roles + expectations in our marriage as new parents

In pre-marital counseling, our workbooks had a section where we wrote different household tasks and who would complete each task. It was a joke. Because of Dan’s constantly changing schedule and my changing roles as student, social worker, and mama, we just haven’t had continuity since day one. And any semblance of a routine we established was thrown off by the addition of a baby man in our home.

For a while now, I very frequently find myself disappointed. Without realizing it, I spend all day every day thinking about how an event with go, what this person will say, and how I will feel when this or that happens. I have expectations. They’re usually high expectations, and if they’re negative expectations, I’m even thrown off a bit when something goes better than I expected. You can see how this would negatively affect a marriage, can’t you?

Before we had a baby, I would go into the office for a few hours and come home to find Dan had made lunch, picked up the mail I had tossed on the couch, and walked the dog. Once Milo came, I would tag off baby duties to Dan, go into the office, and come home to find the house slightly more messy than I left it. I was annoyed.

I couldn’t manage to get much done in the way of household tasks while Dan was at work. But surely he could get more done than me, right? I was not communicating my expectations at all. And the expectations I already wasn’t communicating were way too high. Crazy high. I needed a reality check, and it came painfully late in the game.

We’ve found it’s best to be painfully direct about our expectations. If Dan’s heading out for the day, I ask what he hopes I’ll be able to get done by the time he’s back. If I’m leaving to run some errands, I suggest when I think he should feed Milo solid foods and put him down for a nap. If the dead plants on the front step are driving me crazy, I ask if Dan could please throw them out by the end of the day. It takes some humility to say “yes, I will do that,” and we really do it. 

To simplify it further, we bought a tear-off daily notepad. I get to write one thing for him each day, and he gets to write one thing for me. No discussions about who has more time in the day or if the task is to big to accomplish in the day. We give each other grace and offer flexibility, of course.

We’re getting in the swing of things, but his schedule still increases or decreases in hours from week to week. I know any change — more work hours, the addition of more kids, new responsibilities at work — will change it up again. But this direct communication of expectations? This is here to stay.

  • I love this and couldn’t agree more! Our schedules constantly change and we are still without kids but are already learning that being painfully explicit about expectations is the best way to go. What kind of things do you put on the tear off a day pad? Because I love the idea!

  • I feel like this is a struggle in marriage in general, so I can only imagine how much it intensifies once a baby is added to the mix. I like the notepad idea!