This post is for my husband. Before I can talk about how we share parenting responsibilities, I need to talk about how we share our lives and general life responsibilities. Some of the easy stuff before diving into life with kids. I could not live the life I live; work, kids, fitness, this blog, time to be me, if I did not have a partner equally invested in our relationship and family. He is half the reason I have the life I do and can do all the things I want do.
So how do we do it? As anyone can tell you, building a strong relationship takes work; maintaining a strong relationship with toddlers takes even more work. A lot of it is emotional work; being vulnerable when you don’t want to be, actually asking for help when you need it.
We are no where near perfect and we recognize it. We are both working on our own stuff. There are days, weeks, even months where we fall short. But we both recover because we are invested and we know we can.
We did pre-marital counseling. Learning how we communicate, what triggers each other, and how we handle stress has been invaluable. Communication (even if it is yelling to be heard over the kids inventing musical instruments) is the key. If something does come up, we can reach out to someone and work through it together. We are both invested in this life together.
Let’s start with something small, keeping the house tidy. I’ll be the first to tell you my husband rocks at this. He does the laundry and the dishes, he vacuums and sweeps. So what do I do; seemingly nothing. I love being outside so I usually do the lawn mowing, weeding, raking – most of the outside tasks. I often take the kids out of the house on the weekends so he can blast inappropriate music, have the house to himself and tidy. We know what we like and we respect the work each of us does.
This next part is key – there are weekends over the summer when I am exhausted and the thought of mowing overwhelms me. I could be passive aggressive and complain about how much I have to do and how tired I am and how I don’t want to mow the lawn (#truth, I did this last summer). Or I could just tell my husband that I’m tired and ask if he could help me this weekend and mow the front (his preferred yard) and then I’ll mow the back (#truth, also did this last summer, it went much better). There are weekends when my husband, a night owl, just needs to sleep in. Know your partner and allow them to be themselves. There are days when the dishes pile up and we talk in the kitchen or listen to a podcast while doing dishes together. Yes, there are things that each of us are responsible for, but we both own them together and help each other.
Let your partner know how you are feeling. Sounds easy, but it can be hard, at least for me, to admit I need help (especially when I appreciate and know how much my husband does). It can be hard to be vulnerable and just let my husband know I’m feeling shitty for no apparent reason. Trust me it helps him to know where I’m coming from, even if it’s not a good place, and that it has nothing to do with him or the kids.
Your partner can’t help you if you don’t let them know that you need help.
I project manage our family life. I make all the appointments, take my kids to their activities, etc. My strength besides yardwork is organizing, planning and optimizing. My husband appreciates my systems; I could see how my systems could drive someone else nuts but it’s part of how we fit together. (This post is a good example.) Thankfully my husband recognizes while this is not a lot of work physically or timewise it does take a lot of mental work to manage four people’s lives (I am a list and google calendar queen).
Recognize and appreciate your partner’s contributions, even if it seems like something that comes easy to them.
The split isn’t always going to be 50/50 and that is great. Each person in the relationship has different needs and abilities at different points in your lives. Realize where your partner is right now and what they need right now. Recognize that your partner might have more of an emotional burden with work or their family and appreciate what they are doing now.
Take time to sit with your partner and ask them what they feel like their strengths are. What do they love doing? What do they hate doing? Tell your partner what you want help with. Sometimes your partner is doing more than you realize and having an open conversation about it allows you to recognize and appreciate their hidden contributions (hello cleaning fairy). Note: If you are the cleaning fairy type, and unhappy with that role, just STOP.