The looming responsibilities of parenthood can weigh on even the most optimistic parents-to-be. How will you manage night waking? The in-laws? The laundry? Working through some of these key issues now can pave the way for a happier family life. Here’s help getting the conversation started.
1. What kind of parents do we want to be?
A couple who seas eye-to-eye on everything might find they diverge sharply when it comes to parenting, suddenly at odds over crib versus co-sleeping, or how long to let a baby cry before you pick her up. It amazes Montreal mom Louise Pelletier* now that she and her husband, Luke, waited until after their daughter was born to discuss how they planned to raise her. “I was all about attachment, meaning our daughter’s with us 24/7,” Louise says. “luke figured we’d be able to get a sitter and go out within a few months.”
Vancouver parenting coach Mirit Murad suggests parents-to-be imagine what qualities they hope their children will have, then discuss specifics about how they want to instill them. “If you want to have a healthy eater, discuss what kinds of food you’ll feed him,” Murad says.
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2. Who will do the laundry?
Your current division of household chores will need to be rejigged to account the new tasks family life brings. Murad says that it can be a tough adjustment, especially if the workload wasn’t initially balanced — as was the case in the Pelletier home. “Luke wasn’t used to looking after a lot of things,” Louise says. “He’d expect a thank you for doing the dishes.”
They eventually sat down and worked their way through the list of taks. Murad advises coupes to share duties in a way that plays to each person’s strengths and allows each to feel involved.
“I took our son for walks in the carrier when he was fussy,” says Toronto dad John Elliot. “I also did nighttime diaper duty. I wanted some ‘daddy jobs,’ not just jobs around the house.”
3. Who invited the in-laws?
It takes a village to raise a child, but what happens when the villagers drop in unannounced — and they’re called Grandma and Grandpa? With two sets of grandparents circling, Toronto mom Susan Elliott* enlisted her husband, John, to act as gatekeeper, and they set ground rules around the frequency and length of visits. “John was able to manage their expectations and protect my sanity,” Susan says. “We were a united front.”
Grandparents can be particularly touchy about religion or traditions that they hold dear. For Toronto moms Ajike Akande and Lisa Silverman, marriage meant a delicate melding of Jewish and Christian faiths. “By the time I got pregnant, we’d already settled that the kids would be raised Jewish,” Akande says. “It gave our families time to process.
4. How will we afford this?
There’s a saying that every baby is born with a loaf of bread under its arm, but what about the crib, the stroller and all those cute outfits? Ottawa-based money coach Judith Cane’s mantra is simple: Don’t spend more than you make. She advises expectant parents to do the precise math on how much money will be coming in — and going out.
For Halifax mom Kate MacAdam, the best plan was for her husband to take parental leave. Because she was self-employed as a chiropractor, she didn’t have benefits or paid leave, but her husband did. Next came the belt-tightening. “You plan for the big stuff,” says MacAdam, “but no one tells you that newborn diapers can run more than a hundred dollars a month!”
*Names have been changed.