The Science of Parenting

How to Find Balance | S. 2 Ep. 4

July 09, 2020 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 2 Episode 4
The Science of Parenting
How to Find Balance | S. 2 Ep. 4
Show Notes Transcript

Discover these three strategies for learning how to find the right household balance for today—and tomorrow.

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This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext

Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast, where we reconnect you with research based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks, and I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Hayungs:

And I'm Lori Hayungs. And I have three children all in different life stages. One's launched. One is in college and one is still in high school. And today we are going to talk about sharing the parenting load.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And when we think of, and our theme in season two has been on finding joy and thinking about how we can take care of ourselves, an important part of that and understanding our stress is thinking about how we share the amount of work and the load that's associated with parenting and childcare and housework. So we know that looks a little bit different for each of us.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly.

Mackenzie Johnson:

The one thing we do want to kick off with from the very beginning of the podcast is we know that we have a diverse group of listeners who are parents here. And so whether you're married or dating or cohabiting or single or divorced, a same sex couple, widowed, stay at home, working parents, teen parents, grandparents raising grandkids, or any other kind of experience that you're having, we know that sharing the load looks different for each of us. We're not advocating for a specific way that we think you're supposed to do it. The important message here is that there's a lot of work to go around when it comes to parenting and raising kids. So understand that the importance of sharing the load and the impact that it has on our relationships. Whether you're co-parenting with someone you're in a relationship with or not , just kind of looking at the research and reality here today.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. Thank you. That's really an important message. I appreciate that you put that right out, up front. So my question to you then, Mackenzie, is what are some of the things that are currently part of your parenting reality? You know, what's on your plate?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, we've talked about in previous episode, I have l ittles, right? And so with my little kids, there's a lot of routine care, right? Like the feeding and the diapering a nd the bedtime. And then of course i t's kind of the regular things of taking care of families includes the cooking and the cleaning and the family commitments and the ongoing household projects for me an d w ork. So lots of different things on my plate. What about you and your stage of p a renting r ight now?

Lori Hayungs:

So in my stage of parenting, my workload, the things on my plate are going to be things that involve the schedules of all the people in the house, right? So three different life stages for my children means three different schedules for them and a different schedule for me. I also am currently taking classes, so not only do I have work load, I have course load. And so for us, it's a little bit different. And for us sharing the load means sharing the load between myself and my children. So yeah, we are in different stages. I love it. This is going to be all about different realities, for sure. So I'm going to kick it off here with this first research tidbit and we like to kind of share, you know, a little bit of definition and what are we really talking about upfront? So that's where this one comes from. So one aspect of sharing the load in a family is related to housework, like cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Okay . So we're gonna look at this 2015 Q Foundation survey that found in dual earning parent households, men and women actually disagree on how much household labor they each do. Women often reported more that they do more and men reported that they actually share equally. So in the reality of those research measures, women actually tended to do more , like 10 more hours a week more of household when they shared it with a male partner. Now this isn't gender bashing, we're just sharing some research here. And remember McKenzie share that, you know, we have a lot of different family makeups and so what we're talking about here is how do we figure out that load based on our own reality?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And so that research and actually research over several decades has shown in heteronormative couples that women tend to do more housework, but I think even more important is that disagreement and the perception, right? That one partner thinks that it's equal and one partner feels like they're doing more. And again, our job is to share the research and reality. The research has been telling us for decades that this seems to hold true across the trend. This may or may not align with your own reality. Exactly . So that's what the research has been telling us is this difference in that perception.

Lori Hayungs:

And honestly, it's worth noting that that difference in how couples report they share the work with, you know, like you said, women saying their part, they do more than their partner and men saying it's equal. It's all about that perception because we've talked about this before. Right? My perception is my reality. So we perceive things differently. We perceive things individually. It's very personal to us. And so it actually is my reality, how I perceive things. So , you have another tidbit for us on research, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I do. And specifically about this perception and why it's important. So Voydanoff and Donnelly tell us that the division of chores, along with each partner's perceptions of that allocation of work, affects wellbeing as well as couple dissolution rates. So wellbeing as well as the couple dissolution.

Lori Hayungs:

So how families split up the load as well as how they feel about the fairness of that splitting up of the load actually affects the quality of the relationships and the wellbeing of the family members, right? So this is a big deal. Sometimes we think that the disagreements on who does what is minor or insignificant, but research is actually telling us that it has a big impact on our relationship with each other, each individual in the family. And sometimes we might look at parenting as just being about the children, but it's actually this cooperative co-parenting, that is really important. And it's a key component of parenting.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. It's one piece of this bigger puzzle, right? And as we think of sharing the load, you know, we've talked about topics like navigating meltdowns or navigating stress , you know, understanding how to use research and reality to inform your parenting decisions. Again, this sharing the load and this aspect of co-parenting, it's one of the components of what's the whole picture of parenting, right?

