You May Have Heard of a Prenup, but a Baby-Nup?

A baby-nup is an agreement or “contract” worked out between parents before a baby arrives. It can make chores and taking care of a newborn more structured. There has been growing interest in baby-nups, particularly among first-time parents. A baby-nup contract divides up chores and tasks related to the household and newborn, with couples both signing the final written agreement. Unlike a prenup, which is a legal agreement or contract, a baby-nup is a less formal, non-legal agreement between couples. The baby-nup has also been described as basically the same as a chore chart. Some couples may develop a simple chart of tasks while others may write up long task lists or documents. Dry-erase boards may be an easier visual method to divide up day-to-day chores.

Some parents and therapists love the idea of organizing parental chores and household tasks to facilitate better communication and team work during the already difficult time of caring for a newborn. Baby-nups may be one way couples can share responsibility and reduce stress. They can also get couples talking about the future and how they plan to care for their baby. This may help couples avoid disagreements later when one parent is feeling overwhelmed and stressed, seemingly baring the brunt of the child care. There are a lot of assumptions that each parent may have about how to raise a child or who does what chore or task. Some couples may never discuss these issues before they have a child. A baby-nup contract can get couples talking about some of these important issues before having a child.

Other parents think baby-nups may be a little over the top, preferring to go with the flow. Some parents say it may be difficult to plan for the future. One parent may need a little more support or help after the baby comes. Chore charts may not be reasonable when one parent stays-at-home. Baby-nups may not be necessary when you have twins– both parents will end up with an equal workload. Moms naturally fall into taking care of a majority of the childcare.

A 2014 article on Slate.com discusses pre-pregnancy or baby-nup contracts and the real basis for why some couples want to equally divide up responsibilities. Nowadays, it is more common to hear relationship advice that focuses on creating a 50-50 division of labor in a household. Making it so the woman is not the only one who runs the household, either because she feels like she has to or because her spouse expects her to run everything. Women who feel like they carry the brunt of caring for the household and a newborn can grow to resent their spouse. Baby-nups are intended to help couples avoid developing this type of resentment. Parents who can address conflict and discuss their issues directly may see better success in their relationship and in caring for their baby.

Most experts agree that couples should figure out a solution that works best for them. For some couples this may be an ironclad baby-nup and, for other couples, open discussion and a more relaxed attitude may work better. Keeping the lines of communication open and having each parent share in the workload can be helpful. Couples need to be willing to have an open discussion if one person is feeling overwhelmed or feeling that he or she is doing most of the work. Having a baby is a happy time, but it can also be stressful and a time of significant life change for a couple. Being proactive and planning for the extra work of having a newborn may help a lot of parents. When all is said and done, whether you decide to develop a baby-nup or not, the most important way to effectively co-parent is to communicate with your partner. Challenges and stressors will arise when you have a new baby and both parents need to be willing to discuss these issues and seek to find solutions.

Lauren McMahan
Dr. Lauren McMahan has a Doctor of Pharmacy from Lipscomb University College of Pharmacy in Nashville, TN. She currently works for a large national healthcare company, where she provides her research and writing expertise to support evidence-based initiatives to improve patient care. She enjoys exercising, reading, and thrifting in her spare time.

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