Do you feel like you’re working harder than your partner to raise your children and keep your house in order? Does your partner’s “freedom” from these responsibilities make you resentful or even mad? In my practice it’s not uncommon for me to meet with couples that are having a tough time figuring out how to make it all work with careers, family and marriage. What I find fascinating in some of these cases is the way that women tend to unknowingly set themselves up for a world of unhappiness in their parenting arrangements with their partners.
When women make the choice to stay home with their children it can seem as if their partner has all the freedom and flexibility in the relationship because they can come and go while she is “stuck” doing things for the household. Feeling like a prisoner in your marriage and motherhood can easily breed resentment and anger. I also see it with working moms who over-task themselves with household chores. For all of these women, carrying the belief that they have to do it all or “the way they do it is better” can create frustration and a sense of loneliness. In blocking their partners’ participation in family or household responsibilities they are rendering them useless in helping out, which only exacerbates feeling unsupported and upset. What is lost in this cycle is awareness of the choices that we make in negotiating our roles as mothers and wives. As author Jill Churchill once said: “There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.”
Parenthood is hard for everyone and you have to acknowledge that regardless of your role inside or outside your home, all parties are going to feel the strain. Often what shocks my female clients is that they are equally responsible for creating their unhappiness. The challenges and obstacles of parenting children can provoke real feelings of anger and frustration but instead of directing them at your spouse, perhaps it’s time to share the emotional burden and learn to manage these feelings together.
The first thing I recommend doing is setting regular meetings with your partner to create a space and time that you can communicate openly and without distraction. Creating time to communicate is a key strategy to disabling unresolved anger and resentment. These meetings don’t need to take hours – they should be quick dialogues that allow you to talk about how your arrangements are affecting each of you and what you might change to better serve each other’s needs.