to put up with it because otherwise I was dictating how he spent his free time or wasting money on a plumber. It wasn’t the best time in our marriage. Now I can say “hey, that drip is bugging me – do you have time to get to it?” and he will often tell me what he’s planning to work on and check to make sure I’m good with his timeline. It took us a long, long to get here. Don’t be us. Be better.

    Whatever you negotiate now, it will change. Don’t wait for it to become intolerable. Every few months take some time when you’re alone and check in on how things are working. Be openly appreciative of her – I hope she will be of you as well.

    We’ve switched off several times in our marriage, most recently four years ago when my husband retired and I went back to full-time work after a two-year break. Our kid was in high school at the time, so there wasn’t much hands-on parenting to deal with. He did take over supporting her college application process, and then once she was launched he took on everything else. I do the dishes and sometimes throw in a load of laundry. We have weekly housecleaners. He does everything else, and it’s GLORIOUS. He doesn’t do it all the way I would do it, and that’s a reasonable trade-off for being able to put my full concentration on work and then relax with him at the end of the day.

    I’m stepping back at the end of the year – either retiring myself or cutting back to a couple of days a week – and we’ll renegotiate the division of labor again, I’m sure.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      This isn’t helpful. He’s asking this group because we are working women (according to data Alison has shared in various ways). Folks have offered really wonderful ways to open dialog and things to consider. Some have offered great ways to start the conversation with his working wife.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        I also appreciate him asking here because he’s taking the initiative to find out helpful behaviors on his own, rather than forcing his wife into a project manager role for his job as a stay at home parent. It’s a new situation for her as well, so she might not know what she needs right away, either!

  78. The vault*

    You actually might realize how much support you need as well. My sister chooses to stay home and her husband works, and I feel like all the labor is always on her. Yes, he works during the day, but then he expects to just relax all evening when she has been working all day with the kids and the house. It also kind of makes me mad because I’m a single parent and I’m like dude…who cares if you worked all day, now the other stuff begins.

    I’m a single parent, but when I get to work all day and then just parent in the evening, I actually find it easier than taking care of children all day. Of course I do everything for my household, but if I had a spouse who wasn’t helping, it would annoy me lol.

    1. Forrest*

      Yes, I think this is why the advice to “give your wife time to decompress when she gets in” really misses the mark for me! Being at work is tiring! Being with the kids is tiring! But they press different buttons and drain different batteries: I have a lot more energy for looking after the kids after a day at work than I do on my ninth or tenth hour looking after the kids.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, this. A friend of mine had a partner (they weren’t married) who until they had a kid did his share of household chores more or less without complaint. But we have long maternity and parental leave, so when she returned to work, he really resented having to do any chores at all and took to working insane hours to avoid it. I think the only thing he agreed to do without too many complaints was grocery shopping, and even then he expected her to write the shopping list. Oh, he’d get something extra if he wanted a snack or something, but he never bought any toilet paper or detergent, etc. without being prompted. He also left all of the mental load for her to manage and absolutely refused to do any of the baby stuff like changing a diaper. Eventually she realized that she was effectively a single mom, and that although she appreciated his financial contributions, he was more a burden than a help in the house so she asked him to leave. He buried himself in work and moved back to his home country (another EU country) to get away from his parenting responsibilities. He didn’t share a language with his kid because he was never at home to expose her to his first language. I think he was profoundly unhappy, because a few years ago he committed suicide. His kid knows he’s dead, but not how he died. My friend tells me that his death was sort of a relief to her, because at least now she doesn’t have to try and explain to her kid that it isn’t her fault that her father abandoned her. Which he did, he moved to a different country to get away from his parenting responsibilities. Because they weren’t married, he could rescind his parenting responsibilities just by leaving, because he never applied to get his name on the birth certificate. This also meant that he never paid any child support when he left.

      As much as I appreciated my long maternity leave, I also enjoyed going back to work because I got the chance to reclaim my privacy in the bathroom and to eat lunch without a hundred interruptions.

    3. Owler*

      I’m angry with for your sister. I have a friend who says that life is easier after a divorce because she lost the resentment that comes with doing everything. (And the extra work that resulted from her husband lack of help.)

  79. WantonSeedStitch*

    The discussion of the mental load makes me think that one of the things you can do is make a list of all the things you expect you will need to do. Ask yourself if you’re confident in doing all of them, or if you need more information. If you need more information, try to find it without asking your wife. If you do need to ask her (e.g., if it’s about how SHE prefers to do something), try to do so at times when she is not working, before you need to be able to do it.

    Another thing: OBSERVE and REMEMBER. Keep track of when you’re running low on groceries or other consumable supplies, and keep a list. And don’t get to the store and realize you don’t know what kind of toilet paper your wife usually buys so you have to either text her to ask or risk getting something that will not be as good. Look up the brand and type before you go to the store, and write it down on your list. Does your wife have some laundry that she doesn’t put in the dryer? (Hint: she does.) Find out what that stuff is and maybe make a list that you can stick to the dryer with a magnet, so you don’t forget and accidentally ruin her favorite bra or something.

    Personally, I am someone who has a hard time letting go of some physical tasks because the mental load of transferring those tasks to someone else is so difficult when I want them to be done in a certain way. Handing over grocery shopping to my husband during the pandemic when I was pregnant was…anxiety-inducing. If your wife has a hard time with that too, try to be patient with her, and ask her to be patient with you as you figure things out. Having discussions about the parameters of things can really be helpful: “Spawn needs new clothes in the next size up. I am happy to pick them out and order them to save you some time, but let me know if there is anything you want me to keep in mind as far as brands, color, and price.” If I know that you’re not going to be getting Spawn poorly made junk because it’s cheap, or hugely expensive stuff because it looks so swanky, or stuff that’s all grey…I will feel better giving up control to you to make the choices.

    1. TootsNYC*

      If you need more information, try to find it without asking your wife.

      So much this!
      She had to learn it from elsewhere; you can too.
      At the other side of every phone call is someone who will answer questions for you: the doctor’s office, insurance company, etc.
      And there is info alread on websites.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Does your wife have some laundry that she doesn’t put in the dryer? (Hint: she does.) Find out what that stuff is and maybe make a list that you can stick to the dryer with a magnet, so you don’t forget and accidentally ruin her favorite bra or something.

