It’s a truth I have known in my own life, but this is my first time reading about it. Parenting is hard and requires a team approach. Let me back up and start with a confession– I am sort of a relationship-geek. That means I love reading the results of research on relationships of all sorts, and what people are finding works best. We are part of a wonderful community of people who do what we do and produce great research, National Association of Relationship and Marriage Educators (NARME). I was recently reading about the importance of both parents sharing the load, especially when both partners work half or part time.
This article, which you can read if you are a geek like me, addresses how Sharing the Parenting Duties Could Be Key to Marital Bliss. Women consistently do more and give more to take care of the kids. They know what schoolwork needs done, manage to get the kids in the tub, and pick up milk for breakfast. Regardless of working part time or full time, moms do the lions’ share of the parenting workload. Now even the report acknowledged that dads do stuff– but it comments that sometimes their load isn’t as urgent and time sensitive. Jobs like automotive care and changing lightbulbs or home repairs are helpful, but not urgent and pressing like the jobs moms take on. Even when a woman works full time and a man works full time, the bulk of parenting jobs are done by the mom.
The scary part for me is that research shows marriages are ending due to this imbalance. Women push through and do so much that they eventually feel so unloved, unheard, and alone that they walk away from the marriage. This is a critical issue for Family Greenhouse and why we do what we do. People need help becoming aware of what they feel and think and how they can move forward and make change. Generally, marriages end because of a bunch of small stuff that deepens the wedge between two people. Gottman says, “Most marriages die with a whimper, as people turn away from one another, slowly growing apart.” It doesn’t have to be this way! But it’s not easy, and you should not presume you can navigate it alone, especially if hardness of heart has developed or your spouse is not open to seeing the change needed.
So some of you are probably thinking, shouldn’t the mom just say she needs help? Speak up! It’s not always that simple. Sometimes she doesn’t realize she is doing it…doesn’t realize it’s a heavy burden. We just do it because that is what is required to survive, and sometimes it isn’t until we break that we realize there is a problem. Scott and I have talked about this kind of thing for years, and it is an area we are working on. One of the common problems we see in ourselves and so many others is when the dad is willing to help but needs mom to tell him what to do. Again and again I hear this as a problem for women, who want their men to SEE the problem or need for themselves and are exasperated to have to spell it out. This is too complicated for a blog, and I would encourage you to come for couples’ coaching! Men can’t read our minds, and we can’t direct them for each thing, yet we can make a plan to work together better. That’s our specialty. 🙂
Want your own “do-it-yourself” fix? If you are in a healthy place, you might be able to! Together talk about what is working and not working and own the things you have done to contribute to the problem. Make a list of things that need done and divide it up. One thing that helps is for both parents to get on the same page. We have a values exercise we do with couples in coaching as well as in workshop form and it helps two parents determine what is most important to them. From there, we lead them to determine HOW it looks to parents with those values at the forefront. If you want to hear what we think is most important, you can check out our video podcast on The Heart of Parenting. Ultimately, you need to decide for yourselves what is most important. Sometimes going deeper to WHY you want kids to have certain routines is essential to navigate your way through the chores of life.
If you are a married and you are a parent, ask your spouse if the division of the parenting workload is working for him or her. Start a conversation and be a good listener. If there is a problem, it will take several conversations to work it out. Be patient, keep asking questions, keep listening. I hope this moves you forward like it has for us. Share this with a friend who might need it. We need to become aware of the seriousness of this struggle.