Lori Hayungs:

So I have another research tidbit. I know we like to get the strategies and hang with us, we're getting to those. W e h ave one more research tidbit to go through. And that is how important wellbeing and relationship satisfaction is. So it's not just about how much each person is doing. but I'm g onna read it first. So it's by Baxter. And it tells us that perceptions of fairness i n sharing the load depend on the type of tasks performed by the partners. So this suggests that what is being done and not necessarily how much actually serves to kind of shape those perceptions of fairness. And this to me was w ay as we walked through, it was, ah, yes, so much. This i s not how much, it's honestly about what is shared.

Mackenzie Johnson:

There are tasks that maybe don't bother me so much or that I enjoy doing. And so, yeah, it's not that I need them to do more of those things. It's that how comfortable are we, how fair does it feel to each of us in terms of which tasks that we're doing? So when we talk about sharing that load of parenting and of household care and those things, and I mean, and honestly those countless tasks, that never ending load , but thinking about how that's shared with, you know, which tasks is something that I can absolutely relate to. In particular, I think of when I was on maternity leave, my co-parent and I kind of settled into this, what felt like a pretty good routine for us in terms of, you know, navigating all of those different tasks. And , well then when I went back to work after maternity leave, all of a sudden it was like, Whoa, we need to find a new balance here. Right. It felt good at that time when I didn't have, you know, X number of hours a day dedicated to work. And so then our balance felt good. But we came to a point where it's , okay, we need to , I kinda want to use the word negotiate, renegotiate, which absolutely makes sense for us. And so, you know, I feel like that's something about parenting and, you know, and cohabiting and all of those things that it's g onna change over time, the load looks different. There's more work to go around when there's more people.

Lori Hayungs:

So you said a really important word there, that negotiating. It implies that there was a conversation, that there was talk around the tasks and the load. So did you have a conversation? Did you negotiate?

Mackenzie Johnson:

We did. To be honest, it started out kind of rough. And part of that, I feel like I came in a little strong , my communication strategies, maybe weren't at my peak, but it did, it came down to that. Yeah. It's not that we weren't each pulling our own weight. It's that there was more work to go around than there had been. Right. When we can added another baby to the mix, there was new things to do. We needed to redistribute that, so that neither of us was in a position of risking burnout, you know, that we had opportunities for taking care of ourselves and navigating our stress. And so it was tricky to start out, but we ended up in a better place. And actually, I think it prevented more conflict down the line. Even though it was tough in the beginning to have that conversation about how it felt unfair at that time down the road, it prevented more conflict, I think.

Lori Hayungs:

So I have a different example about having conversations and how loads change over time. And we really do need to kind of tap back in to that game of workloads are different when situations change. And so , when I became a single parent and it was just me and the girls, we did have to have a conversation about, you know, who was going to do what, and our specific conversation revolved around the dishes. And so the idea was that , one child would unload the top rack. Another child would unload the bottom rack. The third child, luckily, you know, she was off at college. So that meant that the dishes were unloaded. And my task was to load the dirty dishes. And so that was a conversation we literally had the three of us together. And interesting situation actually just happened last week when someone noted that there were dirty dishes in the sink and the girls were around and that person said, you know, well, the dishwasher's empty, can't can they put the dishes in the dishwasher? And I said, gosh, you know what, we have this kind of negotiated role of they empty and I put in, so, you know, yeah, absolutely. They probably could, but we already negotiated these roles. And you know, that person said, well, you know, I was just noting that. And I thought, maybe that's a way that they could help you out. And I said, you know what, I kinda like to do this for them. This makes me feel good when I can put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I know it's strange but it's that conversation that negotiated roles and the negotiated task and the load. So in that case, whose load is bigger - mine. Cause I'm loading both racks, right. They're unloading one rack, but it's not the quantity. Like the research said, it's the quality.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. It's which task. And I feel good about loading the dishwasher. Right. That's something I want to do. Like a dorky thing. I don't mind folding all the laundry, like I'll fold all of the laundry. I don't mind that task. So I don't need to negotiate how much folding laundry each of us is doing because I'm okay with that task. And I think you actually bring up a really important point. We didn't pull a research tidbit specific to this, but in a lot of the research around how we divide childcare and household labor, is kind of what the research calls it. But it's sharing the load with your co-parent, with any other people that you live with cohabiting with, with your children, right? That's a part of the research a re o ur kids, depending on their age, can have some developmentally appropriate chores. And so t here there's a wide variety of what your reality looks like when it comes to the amount of work to go around i n that load. For sure.