      We handled this by having me put all the non-dryer clothes in individual net bags. The net bag is a symbol to not put it in the dryer. It made a HUGE difference, and now that I do the laundry again, I still use it, because it keeps me from forgetting.

  80. Lizy*

    How do you normally make sure she feels “loved, appreciated, heard and not left out”? Do that.

    As someone who’s husband has been a “SAHD” for the past few years, it is BEYOND helpful for him to have dinner figured out, or even better, for it to be made. In our relationship, I still focus on a lot of housework (our choice), so knowing that dinner is checked off is great.

    While she’s still working at home, actively take over parenting. So many kids default to asking mom for whatever. If you see that, pull them away and help them. IMO you don’t need to point it out (to her or to the kids) – just handle it. My kids now are actually really split about who they’ll ask for help with something, but I definitely think it’s a side effect of him being home.

  81. Regular Human Accountant*

    My husband was the primary parent for our children when they were in elementary and middle school–he worked for a while at their school, and then was full-time stay-at-home dad for a while. Others have given good advice about practical things, but looking back on that time now that my kids are grown I would say this: make sure she gets to be Mom. You’ll be the one able to chaperone field trips and take the kids on fun summer outings and arrange play dates in the park, but encourage her to take a day off here and there to do those things also. Make sure she knows about daytime school programs, if she can attend them. If she can do school drop-off or pick-up, that might be good as well. It’s easy to let the stay-at-home parent handle all that, but she will regret not having those memories later.

  82. TootsNYC*

    The one thing my husband didn’t get was that “watch the kids so I can cook/work/whatever” meant not just watching them with his eyes as they toddled into the kitchen to tell me something.

    It meant keeping them occupied, responding to them, becoming the person they brought all the problems and questions to, and figuring out what to do without asking me.

    Learn all the stuff they ask her, that they decide they need her for. Get your wife to walk you through doctors, dentists, teachers, friends. Health Insurance. Their schedules.

    My husband also didn’t set up regular dental appointments–having to be the one to say, “the kids need to go to the dentist,” and not being able to make the appointment because I didn’t know HIS schedule, but he didn’t do it.

    Treat it like an executive job, because it is. Write stuff down; chart out schedules and contact lists, etc.

  83. Linda*

    I love that you want to support her. But be gentle with yourself too. Staying at home with the kids is a bit of a shock to the system. Treat it like you would any new job, try to figure out the processes that work for you, remember that as kids get older, their needs and personalities develop and you might have to do things differently every 6 months. It’s an awesome job. And as most of the commenters have said, do talk to your wife and keep talking to her. Everything changes so fast.

  84. ZebraNeighbor*

    I’m in the same position. Preschool closed at the beginning of the pandemic, I got laid off, and my husband’s company shifted to 100% remote. My husband has been angry and tired for much of this time.
    Our routine was that whoever was driving the kids to school got to shower and get ready for work while the other parent fed the kids. When we all started staying home, my husband woke and fed the kids while I got ready for the day. This lasted for several months, until we eventually realized that he feels much happier if he doesn’t have to manage the kids in the morning.
    I’ve had to be super vigilant about how much noise the kids make during work hours, because a pair of 6-year-olds can easily disrupt meetings. They get to jump around during dance and exercise breaks, but they can’t play games or fight.
    My husband now keeps his office door closed most of the day, and the kids have FINALLY learned not to bother daddy when the door is closed. Not even when I’m in the bathroom or making lunch.
    I’ve had to learn not to complain about stuff the kids do because it makes my husband super irritated.
    We started using Alexa to keep a grocery list, which makes it much easier to add stuff throughout the day. Whoever has time can go to the grocery store without dragging everyone along.
    The kids get Happy Meals every Tuesday, which means we have one day where we don’t have to plan dinner.
    We used to meet for lunch once a week and have a kid-free 45 minutes to talk and eat. I miss that.

    1. Cara*

      Your marriage sounds super dysfunctional, and your spouse sounds like a jerk. Regardless of who’s taking care of the kids during work hours, you’re both still the parents. He sounds resentful of even having them, esp the fact that he gets irritated about hearing of things they have done. Wtf.

    2. Orchidsandtea*

      Do you get any time to yourself at all?

      And, how do you talk about your day if you can’t talk about the kids you share it with?

  85. Bookslinger In My Free Time*

    FT working mom with a stay at home dad here!

    Communication, communication, communication. It makes the world go round. It will save your sanity and hers. Communicate early and often about everything, regardless how big or small you think it is.

    Don’t fall into the idea that she has time to herself just because she works outside the home. I am not saying you do now, but it’s an easy thing to fall into at some point, and she may fall into it too. Make sure you BOTH have time to pursue your interests away from the grind of work and kids, with each other as well as alone. When the kids are grown and you are both retired, you still have to live with each other, so build that healthy foundation for time together AND apart now.

    Make sure you bring the know who does what in and out of the house, from minor chores to errands to making phone calls. Having a division of labor laid out early will help (we didn’t, but we have a unique situation so I tend to take on nearly everything that requires remembering information)

    Did I mention communication? Do that when one of you is feeling lonely, stressed, underappreciated, tired, whatever. You will both probably feel all of those things at some point, so be ready to talk about them.

  86. Admissions*

    The fact that you’re asking this question tells me you’re going to do great.

  87. BeenThere*

    Thank her. Tell her you’re proud of her.
    This is not to say that there doesn’t need to be balance. You’re going to be working all day, too. And in the evening you’re both going to want a break, but you’ll both have kids to take care of. Her job isn’t more important than yours just because hers brings in money. And you deserve thanks and appreciation as well.
    But, I am a woman who spent 20 years totally supporting my husband. He’s never said thank you. He does a lot around the house and property, and I thank him regularly. I just wished he thanked me sometimes, too.

  88. Di*

    This is such a thoughtful question, but I want to add— being a SAHP can be really, really hard, esp if there’s other work you love doing. Support your spouse, but don’t minimize your own need for support.

