Why Your Partner Isn’t Helping More (Control!)

Season 1 Episode 2 of Better Relationships After Baby Podcast

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TLDR Podcast Notes

  • Moms are prone to leading the way with routines, how-tos and expectations in the home
  • Partners often express to me that they fear messing up and being corrected by the mom
  • There are things that need to be controlled for safety, and things (most things) that can be done differently
  • Loosening the grip on control creates a positive cycle for the whole family

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Transcription of this episode:

So today’s burning question and topic is why your partner isn’t helping more, I’ll get right to the answer. But then don’t worry, we’re gonna peel this back like an onion, we’re gonna get down into all the crevices, and figure out why this is happening, what’s being internalized, what’s happening for you what’s happening for your partner, and, of course, some ways that you can improve this and make it better in your relationship.

So the quick and dirty answer is that you are taking all of the control. I know this is a lot to take in, breathe in. And when I first had this revelation, I was like kicking and screaming against it, because I felt so much resistance. When I realized that my desire for control was really impacting what my partner was and wasn’t able to do, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a light bulb moment, but you guys, it was a hard one. And so I want to talk about this today and talk about what is happening for both partners when this is the case.

Now, of course, this is going to be different degrees of severity for people. And for some of you, maybe you’ll feel like this isn’t even relevant. But I find that this is a very, very common case for new parents. And when I talk to new moms, and we peel back some layers, and we figure out what’s happening, this is common, commonly at the core of arguments and resentments. And just the burden of the heavy load of parenting. What I’m talking about, again, is taking on all of the control, the desire for control is common in a lot of us. But this can become even more ramped up after baby. This is highly impacted by things like anxiety, and other Postpartum Mood Disorders. But I think that this is true for many of us, regardless of an outside diagnosis. So I know that this was true for me, and many areas, and many seasons of motherhood. And honestly, it’s something that still comes up and I still have to do some inner work, and work alongside my partner to heal this, to grow through this and to continue to have a stronger relationship.

We have, you know, those first couple of weeks for those who are fortunate enough to have a partner who has parental leave, then often, you know, they’re taking care of birthing mama, they are helping you to have snacks, maybe they’re preparing bottles, they’re cleaning things up, they’re restocking it, they’re getting groceries, they’re taking care of a lot of things while you take care of baby. And this is so good, so good. So needed and so celebrated. For most of us, especially here in the United States, the length of paternal leave, is not quite as long for the non birthing parent as it may be for the birthing parent. And of course, I could go on a whole other tangent about how we do not have adequate parental leave for either parent in the United States. But let’s just assume in this case, that the birthing parent has a longer leave than the non birthing parent giving them more time to be at home with baby so partner’s going back to work. And birthing partner is still at home with baby getting sleep down, getting feedings taken care of figuring out rhythms and routines. And so it is very, very natural, and normal and common for that parent who is home with baby for a longer period of time to take on more of the responsibility of how things happen. So again, I just say that this is common, this is normal. There’s nothing wrong with this.

What starts to happen, though, is that we start to maybe have routines change, maybe both parents are back to work, or maybe one is still home. That’s really irrelevant here. But as time goes on, there’s more and more of a shared load. There’s more and more that we are expecting the partner to step in and do and take care of. And so this is where we get to this question of why is my partner not why is my partner not taking the lead of what the baby needs and of what is needed at home? And what I see happening is that, oftentimes we get set in our ways we know how things work, we know how we do things. And that’s the way we expect our partner to do it. We have this attachment to control over how and when and where and why things happen. As I go into this, I’m going to say that there are some different types of tasks and responsibilities.

There are things that have to be done a certain way for safety, such as how we buckle the baby into the car seat, okay, there is no room for negotiation. Here, we do it the way that is safe. There are some other things that can be done maybe a little bit differently without severe repercussions. For example, if baby likes a song and a book at bedtime, and your partner does a book and then a song, chances are, that’s not going to hurt the baby. So we want to keep in mind that there are certain things that are very necessary to be done one way, that’s about 5% of things, the other 95% of things can be done with varying degrees of change, and still have a safe, good outcome. So we want to be talking about those things primarily in this conversation, those 95% of things that we do a certain way. And we often want done a certain way. And we often expect our partner to do a certain way. But maybe that’s not the way that comes naturally to them, or that’s not the way that they remember to do it, or that’s not the way that they want to try to do it. And so those are the things that we’re talking about in this conversation.

