Unfair childcare burdens: ask the expert

Both my partner and I work full-time, but I do most of the childcare organisation. At work I am expected to say it is a level playing field. This creates tension at home, but I can’t afford to go part time. What can I do?

It is important here to work out exactly what your feelings are towards your husband. Do you, for example, feel resentment because you are doing the lion’s share of the childcare arrangements and he is getting more time off outside of work. Do you feel frustration at him as he doesn’t seem to appreciate all the ‘extras’ outside of work that you take responsibility for? It may even be jealousy as it has been assumed that his career is more important than yours? Do you feel he is being sexist in expecting you to take charge of the domestic jobs as well as working full-time? Do you feel you are treated equally at work but not at home?

So, the first thing is to work out exactly what you are angry about. Then, work out exactly what you would like to change. Given the choice, some women actually prefer to take control of arranging childcare etc, but in exchange would like their partner, or someone else to take charge of, e.g. paying bills, organising the supermarket shop.  Or they simply want to be appreciated, and have their partner acknowledge how much they have on their plate, and offer to help out by doing a job or two to ease their load.
Some couples have all the domestic duties ‘officially’ shared out – or some have just fallen into a pattern. Many mums become martyrs and begrudgingly do everything themselves – I am not saying this is true in your case – but have a think about how you are communicating your feelings about this issue.
Whatever the situation, if it’s not working for one of you, and the relationship is suffering, then open communication is essential.
Here are some tips:

– Don’t assume he knows exactly how you feel, or expect him to guess – what may seem obvious to you, may not have been correctly interpreted by him;

– Explain clearly and as unemotionally as possible how you feel and don’t bring blame into it – e.g.  “I am finding that taking charge of all the domestic jobs after work is making me exhausted and I can see that our relationship is suffering”.

– Make a specific request of him – e.g. “The only way I can arrange childcare for the holidays is if you take responsibility for the food shopping and arrange the car’s MOT which runs out at the end of the month”. Don’t just say “I need more help”.

– Make sure if you ask him to help out, that you’re prepared for the possibility that he may do it differently to you – i.e. slower, not quite as well! Many mums fall into the trap of blaming their husbands for not helping enough, but don’t realise how much they then criticise them for not doing it ‘properly’.

So, explain how you are feeling, and make sure you ask for what would help you the most. It may be best to pick a time when you’re both relaxed – maybe get a babysitter and go out for a drink and approach the issue away from the house. Most importantly, it’s great that you’re aware of what’s going on. Keeping your relationship solid and healthy is the most important thing for your family.

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