Sharing the load
Parenting is the most challenging job you’ll ever have, but it’s also the most important. While parenting is difficult for all of us, in many households the 1950’s approach still sees an outsized share of responsibility falling on mothers.
Difference is, that in the 50’s, it was out of the ordinary to be a dual income household once children came along. Now, the majority of households have no option to be dual income from a financial standpoint.. But still, the mindset is “oh they have a really stressful job and need their sleep so I do all the night wakes.”
Alongside their paid employment, the majority of mothers take on most of the household responsibilities - entertaining the children, booking and attending appointments for the children, organising family outings, playdates and after school activities, household chores, shopping for the whole family… you get the picture!
This often leads to resentment bubbling away in the background, which tends to result in a blow out every so often.
To avoid resentment of this inequity, here are a few ideas to help
1. Look at what runs your household together
It’s not a competition! Sit down together and list out the regular exercises like going to the supermarket, kids activities, and jobs around the home. And the less frequent items like doctor appointments, clothes shopping, organising birthday parties, paying bills, and larger home projects. You’ll quickly see that there is A LOT going on for both parties, often things that go unnoticed as they’re things that just happen seamlessly. Once you have this list of items, you can look at rebalancing who is responsible for what, and begin setting expectations for the future.
2. Have the hard conversation
Creating organisation is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a total problem solver. In most households, there are unspoken frustrations that have built up over time. Often around the little things, like household chores or conflicting schedules. It’s important to clear the air before the festering frustrations lead to a blow out. In most cases, communicating where you need help will create greater empathy and understanding and once it’s in the open, framed in a positive way rather than an angry outburst, together you can come up with a solution. Perhaps dad can tackle the supermarket or netball practice once a week, maybe the children can take on new responsibilities with household task. Each joint decision takes pressure off mum and builds additional trust between partners.
3. Continue to communicate regularly and ask for help
I’m very guilty of this. Something will come up, I immediately put it in our shared calendar but then forget to actually discuss it when we’re both home. Then it gets to the night before said entry to the calendar and we have to scramble to make it work, leading to frustrations on both sides.
Create a habit of a once a week check-in, with go over plans for the week. Figure out who is going to do what for the week with children’s activities, supermarket shopping, taking the dog to the vet etc. By continuing to communicate, the load continues to be shared - even if it’s just so that you’re not the only one who knows about what’s going on. Having to remember everything is exhausting!
4. Say thank you
You work hard for your family. Your partner works hard for your family. Knowing it and saying it out loud are two different things. Showing gratitude with a simple “thank you” will go a long way. It doesn’t cost you anything to say, “Thanks for taking the girls to their ballet, I really needed that time to catch up on X.” Even if it’s just routine parenting or household tasks, knowing that what you do doesn’t go unnoticed makes you feel appreciated.
Just writing this down has reminded me to walk the talk, it's always easier said than done, but constant communication is KEY to sharing the load.