Question of the Day: Husband Help
“How can I get my husband to help out more? I feel like all the responsibility is on me. I make more money than my husband, I do more of the parenting, food prep, house cleaning, arranging child care, carpools, you name it, I’m doing it. When I’m not feeling pissy and resentful, I can notice that my husband helps with some things. But most of the time, I’m frustrated that the majority of the parenting burden weighs on my shoulders. What do I need to do to get my husband to step up and take on more responsibility?” Diana
Parent Educator Answer: Getting Husband to Help
If you want your husband to help out more, try these 3 things:
- Be specific and straightforward. Make a list of what you’d like accomplished. Get rid of the idea that he should just know what to do. Set him up for success by asking him to do a specific task (like empty the dishwasher, as opposed to “help out more”).
- Respect his differences. His version of clean may not be the same as yours. That’s ok. He doesn’t “see the mess” the way you do and that’s fine. You’re different people. Allow him to do childcare or chores his way, even if it isn’t up to your standards. Micromanaging will only make him resist helping.
- Show appreciation when he helps. I know it’s not fair, no one thanks you for cleaning the kitchen every day. But if you want your partner to pitch in, tell him how it feels to walk in the laundry room and see all the clothes folded neatly into piles. Express your gratitude at being able to kick your heels up at the end of the day and watch a TV show. Men like to solve problems and rescue. Reward the behavior you want to see more of with words of appreciation and kindness.
Life Coaching Answer:
This is a classic scenario for a Supermom to find themselves in.
Supermoms don’t tend to think of themselves as “super”, they just routinely and unconsciously put on their cape and take care of business. Supermoms do great in school: show them the hoops to jump through and they do it.
They are responsible and reliable and they get rewarded with external praise: good grades, professional accolades, etc. Fulfilling obligations is easy and it seems like the right thing to do.
When we see our partners do things differently, drop the ball, parent imperfectly, forget things or behave inconsistently and we think, “I need to pick up the slack.” It comes so easily to us and we are so invested in doing motherhood right, that we just do it. Before long, we feel like we are holding the world on shoulders, responsible for the lives and well being of many people.
One of the things that bothers me is when I tell people that I’m a life coach for moms who are exhausted, overwhelmed, and resentful and they say, “So, like, every mom.”
NO!!! These are not normal signs of motherhood!
These are signs of caregiver fatigue! Feeling guilty when you take time for yourself is not normal. It’s a sign you are out of balance!
I’m going to guess that you grew up in a culture that encouraged “fulfilling obligations” over “following your bliss”. Whether from parents, religion, schools or the media, you were raised with the idea that there is a ‘right way’ to do things.
Doing things right, fulfilling obligations and taking responsibility was praised and rewarded. You may have had an innate personality that wanted to follow the rules and be of service, but when 90% of your life feels obligatory, it’s time to re-evaluate your habitual way of doing things.
Deviating from Culture and Norm
Deviating from culture is NOT EASY! We worry about what our parents will think, what co-workers and other moms will think, but mostly, we worry about what our own inner martyr will say when we kick up our heels to relax and start prioritizing our own “selfish” wants and desires. That inner martyr is mean, so we’d rather just keep working instead of listening to that mean inner voice.
Deviating from an unhealthy culture is important. Slavery would still be legal if not for a few people who listened to their inner guidance. The culture, the laws, all said slavery was fine. This didn’t sit well with everybody.
Some people felt uncomfortable and they listened to this discomfort. Listening to negative emotions helps improve our culture.
Right now, anxiety and depression are at an all-time high amongst adolescents. There are many signs that our culture is unhealthy. The way to change it is to listen to the internal compass, rather than blindly obey the culture.
If you are like most of my clients, when your husband loads the dishwasher or offers to help arrange the carpool, your critical mind jumps into gear: “He’s not doing it right”, “It’s easier just to do it myself than explain it”, “Why can’t he just do it the way I want”. Because your brain is thinking, “There’s a right way and a wrong way” or “I have to do all the work” we get stuck on proving ourselves right.
Even when you go to your husband crying with exhaustion, and he steps up by grocery shopping or taking the kids out to dinner, it still doesn’t feel like enough.
“Supermom does all the work”
The reason you want your husband to help out more is because of how you WANT to feel. This discomfort with the culture of “Supermom does all the work” isn’t sitting well with you. You want to feel free, valued, supported, and appreciated.
Let’s imagine for a minute that you had a magic wand and you could make your husband do everything you wanted him to do. Can you picture that? He brings you coffee in bed, gets the kids dressed, fed and off to school, he cleans up the kitchen after feeding them a healthy breakfast. How do you imagine you would feel?
Relaxed. Grateful. Appreciated.
This is what you are really yearning for. You think you can only get it by having your husband help out with chores. But these feelings are coming from a thought in your head. What is the thought you would be thinking if you felt relaxed, grateful and appreciated?
This is so nice. I can do what I want. He really loves me.
It’s these thoughts that will give you the feeling you are looking for, regardless of what your husband does or does not do.
You release the burden of obligation by releasing the thoughts: “I have to do everything around here.” “It’s my responsibility” “I have to do it right” “I should do more, be more, etc.”
Once you release these beliefs, you’ll be more fun to be around. Your husband can put on his SuperDAD cape, help out more, and have a wife who is grateful and appreciative of him.
Supermom Kryptonite – Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias means we prove to ourselves what we already believe. When we believe we have to do all the work, we scan our environment looking for all the work that needs to be done, and all the things our husbands aren’t doing.
There are people who believe Trump is a good president and they can find evidence to prove their belief true. There are people who believe he is a terrible president, and they can find evidence to prove themselves correct. What we believe is SO IMPORTANT because it will determine what we experience.
Do you want to believe you do all the work? It might make you feel capable and responsible, but it won’t help your husband step up and contribute. Try believing “My husband likes to help.” This thought will make it easier for you to implement the strategies up above. “My husband appreciates everything I do” will help you feel supported and valued and give you the strength to keep going.
Supermom Powerboost – Focus
Focus is very powerful. What we focus on, expands.
If you focus on how much your husband isn’t doing around the house, you will feel mad and overburdened.
Don’t let your culture choose what you focus on. The U.S. has a strong culture of fear. Every time you turn on the news, you collect evidence to prove we live in a scary place where lots of bad things happen, even though, we live in one of the safest countries, in the safest time in history.
Use your higher, more conscious brain to decide what you’d like more of and then choose to focus your attention on that.
Want to feel more loving? Focus on what you love about your husband.
Want more relaxation? Tell yourself there is nothing you HAVE to do right now and notice how it is always true.
Want to feel more appreciated? Write down a list of things you appreciate about yourself. Invite your family to add to the list. Imagine that your family is so grateful for everything you do and notice how it makes you feel better.
Quote of the Day: “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” George Lucas