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He Said, She Said

The Lopsided-Duties Dilemma

One night a few weeks after their son, Adam Jr., was born, Adam Westley, a golf service worker in Dayton, Ohio, came home and complained to his wife, Amber, that the house was a mess -- dirty dishes in the sink, baby gear strewn around the living room. "He said, 'This makes me not want to come home sometimes -- I can't stand a dirty house,'" recalls Amber, a stay-at-home mom. "Then I said, 'If you don't like it, then you can clean it!'"

One of the biggest points of contention among new parents is an unequal division of labor. The problem isn't necessarily that the duties are lopsided but that one spouse's expectations haven't been met, says Maureen Perry-Jenkins, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who conducted a five-year study about how couples cope with the transition to parenthood. In the Westleys' case, neither partner's expectations were being met: Adam expected Amber to clean; Amber expected Adam to help out more. Clear up any misunderstandings about who should do what by talking openly about itóbefore the baby arrives, if you can. "Couples need to be clear about their expectations for the division of housework and childcare, and then their actions need to match those expectations," says Perry-Jenkins.

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