So what I see happening is the correction, I’ll hear from partners, especially you guys, when I talk to men, when I talk to men, about their relationship about their parenting, I often hear them almost lament and I want you guys to feel this, I want you to hear this, I hear this lament of like, I always get criticized, or I’m always told that I’m doing it wrong, or I want to step up, I want to help with this. But then my, my partner says that I did this wrong, or that X was out of order, or that y was supposed to happen before Z, and I just get discouraged. And so what this is signaling to our partners is, there is your way to do this. And that is the way that you have expectations of them. And honestly, they’re not going to meet them most of the time, that they might mess it up. And that you are the one who holds the intuition, and therefore you’re the one who holds the power in parenting. Okay, so this is what I hear you guys from clients, from men from partners, that they feel like they are being told that they are held up to this expectation to do it the same way that mom does in the same order at the same time. And if they screw it up, God forbid they screw it up, they’re going to hear about it or there’s going to be correction or embarrassment or shame.

And so I speak about this tenderly, but strongly because mom is like I am you I get you. I know what it’s like to find a way to do something and to just want to pass it on to your partner to have you want more help from your partner. But you want them to do it the way that you know works. I’ve been there. And you also want your partner to step up to the plate more. You want them to take more initiative. You don’t want to have to tell them exactly how to do everything. You don’t want to feel like you have another child because you have your partner to coach and manage. You don’t want to nag you don’t want to micromanage okay, if you feel those things. Let’s keep on here because that is your intention. But when our partners feel like we are grasping so hard and so strongly on to control, they’re starting to internalize some things. And you guys these are not guesses. These are things that I hear from dads specifically or non birthing partners.

They fear just fucking it all up. They have a fear of failure. They sometimes lose the will to try because they know they’re not going to do it. Mom’s way they You know, they’re not going to do it the quote unquote, right way, they often feel like they’re less equipped to be a parent. So they just tell themselves, I’m not cut out for this, or I’m not as good as she is, this can lead to a possible disconnect from you, or disconnect from baby, especially if your partner is feeling worthless or feeling like they cannot meet the expectations. And what I see often and this can be really confusing for moms, and sometimes the partner doesn’t even realize this is what they’re doing.

But they’ll look for other places, other ways to feel valuable or successful. So this is oftentimes working more, or spending more time with friends, or, you know, putting in over time, in the in the very rare occasions, this can be, you know, something like attaching to a friend or a romantic interest in a way that can really hurt a relationship. And that’s not what I see most commonly. But that can be the long road that can happen here. Because your partner is internalizing, not being good enough, at this job that they were given at this opportunity, they were given to raise a human, for goodness sakes, they’re oftentimes so excited. But when Mom wants to control how everything is happening, they feel discouraged. They feel lost, they feel like they’re not helping, they don’t have a purpose there. It’s hard to get this out of men in you guys, I’m sure that many of you are like, but wait, like my partner would not verbalize that to me. And oftentimes, first, they may not even know they’re feeling that way. Or second, it’s really hard to say that that’s how you’re feeling. And so this can go unspoken or unnoticed for a long time.

And then let’s look at here, what you are internalizing in this situation, you may be telling yourself, you know what, I’m the only one who can do this, therefore, I can never take a break. Or my partner would just listen to me, it would make everyone’s life easier. Or I guess I have to wear all the hats and just become a martyr to motherhood. So it’s no coincidence that the women that I see who often just feel like they have become sucked up and lost a lot of their identity and personhood to motherhood, those are often the same mothers who struggled to relinquish some control. And this is because they’re telling themselves I have to do it all. I have to be the martyr to motherhood because if I don’t, if I trust someone else, they’re going to do it wrong. And this is where I asked you to ask yourself, are they going to do it wrong in the sense that someone’s going to get hurt? Or there’s going to be a major problem? Or are they going to do it slightly different than you do, which makes you uncomfortable? Or makes you think that it’s less efficient or could have been done another way? These are two very, very different situations. And we get to train ourselves to respond to these in two different ways because they’re two different situations.

And mamas I am not slamming you here I am you. I am not slamming myself. I am not slamming you. I’m inviting you to see a partner’s point of view a little bit. But I also want to tell you the very well intended reasons that you may be doing this. So if you are the one who loves to hold on to control if you’re the one who wants to oversee how things are done, and you often feel like you can’t catch a break because you’ve got to do everything. Here’s some reasons why you might be doing that.

First, there is a ton of external pressures on moms. We cannot go a minute without getting some kind of input from an external source that tells us we’re not doing enough we’re not being enough. We’re not good enough. We’re not cute enough our baby’s not, you know exceeding enough or hitting milestones enough, you guys this is fucking overwhelming. We are not made for the amount of input from external sources that we have. It is ludicrous. And so naturally, we feel responsible for making everything. Look and Feel Feel this certain picture perfect way. And so we strive so hard. I’ve been there I was striving so hard to control all the little pieces so that the picture of my family and my baby if my motherhood would look a certain way, because there are so many external pressures, and so many places that we feel judgment. And honestly, there are a lot of places that we truly get judgment. And this requires a ton of inner work to not be affected by it, as a new mom, you’re vulnerable, you have been through a huge transition, there is a lot going on a lot changing for you. So you are super vulnerable, you’re super impressionable, and it’s really, really common and normal to feel all of this pressure. And to feel like you have to control all the pieces like putting every single tiny piece of a puzzle in the right place so that it makes the right picture.

