Can two parents truly share the burden of home and family? If you’re willing to spend time talking about each partner’s needs (and don’t forget the children and the house), you may come pretty close. You can begin figuring out what’s fair — and who should do what — with the tips below.

Rethink your goals

How does a modern couple maintain balance at home — get dinner on the table, do laundry, feed and bathe the kids, and still have some time for each other and themselves?

Before answering that question, think about what exactly you both want and need. Rather than aiming for a straight 50-50 division of labor, try to find a way to simply balance the load and keep both of you feeling happy, productive, and appreciated.

 

List your current tasks

What are your current household responsibilities? Keep a one-week-log of everything you do for the house and family. Then compare your list with your partner’s.

How do you each feel about the items on your list? Do you want to change anything? Is there any task you intensely dislike? Can you swap it for another chore?

This exercise can be eye-opening: Don’t be surprised if one person’s list is very long and the other’s isn’t. With lists in hand, try reassigning responsibilities and finding compromises.

 

List your baby’s needs

Start talking about the division of labor before your baby arrives. Make a list of all the tasks involved in raising a baby, from diapering to choosing childcare. If you’re having trouble coming up with a list, consult friends and family members who have recently become parents.

Talk about how you should split up these new tasks (and whether you should divide the chores you did before the baby differently). In the early days of a newborn’s life, for example, many couples find that because Mom spends hours breastfeeding, Dad ends up on diaper duty the minute he walks in the door. Seems fair.

You both need to adjust to the idea of doing things on your baby’s schedule rather than your own.

 

Begin sharing immediately

A new father often feels left out of the mother-infant bond and unsure of his new role. If he feels he has nothing to contribute he won’t pitch in as much at home. Everyone loses in this situation.

New dads may be eligible for paid leave, partially paid time off, or unpaid time off depending on where they work, or they may be able to use vacation time. If you can swing it, having Dad take time off can help you start figuring out how to be a family together.

Keep in mind that paternity leave doesn’t have to be taken immediately after the baby is born. In fact a new mom can need more help after the first month or so when the baby is awake more.