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Taking Turns

~ By Rob Sorensen

RobSorensenRobSorensenonechildI’ve wanted to be a dad for as long as I can remember.  I’m not sure how it started, whether it was my great affection for soft little things, my amazement of all things biological, or the fact that I can distinctly recall muttering to myself, while pushing the lawn-mower, “Man, I can’t wait until I have kids…” But whatever the reason, the truth is that I had looked forward to it with great anticipation. My lifelong wait came to an end when my first daughter was born.

Suddenly it was, as they say, “showtime.” I was ready. Feeding? I was going to be on hand to help. Diaper needs changing? Check. Wife needs more pillows? On it. I was a well-oiled machine, moving through the house like a sharp knife through butter. I measured that kid twice a day to ensure we were on a good track. Poured over reviews of toys, read critical analyses of TV watching under age 2, worked in harmony with the missus through bath time and bed time… I was even there to record the contents of every single diaper during the newborn weeks. (Seriously. I did that.) We did just about every parenting task together.

But a funny thing happened on the way to our second child: I realized that I was insane. Actually, my wife and I came to the conclusion we both were. Once we realized that having a second child meant that we were now matched one-to-one with our kids, it was like a great light came on. We should’ve taken more turns.

We all tell our kids to do it, but first-time parents can be really, really bad at taking turns–and by this I mean handing off the baby now and again in order to have some kid-free time…without guilt. Maybe it’s primal, but brand-new parents can feel an inherent need to be present in their baby’s life every possible moment (okay, maybe this is more common in moms, but I certainly felt it). After all, what if your baby’s first giggle is the day you stay home from the park to sleep in? What if she needs you while you’re out with the boys? And isn’t it selfish to hit the driving range while your partner does the bedtime routine?

Well, every family is different. You have to decide what works for your situation, and you each have to feel supported by your partner. Taking turns in order to have a break simply doesn’t work if you feel you have to watch the clock and/or grovel to prevent a looming relationship meltdown when you return to parenting duty. It also doesn’t work if one parent can’t release control enough to let the other do things his way, hard as that can be at first. It only works if you accept that it’s good for each parent to have time off, and that it’s good for your baby to have alone time with each of you.

Second-time parents have learned that a key benefit to having only one child is that you and your partner get to hand off more easily to one another. If you’re still in that position, take advantage of it while the adults still outnumber the kids. Start taking turns with one another early, in babyhood, and you’ll find your way to a healthier family balance going forward.

About the Author

Rob Sorensen is an author, software developer, and dad of two girls under five. He’s the co-author (with his wife, Kerry Colburn) of the new book “How to Have Your Second Child First: 100 Things That Are Good to Know the First Time Around,” available wherever books are sold. Visit for more information.

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