Lori Hayungs:

So, and I think the key there is that conversation, being willing. Like you were brave enough to have the conversation around the new roles and the new tasks and how you felt. So, okay. So let's look at the strategies. So how do we have strategies here?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Always. And you know I love getting to this, we call this section your reality. So as a listener, you're like, okay, I've learned about sharing the load from the research. What is my strategy going to be, how am I going to approach this? So of course the good news is, is we have ways to share the load. So a 2019 article, which is actually about a book by author Elizabeth Emmons, and it discusses ways that we can address sharing the load. So we're going to look at three strategies in particular. So I'll give you the first one and it's not simple, but it's actually just facing the administrative load. So it's basically putting all the tasks out on the table and taking an honest look. Now I wrote out some of the different categories of things. This could include tasks like childcare, household management, family commitments, pet care, social obligations, leisure activities, and shopping, recognizing all of those pieces and what all fills up your load on your plate. So that's one strategy is recognizing the administrative load.

Lori Hayungs:

It makes me think of the task jar that my parents had for us as children and my sister and I would draw out of the task jar and I would get vacuuming all the time and I just despise vacuuming and she got dusting and we'd have a little conversation about, okay, I'll give you vacuuming if I can have your dusting and your sweeping the kitchen floor. But you know, those are things that we remember as kids, but that's really important to even do as adults is what you're saying is negotiating, putting it all out on the table, right? So here are all the tasks. And I think what you'll find is there might be some tasks that you never thought about the other person having to do. And so when they do them, they might be feeling this perception of man, I always have to do this. And I honestly was clueless that that even existed.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It wasn't even on my radar, it was almost invisible to me that the other person was doing this. So yes, facing that load is one strategy. The second strategy is to simplify your decision making process. Now, I don't want this to sound dismissive in terms of sharing the load, but thinking about, are there ways internally that I can reduce that load , by simplifying the process. Can I do what's convenient instead of maybe what meets my high expectation, right. What's easiest for me, maybe choosing a time or place that's convenient for you or dealing with a request right as it comes in, instead of throwing it on the to do list to come back to, or even things like saying no to those extra commitments you really don't want.

Lori Hayungs:

So I have a question, simplifying your decision making. So does that also come into play with , whether it's not being a perfectionist, if you've given the task to someone else or even something like clarifying expectations, does that come into simplifying your decision making? And I have an example, if I'm on the right track.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Let's hear it.

Lori Hayungs:

Okay. So if I'm on the right track and simplifying your decision making is also about clarifying expectations. So I could have said to the girls , please make sure you empty the dishwasher today. And then I would go and I would go teach at night and I would come home. And the realization that, Oh, mom's home, I have to empty the dishwasher and I'd be, now they emptied it. Now I have to put my dishes in. So my expectation was that they didn't do the task, but actually they did. They just didn't do on my timeline. Right. So to clarify that expectation, I should have said something like, can you have the dishwasher empty by three o'clock when I leave so I can put the dishes in. So when I come home at night after teaching, it's already done. Is that, I mean, is that simplifying it?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I think you're also simplifying in terms of the decision making process, for the people you're with too , right ? The people you're sharing the load with , you know, that you have those expectations, but it's simplified in , this is what I need. Or even the matter of, I don't have to decide how this has to happen right. I don't have to decide how it happens. Right. They can be in charge of that . They can have that leadership of their own. So there is that expectation that tags right along with the simplifying.

Lori Hayungs:

Wait, I still have one more question about it, I gotta wrap my head around this. I'm trying to think in terms of if people have questions. So if the task is mowing the lawn, my simplifying it , I simplify the task by thinking, okay, I don't care which direction they mowed the lawn as long as the lawn is mowed. Got it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Or even they're in charge of mowing the lawn. I don't have to decide when they mow . Right. As long as it's meeting the general expectation that fits the needs of everybody in the household. Right. Right. So sometimes simplifying that way too .

Lori Hayungs:

Yes. Okay. Got it. Okay. Now you can move on.

Mackenzie Johnson:

All right . Number three. And I think this one can be a really hard one, is examining already established patterns. So again, talking about that conversation, taking time with you and the people you're sharing the load with, whether that's a co-parent, whether that's your children, whether that's another caregiver that you work or live with, but taking that time when you're calm to discuss the current patterns you have for addressing childcare, housework and the tasks associated with that. Often times those patterns get established without much thought, right. They just kind of happened over time. An example that I use is, you know, maybe for a long time when they were first together, one person always got home from work earlier. So they cooked supper. Okay. Later they no longer get home from work earlier, but they still cook supper because the pattern was established. But so taking that time, right. You've put all the things on the table, right. We're facing the load and then examining what patterns do we already have? Maybe it's assumed that you'll do this particular task because that's how it started out for whatever reason. And a lot of times these patterns develop over time without, like I said, without that thought. It just all of a sudden, now you're the one in charge of this. And so examining those patterns, slowing down to really take that look and again, having the conversation.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes, definitely. So if you hear yourself saying, well, that's how it's always been. That's a huge warning, light, bells, everything going off, saying put that on the table, put that on the table. That has to be on the table.