  89. Parent*

    I actually think the working parent should be asking how to help the SAHP. I’ve been a mostly stay at home mom and a FT working mom. I definitely could have used a break as a SAHM!

  90. Breadwinner*

    1. Every partnership is different so like others have said, have explicit conversations.

    That’s said, when my husband lost his job and stayed home, here’s what (would have) helped for him to do:
    2. Errands that have to be done during business hours. Doctor visits, pick up dry cleaning, get groceries etc.
    3. Bring kids to me for small amounts of time – lunch together or stop by for a coffee break. Time with kids is one of the great things SAH-parents have over daycare, so see if you can extend some of that to your spouse Witkin the confines of her work schedule.

    4. Thanks for actually thinking of how to be helpful!!! I appreciate it on behalf of all the reluctant breadwinners out here.

  91. RagingADHD*

    Further to the good points made above about mental load and the strategic planning aspect of being the primary caretaker, I’d recommend setting aside time ASAP to sit down with her and document her “institutional knowledge” of

    –daily, weekly, and longer-term routines.

    –health providers, servicepeople, and community contacts for various activities (the school parent Facebook group, the guy who pumps the septic tank, the charity that has a truck route to pick up outgrown clothes & books, whatever)

    –the kids’ friends’ parents and any rules or expectations about playdates (Ash is allergic to cashews but okay with peanuts, Bobby can come here, but we don’t go to Bobby’s house because Reasons).

    –Where stuff is (the swim toys, the children’s museum membership card, the extra stash of generic birthday presents, the ear drops).

    Even with very egalitarian co-parenting, there are always areas of knowledge that one person maintains, and capturing as much of it as possible will reduce the need for interruptions and avoid the dynamic of “go ask Mom.”

  92. bopper*

    1) Ask what she would like when she gets home from work…the kids to come to her immediately or a few minutes downtime before she joins in.
    2) Check out this on how to divide up chores.
    3) Figure out what household duties she can do asynchronously…my spouse would get home late from work but the garbage didn’t care how late it was when he put it out or if he wanted to go grocery shopping on Sunday night that was cool too.
    4) Don’t dump everything on her when she gets home, but also make some time for yourself. Work out if you each get a night “off” or if she puts the kids to bed while you clean up around the house and prepare for the next day.
    5) Make sure to spend time with each other. Have a date night.

  93. ObserverCN*

    Do your best not to distract your wife at work. And if you talk to her on the phone during her workday, don’t get into an argument. I’ve seen other couples do this, and it’s not pretty.

  94. anonforthis*

    First, the fact that you even are asking this question shows that you value your partnership and partner, and that you’ll likely find your way together. Everyone has already mentioned the mental load, which is hugely overlooked in terms of dividing care giving responsibilities fairly. In terms of making her feel included, I would ask your partner what she most wants to be involved in with the kids. She may say that she bonds with them best during a daily walk, or maybe she likes eating a meal with them. Then I think just organizing things so that she is able to focus her limited non-work time on enjoying those moments (as opposed to doing kid laundry or something!). I also think photos during the day that you can show her later go a long way, or if you’re doing a craft, have the kids make her something. in terms of the financial pressure point, not sure of the dynamic in your relationship, but I have found it very healthy to consider all money coming into the household to be both partners’ money – no matter who technically earns it. I make 4x the amount of my husband and it doesn’t matter because the only reason I can earn this income is because he is awesome and his support and involvement in our kids’ lives allows me to earn it. It is OUR money, and we agreed to a household budget based on shared priorities. This can be a major stress point in relationships, but at the end of the day, her financial contribution and your caregiving contribution are symbiotic and equally important, and making sure you have the same financial philosophy (and a good household budget) is helpful. Best wishes, and I hope you enjoy this special time with your kids!

  95. a*

    So you’re going to be a SAHD! Congratulations on this new phase in your life! First things to do are 1. Tell the kids that they must come to you and only you while Mom is working. 2. Discuss reapportionment of household chores. While you will likely handle the majority, you will get resentful if you are expected to handle everything. So make it clear with your wife who’s doing what, even if it’s just that you need her to do a load or two of laundry or the vacuuming on the weekend.

    Don’t forget that aside from merely being responsible for ensuring that the kids are alive at the end of the day, you should probably take on more responsibility for their general health and development. That means handling their schedules, making doctor’s appointments, keeping track of school registration and activities, seeking out sports or classes for the kids, arranging play dates, making breakfasts and lunches (dinner can be negotiable, especially if one of you is more into cooking).

    You should also ensure that you both get a chance to get some time to yourself – whether it’s a standing night out (alone, together, both), or just running errands without the kids, you and your wife should be able to get some time to recharge your adult batteries.

    It will be a transition for both you and your wife (and the kids), but you got this!

    (My husband has been more or less retired since our daughter was in kindergarten, while I continue to work. It’s been great that he’s home to handle the majority of the housework, but I still have to pick up most of the child-related issues because he’s not interested in taking them on. Now that our kid is a teenager, though, she’s forcing the issue with him in ways I never could/would, so I’m entertained at this new phase.)

  96. restingbutchface*

    The fact you even asked this question tells me you’re going to be okay. Thoughtful and compassionate caretaking in a marriage, we love to see it. My SO stayed at home and I became the full time breadwinner a few years back and this is what I wish we had talked about:

    – contact during the day. Does she want regular updates, especially on kid stuff, or (like me) does she find that distracting? Can you call to tell her the cutest thing that just happened, or is calling only for emergencies?
    – running errands – is it manageable for her to pick milk up on the way home? Dry cleaning? What about running to the post office? Obviously it will change day to day but when I was working 14 hour days the last thing I wanted was to stand in line at a store 30 minutes out of my way during my 2 hour commute Did I say that? Of course not, why not just be quietly resentful! :)
    – lunches – I love it when she makes me lunch. That’s all. It’s often the difference between eating and not and my love language is service so seeing that little lunch box on my desk made my heart so happy.
    – does she need you out of the way in the morning, or can you develop a co-routine of getting ready?

