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How to even out the parental load…

  • Published Dec 20, 2023

    4 mins read
  • Written by:Benu Lahiry, LMFT
How to even out the parental load…

contents

Every Friday, we open our Instagram to the Ours community and let couples submit questions to our team of couples therapists. We pick the most interesting ones and write our thoughts here. This week’s question is: “How can I ask for more help with evening out the parental load?”

This question resonates deeply, reflecting a reality often observed in many of the couples that I work with. Even within the most communicative and healthy partnerships, there’s often an imbalance in any sort of mental load. It’s not just common; it’s the norm.

What stands out in this question is the subtle awareness of an increasing burden, specifically in managing the parental load. The individual behind this question isn’t asking about nudging a partner to “do more,” but rather about navigating the conversation around asking for support. The essence lies not in, “how can I get my partner to pitch in more with the kids?,” but in a more nuanced question: “how do I initiate a conversation with my partner about sharing the load more effectively?” There is an implicit awareness in needing support which is the first step to navigating this conversation productively.

Here are 6 steps you can take to help even out the parental load:

  1. Identify your feelings
  2. Acknowledge each other’s contributions
  3. Pinpoint areas needing support
  4. Be flexible
  5. Set realistic expectations
  6. Have patience and consistency

You should know

The belief that both partners must shoulder an exact 50% share of responsibilities can inadvertently harm relationships. It’s impractical and unrealistic. Understanding and implementing these 6 steps will help you and your partner create a more balanced parental load.

Identify your feelings

Start by recognizing the feelings arising from your experience with the parental load. This could look like, “I am feeling overwhelmed,” or “I notice that I feel dread when the evening time rolls around.” Focus on only your experience — not what you’re currently not getting from your partner. Keeping the focus solely on your experience helps facilitate an open dialogue in the spirit of collaboration and mutual understanding. It also allows your partner the space to do the same and not feel blamed.

Acknowledge each other’s contributions

Notice what your partner does bring to the relationship. Mental loads vary — perhaps one manages finances, while the other handles household affairs. Recognize and appreciate each other’s efforts. Express gratitude for what your partner is already doing and highlight the value they bring.

Pinpoint areas needing support

This ties back in with the awareness of how you’re feeling with the increased burden around the parental load. Where would you most benefit from having more support? Dinner prep? Bath time? Bedtime? Identifying these specific areas allows both of you to target efforts more effectively and ensures a more balanced distribution of the parental load. In addition, pinpointing where you need support fosters a sense of shared responsibility. It shifts the conversation from a general request for help to a collaborative effort in managing specific aspects of the parental load.

Be flexible

Be open to flexibility and adapting to change. Perhaps taking more of the evening parental load was a decision that worked for the partnership at one point in time. And now, you’re noticing it’s not working. Our lives are fluid, and circumstances are always changing. Expect that shifts in division of labor will happen whether it’s household or parental. Keep the conversation ongoing so that you’re able to adapt more quickly next time a shift needs to occur.

Set realistic expectations

Be realistic about what is achievable. Strive for a balance that accommodates both partners’ capacities and limitations. Notice any gatekeeping tendencies and call attention to it.

Have patience and consistency

Finally, change takes time. Be patient with each other as you navigate this transition. Consistency in communication and efforts toward a more balanced parental load will result positive results over time.

What’s next?

Work with an experienced, licensed therapist to talk about the parental load and more.

Start today

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