Moms Get Liberated: My Method for Taking Women from “She-fault” Parent to Supported Partner
If you are a career mom who feels disempowered by the inequities within your household, this article will show you why and help you start creating a new reality.
I begin with my own story of frustration and transformation.
I thought I’d be liberated by leaving the kids at home while I went to work, but I only felt crushed by double the responsibilities.
In 2015, I was a mother of two young daughters, ages 6 and 3. My husband, Aaron, and I worked together as co-founders of a thriving Chicago real estate company. I had two very full-time jobs, as working mothers do. I was a career woman and a housewife at the same time.
I lived in the suburbs and commuted to my office in the city every weekday. I put in a full day’s work building and managing a company and returned home to parent my daughters and run my household.
We had a nanny, and my parents lived around the corner, so there were always extra hands to help. However, even with all the assistance, I was still responsible for keeping everything running - grocery shopping, making dinner, doctor appointments, school forms, extra-curricular sign-ups, play dates, birthday parties, and presents.
I wanted to believe I was a super mom, but in reality, I was frazzled, exhausted, and stretched way too thin.
I was also very resentful towards my husband.
We were business partners and equal in our professional life, but when we were home, the dynamic shifted, and I silently took on the majority of the domestic responsibilities.
Society’s expectations of women had assigned me the unpaid labor and invisible work I was frantically trying to keep up with. Before I could do anything for myself, I felt like I needed to do everything for everyone else first. My massive to-do list would keep me up at night. The irony was the list was never done and continued to grow with every new request from my family.
Around this time, I read a Huffington Post article about a woman who was burnt out from working full-time and taking care of everything at home. She dubbed herself the “she-fault parent” - the female parent responsible for the family’s emotional, physical, and logistical needs.
The article didn’t have any solutions, but it did an excellent job summarizing how I felt. I shared it on my Facebook page and immediately got reactions from my network of working moms. The article resonated with them too.
I also shared the article with Aaron. After reading the article, Aaron had a better understanding of how I felt, and it was the first step in bringing awareness to our uneven roles in our household.
The Huffington Post article showed me I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling in my role as the she-fault parent. I’m a natural-born problem solver, and I felt sure I could change my current experience.
With my newfound awareness, I began to assess. I enjoyed my career and leaving the workforce would not make me happy. I couldn’t continue feeling crushed by my double duties. So the way I managed my home would have to change.
I envisioned a life where I did less of the chores around the house. I delegated and outsourced some household responsibilities to my nanny, such as laundry and running minor errands. I tapped into other services, like Instacart delivery, so I wasn’t spending my precious free time at the grocery store.
These small changes helped ease some of the load, but something was still bothering me at my core. It was my husband. He said he wanted to help; I just had to tell him what to do. But I didn’t want to tell him what to do. I also didn’t know how to ask him for help without feeling like I was nagging or dissatisfied with how he went about executing my requests.
I would ask Aaron multiple times to refill the paper towels. Then the new paper towel roll would appear next to the empty paper towel holder. Why couldn’t it make it on? Why did I have to complete the final step of this simple task? Same with clearing the dishes. They made it next to the sink but never in the dishwasher without me asking.
When I explored my feelings, I discovered it wasn’t really about the paper towels or the dishes. Although my husband did not intend for this, his incomplete actions sent me the message my time was not as valuable as his.
While my marriage was solid and Aaron and I have good communication, I could see how this imbalance in a relationship could be detrimental to a marriage.
In 2019, the October selection for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club was Fair Play by Eve Rodsky. The description for the book was as follows:
“A game-changing solution for when you have too much to do (and more life to live).”
Rodsky promised the book’s techniques would rebalance my home life, reignite my relationship with my husband and reclaim my time to develop skills and passions.
I bought the book and read it within a week. The book teaches you a time-saving system for couples to divide up domestic responsibilities. I was ready to sit down with Aaron to play the book’s game and get us on the same page by the following weekend.
The book gave us a foundation to start a conversation about what needed to change. The conversation evolved into an operating system for our home. The system took work off my plate, gave Aaron clearly defined accountabilities, and even provided us the opportunity to declare together things we were going to stop doing (bye-bye yearly holiday cards!).
We now know who is responsible for what within our family (i.e., he takes care of all pet-related tasks, while I’m responsible for the kid’s extra-curricular activities). The goal is we don’t ever have to worry about anything when the other person holds the responsibility. Of course, this means you have to surrender “your way” of doing things, which takes some practice, but it’s very freeing once you get the hang of it.
This system has worked for us for the last several years.
Aaron’s engagement created more equity within our home, which gave me a path to more freedom in my life to do things that were important to me. Spending time doing something I loved also reconnected me to the version of myself that was not a mother or a wife. I see this transformation as a fundamental turning point in our relationship and my ability to thrive as a working mom.
My Breakthrough to Share with You
Upon reflection of my experience, I see how achieving more equity at home spread to other areas of my life and wholly empowered me. Once I felt the genuine support of my partner and experienced more balance in my home, I became liberated.
What does it mean to get liberated?
The unequal division of labor in the home is oppressive to women and holds us back personally and professionally. When a woman submits to the ideology she must be in service to her family from the minute she wakes up to when she goes to bed, she puts herself and her needs last. She does what she feels has to be done, not what she desires. The never-ending invisible work dims her shining light, and she loses her identity.
She is liberated when she rejects the concept that women are solely responsible for running the home and instead engages her partner’s support in a meaningful way. This new freedom allows her to co-create a beautiful family dynamic where both she and her partner feel valued and fulfilled. She models for her children what a modern family and household looks like and breaks the cycle of imbalance for the next generation.
10 Essential Mindset Shifts for Your Liberation
We have deeply internalized messages about a woman’s role within her family. As a first step towards bringing more equity into your home, it’s essential to change your way of thinking, starting with how you personally think about motherhood, family dynamics, and your relationship with your partner.
If you want to rebalance your home life, raise your family in the name of equality, and gain more personal freedom, I invite you to shift your mindset.
I have created a guide with my ten essential mindset shifts, plus journal prompts to help you further explore and start making changes in your life.
Facing the inequities in your home is an uncomfortable and emotional experience. Both you and your partner will be resistant at times. However, from doing this myself, I can offer this perspective, when you defy social norms and expectations of what being a wife, mother, and woman means and rebalance your life, you will deepen your relationship with yourself, and your partner, and your children. When a mom gets liberated, her life completely transforms, and her whole family thrives.
My passion is to empower women to achieve more equality. We can’t have more equality until we have more equity in our own homes.