It sounds simple and often the solutions for making life easier are simple changes and tweaks in your daily routine. Delegation is a key way to help you and your partner survive the challenges of introducing another child into the family.

When I talk of delegation I refer to daily tasks that must be carried out and who is responsible for those tasks. If both husband and wife or partners understand their own and one another’s roles it assists in releasing some pressures from both parents.

Dad and son in bath
Credit: I Love you Dad on Flickr via CC 2.0

This is a 3-part series on: Your Support Structure, Delegation and School & Play Time.

When I was pregnant with our second child my husband already started to do quite a few things that I would have normally done for our first child. Being heavily pregnant and carrying quite big made it challenging to bend, move around and pick up our toddler son (our first born). The further into the pregnancy I got and the bigger I got, the more help I needed from my husband. This was not because I was lazy, I am generally a, ‘can’t sit still’ kind of person, and would happily take on as many chores and tasks as I could. However, at that stage in my pregnancy I had no choice but to ask for help, I simply couldn’t do it on my own anymore. So my husband lovingly assisted in any way he could. Bath times became his responsibility so that I could cook supper. Dressing our son in the morning and evening also became his responsibility. I would see to it that the outfit was out and ready for him. Administering medicines became his job, especially if it was an antibiotic, because our son is very strong and hates taking medicine. It means you need to be quite physically forceful in holding him down to take his medicine. I was obviously not able to do this in my condition!

With my husband taking on some daily chores this helped me tremendously and it had also got him in the routine of doing them when our second baby was born. We already decided that he would need to help with a lot of our son’s needs as I would be caring for our daughter’s. Once she was born it was a bit of trial and error in figuring out what worked and what didn’t.

When you have one child you think you have your work cut out for you but then you have the second and you realize how easy you had it with only one child! Life becomes chaotically busy. You don’t really get to sit for 2 minutes before one of the children needs something from you. If it’s not the one child crying it’s the other…and when they are both crying at the same time - well that’s just one horrible storm you need to pass through!

Practical Steps In Delegating:

These steps apply to a household in which the father is working full time and the mother is a stay at home mom. You can apply these steps to your own household or use them for ideas on how you could structure your routine and adapt to differing circumstances.

  • Discuss one parent taking on the responsibility of the older child. For example dad taking on the older child’s needs. Mom can then focus on the baby as in most cases she will be breastfeeding and need to care for the baby.
  • The mom needs to help dad understand what the toddler/older child’s needs are. For example while you are still pregnant encourage dad to start learning what and how to do things for the first born. These things range from what and when to feed the child; bath times; sleeping routines; how to handle tantrums. The dad may already know how to carry out these tasks but often he may have had the assistance of mom (most likely the primary carer) and doing them completely on your own, without mom chipping in, can be quite different.
  • Help each other in small ways to avoid conflict. For example if mom doesn’t like the clothing choices dad makes  then prepare the outfits for him to dress the child. Again it sounds simple but these little ways of helping make a huge difference to the smooth running and peaceful state of your home.
  • Ask dad to take the older child to school in the mornings, especially when baby is very young. This helps mom reduce her trips in and out of the car with baby. It also allows mom to bath baby, feed or pump breast milk during the time that would have been used to go to school and back.
  • Encourage dad to take on bath time routines. This is also lovely for some bonding time between the older child and dad. While dad is bathing mom gets time to cook supper.
  • When both parents are either at home together or out and about then delegate who is responsible for which child. For example dad looks after the older child while mom looks after the baby. This means mom doesn’t have to stress about the older child running into the traffic while she’s getting the baby out of the car…dad is there to help!
  • Discuss with dad how to handle tantrums, comfort the first born child and use discipline techniques.
  • Let dad handle the older child’s bedtime routine.
  • If dad can help with these tasks associated with the first born child then mom has more time for other chores such as cooking, dishes, laundry, caring for the second baby’s needs completely.
Dad feeding son
Credit: Open Wide on Flickr via CC 2.0

This list makes it appear that dad takes on a lot once the second baby arrives and yes, he does take on far more than he needed to before. However with dad taking on these responsibilities mom still continues with all the rest of the chores and takes on the full care of the baby. Dad can also help mom out by holding the baby when she needs to shower or get changed and in this way he may bond with the second child too.  Don’t feel concerned if the baby doesn’t want to go to dad in the first few weeks. It is just a result of dad caring so much for the first born that the baby still needs time to get used to dad too. This will pass and baby and dad will bond soon enough! This happened to us and many friends in the same position.

As the second baby gets older life does get a bit easier. The baby is more and more able to sit and watch and play whereas before the little one was most likely glued to mom. As mom can sit the baby to watch and play she is able to take on more of the responsibilities that dad had taken over. This frees dad up a bit more, giving him more breathing space.

For example in our home, as our second child got older, I was able to sit her near us and she could watch the daily happenings. In a morning I would  feed her, change her nappy and make sure she was happy then let her sit in her little chair and watch me while she played with some toys. She would happily be in my presence, talking and playing, while I sorted out lunch boxes for her dad and brother, made breakfasts and coffee, sorted out the dishes and prepped her brother’s outfit for school that day. Sometimes, if she remained content, I would be able to dress her brother too. I would sit her on our bed, bring her brother in to dress and get ready for day care (her brother was 2 and a half at this stage and being a boy still needed to be dressed and nurtured in the mornings). However there were also those days where she didn’t want this and I would put her in my baby wrap carrier and simply carry her around while I got things done. A baby wrap carrier really saved our lives in terms of coping with a second baby in the picture. It allowed me to do so much more than without it. It also nurtures and supports the baby at the same time; helping them feel loved and comforted close to mom (or dad). If I had her in the baby wrap carrier I wouldn’t be able to dress and get her brother ready as it’s quite difficult to maneuver, so in these cases dad can help out and take on that responsibility.

In conclusion to adjusting to life with your second child remember not to fear delegation. Discuss what help you each need, support one another by telling each other how much you appreciate one another, thanking your partner for all the small things they do each day. It takes working together as a team to create a manageable daily routine. There are days you will get angry and you will be sleep deprived…it’s normal. If you do end up taking out your frustrations on your partner always remember to say sorry afterwards and remind that you love one another. It is normal to get stressed and you are not the only ones. Work together and you can get through it!