This isn’t how you expecting being a mum to be. You feel like it’s all left to you and your husband is not pulling his weight. You’ve tried talking about it and got nowhere. But you don’t want to carry on feeling like you’re virtually a single mum – you want to work out how to work together as a team. And for your husband to be the hands on dad you imagined he would be when you decided to start a family.
Sound familiar? Then I’d love to share with you some practical steps you can try so you can shift the parenting balance in your marriage.
But first you might be interested to understand more about why this has happened. Because when you understand why something is the way it is, it can make it easier to make changes. This blog will explain this for you Why doesn’t my husband help out with the children?
Recognise your different strengths
Nature gave mums and dads have different skills and strengths when it comes to parenting. Mums are nurturing and dads are playful. So this can mean that we do different things well. And that dads don’t find the bits of parenting we do well as easy as us.
So this means you can’t judge our husband’s parenting skills by your standards. He’s not as naturally nurturing as you are. There will be aspects of parenting that he finds difficult.
And it’s important to remember that your children need both styles of parenting. It’s OK to have one parent to go when you are upset and a different one when you want to play a game of footie.
I get that this can feel like your husband gets all the fun bits and you get to deal with all the tricky stuff. But when you can recognise that you have different strengths you can use them to your advantage. And stop judging your husband’s parenting attempts by your standards – there will be things you find easy to do which he simply finds more tricky.
Let him take some responsibility
Rather than taking responsibility for everyone and asking your husband for help with parenting tasks, ask him to take responsibility for a regular activity. This could be bathtime and bed time story, playing at the end of the school day, or taking them to the park on a Saturday morning.
A good way to start this conversation with your husband is to offer him a choice of activities and ask him which one he would like to take responsibility for. Rather than asking him what he wants to do.
The important thing to remember is that you are asking for him to take responsibility rather than asking for help. When you ask for help you’re giving signals that you still have responsibility for everything (and I guess you want to change that).
This doesn’t have to mean that he gets to do all the fun stuff and leaves you with the more mundane tasks. Or that you do tag team parenting. You could use this as an opportunity to play to his strengths by asking him to plan a fun activity for each weekend that you can then enjoy together as a family.
Leave him to it
This step is really important – to stand back and let him get on with it. Which can be really hard to do.
Because he will do it differently than you. And you may not like the way he is doing it.
But if you hover, give him feedback or tell him what he is doing is wrong, then he’s very unlikely to carry on taking responsibility. And the status quo will remain (which is not what you want).
So this means swallowing all your thoughts, keeping stum and leaving him to it. As long as he is not doing anything dangerous it is up to him how or what he does, because this is his area of responsibility.
It can also be helpful to remember that he is parent to your children too. And there is no one right way of parenting children. In fact children benefit from receiving slightly different things from each parent, in line with their respective strengths.
Make time for your marriage
Now I get that this can be hard to do too. Because when you’re juggling jobs, running a home and being parents, it can be difficult to make time for your marriage. Date nights are hard to arrange and make time for. And it’s easy to just slump in front of the TV at the end of a hard day.
However, your marriage does need attention too. And for you to spend time together being a couple rather than two co-workers who just happen to live together.
A great way to do this is to have a 10 minute conversation each day. Chat about what your day has been like, what’s made you laugh or smile, what you’re enjoyed or been proud. This is not a time to go through the to-do list or tackle niggles. This is time to be a couple and chat about your day. So you can reconnect and feel that there is life outside of being parents and running a home. Because when your husband feels more connected to you, he’s going to be more likely to play an equal role in being a parent and the other responsibilities of life.
You should now have some ideas about practical steps you can put into practice so that you can get more help from your husband with the children.
If you’re looking for support to improve your marriage, check out Making My Marriage Work