I wanted to write a list of advice for the non-primary caregivers of newborns. Even in an egalitarian relationship like the one I have with Chalupa, one of us definitely serves as the primary caregiver to our kids–especially to the newborn. (Hint: that one of us is me.) I think that great partnerships recognize strengths and weaknesses, as well as the realities of a situation. For example, Chalupa would not wake up in the night if a fire alarm was going off in his ear, so he probably shouldn’t be the person responsible for waking to feed an infant.

I thought my list would be lengthy and detailed, full of things I appreciate when Chalupa does them, or perhaps things I wish he would do more. My list needed to be practical and concrete, because no one needs more fuzzy, meaningless language like, “Be there for your partner in his or her time of need.” Turns out, the list of practical, concrete things that non-primary caregivers can provide is kind of short.

1. Take the baby even when you’re not asked to. Even if you happily take the baby every time he’s handed to you, that’s not enough. Take him all the time. Pick him up when he first starts fussing in the morning. Take him after he has finished eating. Take him when he’s cranky and your partner has been bouncing him for twenty minutes without any success.

2. Clean shit. This is both literal (poopy diapers, poopy changing pads, and poopy everything else) and figurative (every part of the house). Here are some things that can be cleaned at any moment: the kitchen, the dishes, the laundry, the sheets, anything associated with any pets you might have, the living room, your bedroom, your bathroom(s), the bedroom(s) of any older kid(s), and the car. If you’re struggling to come up with a strategy, try the UfYH app.

3. Ask what you can do to help. Then do that thing. As soon as you possibly can.

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