(NEW YORK) — Parenting can be highly rewarding yet also highly challenging.
Many expectant moms and dads are prepared for the rewarding part — like baby snuggles, coos and giggles — and less so with the challenging aspects — like feedings around the clock and nonstop laundry.
But a few of the well-prepared are, well, preparing, by entering into written contracts prior to baby’s arrival that outline duties of who will do what.
Melissa Biggs of Connecticut is one parent who had a written agreement with her husband. The Connecticut couple decided on this route when they were expecting their second child.
“He told me, ‘I’m not a mind reader,'” Biggs told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “And we had different expectations of how things should be done. We wrote out everything to set up clear expectations for each party.”
If it sounds formal, it can be. But experts say it’s a good idea.
“A new baby is probably the biggest life-changing transition a couple can go through,” said Vanessa Petronelli, a celebrity spiritual and life coach. “It will impact every area of a couple’s life: finances, work life, morning routines, exercise, sleep schedule, sex life, extended family dynamics and more.”
“While there will be many unexpected, unpredictable elements, it’s definitely wise to do as much planning as possible in terms of household and parenting tasks,” she told GMA.
Biggs said from the start, duties were outlined according not only to biology — Biggs did all the pumping while her husband took responsibility for washing all the machine parts — but preferences.
“I make all the dinners, and he cleans all the dishes. I do the floors because they bother me more. He takes care of laundry,” she said.
Biggs said the division of labor is revisited every few months, something relationship expert Bela Gandhi, founder and president of the Smart Dating Academy, said is not only normal, but should be expected.
“The upside to these kinds of written agreements can be ‘total clarity’ and a feeling of control for each parent,” she added. “The matching downside to the ‘total clarity’ is that the agreement can lend itself to rigidness, causing unnecessary fights. There are always things that happen with the baby that you cannot predict, and there can be times where you will both have to switch roles.”
Petronelli also said the agreement needs flexibility.
“What happens if one parent cannot honor their part of the agreement? They’re running late coming from work? Or one parent struggles with a mental or physical health challenge? As with the relationship in general, ongoing communication and understanding is crucial,” she said.
Biggs says her relationship is better off because of the clear expectations.
“Our communication is always getting better,” she said.
Here are some tips from the experts on how to make a baby prenup work for you:
1. “Be both totally committed to each other and your baby, and to keeping all of you sane and happy through the process,” Gandhi said. “Do what’s best for your family unit and you will all be better off for it.”
2. According to Petronelli, it’s “ideal” if the agreement is a co-created experience with both parents, rather than one parent drawing up the contract and the other just signing off.
3. She also said “the most important piece is making sure it’s a win-win-win — for each of the parents and for the baby. Both parents should feel good about the contract as a concept and also about the details of the contract itself. If it feels like one parent is “losing” or “missing out” then keep discussing.”
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