    We also developed this strange habit where I would come home and just… sit in the bedroom in silence for 15 minutes. Literally turning the settings from work to home. Then I’d go through as if I’d just arrive and take over whatever she was doing so she could have some peace without me yelling about spreadsheet drama. It really made the evenings much more pleasant.

    1. restingbutchface*

      Oh, one more thing – telling her explicitly and often that you value what she does and the impact it had on your life can make a huge difference. A couple of years ago my SO said, “thank you for working so hard and doing whatever you can to make it possible for me to stay home” and I still carry that in my heart today.

  97. Chilpepper Attitude*

    This is really for anyone but it took years for my spouse and I to carve out the time to do this and it has been so important and in hindsight we wish we had done this much earlier.

    We go for a walk every evening for about 20 to 40 minutes. Sometimes we are quiet but together, sometimes we talk about our day or about something important to us, or about our kid, etc. Its a really important connection time.

    With young kids that is tough but maybe there is a way to get a family member to watch the kids for one evening a week or a Saturday morning or whatever. Or take them with you if they can sit in strollers and take a nap or will let you mostly be a couple.

    1. Breadwinner Mom*

      Something my husband and I did a lot last summer when we had a newborn + our city was repeatedly on fire and/or under curfew from the uprisings was have some no phones hammock time together. (Our property is small enough that we would have heard our baby if she started to cry, but also most baby monitors have enough range to cover the yard.)

  98. Lauren*

    Give her a few hours a week to just be – to scroll her phone, take a nap, whatever, she needs some time off too. She will reciprocate obviously, but you need to be the one that is truly the first person taking it on. Whatever it is – feedings, diapers, dinner, laundry, don’t just keep the kids alive and leave everything until later – because she will resent you BIG TIME. She will feel like you left all those tasks for her to do. It’s fine every once in awhile to just not do any of it, but do most of it. Laundry does itself, just pop it in. Slow cooker does itself, just pop it in. If kids are old enough, they can help too – putting things away or getting bathtime / bed time stuff ready. Teach them now while they are young enough to want to help, then will know how to help when you need it.

  99. AnyaStormrage*

    I’ve been doing the SAHM thing for the last 13 years for my severely autistic son. My partner’s been working from home for the last 6 years. Things that made things work well include:
    -Never refer to caring for your kids a babysitting, and if you have the energy for it, call out anyone that does. (The number of people that call the act of men parenting babysitting is appalling. It’s demeaning for you, don’t let them do it, this includes your partner.)
    -Ensure the one working from home has a proper working space, preferably with a lock on the door. Kids move fast, and you don’t want them barging into mommy’s office the instant you take a pee break.
    -Ensure you don’t start doing ALL the chores because ‘Your job is to support the one with the paycheck.” Have a conversation about division of labor. The lion’s share will be yours, but you cannot be expected to do it all, and it’s best to have that conversation sooner, rather than later.
    –Try to have lunch together a few times a week as a family. It’s a nice perk, and having a few minutes of family time makes it less likely the kids will pile on mommy the second she’s done working for the day.
    -Since mom doesn’t have a commute to decompress anymore, if she needs a bit of time, let her have it. I send my partner out for a gallon of milk or something after work, and let him just have a nice drive for 20 minutes. Since you don’t have a commute or defacto alone time (unless you’re blessed with kids that nap) I’d suggest you try doing something similar in the mornings or whenever you and your wife agree on. That 20 minutes of alone time gets to be coveted after awhile. Make sure you BOTH get yours.
    -It’s an adjustment, being home all day with kids. Disposable/personal funds are also going to feel weird for awhile. Talk with her about it. I remember having no money of my own to do something I want to, and I hated having to ‘ask’ for some money/ for ‘permission’ to go to girls night, or maybe buy myself some new shoes. We had a talk, and now I have an acct that has some $ autodeposited weekly that was JUST for me, so I don’t feel like I need someone’s permission to do things.
    – Also, try baking experiments with the kids, specifically bread, biscuits, and basic pastry. They’re hard to do WELL, but even not great bread still tastes pretty good, and the ingredients are cheap so they can be done often and improve their skill. It’s a great way to learn measuring, patience, following instructions/order of operations, cleaning up after themselves, and kneading/sifting/stirring are some great ways to practice gross and fine motor skills. Plus, they get to show mommy what they made when it’s included in lunch together.
    -Most importantly, you and your wife need to be able to talk. When you’re home all the time, you will get little adult interactions. Your wife will, but mostly through work. It’s important that you guys are able to sit down and hang out together for a bit and not retreat to separate corners to do your own things every day. It’s also important that both you and your wife maintain your relationships with friends. I remember a few years ago, I realized I hadn’t talked to an adult in months aside from ‘please pass the salt’ and the like. I was feeling lonely and isolated, and didn’t know how to talk about it with him without sounding like I was blaming him or that I expected him to do something about it. Don’t let your social circles collapse to the point that you two have each other and no one else.

    I hope this was helpful, and best of luck to you and your family.

  100. Jenny*

    I adore the op for this.

    This is something moreso where you guys develop a plan with her of what each other’s expectations during all this, even planning out the next year. This will prevent built up resentment and future fights.

  101. A Poster Has No Name*

    Do you cook? Seriously, cook for her. My husband was laid off a few years ago and has taken on primary childcare responsibilities (which has been huge, obviously), but during the pandemic he has basically been chef & waiter for me, too, and it’s been so nice not to have to worry about food, on top of everything else.

    He did the cooking in the household anyway, so this wasn’t a big shift, but it has really been a big help.

    GTG, he just delivered lunch. Love that man!

  102. SpartanFan*

    This may seem small, but making lunch for the other person every day is a nice way to have a stressor removed from their mornings.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      For me, the feeling of coming home to dinner already cooking is one of the best in the whole wide world. It’s one of the biggest joys of my life.

    2. restingbutchface*

      I already made this point earlier but when my SO would make my lunch for me, it made me so happy. It showed she cared if I ate or not at lunch and wanted to make sure it was something nice. Like, little carrot sticks? For just me? *weeps into crudites*

  103. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    Talk about and make a contingency plan for what happens if anything goes wrong with her job (laid off, etc). e.g. is there a possibility that you’d both look for jobs in the case, would you expert her to find something else as soon as possible to continue funding both of you, etc.