But Oh, mama, I want you to be free from that, Oh, how I want you to be free for that.

But it’s it’s a very well intended reason why there may be some control desires that are impacting you and your partner and your relationship. Another well intended reason is because naturally, you carry the baby, you have a as I call it home field advantage, okay, you’ve had this inner processing for those of you who are birthing moms, and they don’t want to overlook our adoptive moms and our foster moms and our surrogate moms. And there’s a lot of really, really special things there too. But specifically, if you were the birthing mom, and you nurtured and had this baby inside of you, there is a huge home field advantage. And not only does that prime you to be responsive to your baby and to, to have some of this intuition, potentially, but it also makes you feel an extra layer of responsibility for those things. So this is a very well intended reason why you are grappling to keep control of things. Another reason is how viously, you want to make sure that your baby is well and cared for and thriving. Because you’re a really good mom, of course you do. Of course you want these things. You’re a great mom.

And additionally, you have put literally blood sweat and tears into finding a way to make things work, whether that’s finding a way to get the baby to calm down when she’s crying or finding a way to hold the bottle at an angle that they’ll finally take the whole bottle and get enough feeding or find a way to change the diaper without getting poop on the on the sheets or on the What’s it called the changing table cover. You have found a way and it’s been really hard for you at times. And what I think we often miss is that for those specifically who are at home, you are figuring these things out without an audience. So nobody knows. Nobody can see and feel and validate the amount of blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into finding the best way to do these things.

But on the other hand, you didn’t have an audience. And so for a lot of us with our partners, we’re asking them for help. And then we’re being the audience. And sometimes we’re really critical audience sometimes we are you’re watching with a hawks, I expecting them to do things the way that we would do them and then we give our response, often not an affirming response, when things don’t go that way. So I say that you I validate that you have put all this effort in that is unnoticed. And you work so hard at this and I want you to feel proud and validated in that. And on the other hand, give your partner some grace, babe because you have figured these things out and you have likely messed up and done things differently than felt perfect and had some times where it just didn’t go like you wanted to but you didn’t have the audience looking over you oftentimes, like now you are the audience for your partner. This is a lot to take in.

And I hope that this sparks some really good conversation for you and for your partner, and this would be a great episode to share with them to get the perspective and to get the language in the words and to ask them,

What hits for them, did this reflect some of the things that they’re experiencing?
Does this give some insight to where both of you are coming at this well intentioned as a team taking care of a baby and a home and a life that you’re building together, but coming up with some tension and some resentment and some frustration, because of how they’re playing out?

I, of course, want to offer you guys some ways to move through this and ways to grow. And I don’t want to say fix. And I say that in quotes, like, how do we fix this, because it’s not about fixing it. It’s about growing together, it’s about having better communication next time, then you had the last time when it left you both feeling crappy. It’s about understanding and respecting each other enough to have kind conversations, and to give grace, where grace is helpful, and to give support where support is helpful.

And a quick disclaimer, I’m giving these ideas, these growth methods to you, under the assumption that you are listening, and you have a partner who is a capable present parent, this may not be the case, if you have a partner dealing with a severe addiction, or violent tendencies or mental health that really limits the capability to support and provide for a baby. And so if that is you, I highly encourage and recommend that you find a specialist who can support you and your partner through those unique situations. The advice, the Insight I’m about to give is again, assuming that you have a partner who is capable and present in showing up to the table, and is a safe person for you to co parent with.

So the first thing that I’m inviting you to do is to get clear ideas around what needs to be done a certain way, and I have capital letters here needs to be done a certain way. And what can be done differently. Okay, think about safety. Think about reliability. Think about, you know, if you know your baby’s allergic to something, obviously, that is information that is carrying a lot of weight, it’s very strong, it needs to be attended to differently, then the song your baby prefers to hear when first waking up, or you know, the order of putting on their clothes, or which hold you do while feeding a bottle. Okay, so there are there’s different buckets here, when it comes to needs for safety and reliability. And there are things that we just prefer to be done a certain way this is that 95%, I was talking about 95% of things, we have a strong preference, but honestly, it doesn’t make that big of a difference. If things are done a little bit differently. Okay, so get really clear, go through the day, and make little notes, make voice memos or have a clipboard and a piece of paper for one day and write down all the things that happen, all the things that needs to be done to take care of the home, how the dishes, the laundry, the the cleaning up of dust, the trash, I mean all of these things, and with the baby, and then put them into categories like these things need to be done this way. There’s really no negotiation here. And these things, wow, these are things that I have a strong opinion and preference for how they’re done. And I would probably prefer to control and see them done my way. But actually in the big picture, it’s okay if they don’t go my way. So we want to have clarity around these two different types of tasks and responsibilities and actions.

