Cycle 2: THE GO-TO PARENT
If one parent spends more time with the kids, both partners can feel the unevenness. What are some good ways to counteract that?
Cycle 1: CHORE WARS
Tips for the Partner Who Feels They Are Doing All the Chores
“I’m exhausted by doing all the work around the house without any help!”
Feeling like you are the only one doing housework is exhausting because the job is never done!
- Make a list. Sit down with your partner and make a list of all the chores that need to get done and how often. So laundry might be a weekly chore whereas paying the bills might be monthly. Also, some chores are quick while others take ½ a day. Look together to see who is doing what currently, and what feels like a fair way to divide them moving forward. Your partner may be doing chores you didn’t even know about!
- Know your strengths. Identify one or two tasks that are particularly difficult for you and ask your partner if those could be his/her job. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, so understanding what they are and working on those together as a couple can help make the work go easier. At the end of the day, cutting your partner some slack or doing one of his/her chores will also help him/her feel happy and appreciated in the relationship.
- Remember Rewards! Decide on a system to treat yourself and your partner when the chores get done. Maybe you have a movie night in just the two of you, or maybe you go to your favorite restaurant together. With a joint goal, you can help motivate each other to get the prize instead of punishing each other for forgetting a task.
- Make a trade. It is easy to criticize your partner for not mowing the yard often enough. But after you’ve lugged out the lawnmower a few times, you may feel a little more sympathy. Likewise, cooking dinner every night may seem like a no-brainer … to someone who never has to do it. Swapping chores once in a while can help you appreciate the hard work your partner puts in on a regular basis.
Tips for the Partner Accused of Not Helping
“I contribute to the relationship in other ways!”
You may feel like you aren’t getting enough credit for all that you do, possibly because some of your help is behind the scenes or less visible to your partner.
- Show your work. When your partner is on your case about not helping, it may be because he/she isn’t aware of what you are doing already. Kindly and in a non-defensive way, share with your partner ways you feel you are contributing in a concrete way like taking out the trash, making sure bills are paid on time, or picking up groceries on your way home from work.
- Remember to Compromise. Every relationship requires a bit of compromise. At the end of the day, showing your partner you are willing to pick up an extra chore or two will make for a happier relationship. In fact, there is good research showing that couples who agree more about chores have a better sex life!
- Work together. Whenever possible, doing chores together can be a great way to reduce feelings that one person isn’t pulling their weight around the house. Plus, the chore goes twice as fast and allows you to spend some time together.
- It’s the little things… Doing little things to help out can go a long way – especially if your partner has had a rough day. Try to notice what is out of place around the house and how you can help. Clear dirty dishes and wash them, put clothes in the hamper, or take the trash out when you notice it is full. These little actions show your partner you are aware of what is going on in the home and willing to put in effort to make it a nice space for you both.
Cycle 2: THE GO-TO PARENT
Tips for the Main Parent
“I’m the only one who takes care of the kids and disciplines!”
You may feel exhausted being the primary caregiver for your children. You may be taking this responsibility on top of working full- or part- time as well! You likely feel frustrated when your partner isn’t helping you out with the kids.
- Take a break. When you are with the kids the majority of the time, it can be hard to find time for yourself or time with just your partner. See if you can pick a weekly time when your partner has the kids so you can have some “me time” or, if you have in-laws in town, see if they can take the kids once a month for “date night”.
- Be specific. Let your partner know how they can be most helpful to you. Maybe at the end of the day you could use some help at bedtime? Or maybe it’s when the kids get home that feels overwhelming? Maybe your partner can be in charge of the kids’ activities on the weekend? It can be helpful to sit down together and define the rules of what is acceptable behavior so the children aren’t running to one parent or the other to get the answer they want.
- Allow for mistakes. Because you do most of the parenting, your partner has less experience and so is more likely to make mistakes. If you jump in too soon, your partner is never going to learn how to do it better. So, give your partner a chance to fix it and if he/she is still having trouble, show him/her how to do it or talk with him/her about it after it’s over. But don’t take over to the point where you become the main parent yet again.
- Learn More. Would reading a parenting book be an option? Many couples struggle to work together effectively, maintain jobs, and put effort into their relationships.
Tips for the Back-up Parent
“I have a job – I can’t be a full-time parent too!”
It may feel unfair that your partner expects you to put as much effort into parenting as he/she does, either because you are contributing to the relationship in other ways or because it feels so much harder for you to parent.
- Create a plan. The first step in fixing this problem is probably to sit down with your partner and talk about what is and isn’t working for both of you. (A lot of times, we tend to fall into the same roles that we saw in our families growing up and that might not be a good fit for your current relationship.) In that discussion, if you feel like you do a lot of other chores or work that your partner doesn’t do, be sure to bring those things up so you can come up with a plan that’s fair to both of you.
- Decide on a signal. It may be that your partner only gets overwhelmed by the kids once in a while. If so, you helping out in those moments can make a really big difference. So, set up a signal that your partner can use when he/she needs your help. It can be as simple as saying “Honey, I really need your help right now.”
- Ask for help. If you don’t feel comfortable in the parent role, as your partner to teach you how to do things. Kids often get used to having things a certain way and it can be frustrating when they complain about the way you did something. So, ask for your partner’s help!
- Plan special time with your kid(s). Carve out special time for you and the kids. Maybe you cook breakfast together on Saturday mornings (and take to your partner in bed!) or maybe you commit to coaching a sports team, or encouraging your child in another interest. Find activities that you and the kids enjoy like going to the park or playing games and make that time for you and the kids each week.
- Learn more. If you feel like you don’t really know how to be a good parent, would reading a parenting book be an option? Many couples struggle to work together effectively, maintain jobs, and put effort into their relationships.
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