    Keep in mind there’s now a lot less “redundancy” than there was before, even if financially it’s about the same month to month due to not paying for childcare any more.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      As to how this is helpful to her — I didn’t make it explicit. Essentially though, she now has a lot more of the “what if”/sole financial responsibility and I know from experience that can be quite overwhelming knowing you don’t have a “backup” any more. So I think a contingency plan etc could help with that.

  104. Chickaletta*

    Take on the “mental” load. If her mind is already being used at work, you can help a ton by thinking about what needs to be done to keep the household running smoothly. It’s the difference between making dinner vs. making a meal plan, food inventory, shopping list, knowing when to start meal prep, what time to eat, and taking into account the kids bedtimes. Sound like a lot? That’s what mom’s everywhere do every day, multiple times a day, for multiple things. It’s not just taking the kids to their dentist appointment, it’s taking the initiative to find a dentist and schedule them too. It’s not just packing the kids lunches, it’s knowing they need to get packed and shopped for. Etc etc, over and over.

  105. tamarack and fireweed*

    I have a podcast suggestion for you – just one episode, but the latest episode of “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” (Ep. 14 “Chore Charts and Cookies”) talks about the strategies that both hosts used to organize the home/work life boundary in a way that is fair, non-sexist, and keeps their respective relationships in good shape, in this case with the pandemic as a context, but it’s mostly not about it. Mary Ann Mohanraj and Benjamin Rosenbaum are two sci-fi writers, each with demanding second/first jobs (college prof / computer programmer) and other projects, both with working partners in demanding jobs, and both with two children between 11 and 19 or thereabouts. The podcast is freewheeling conversational, in a smart way.

  106. APJ*

    If you’re taking on the full mental load, as discussed, your partner should also be asking what SHE can do to support YOU. I’m sure it depends on the job, but for me, my maternity leave was much more draining than work. Running a household is isolating. It is emotionally and intellectually challenging, and it’s physically harder than an office job, too. Everyone is different, but for me, being a stay at home parent would be much harder than being a working parent. And my child is delightful and relatively easy. So, definitely make sure you are both free from the mentality that work = money. Free labor is hard work.

  107. Breadwinner mama*

    I have been WFH for the past year (since my maternity leave ended) while my husband has been full time childcare. Stuff that’s worked for us:
    1. Daily checkin about our schedules for the day– when do I have ‘do NOT interrupt’ calls with a client, when do I have ‘you can stick your head in if you really need me for a quick second’ calls with my team? Is there something happening where I need to tag in as a parent for a couple minutes (this may be less of a thing if you’re not worried about needing to restrain a toddler while an oven is open, etc.)? Are they planning something fun (farmer’s market trip) I could tag along to over lunch etc.?
    2. My husband is the food and beverage manager. He does the meal planning, shopping, and all the cooking. I can add stuff to the list and make requests for stuff I’m in the mood for, but that’s entirely his domain to manage.
    3. There’s a real double bind for moms– I feel like I should be the one doing a lot of the domestic stuff, and he’s really great at telling me he’s proud of me, appreciates what I do for our family, and that I’m actually being a great mom by working.

  108. Ambelilar*

    Fulltime working mom (I work fulltime and run 2 side businesses) with a stay-at-home husband here… We had to switch roles when our two younger kids were 3 and 5 due to various health reasons. It took my husband about a year to fully realize everything I did when I was a SAHM (which I was for many years) and learn to do it well, but he is phenomenal and our partnership makes our family work! He views his work at home as his career and pushes back when I get too involved. For my part, I’ve had to learn to back off and let him do the job his way, but it’s been totally worth it. He gets the kids up in the morning, cooks all the meals, gets kids off to school, takes care of most of the laundry, and often does dishes in the evening (since the kids have started going to school he has more time – I helped out more with dishes when he was taking care of the kids all day!) We all pitch in as a family to clean the house once a week, and I spend 1 or 2 hours of quality time with the kids each evening, so he can have a break and the kids get my undivided attention. Obviously you have to figure out what works for you as a family, but his engagement and treating it as his career has made a huge difference in making it work for us! Just a note: don’t despair if it doesn’t come easy at first. He was not good at the multitasking that is required of stay at home parents and struggled in the beginning, but he figured it out. So keep at it!

  109. 4CeeleenLV*

    For the most part, it won’t matter because you will both be working really hard. But try to avoid making statements that imply you both have the same availability. For instance, the working partner should definitely help with chores but it won’t be taken well if you complain that your partner never takes the recycling when taking the recycling is a task that takes several hours and is only safe to do in daylight hours, if your partner is literally at work during all daylight hours. It will be highly expected that you take on more of the burden for things that are very difficult for people working full-time to fit in their schedule. Grab their prescription for them while you’re at the grocery store, they don’t have time for extra stops.

  110. Them Boots*

    WOW!! This! OP, you are a treasure! And I think you will be so glad in many ways that you are stepping up to this role-and asking for suggestions on the how to. Both of my brothers, as well as my BIL, stayed home with their kids for a year or three at some point. They ALL have a much closer relationship to their kids than our dad did with us & are so much happier and more connected because of it. You will be exhausted and just as tired as your wife, but when your kids are grown you will be so glad you did this. Good luck & have fun!

  111. Laura H.*

    Don’t inundate her, but maybe try to keep snack stuff she likes and tends to go for on hand. A cup of her favorite hot beverage in the morning or available to her through the day can show her you care for her in addition to caring for your kidlets.

    Let her find her rhythm. My mom works from home and she’s very predictable schedule-wise. It helps us clue in on making sure we help keep ourselves out of her hair. My dad keeps coffee available throughout the day and the brother will sometimes make lunch around her break. I’ll sometimes surprise her with lunch delivery.

    You want to make it work, but kindness goes a long way in keeping the place running.

  112. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

    You’re pretty awesome for being able to articulate all of this and be proactive! Major props.

