When your child is born, the decision around who will stay at home and who will return to work can be a tricky one.
If an assumption has been made that you will be the one staying home on full-time caring duties – perhaps because of traditional roles, or because your partner has a higher paid job – it might not necessarily be what you had in mind.
While it may make sense financially, and while you may want to support your partner’s career, it’s possible you’ll still have reservations about being a stay-at-home parent.
It may be that the decision makes so much sense financially that you feel like you don’t have a choice. This could make you feel trapped or uncomfortable.
If it has felt like a forced or assumed decision, try explaining to your partner how you feel. The first step is to open up a conversation, so you can explore different options rather than assuming you will be the one to stay at home. Using language like “I feel like” rather than “You make me feel”, can really help here.
Draw up a few plans together to see how things might play out if your partner stays home and you return to work, or consider some compromises, like reducing your hours and sharing childcare. You may discover that your partner is more willing than you expected to look at the alternatives.
If you love your job or are invested in building a career, it may be that finances aren’t the only consideration. Consider your partner’s point of view too if the situation is reversed.
Find a calm moment where you can talk freely and establish an agreement to hear each other out properly. Put your child’s needs first and decide what is really going to be best.
Once you and your partner agree on who is going to be the main carer, establish some ground rules about how it’s going to work. Talk about how the working parent would like to be involved too – video calls at lunch time, bedtime stories after work, weekend outings, or whatever works.
The phrase ‘primary carer’ just means the parent who stays at home with the child or spends the most time with the child.
Like many parents, you or your partner may feel that mums are better as primary carers and dads are better at providing, ie putting food on the table :
One survey revealed that the majority of parents (76% of mothers, 56% of fathers) say that the mother has primary responsibility for childcare at home .
This is a popular view, but it’s not necessarily true. Traditions are already changing – as many as one in five dads are insole charge of childcare at some point during their week and dads represent one in ten of all parents who stay at home to care for their children full time .
Many dads, including those who have a primary caring role, still feel the weight of society’s pressure to conform to a traditional role of breadwinner , but studies have shown that fathers can be just as good as mothers in giving care and responding to their children’s needs . There is no evidence to suggest that children will have a better start in life with a more traditional setup .
Whichever of you is going to be the primary carer may need some support and encouragement. Nobody is a perfect parent right away but talking things through can help provide a reassuring confidence boost. After all, whatever the setup, you’re both learning together.
 Jordan (2009)
 EHRC, (2009)
 Lammy, (2013)
 Doucet & Lee, (2014)
 Kovner Kline & Wilcox, (2014)
 Cabrera, et al., (2007)