Mom does EVERYTHING: When your partner isn't pitching in
Someone in the Real Life Momming group recently shared her frustration with the division of labor in her home. She's the breadwinner and her husband takes care of the kids. Yet she is also doing most of the cooking, cleaning, and time management for the family. Anyone surprised by this, please share your drugs with the rest of us; we want to live in your world too!
I see this dynamic in almost every family where mom is working outside of motherhood, whether it's a dual or single income scenario. AND I see this dynamic in almost every family where mom is NOT working outside of motherhood. The division of labor in families is usually pretty lopsided, with the maternal parent shouldering the domestic burden, regardless of how 'undomesticated' they are.
Most of us try to solve this problem by telling our partner to get off their ass and start helping out. We go through the list of all the crap we have to do in a day, and how it is complete BS that they are doing a mere fraction of the things we are. We wallow in a delicious tantrum of righteous indignation and focus all our energy on trying to make this slacker help us out. I used to go there with my clients too. I would dive in headfirst helping them strive for equanimity with their partners. We'd look at the tasks and burdens facing the couple and redistribute things to be 'fair.' And, we'd come up with great arguments and justifications for why things needed to change and how to communicate this with her partner.
This NEVER works because we're trying to control our partners, and in so doing, we are completely out of control.
One of the founding principles of all my discipline work is that we only have the ability and right to control ourselves. This is extremely useful in disciplining kids, and it is just as helpful in dealing with spouses, partners and co-parents. If we think the solution to our overwhelm is for our partner to pick up the slack, we have relinquished our relief into someone else's hands and out of our control. Not to mention the fact that our partner might be just as overwhelmed as we are, or totally incapable of doing the things we want to offload on them, and certainly incapable of divining exactly HOW and WHEN we want them done.
So what do we do?
This may sound strange, but I want you to imagine you have no partner at all and that this scenario is exactly what you always wanted. The trick is to realize that if you were in this by yourself and totally cool with it, you would solve your problems all on your own without even thinking about it. You wouldn't fixate on one specific person to relieve you and you wouldn't feel pissed when that didn't happen. You might ask someone to help you, and if they weren't willing and able to do it in a way that was actually helpful, you'd solve your problem another way. All this is to say that you would decide your values and desires, set boundaries around them, and enforce them, the same as we try to do with our kids.
Just as in parenting, when we're ready to stop trying to make someone do something, and start setting and enforcing boundaries for ourselves, things improve fast. Making your kid sleep is impossible. Setting a boundary that 8:30 is bedroom time and enforcing it by not engaging with your kiddo after you've said goodnight, is totally doable.
Making your hubby clean the bathroom is impossible. Setting the boundary that the bathroom is not your job, then enforcing it by NOT cleaning it (and hiring a cleaning lady, delegating the bathroom to a kid chore, etc) is totally doable. What stands between us and a clean toilet is not our partners, it's the belief that they are the only way to get a clean toilet.
If this feels like total BS, I get it. A lot of anger, resentment, frustration and blame has to fall away before this feels like a viable option and not just a cop-out. That's where the work I do comes in. Once I learned that fantasy chore lists for hubbies weren't actually helping my clients, I started helping them strip away the things blocking them from having the life they wanted with their family, and it is rarely their partner. Removing the real obstacles creates a domino effect that quickly and easily changes relationships, behavior, happiness, and even the cleanliness of bathrooms. If it sounds too good to be true, YOU are who I most deeply want to talk to. Spend 45 minutes with me and walk away believing that easy, fun, and harmonious motherhood is totally possible for you, and seeing a clear path to get there. Here's the link to make it happen. I can't wait to meet you!