Fathers and mothers sharing the ‘mental load’

By Ruth Fordyce
Psychologist, The Resilience Centre

There has been quite a bit written recently about the ‘mental load’ carried by mothers. Many mothers now return to the workforce fairly soon after having children, and begin the juggle of part time working (or in some cases full time), as well as what is essentially still a huge role carrying the domestic ‘load’. This includes of course the obvious tasks of housework, cooking, caring for the children and so on – but many women are becoming aware that it’s the ‘mental load’ that is exhausting, as much as the physical tasks that need to be completed.

What do women mean when we refer to this ‘mental load’? We’re talking about things like:
– keeping on top of notes and newsletters from school/childcare
– tracking important dates each week and month, anything from when the vaccinations are due, to what day of the week the library books need to be returned
– buying birthday presents for parties your children have been invited to
– thinking ahead to the next stage in your child’s development … What do we need to start the baby on solids? When should we try toilet training? We need new school shoes soon (again!) … and so on, and so on!

When women return to work after having children, it seems there is often an expectation they will continue to manage all of this thinking and planning, rather than it being shared by both parents.
This point is made brilliantly in this post, which went viral earlier this year on social media:

https://english.emmaclit.com/2017/05/20/you-shouldve-asked

It highlights so effectively that when fathers expect to be delegated to, or offer to ‘help’ around the house or with the children, this implies that the mother is in charge of the domestic duties, not him. This doesn’t reflect the equal partnership that many women are wanting in their family life – and indeed that many fathers would also say they aspire to!

So how do we get fathers more involved? Certainly in my local neighborhood I see a lot of dads involved at least in the drop off and pick up at childcare and school. When I went to the Easter and Book week parades at our primary school this year, there were lots of dads in attendance too. Does this indicate simply a willingness to attend specific events or complete particular tasks in the weekly routine – or does it also reflect that some dads do spend a lot of time thinking about and planning family life, and are willing to shape their working life (at least somewhat) around prioritizing involvement with their children?

And where are the dads’ voices in this? Most of the articles and posts I have read on this topic are the thoughts of women (see one exception below). So I thought perhaps enough from me, as yet another woman writing on this topic! Why not try and start a conversation with some families where Dad IS involved in the planning level of family life; who is sharing the ‘mental load’, if you will.

Is this you? Are you a dad who shares the mental load?

(and does your wife/partner agree that you share the load?!)
How have you implemented this? Have you been this involved from the very beginning or has it evolved over time?
What are your tips for other families who want to make this happen?
What are the challenges that dads face, that might block them from being a more equal partner in the planning and managing of family life?

For example, here are the thoughts of one dad:
https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2017/05/how-to-share-the-mental-load-of-chores-with-your-partner/

If you are a mother reading this, encourage your partner to respond or have a conversation about it and give us some feedback!

 

Ruth Fordyce is a Registered Psychologist at The Resilience Centre in Sydney. Find out more about Ruth by clicking here.

Bonding with Your Teenager

Link

 Written by Ivette Moutzouris

I have many parents complain to me that they just feel out of touch with their teenager. It seems that home life with a teenage son or daughter involves providing accommodation, food and transportation for them and sometimes little else!!!

Let me tell you that it is important to continue to bond with them even if you don’t particularly understand their world and believe it or not I have had many teenagers tell me (usually the more challenging ones) that they would like to have a better relationship with their parent(s), even if they express the exact opposite in their behavior!!!!

It’s never too late to start to work on your relationship and it begins with awareness and commitment.

The following is a list of points and challenges that will hopefully encourage you as a parent to be proactive in establishing a better bond.

  • Spend time with your son or daughter. I know it sounds simple but one of the major factors in relationship breakdown that I have seen as a Psychologist/ School Counsellor and as a parent has been the lack of time that we invest into the lives of our precious teenagers. By this I do not mean the occasional family holiday (which is of course great) or the involvement in out of school activities, I mean actually having regular time together where the sole purpose is to allow you to get to know them better and meet them where they are at in their lives. In other words…do you know them, what they feel, what they like, who they hang out with, what their dreams are etc….I think you get the picture. A lot of parents tell me that they just don’t know what to talk about and that’s ok because initially creating a bond will be more about spending time together with few spoken words but a clear message of …. I am putting aside other commitments because I want to spend time with you. Words will come later.
  • Show them that they are important to you. This can be expressed in various ways which include physical affection (e.g. hugs), verbal affection, increased listening and attentiveness, and of course as already mentioned setting aside time for them.
  • It is important to create an environment at home that allows conversation and attention to flow more easily. This means that there needs to be regular times at home when there aren’t any distractions from electronic and entertainment devices. In other words…no TV or phone usage during dinner times. By doing this you are creating the space for conversation to take place and for all family members to be more attentive towards each other.
  • Choose your battles wisely. It doesn’t help any relationship if there is always arguing and bickering. It is therefore important to think through what is not negotiable versus what you can let go or at least make less of a fuss about. Your teenager will be able to have a better relationship with you if they aren’t always expecting conversation to be negative and heated!
  • Notice the ‘exceptions’. If you have a particularly challenging teenager it is helpful for them and for you to notice and praise them when they are actually doing something good or acting in a mature way. Everyone loves to feel good about themselves and children/teenagers need to feel valued by their parents.
  • Use words that build up rather than words that tear down. By this I mean be encouraging and don’t call your teenage son or daughter any negative names. Unfortunately I have had a lot of teens tell me the names their parents call them…they include ‘stupid’,  ‘dumb’, ‘fat’, ‘bad’ and so on. I think that as adults we don’t like to be called any of these names so we shouldn’t do that to our impressionable young kids. They often have a sensitive self- esteem and need time to develop the maturity to feel good about themselves regardless of what others say. Also they get enough name calling from social networking posts….and we have seen how hurtful and damaging that can be.
  • Love their uniqueness. Sometimes this can be a challenge but it is important to value their differences as young people.

 

This is just a short list to get you started and hopefully encourage you to see the value in helping your young one to develop into a mature young adult. And hopefully an adult that has a relationship with mum and/or dad!!

 

By Ivette Moutzouris

Generalist Psychologist

Alpha Psychology and the Resilience Centre

*For additional information on understanding your teenager better look up www.andrewfuller.com.au