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Mastering the Handoff: Knowing When Mom Needs a Break

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I have been a dad for 15 months. I won’t sugar coat anything – it’s a marathon. Sometimes you hit a stride and it’s smooth sailing, but at other times (3am, running on no sleep, the night before a big meeting at work) you hit the wall! Sleep deprivation, lack of patience, and a yearning for personal space are all potential bi-products of parenting burnout. In an actual marathon, you can stop and walk it off, but good luck finding a toddler who will let you take a breather.

Luckily for me, I have a running partner – my wife, Lauren, who is able to stay home with our son every day. We are a team. We parent together, but that doesn’t mean we always run together. If we run together, we risk burning out together. This is why we’ve mastered the handoff.

What is the handoff?

The handoff is a baton pass. Now I’m not suggesting your child is a baton, or a football, or even a hot potato. It’s not like that. When running a relay, team members pass the baton from a tired, over-exerted runner to an eager, and agile runner. In theory, the baton should always be in the best possible hands. For me, parenting is no different. I want my son to be the best possible hands at all times. This means taking on primary parenting duties to allow your significant other time to breath. In other words, you gotta know when Mama needs a break!

As the husband to a stay-at-home mom, here’s some tips that worked for me to stay in sync and master the hand-off:

Establish the gameplan

Parents need to talk about parenting. We always talk about decisions we make as parents, and sometimes this leads to some healthy conflict. Committing to the same playbook is a prerequisite for mastering the handoff, otherwise you’ll be butting heads with your partner rather than supporting them.

Leverage the check-in

Know what you are walking into. During the work week, I try to always call or text around lunch time to see how the day is going. I’ll call on my way home, too. It’s important to get a sense of how Mom and my son are feeling. If it was a rough day, I can mentally prep for the handoff.

Try a duty-swap

We have a rhythm now. I typically get our son each morning before work, change his diaper, grab his milk, and bring him into our bed. It works for us. At night, Lauren typically preps food, and I’ll do the dishes. I frequently get him ready for bed, and put him down. On bath nights, Lauren gives him a bath. This routine is fantastic, but I definitely recommend being open to the occasional “duty-swap.” Sometimes the handoff is as easy as giving each other a night off from a common chore. I’ll grab take-out, or prep a meal to lighten the load, or take over bath duties to allow for Lauren to decompress after dinner.

Take a time-out

Sometimes, swapping chores just isn’t enough – and that’s okay. Luckily for us, with only one child, we can manage the household when the one parent needs to take a time-out. There have been nights where Lauren just needed to get out of the house, or take a hot shower. Being a stay-at-home mom can be challenging some days, I get it. Let your partner have the flexibility to do the things that make them most sane when times get crazy. Sometimes that’s going shopping without wearing a baby on your hip, sometimes it’s just working out at the gym on a Saturday morning. Even if Mom doesn’t openly ask for personal time, feel free to encourage it!

There’s not much to it. Don’t let yourself or your significant other burn out from parenting! We’ve found that it’s so much better to communicate, work together and maintain a healthy pace. Parenting might be a marathon, but life doesn’t have to be a race.

What tips do you have to add? Leave us a comment and let us know! 

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