    My main advice would be — ensure that there is some sort of “beginning of day” and “end of day” routine that happens each and every work day. You don’t have to bang a pan lid with a wooden spoon, but something that signifies to you all that the boundary has shifted, and here is what things look like during the work day. After work is equally as important, particularly if and when she’s working from home. Maybe it’s as simple as having a cup of tea and light snack with you and the kids, but something to mark it. It will kind of take the place of the commute, in a way, and hopefully help you all to delineate between work life and home life. I know I relied on my 30-minute commute to decompress and be ready for “mom life,” and when I didn’t have that anymore, it was jarring and weird and hard to transition from one to the other.

    Best of luck to all of you!! Keep those lines of communication and compassion open. :)

  113. Susana*

    LW, the fact that you are even asking these questions makes me convinced you will do great. Your instincts are excellent. Very caring and compassionate and kind.

  114. Ginger Baker*

    Probably everything I have to say is already covered, but as someone who had a stay-at-home dad (way back in the 80s/90s when it was UNHEARD of!) and had a stay-at-home husband when my kids were younger, I have some experience :) and wanted to toss a few things that come top-of-mind to me out just in case:

    – The focus of your question (which I love!) is how to make your wife feel supported and cared-for. I think a lot of the things that fall under “traditional 50s housewife” do well here: making lunch for your spouse, having breakfast and coffee together if that timing works for you, making sure you are taking ownership of the majority of the chores and general household management, etc. Send in romantic notes if that’s your vibe!

    – Make sure you *both* have some personal alone time, and if you can make it happen, some date-time. That can be hard when the kids are young, but it is manageable. PROTIP: Check to see what her favorite “me-time” thing is. We often think of this as “things done outside the house” such as dinner with a friend, BUT sometimes what you/your spouse REALLY want is “please take the kids somewhere outside and leave me with a tub of ice cream and the remote”.

    – Check in with how she’s feeling about her role as a parent. Women are under a tremendous amount of pressure generally to be MOM, and figuring out how to counter that is a key thing (and how to balance it as needed). Some things to think about here: If she is missing the kids, can you bring them occasionally for a lunch meet up? Is “mom” an important identity to her, or does she feel that the societal pressure on women is ridiculous and would never be foisted on men the same way and she’s happy to embrace the “takes briefcase to work, comes home to spouse-cooked dinner every evening” Classic 50s Dad Idea? (This was me, ha.)

    – Lean into activities with the kids (admittedly, kind of not much of a thing currently but museums and parks etc. often have TONS of free and cheap events and classes, my kids lived at those). And if the day is super long and stressful, the quickest cheat I ever found was Tub Time – bubble baths are Splash Time and what kid doesn’t love that? You can catch a much-needed breather with Tub Time, I swear. My dad used to plonk my sister and I in the tub and then later, as a treat, dump ice cubes into the tub. I have no idea why, but we LOVED that and so did my kids.

    – I personally found being around my young kids all day to be significantly more tiring than being at a desk (even with my very long commute). Plan accordingly, solidify whatever “stay calm in the midst of chaos” techniques work best for you, drink water, breathe, and just accept that a lot of times things won’t be perfect, humans are not perfect, and have some grace for yourself if a day wasn’t your best.

  115. Dezzi*

    The absolute most important thing you can do (other than communicate early and often): make sure she’s not still having to juggle the mental load of keeping the household running. Don’t make her constantly keep track of what she needs to ask you to do. Be the one who keeps track of doctors’ appointments and playdates and parent-teacher conferences and the grocery list and when the laundry needs to be done. All those little things women do to keep things running that their male partners don’t see or know about? Those are all on you now. Make sure you know what they are, and make sure she knows you’ve got them handled so she can just focus on work.

  116. Here we go again*

    Two words: cleaning schedule, clean certain rooms on certain days. Master bed and bath on Monday, living room on Tuesday, kids rooms and extra bath on Wednesday, kitchen Thursday outside Friday. Keeps my house from becoming gross. Saves me from really spending all day once a week really cleaning up the house and being overwhelmed. Also do one load of laundry a day.

  117. Raida*

    As partners you should :Designate her workspace, and keep it clear of distractions.
    Plan ahead for meals, you don’t want to be thinking in the middle of a work day “Oh I just need to go to the shops for a,b,c for dinner and gosh it is only a quick trip, she can watch the kids, it’ll take three times longer if I take them with me.”
    If you enjoy being organised: Set up a monthly ‘household review’ so that, as partners you can run through the financials, maintenance for the home, how the kids are going with school, the calendar for the next month so you’re on the same page with plans, events you’d like to do together, changing up the menu a bit, etc.

    Designate a day to yourself and a day to herself every couple of weeks to do whatever you like – alone, with your friends, just a bike ride or movies, a class, having a few drinks, playing a sport, doing a hobby. Specifically saying “I want some time to myself and I believe you deserve the same” goes a long way in a marriage to being open about not taking advantage of one another over time as you both get comfortable with your new roles.

    Keep splitting the chores – even if it is just her job to wipe down the kitchen once a week and vacuum every other week, she’s still living there and is still responsible for maintaining where she lives.

  118. Ladle*

    I don’t want to nitpick or be That Person but I really want to push back against the wording “full-time parent” here. Parents who are in the paid workforce are not part-time parents. Working moms (which I recognize OP isn’t) are often stigmatized using exactly this kind of language.

  119. Patty S*

    Take a good look at your home and try your best to give her a workspace with a door. That may mean the kids have to share a room until she is back in the office. Having an actual office to work in at home is a sanity saver for me. Better yet, a door she can lock.

  120. Lisa*

    I’m arriving late and I could only skim the comments but I could write a book on this topic so I want to chime in. Specifically to highlight a few key details I think I heard:

    – You are shifting from two parents with careers to one parent with a career and one who is primary caregiver.
    – You are doing this because it is the best option in your current circumstances. Not because it is something you were eager to try (you mentioned being “terrified”).
    – You are male and she is female.

    I guess I have a cautionary tale. But I am sharing it from a place of help.

