Are you frustrated that your partner doesn’t help around the house? Do you feel like you do absolutely everything? Let me give you some brutally honest feedback, woman to woman. The problem may be you. Yep, you, my fellow sleep-deprived mama are the problem.
I feel you. I am you. But I also am learning a dirty little secret that contributes to this inequality in our homes.
Our need to have control is undermining our partners.
When I was staying at home with our newborn, I figured out all the tricks and tips to get baby to sleep. I developed a system to make sure we were all fed and somehow kept the house from falling apart. When my partner came home, he had no idea where he fit into the little world that I created during work hours. Since he had no idea where he fit, he didn’t really know how to contribute. He felt like he was in the way, so he definitely didn’t feel comfortable taking a leading role in housework and parenting. I unintentionally alienated my number one ally and felt like my partner didn’t help.
I also realized that if we were to switch places, he would run our home very differently than me. He would have totally different systems, habits, tricks, and guess what, they would work. It just wouldn’t be your system. I like the dishes to be done right after dinner, so I can relax in the evening. He waits until before bed or sometimes does them in the morning. The dishes will still get done but at very different times.
As I work with moms experiencing postpartum, I am realizing that this need to control isn’t just something I deal with. It’s engraved in our maternal spirits. It goes against everything in our souls to send your husband in to soothe baby when you know they will cry for another 20 minutes. But if we don’t sit back, let go of this urge to step in, our children will never realize that both parents nurture. Both parents will show up bedside at 2 am and both parents will take care of their needs.
It is selfish to not let our partners experience the same struggles and victories we experience.
Here are some tips for those mamas who can relate to this story. These are the practical ways I am stepping back and giving control back to my partner. Who really wants to help out if you are bound to do it wrong?
Here are the ways I am changing, instead of wishing my partner would change:
- Keep your mouth shut. If your partner dresses your toddler in a swimsuit coverup for church. Let it go. If they pack the kids’ lunches wrong, say nothing. Are the kids fed? Then it is fine. Every time you redo something they are doing to help, you discourage them from wanting to do it again. Imagine your coworker redoing your work, every time. What’s the point in even trying? Your seemingly minor correction tells them they did it wrong, when in fact they just did it differently.
- Let your child and your partner figure it out. All of those tricks you learned, you learned from messing up. Your partner needs to go through this process also. If you swoop in and “fix” they are only more dependent on you. If your child only will fall sleep with you, then you are committing to putting them sleep every night, forever. Let them figure out how to do nighttime with dad. There may be tears, but this is an important moment. If you swoop in, you are robbing your partner of an important parenting experience and it is a parenting experience they deserve. There is a level of selflessness that is involved in stepping back to let your partner lead. Don’t steal those precious parenting moments from your partner.
- Don’t expect them to read your mind. If you need something, ask. You are setting them up for failure every time. Remember they are living in the system you developed. This is true for sharing household and parenting duties, but this is also true of your needs. One of the mind-blowing moments of a relationship is when you realize that you have to ask your partner for help.
You Can Step Back
This is tough love, I realize. Sometimes self-reflection and honesty are much more effective than trying to change the behavior of another person. It takes courage to step back and let your partner help, but ultimately it will be worth it.