Q The division of labour in our house since the lockdown has been really unfair. My husband is busier than ever and is working 50/60-hour weeks. I work for myself so have scaled back as the first few weeks were unbearable when we were trying to both work full-time with our two kids - a two-year-old and a seven-year-old. I am so angry about the fact that all the domestic work is entirely on my shoulders and if I bring it up with my husband he gets angry, as he says there is nothing he can do about it. I feel like my career has been diminishing since we had kids and this is just the icing on the cake.
A There's no perfect answer to this situation, as right now isn't ideal. How can two adults juggle even more roles that probably had you at full capacity PC (pre-Covid)? With your husband working up to 60 hours a week and you trying to manage a business, it is understandable that you had to park your business. Understandable, but that doesn't make it palatable.
Maybe what's required is a phased plan to get you out of this. A clear plan can only come when you can identify clearly your frustrations and what is not working to identify what you do want. Break this into headings of yourself, being a parent, your relationship, family life, work and friends. There may be subheadings like health, rest, fun, time and less fun activities like housework and homework. A lockdown challenge that sets and creates boundaries for a life that has breathing space.
The lingering feeling here is one of unfairness, gender inequality and not feeling valued. Housework is one of the weirdest oxymorons of them all, it is unfortunately visible and yet so much is invisible and undervalued, not just within the home but at a societal level. This carries a huge toll and a loss. There is a real cost to yourself, your relationship, your family and within society.
As we are not just talking housework here, the real toll of the unequal burden is emotional labour.
This equates to all the other invisible work you do that is so hard to quantify and measure but the sum of all its parts lead to feelings of frustration and overwhelm, as the switch-off button feels permanently unreachable. Leading so easily into experiencing exhaustion, isolation and burnout. None of which ends well for anyone, least of all you.
It's the mental load of planning, organising, remembering and managing the worries and physical and emotional needs at this time. It can feel petty to list all that you do, and you may be told likewise. But this is where you need to start. Step one, fill out this chore organiser and see if any imbalances in the distribution of chores can be worked upon. For the organiser, see bit.ly/2WM1yRw
You know that your husband is working up to 60 hours. How many hours are you working? Homework is not just for kids right now.
How can you grow or sustain your business if all your time is spent on the invisible labour? The loss of this isn't just financial. It is about your own hopes and dreams.
In the early days of your relationship, it's likely you both discussed your work goals and hopes. It's time to have this conversation again.
It's about exploring together in a collaborative way and re-examining how to make all the roles work in a way that doesn't leave you feeling resentful or disconnected to your work self and who you are.
A purposeful exercise is to ask yourself 'who am I now?'. Is there a frustrated gap? Compare it with who you were before and see what parts you'd like to bring back into your life. Some parts of this compare-and-contrast exercise may surprise you.
Really question what it is that you miss or want more of. How do you want your life to be? Play with these ideas, leave negativity to the side and allow yourself to feel your way through it. Like all plans, it may change, as you figure out what your needs are and how to get them met.
This is incredibly important to your relationship as you look into what it means to be working parents who work collaboratively together.
I don't know how you managed your work day before lockdown.
But with no physical or head space, working with a two-year-old who may give you a chance to have a non-interrupted thought is incredibly challenging.
There is only so much that can get done during nap time. A conversation figuring out when you can get uninterrupted time to work would be a productive chat right now. Again, it may not be feasible right away but looking for balance will help you find it.
Being the mum to two young kids, being teacher, cook, cleaner, disciplinarian, social distance monitor is time hungry work.
This time is a tough one for many, the feelings are here much longer than lockdown see that as the opportunity to come together to solve a problem that doesn't need to be a perpetual one in your relationship.
My final thought is that life pre-Covid may not have been ideal either. Maybe the time is now to ask: how do you want to live your life?
A re-set of priorities that include more down-time, more quality time and a life that doesn't just sustain you but nourishes you is well worth putting time into now.
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