    Without writing my full bio, my (ex) husband and I started out both working, or me working part-time or on brief maternity leave with him working. But when our kids were toddler/preschool my earning power started to exceed his rapidly, and we shifted to him being the primary caregiver and me the primary because it was the best option for our family. In our case we were especially unsuited to this because I was a cross between Mary Poppins and Martha Stewart, while he was more of a”keep-the-kids-alive and don’t burn down the house” kinda guy. We have been divorced since our kids were teenagers.

    Some overarching themes that emerged in our emotional dynamic and grew overtime:
    – We thought it was temporary but as his earning potential stagnated while mine grew, it became increasingly “less important” for him to go back to work.
    – Because he didn’t actually want to be the primary parent, that became a source of resentment for him, and then I in-turn resented him because I didn’t have as much time as I wanted with my kids.
    – Over years of not feeling the value of a career, he sought ways to fill that gap with side hustles and hobbies and “good causes” and I tried to support those for his morale. But that resulted in his non-earning activities now being on the scale against my earning activities in both of our minds. Which meant that he had hobbies and passions, while I only had work.
    – He got increasingly frustrated with the situation and flailed about in terms of what his career should be, didn’t stay in tune with the workforce. Keep your tech skills strong! Spend time on LinkedIn! Keep reading Ask a Manager!

    Some practical mistakes we made:
    – We locked ourselves into decisions like the location of house/work/school, the kind of house we bought, the pets we adopted, outside commitments, etc. that made it seem impossible to ever revert our lifestyle to one where we both worked or he worked and I stayed home. Whenever you can, when making a major decision ask yourself what would still work if you went back to a dual-income lifestyle.
    – We didn’t create and stick to a solid long-term financial plan that prioritized making it possible for us to evolve our situation when it didn’t work for us. I recommend a professional. We eventually hired a financial planner but it was too little too late (however she was my angel during the divorce and we are now best friends).
    – We did not deliberately divide our labor in a way that made sure 1) we both had “time-off” from parenting and 2) that a good portion of my precious parenting time was the high-quality, pleasurable time. I got bedroom cleaning and hygiene, not picnics and museums. A schedule where you have child-free time every weekend that is also designated as her mommy-fun time could work wonders. I knew one family where the dad worked crazy hours. Every Sunday, she went out for half the day, while he had pancakes-and-playground time with the kids—but he also had a good dose of full break, no-work/no-kid time every week.

    Some process and etiquette points:
    – Lots of people suggested things you can ask her. Yes! But please be very cognizant of *when* you ask her. Calls and messages during the workday should be initiated by her unless an emergency. When she works from home, treat knocking on her office door as if you were driving to her office to show up in the lobby. Write down questions and ask her later. And NOT when she pops out of the home office to use the bathroom, or when she first walks in the door and hasn’t relaxed yet. Let *her* approach *you* when she feels “on break” or ready to talk about your day. Really try to protect her from “interrupts” and decision fatigue. Getting interrupted with “are you in a meeting” is so frustrating because 1) if I were, I might have been talking or even sharing my screen and 2) even if I weren’t, I might be in the middle of a some deep work or crafting an important email. So just try to be incredibly respectful of this whether she works from home or away.
    – Really try to step up your game in areas where she has the better skill on domestic labor. If it’s mac-n-cheese by you vs. a Pinterest meal by her, you will both be tempted for her to cook after work. If you have those kinds of skill gaps, make an effort to learn (without her having to teach you! Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are your tutors now) but also you don’t have to do it exactly the way she does.
    – You DO get to take the lead on the at-home duties, while making sure she is happy and comfortable. As long as you are really stepping up and taking responsibility for her domain. One smart decision we *did* make early on is I showed him how I washed all the different kinds of laundry, so I could trust him not to ruin my work clothes (and when I never could get him to do wrinkle-free laundry, I bought us a clothes steamer).

    Just by the fact that you are writing this question I know you are better suited and prepared for this challenge than my ex-husband. But at the very least, some things you might want to keep an eye out for and some self-awareness on.

    Good luck to you all!

    1. Daisy-dog*

      I really enjoyed reading your perspective. I may never be in this exact situation, but all your advice can apply to a lot of circumstances. I will definitely keep in mind the tip on locking us into a budget that means we cannot make changes.

      1. Lisa*

        Thank you! The best thing about bad marriages is how much others can learn from them. I hope some of this is of help to you.

  121. Cate*

    Good for you for starting this conversation! I would definitely start by outlining everything that both of you do AND everything that both of you are responsible for keeping track of- they aren’t always the same person. For instance, in my family, I track our calendar for needed doctors appointments but my husband actually calls to set them up, and we trade off who actually takes the kids. It’s one chore but three separate mental/ physical tasks. Then you can divide them up in whatever way feels even to y’all. This should be an ongoing conversation- make sure you are both checking in with each other often to see if it still feels fair.

    The other thing I did when I was the stay home parent was to be as budget conscious as possible. I did free or low cost activities with the kids, had a pretty frugal grocery budget, bought clothes secondhand, etc. to try to relieve some of the financial burden of losing an income. Maybe that’s not needed in your situation but it was very helpful for us!

  122. Teapot Wrangler*

    I think the main thing is to be really careful that you genuinely take everything off her hands that you agree is no longer her job. Who will be doing the emotional labour of, for example, remembering the birthdays, getting messages from other parents (is she in the Mummy Whatsapp group?) etc.

    I’d spend a bit of time sitting down with her and agreeing what goes on each person’s plate (because she may keep some items) and if they are things you don’t usually do, working through the steps of what done looks like. Make sure you include stuff that only gets done monthly / quarterly / annually and add it to a calendar.

    Look up some cleaning regimes online to use as a starting point – don’t let it be a tip because you run out of time; plan your time.

    Give her explicit permission to let you know if things have been missed / aren’t done properly / aren’t ideal, fix them, then make sure it is the last time she needs to say something about that thing. Women don’t like to ‘nag’ so make sure she doesn’t need to bring something up multiple times and explicitly ask for feedback in case she’s internalised the idea that legitimate comment / reminding is nagging.

    Good luck! :)

  123. hmbalison*

    Having been the stay-at-home spouse working only part-time when the kids were small, there were several things that helped make the situation work for me and my husband. All the advice about chores and time management that people offered are valid.

