The year is 2023: we are supposed to all be equals, right? WRONG. Why is there such a parenting gender gap still?
Personally, I am lucky enough to only work part time while my husband works full time to support us financially. As a result, I am about 80% responsible for household chores/taking care of the kids. Which is fine; that is how I want it to be. But damn, sometimes it seems like working full time and only being responsible for 20% of the household chores would be SO MUCH EASIER. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE and APPRECIATE that I get to spend so much time with my kids. I adore them and am truly grateful that I have the opportunity to only work part time. But in the morning I am forced to hit the ground running (literally). My husband goes to work very early in the morning and usually leaves before we wake up, so I am solely responsible for getting everyone dressed, fed, ready, and out of the door to school each day. It is tough and draining and by 10:00 in the morning I feel like it should be the middle of the day.
That is just one example of something my husband gets away with not doing. The list goes on and on. Doctors appointments? My responsibility. Worrying about getting them to and from school every day? My responsibility. Keeping track of everyone’s schedule? My responsibility. And most importantly, keeping up with the kids on a daily basis to make sure they are loved and taken care of and safe? My responsibility. But the main thing that I find is different between my husband and I is the “mental load” that I feel on a daily basis. What is a mental load, you might ask? In my opinion, the mental load is where I have a constant checklist going on in my head of all the things that need to be done. For some reason, although my husband and I live in the same house and should know about all of the household/parenting responsibilities we have, he does not feel this mental load. If I have to go somewhere at night I have to write down a list of things that have to get done for bed time (honestly they are things that are as simple as “brush their hair and teeth”) because I know he will forget to do them if I do not mention it. Now, I am not saying that he does not work hard – I know he does. It is not easy waking up as early as he does and working a full time job with a family – but if I asked him to rate his stress level right now it would be a 0 or a 1 which I am totally envious of.
The one thing that I have noticed has been helping us in our marriage and in our partnership as parents is our communication. Some days I will be running around the house trying to check everything off of my life while he is sitting on TikTok on his phone (insert angry face), but I have come to realize that he does not understand all of the things that I can see around the house that need to get done. For some reason, he does not think it is crucial to clean up all of the toys each night before going to bed, or to have the sink be completely empty for the morning, or to make sure the laundry does not pile up so we can get it all done in one load, but all of these things are very important to me. I like to start and end my day with a clean house and know that when I wake up in the morning I do not have anything left on my to do list for the next day waiting for me, but unfortunately he does not feel like those things are necessary.
Let’s rewind to 2 years ago when I was staying home full time with the kids. I have a type A personality so when the house is not clean I can not relax, which was very tough for me having 2 young kids who did not understand the concept of “cleaning up” and had toys scattered throughout the house all day. But one thing that would ease my anxiety was cleaning up when the kids went down for their afternoon nap, and cleaning up again right before my husband got home from work. This was not something that he ever asked me to do, I just always took it upon myself to clean up before he got home so he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the mess that was made by the kids during the day. He never commented on it, or thanked me for doing it, so I wasn’t even sure that he noticed it got done. One day, I did not clean up. ONE DAY. And can you believe he commented on it?! God forbid he commented any other day when I HAD cleaned up, but he decided to comment the one day when I did not. Do you know how much that hurt my feelings? Definitely more than it should have. But to know that when I clean up every other day I never get an acknowledgement or a thank you but the one day when I did not he had to comment on it. In my opinion, that’s just another example of one of the ways moms do all of the invisible work that is undervalued and underappreciated, and honestly, not even noticed until it does not get done.
So I’ll end it with this: it can be tough being in a partnership when you feel like you carry the weight of parenting almost solely on your shoulders, but the best way to alleviate some of that burden is to communicate clearly exactly what you need and expect from your partner. Men are so different and don’t always recognize things that need to get done without being told – so sometimes it is as simple as just telling them! It has been working for my husband and I, and I hope it works for you, too!