Menu

The mental load of motherhood: 6 new ways to share parenting duties with your partner

Create a life where you are working with your partner instead of feeling the weight of doing everything.

The mental load of motherhood: 6 new ways to share parenting duties with your partner

It seems to happen out of nowhere... you become the primary caregiver in the family. You're the one who chooses ideas for meals, picks out clothes and dresses the kids and takes them out on errands. You become their go-to parent for questions, ouchies, and so much more.

Before you know it, you feel exhausted and depleted, and you are wondering how this came to be. You wonder if biology had anything to do with your mental load or if this was society's influence on traditional masculine and feminine roles. You wonder how your egalitarian relationship took a turn once you had a child.

Many relationships continue in this way. Parents feel exhaustion and perhaps resentment, due to a lack of equanimity in the relationship.

But it doesn't have to stay like this. You can take some steps towards the life you pictured having. A life where you are working with your partner instead of feeling the weight of doing everything.

Consider all of the suggestions below and reflect on what works for you and your family.

1. Review your expectations

Look back at your relationship with your partner—what was it that you first appreciated? Really consider what brought the two of you together and remember why you chose the person you did to create a life together. Feeling overwhelmed and depleted by the responsibilities of parenting, particularly when it seems so unequal can make us forget these qualities and even resent our partner.

What did you expect in a parenting relationship? And how were these established?

Before becoming a parent, we often envision the beauty in it. Although there is much beauty, there is a lot of hard work that we often overlook in discussing with our partner. Most of us do not discuss details of who is going to do what because we cannot account for all of it. But it is never too late to collaborate together on your parenting adventure. Just as our children are forever growing, we are, too.

What surprises came along the way when your child was actually brought into the relationship?

You might not have considered what it would be like to take care of a sick child while being sick too and your partner is across the country for work…who would have? But the reality is things like this happen and we need to find ways to work through them together. It is doable.

It is important to take the time to answer these questions so that we can shift away from simply blaming or resenting our partner and make steps towards feeling a desire to collaborate and work with our partner.

2. Explore new roles

Rather than assuming we know why our partner has taken a "backseat" in parenting, or even assuming that they have taken a backseat, to begin with, it is helpful to explore how they feel as a parent. This can easily be done by asking them what they view to be the difficulties of being a parent, what took them by surprise, what scares them, and what they enjoy most about being a parent.

Being curious about our partner's perspective can help us widen our lens from which we see the issues that we are having in working collaboratively with our partner. Sometimes couples find that there is a lot of worry within their partner and that this has been a barrier to them participating more in the parenting. Often times family history comes into play and this influences each parents' style and participation.

It is also beneficial to explore how your role as the primary caregiver has come to be. Sometimes one parent has had more experience caring for children and just takes the driver's seat without even realizing.

Considering how society teaches and reinforces traditional roles may also help explain why this issue is so commonplace among couples and how this has lasted for many generations. Much of what our environment shows us becomes automatic for us. It is only with awareness that we can create changes.

3. Share how you're feeling

Sharing your experience and your wishes through kindly communicating it to one another can help open doors. The moment we come from a place of resentment and anger, however, we are closing our doors (at least at that moment).

No one wants to feel blame for things and as mentioned before, the issues are across many households and many generations, so blaming would be counterproductive. Remember, this pattern where one parent takes the lead is not typically a conscious decision. So in sharing with our partner in a calm manner that we are shifting the decisions from being unconscious to conscious.

When discussing such an important issue, it is incredibly important to set the time aside to have the discussion. Trying to catch your partner when they have a second would not be fair to either one of you and can backfire. So make sure to let them know you have some things you would like to discuss to improve your parenting/relationship together and schedule it. Actually scheduling the time makes a difference because you are creating a space dedicated to having a full discussion. In making time, you can begin making positive changes together.

4. Take it one step at a time

Sometimes the "secondary parent" (for lack of a better word) might feel fearful of doing things wrong, so much so that it prevents them from being an active participant in parenting. Of course, primary caregivers often have to work through these fears too when first becoming a parent. But think of the months or years you have now been in the driver's seat, and how there are many aspects of parenting that have become easier to you. For the parent who has been less involved to start taking more of an initiative will take time. This is a process and patience is key.

Think of those simple things, like knowing which shoes your child should use for bike rides or which toothpaste your child prefers. Talk with your partner about what steps they are feeling comfortable to take towards being more involved and how comfortable they are with taking on some less comfortable aspects of parenting.

Baby steps could be being left home alone for the first time for one hour or it can be taking your child on a two-day trip.

5. Give your partner grace

Once our partner is taking more of an initiative, it can be tempting to want to help your partner in doing things "right" because you know from experience what works best. But intervening takes away from boosting your partner's confidence in parenting. And remember that with parenting there are very few things that are "right"—much of it becomes about preference and the key to parenting is really attuning to our child's needs.

6. Trust that they know how to parent—even if it's not how you would

Remember that your child will communicate to the other parent, just as they have with you. Whether this is through crying or words, it is important to allow your partner to respond rather than stepping in right away. Sitting back and watching the process can actually help you trust your partner more, feel more at ease about being in the backseat as a parent at times, and can help your child experience a bit more of each of you.

No two households are identical, although we share many of the same experiences. Always remember that parenting is a journey for each one of you and if your paths have strayed from one another there can still be an opportunity for you to walk towards each other. Continue to be aware of yourself and communicate kindly with your partner. You will be amazed by where this path will lead.

You might also like:

14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

Keep reading Show less
Life