Sharing Parenting Responsibilities
Did you go into parenthood planning, expecting, or at least hoping for a balanced partnership, with the two of you sharing parenting responsibilities equally?
Our generation wants to leave behind the gender roles of old and do this thing 21st century style, right?
And lots of us ARE doing things very differently to how our own parents did.
But most couples find themselves struggling to share the domestic and parental responsibilities quite as evenly as they planned.
Here are a few reasons why.
1. Traditional Gender Roles
Societal expectations around gender can be hard to push back against – especially when they’re at least partly unconscious or unspoken. You might know in your head that the responsibilities to provide for the family and nurture the children are shared. But another part of you – perhaps a deeper or more emotional part – might feel more pressure or drive to do one than the other.
2. Financial Pressures
We live in a patriarchal capitalist system. It’s still built around a 9-5 male breadwinner model, even as most families have two working parents. Well-paid part-time work is hard to find, so most families need at least one parent to work full-time. Those full-time roles tend to be less flexible, so many families have little choice about who works when.
3. Gatekeeper Parenting
Traditional gender roles and financial pressures often combine, leaving mothers getting more experience than fathers in the early days. This can mean they end up feeling like they know better than their partners about how to look after the kids. This often leads to a self-perpetuating cycle: Mum takes more responsibility for childcare, becomes more knowledgable about their needs, and ultimately ends up carrying the mental load.
4. A Culture of Women
Sometimes men feel sidelined from the start if a support team of mostly female midwives, doulas, friends and relatives springs up. Most men weren’t brought up to talk about how they feel, so when they don’t feel needed, they often withdraw.
5. The “Women Just Know” Myth
With childcare having been traditionally dominated by women, sometimes men imagine that women just know what to do with babies and kids. This is a myth of course – we’re all working it out as we go along.
6. Relationship Issues
The demands of parenthood put a lot of pressure on a couple. It’s normal to talk less, find the conversations you do have more stressful, argue more, and have less sex, or none at all – at least in the short term. When relationships are strained, it feels much harder to collaborate and compromise.
Have any of these factors had an impact on who does what in your home?
If they have, how do you feel about it?
Many parents tell me that they end up feeling resentful. Do you relate?
Check out my free 7-step action plan out of resentment. It’s a 10-minute read which will talk you through how you can change this – for yourself, your kids, and generations to come.