    One thing that was an absolute must for us is that we didn’t have “my money” and “his money.” We had “our money.” He never made me feel less than because I wasn’t bringing in a paycheck.

    Another thing is ask your partner what are her absolute deal-breakers for managing the kids/house–and on days where you’re harried, the kids are sick or cranky, and she is stressed, do those things–and let go of the rest. Maybe it’s cleaning the kitchen. Maybe it’s putting the laundry away. Maybe it’s having a pot of soup on the stove. I remember when I went to visit my family and left my husband home with the kids for the weekend by himself, I said, “Please don’t have me come home to a dirty kitchen and a totally messy house. That will ruin my trip.”

    Good luck to you!

  124. Emily*

    I am a stay at home mom for the last 18 months to 2 children under 2. Leaving the working world to stay home was my decision, and a huge gift, but it is a different type of job that I was unprepared for.
    I agree with talking to your partner about her preferences and needs, and be receptive to feedback as this is new for you both.
    I also would take workflow tips you learned as a professional and apply them to your job. List out tasks and what they entail, develop a routine for housework, errands and outings that work for your family. Follow a loose daily schedule for naps and mealtimes so you all know what to expect. As someone who thrived with checklists and productivity, applying this mindset to my home was revolutionary for my family. My husband knows what to expect on things like grocery shopping and dinner, and I don’t feel lost each day.
    Congratulations on your new season! This work is so very important and I wish you success.

  125. Breadwinner*

    I am currently the sole breadwinner in a relatively intense / high stress job which is currently 100% WFH, and my husband looks after our children full time. Here is what I want from him:
    a) To take on complete ownership of tasks. i.e. if he says “I’ll do the grocery shopping” this means that he makes the meal plan for the week, keeps track of when we need to top up on staples and household products etc, and then makes the list, goes shopping, and puts the groceries away. (In our case, I do the actual cooking, by mutual agreement). It is very little help to me at all if he simply says “I’ll do the grocery shopping” and this turns out to mean “you work out what we need and tell me what to buy and I will do the 1 hour task of going to the shop.” The more of these things he takes on and I don’t have to worry about, the better… in our case he “owns” laundry, grocery shopping, random bits of cleaning in between the weekly cleaner that we have, dishwasher, trash and recycling, kid-related activities and routines, car maintenance. I still own cooking and… er… that’s it.
    b) To have an agreed clear set of signals of when I can be interrupted and when not. Before we had this, there were a few times when he struggled through despite being unwell, and I was oblivious – whereas actually I could have helped if I had only known, and I felt terrible. The children also understand the signals and know when to find him if they need help vs interrupting me (they are old enough to be unsupervised at least sometimes).
    c) To have a chance to talk to / play with the children at the end of my working day. Taking them out for the day is great, but only bringing them back right before bedtime doesn’t leave me any time to see them!

    To be honest the biggest struggle is at weekends. We both feel like we need a break from the busy week and for him that means a break from the kids. Therefore I end up having the kids all weekend and I never / rarely get time for myself, which is pretty draining. I think that will change as the kids get older, though.

    1. Lisa*

      This is a great list—and I really relate, you are me in an earlier life.

      We eventually learned that the “interruption” test was 1) will this become a bigger problem if it waits until I am available? 2) Can I even help?

      I am reminded of one of my best “Don’t be my ex-husband” stories:

      Not once, but twice, he had car trouble while I was on a business trip in another state and his first action was to call me. The first time, I was just in the car with another working mom on our way from A to B in 1000-mile-away city and it was annoying but NBD and I reminded him that I can not fix a flat tire even when I am not in Arizona. The second time, I was running a critical meeting at corporate HQ in a conference room full of expensive consultants, my boss, and her boss. He kept calling until I apologized and stepped out of the room to take his call because I was starting to worry a kid was in the hospital. Nope, just a weird problem with the car. And yes, we had AAA. The premium version.

      1. Lisa*

        Oh and also, he was the car person and I was not the car person. To the extent we had figured out our division of labor, that one was very clear!

        But this is reminding me of another recommendation from my cautionary tale: OP (and others in similar situations) don’t allow spouse to become your primary person to contact when you just need that immediate burst of “OMG you will not BELIEVE what is happening to me right now!!!” Have friends, have people you can reach during the work day who are not spouse when you need someone to talk to about home-life things spouse doesn’t need to—or can’t—fix while she is trying close a deal or run an M&A or something.

        This thread could induce me to vent for days. I shall try to restrain.

  126. Retired(but not really)*

    Another helpful hint (brought to mind as I’ve read things above) is to break down all the things that have multiple steps and see which ones can overlap each other (like putting the laundry in while you fix lunch) or especially with cooking, can be done in “batches” ahead of time – like preparing a whole bunch of precooked hamburger meat in meal sized portions to be frozen and later added to spaghetti sauce, or whatever other way you might use it.

  127. Speckledhen*

    It’s hard to make the adjustment for both of you. Another thing is that your partner needs to recognise and accept that you will do things your way that may be different to how she would/has done in the past. This might be incredibly frustrating for her and there will be teething issues for you both. So long as everyone’s expectations and needs are being met.

  128. That NonProfit Finance Guy*

    Budget budget budget!

    A major change will be your finances, so dig into that first. See what is necessary/unnecessary/maybe? and start there. You may find that your grocery bill increases since everyone is home full time. Are you leasing a vehicle? Time to change that. Lots of credit cards? start paying them down. You want to go as lean as possible in case your wife has any issues at work and $$ goes down to $0. You will have new stresses, so you want to remove the finances from that equation.

    Another one: set aside time for YOU. It is easy to get swallowed up in being the kids’ parents that you forget that YOU as a person also exist individually. It is a good time to start any hobbies, polish up some forgotten skill, take a night class or two, etc. Yes, kids do take up time, but you will find that the older they get, the less attention you need…and you will get more free time. You will get far more efficient at chores as well, so they will not take as long, either, so you can use this time to develop yourself.

    Also… learn to appreciate kid stuff. You’ll find it rather relaxing :)

    I am male, and did this for 13 years… got my accounting degree while I was home with my kids, and now we are debt free :)

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