Co-parenting means both parents are involved in the education of their children at every stage of their development. Practising co-parenting fairly allows parents to share different family responsibilities equally between them.  

Children are the first to benefit from healthy co-parenting, since they can develop a meaningful relationship with each of their parents. Ideal fair co‑parenting starts in the perinatal period, namely during the preparations before the child’s arrival, and continues after their birth.  

The division of household and family tasks between the partners during the first year of the child’s life determines family habits for several years. It is therefore beneficial that both parents be involved with the child starting from their earliest years. This prevents an imbalance with regard to the place each parent occupies in the family and the feeling of parental competence. Egalitarian involvement in the family also allows each parent to take on their share of the mental burden* and to participate equally in the labour market.  

*Familial mental burden: the demands of family and household responsibilities (planning, managing, performing tasks). A mental overload can lead to stress or exhaustion, so it is important for parents to share it.

Tips for fair co-parenting

Sharing parental leave fairly between parents as well as sharing the tasks related to caring for and raising children are good ways to achieve equality. For example, parents can take turns to:

  • provide care for the child and feed them
  • get up at night and comfort the child
  • accompany the child to health appointments and to other activities

Taking turns to take time off and look after children when they are ill, as well as sharing activities and leisure time, are also ways to maintain fair co‑parenting.

Sharing of parental leave

In Québec, parental leave remains mostly used by mothers. However, it is intended to be shared between both parents. The Québec Parental Insurance Plan even encourages parents to share the weeks of parental leave. When both parents have each taken eight weeks of parental leave, they are offered an allowance of a few extra weeks. For some women, if the parental leave is not shared fairly with the other parent, it can lead to a professional setback due to a prolonged absence from the labour market.

Recent studies have shown that men within families in Québec benefit from one more hour of rest per day than women. On a daily average, women spend:

  • one hour less than men to carry out paid work
  • one hour more than men to carry out unpaid work

Unpaid work, also called invisible work, consists of activities that take place at home or in the business of the life partner. It can come in many forms: educating and caring for children, managing family tasks and responsibilities, caregiving, business administration or paperwork, etc. In all these cases, women remain those who, for the vast majority, are responsible for it. Being unpaid for these types of work puts women in a situation of loss of earnings or savings that will follow them throughout their lives.

To develop healthy co-parenting, parents can learn to cultivate four tools: respectful communication, recognition of invisible work, parental consistency and shared responsibilities.

Last update: July 13, 2023


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