Mackenzie Johson:

Yes. I tend to manage our family calendar. That's a task that I tend to do and so I have a way that I've tended to do it. And when you get an invitation to an event or you have an appointment and those kinds of things, and it's like, well , I guess I don't know how I got in charge of that. I never took the time to ask why I do this ? Is that something I still want to do? Who does it make the most sense to do that? But again, gotta put it on the table and examine the pattern. So you can have that conversation.

Lori Hayungs:

Sharing the load, sharing the load. That's what we're sharing the load.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. We think that for part of finding joy, both in parenting and in the relationships that you're in and all of those things, like I said, this is one piece of that puzzle of parenting and finding joy and navigating stress and taking care of ourselves. It's, you know , sharing that load in a way that we can find joy. Right. Those little things add up.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely. Absolutely. OK. Well, I'm ready for the tough question of the day. So let's bring in our producer, Kenzie and we'll have our Stop. Breathe. Talk. moment.

Mackenzie DeJong:

I feel like I'm as nervous to ask you these questions. So welcome to Stop. Breathe. Talk. I'm Mackenzie DeJong, podcast producer and family life specialist , just like these guys. So my question is the fact that we're talking about self care, right? This whole season's around self care. So my question for you two is can you give me one example when you have shifted the load, shifted response abilities so that you can better impact your self care?

Mackenzie Johson:

Oh, so of course I gave the example of kind of renegotiating after maternity leave with my second and when I went back to work. So that was part of it when that affected my self care, because, so I'm going to use that example, but because kind of the pattern we had fallen into was when my husband would get home from work was on maternity leave. I was, here's the baby. Right? And my husband enjoyed that time to bond after being gone all day. And I enjoyed going to do something else. Right. I enjoyed going to cook or clean up a little bit. It was something kind of a different part of the day. And so then when I went back to work, I was trying to do all of the things I had been doing before, which did not like, because I was shoving all of it in along with work, the thing that got shoved out was self care. And so that renegotiating and that sharing the load ultimately gave me that space back instead of trying to do all cooking, cleaning, you know, whatever it was I was doing, gave that little space back so that I could do some self care activities. Awesome.

Lori Hayungs:

Okay. So, I mean, I think that again, we have different life stages, right? So I think that we have probably renegotiated the load, the all task load of laundry in our household. And not that I never do laundry, but that I definitely helped my children figure out how they could do their laundry, because what I wanted to do was go back to school. And so, because I am taking classes, they have taken on that task of making sure that their laundry is in the right place, by the right time. They know how to, we call it flipping the laundry in our house. They know how to move it from the washer to the dryer, out of the clothes basket. So those tasks were renegotiated so that I could take classes. How's that?

Mackenzie DeJong:

Perfect. Okay. That's a wonderful example.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So can I give like a little bit cheesy and l ighthearted one. I love to build things. So if we buy a new bookshelf or I like to assemble, that's what I should say. And so that's something that we kind of I want to be the person who does that in our house. And so it's actually kind of a self care activity to do that myself. Shift the load. So you're the one re sponsible, be cause I want to do that task. Right. Do that. I think that's fun.

Mackenzie DeJong:

You know , it can both ways. It could be, you know, taking something off your plate or adding something on your plate.

Lori Hayungs:

And that's self care because that brings you joy. You know , we talked about that. That things that bring you joy is self care.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Okay. Thank you.

Mackenzie Johnson:

That was almost a stumper.

Lori Hayungs:

Was almost a stumper. You might have to edit out how long it took us to answer that question.

Mackenzie DeJong:

All right . I'll let you go. I'll see you next week.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So sharing the load, you know, we looked at some of the research around what the research is telling us for families, what the trends tend to be and how that perception of sharing the load is really important. We said, rather, you're sharing with the co-parent, someone you're in a couple relationship, t hat you're in with your kids or other caregivers. That reality looks different for each of us, but being able to negotiate because it does affect our relationship quality and wellbeing. So we can start sharing t he l oad a nd having those conversations.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely. So, thanks for joining us today, here at The Science of Parenting. Remember to subscribe to our weekly audio podcasts on Spotify or Apple or your favorite podcast app. You can also watch us on video each week on Facebook and you can even join us when we go live on Facebook.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So come along with us as we tackle the ins and outs, the ups and downs, and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting,

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is a research based education program hosted by Lori Hayungs and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This program is brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity.