Episode 126
Episode 126: The Unseen Load of the Default Parent
Show Notes

The Unseen Load of the Default Parent

+ how to make it lighter // If you have a partner in parenting, chances are you two divide the labor—but is it equal? How much of the small details (making the appointments, soothing the hurts and bad dreams, keeping up with bake sales and family calendars) fall to one parent? And did you decide on that labor, or did it kind of just . . . fall to one parent? Emily shares research and her own experience in how the unseen load of being the default parent has affected her life, her motherhood, and her partnership. And, most importantly, she shares how partners can work together to create a shared vision for their family that allows every family member to flourish—including how to relieve some burden from the parent who's been bearing the brunt of the load.

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How to Reevaluate Your Parenting Load—and Shift It, If You Need 

Check in with yourself. 

How are you feeling right now? If you’re burned out, what’s led you here? This is where I’ve found doing a brain dump is super helpful. Not only do you get your feelings out, but you can see everything you’re dealing with on paper. And like we talked about back in episode 82, writing something down works a different part of your brain—a helpful part, one connected to long-term learning and memory. You do some good thinking when you write things down.

Talk to your partner about your experience. 

Oooh, I know this is tricky. But sis, if you’re feeling burned out, then guess what? You’re in SOS mode. You need some help, period.

The where and when of this conversation can feel a little tricky. When you’re at the point of burnout, it’s hard not to feel like you’re on edge. This is when going back to suggestion number 1 and doing a brain dump first can feel a little helpful. It can help you organize your thoughts and feelings so you not only feel a little calmer when you talk to your partner, but you can also have some tangible suggestions and possible solutions when you chat. That can go a long way in remembering that you two are partners in parenthood. And you’re in this together.

Talk about a vision you share for your family—and how each of you is going to contribute in executing this vision.

When you talk to your partner, team up to create a new way forward that works better for your family, one that helps you share the load a bit. Talk about your goals for yourselves and for your children. What do you want them to see about what it means to be in a healthy partnership with someone, and how you take care of your family?

Then, think about the kinds of tasks you do that you’d love help with. Nothing is too small here—this is where good communication comes in. Eve Rodsky talked about writing these kinds of tasks onto index cards, and literally dividing them between you. Anything you can do to decide, “X is in charge of this, Y is in charge of that,” the better you’ll start to feel.

Let go of perfect—or at least how you’d do it—and trust your partner to get the job done.

Listen, trusting your partner here is huge. As a classic over-functioner, this is my struggle. If something isn’t the done exactly the way I would do it, sometimes my first impulse is to say, “No, do it like this!”

But guess what? My way isn’t the right way. It’s just one way to do it. Trust that your partner is an adult who can do what is asked of them. And when they step into this new area, praise them for their effort and thank them.

Keep flexing according to your family’s needs.

There’s no exact science to this. Every so often, maybe once a month or quarter, check in with yourself to see how your mental health is doing. Check in with your partner to see how they’re doing with their new responsibilities. Adjust if you need to. Allow yourself this flexibility so that you can stay positive and working together as a team.

A Blessing for Your Week

When you’re overwhelmed, I hope you’ll ask for help.

Remember to honor yourself and what you need as you care for others.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

And remember that what works for one family may not work for yours,

And that’s more than okay.

Your job is to honor yourself and your loved ones, the best way you know how.

Simplicity Tip of the Week

If you don’t have one already, set up a shared family calendar. As you divvy up responsibilities, it'll be so much easier to see what the priorities are for your family, and make it easier to communicate who’s doing school pickups and handling orthodontist appointments and drop offs for soccer practice.

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