How to Share Parenting Responsibilities & Not Starve Your Child

When I had my son – a decade ago now! – I knew nothing about babies and children. I was an only child growing up and my cousins lived spread out across the vastness of Western Canada. Dealing with a new baby was terrifying and I sought out all sorts of information from (hopefully) reliable guides and experts. So much so that a friend of mine dubbed me the “book mom.” However, over the early months and subsequent years I have determined that many of the skills and tools learned through my life and career are applicable to childrearing. Even just good problem-solving skills and analysis of detail helped me think through what on earth this baby might want now!

More recently, I’ve seen how management tools for assigning roles on projects can be valuable in overseeing the health and safety of a child – or even broader management of a household. I started thinking about this when our process for giving Elliott an allowance began unraveling. We had begun giving Elliott a small amount of money when he was quite young, mostly to help curb the “I want, I want” syndrome. That worked beautifully, but as he got older we wanted to use the allowance as more of a way to instill discipline and apply consequences for good and bad behavior. The problem was that we had lost the habit of giving the allowance regularly, since that hadn’t been important when he was younger. Now it was required if we were to link the money to completing certain tasks around the house. But the issue was that each time my husband and I missed our allowance deadline, we seemed to think the other one was going to get the money from the ATM, or sit down with Elliott to go over the week’s progress.

And I saw this issue in other areas, ones that could negatively impact our son’s health. Like who was responsible for making sure he got his allergy medicine mornings and evenings? Who was going to make sure he had his bath on the assigned nights? Who thought about getting him breakfast or lunch on the weekends? It couldn’t always be me since I wasn’t home every evening and needed to run errands some weekends.

In my career I had often used an approach called RACI to help ensure everyone’s role on a project was clear – which stood for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Many people can be “responsible for” or “consulted /informed” about a task – but only one person can be accountable. This person has to feel like he or she is on the hook for the completion or success of the task, no matter who else is involved. I realized that the root of many of the issues my husband and I were having was that – while we were both responsible at various times for baths, medication, meals and allowance – no one really felt accountable for these tasks.

After this revelation, we made a few changes. I took accountability for baths. If I wouldn’t be home on bath night, it was my job to remind my husband about the task – I also added a note on each of the days to our family calendar that hangs in the kitchen. My husband is now accountable for allergy medicine – which means he has to remind me about giving the doses, and make sure we always have a ready stock. In the end we divided up accountability for allowance. My husband has to make sure we have a stock of bills for allowance, but I’m accountable for reviewing the week with Elliott and giving him his money. Our new approach isn’t perfect and some things still drop through the cracks, but at least we’re no longer pointing at the other person when they do.

About the Author

Audra is an experienced pharmaceutical marketing professional, aspiring writer, and mother of Elliott, a high-spirited twenty-year old. Frequently tired but never bored, she has a strong interest in public health fostered by numerous years implementing global oncology education programs as well as by her twenty-year crazy (wild? amazing?) adventure in parenting. She recently earned a Masters in Public Health to augment her expertise in health policy and health promotion. Audra is a founding member of the PedSafe Team


2 Responses to “How to Share Parenting Responsibilities & Not Starve Your Child”

  1. I appreciate the application of project management techniques to managing a household. I often see a cross-over of how parenting techniques can work in managing project teams and how project management techniques can help with managing a householod.

  2. Thanks for the terrific insights and suggestions Audra. These shared parenting tips that many moms and dads would benefit from in their day to day routines.

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