Balance Parenting Responsibilities: Increase Equity and Decrease Resentment

By: Kristen Lipari, Ph.D. | April 12, 2024

Many women in their 30’s grew up observing traditional gender roles, when women primarily managed child-rearing responsibilities and “kept the home,” while men worked outside the home to provide financial stability. Over the years gender roles have changed and women have more opportunities to advance their careers. Despite this significant evolution, women with careers who are also mothers still bear the majority share of childrearing and household duties. Women are “empowered” to “do it all,” which is encouraging in theory, yet creates unreasonable expectations that lead to burnout and a negative impact on the family.

In the modern family dynamic, women often bear the mental load—the invisible burden of planning and organizing household and parenting tasks. The unequal distribution of both visible and invisible labor results in increased stress, imbalance in relationships, resentment, and diminished intimacy. Addressing this requires partners to actively support each other by sharing the load.

Sharing responsibilities with your partner involves doing more than what is asked. It requires a mindset shift—a commitment to be aware of the myriad of parenting and household responsibilities, think independently, and complete tasks from start to finish.

By actively participating in awareness, planning, and execution of shared responsibilities, partners can support each other and alleviate relationship tension caused by feeling unsupported.

Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately partners typically address this discrepancy when their emotions are charged, frustrations are high, and they’ve already hit a wall. This leads to tense arguments that go nowhere. To properly address this discrepancy, use compassionate self-talk and communicate your needs before tensions escalate. When you address your partner in a calm state, your message is received well, your partner does not get defensive, and they can better empathize with your plight.

How to Engage Your Partner

Follow the steps below to learn how to call your partner in to share the load of responsibilities instead of calling them out for not taking on their fair share:

1. Choose the Right Time and Setting

Timing is crucial when initiating a conversation about redistributing household and parenting tasks. Pick a moment when both of you are relatively calm and can engage in a thoughtful discussion. Check-in with your partner and ask them “Is this a good time to talk?” Consider scheduling a time when you can create a comfortable environment that is free from distractions, at a time when you are not rushed, and when you can talk openly and honestly.

2. Express Your Feelings and Needs

Begin by sharing your feelings and needs using “I” statements. Express how the current distribution of tasks overwhelms you and affects your well-being. Avoid accusatory language and instead focus on your emotions and experiences. For example, say, “I’ve been feeling stressed and exhausted lately, and I need us to find a more balanced way to share responsibilities.”

3. Frame It as a Team Effort

Emphasize that you view your relationship as a team and that you each play essential roles in maintaining a functional household. Use inclusive language to foster a sense of shared responsibility. For instance, say, “I believe we can work together as a team to ensure that both of us feel supported and that our home is a place of shared responsibility.”

4. Highlight the Benefits of Shared Responsibilities

Instead of focusing solely on the current imbalance, emphasize the positive outcomes of a balanced distribution of tasks. Stress the potential for a stronger, more harmonious relationship and increased intimacy. Frame the change as an opportunity for growth and mutual support.

5. Propose Specific Changes and Seek Input

Prepare specific suggestions for how tasks can be evenly distributed to foster a collaborative effort. Ask your partner for their input and ideas to move the discussion toward practical solutions. For example, suggest, “I think we need to organize our household tasks and parenting responsibilities better. We could create a shared calendar. What do you think?”

Get the Help You Need

When you share the emotional toll that carrying the mental load alone has on you, your partner can begin to see it from your perspective. Men may find it helpful to join the Modern Men’s Group at Therapy Changes to learn more about the mental load and how to challenge traditional gender roles.

Engaging in a meaningful conversation about shared responsibilities with your partner may feel daunting. As challenging as it may be, there are many reasons Why You Should Have Hard Conversations. When you focus on shared goals and collaborate on practical solutions you take an important step towards improving your relationship dynamic.

Effective communication, including expressing your feelings, isn’t easy. If these conversations prove challenging, if you feel stuck, overwhelmed, or not sure where to start, the professional guidance of a San Diego Psychologist can help. Working with a member of our team who is knowledgeable in couples therapy and raising young children will get you on the right path. Your therapist can provide an objective perspective and will facilitate a calm, reasonable, and productive discussion about how to share responsibilities and improve your relationship.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment and get started.



Photo by Lawrence Crayton on Unsplash

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