And from there, I invite you to allow your partner to have things that they own however they want to one thing that works for a lot of my parents is to have the partner own bath time. And then mama your hands off that time like you don’t get to say this is the partners opportunity to be the leader to to set the tone to set the expectation to find a best way to do things and to really own in love and cherish that time. aim, and for your baby, and anyone else in the family to know that that is the partner’s time like they own it, they love it, they found a way. The next thing I invite you to do is to take a pause before correcting your partner, or before taking over to make things easier in the moment. Raise your hands like literally wherever you are, or better yet, take a screenshot right now and put this in your stories and let me know this is you. If you are someone who find yourself being like, you know what, just give them to me, this will be easier, or just let me do it. Just let me do it. That’ll be easier. And yes, it might feel easier to you in the short term. But the long term effect is that you just keep piling more and more things on that you think that only you can do or that you have to take over and your partner’s feeling worthless or your partner is feeling discouraged. It’s not actually easier in the long run. So take a pause before correcting your partner before just taking over and ask yourself, is this actually going to be helpful in the long run if I just take over? Or is this going to continue a pattern that is not helpful and not productive for me and my partner?

Next tip is to celebrate and talk about the ways you can do things differently but still be effective, like, comment on it. Hey, babe, I wouldn’t think I’m to fold the laundry that way. But it’s actually great that the towels are that way. It’s so easy to grab one or I wouldn’t think to I don’t know, I wouldn’t think to put the wipes there. But they’re great there. That’s helpful. Thank you, or I wouldn’t think to hold the bottle that way or to hold the baby that way. But it looks like he’s loving it. So cool. I see that you’re doing that differently from me. Like, let’s just make that okay, let’s we could, okay, that us and our partners do things differently. Because it is it’s okay.

And then the last thing, especially if you’re a mama who has not done this yet, please, please please, as soon as you can. I know that. You know, if you are exclusively breastfeeding or you’re still healing like there are some limitations to this. But when and as much as you are able get out of the house. Really, truly practice trusting your partner more. Obviously, I would never ask you to put your baby yourself your partner anyone in an unsafe situation. But again, 99% of the time you getting out of the house does not create an unsafe situation. And if and when that’s the case, please let your partner feel that autonomy and develop their own connection in their competence with the baby because I promise you as you start to give up some control your partner is going to feel more confident.

When you start to give more control, your partner’s going to feel more confident. When your partner starts to feel more confident, you’re going to see that competence and you’re going to trust them more and have more confidence in them. As you have more competence in them, you’re going to step away from more and more things and free up some space for yourself. And as you free up that space for yourself, you’re going to be able to celebrate a connection with yourself and your identity in new ways. Again, this is an incredible domino effects that can happen here. And it starts with letting your partner build their own confidence.

And I want to give you guys just a little icing on the cake here, because there are some additional benefits that I want to add in mostly for baby and for other people. So when you’re able to do this, when you’re able to get really clear on what needs to be controlled a certain way and what you can just step back and let happen in different ways. It makes it easier for you to set clear expectations with other people like babysitters or family members, and to give them the freedom to have their own style in areas that’s appropriate. So let’s say you’re getting a new nanny or a babysitter and you get them a list of 20 things that have to be done a certain way, that’s pretty overwhelming. And chances are some things are going to slip and your babysitter or your nanny may not know exactly which things you’re okay with slipping in which things you want done a certain way. But when you get really crystal clear, and you have three or four things that have to be done a certain way, then you can communicate that you can prioritize that and then you can let there be some flexibility and freedom in how other things are done.

Additionally, this gives your children diverse experiences to learn from and obviously, this means with stability, we want diverse experiences with safety and stability. And Mama, I love you so much. And I want you to feel my love, as I say this, but your baby is going to have good positive growing insightful experiences with other people. And this is so so good. You are not 100%, solely fully responsible for the evolution in the growth of your child, you get to share this, you get to as they say, use a village. Okay, I know that the village quote unquote, is not there in the same way that it has been. And that’s very, very difficult for modern day parents. But as much as possible, you get to lean into those other people. And that’s a benefit for you. Yes, but it’s also a benefit for your baby who gets to learn from other people as well.

And there’s some really cool effects of this. Like when you start to have a system of figuring out what needs to be done a certain way and what you can loosen your control on, you’re going to see this in other areas of your life. It allows you to evaluate the areas of control in other places. This might be at at school or at work, this might be how your car is or how somebody does dinner, I don’t know. But what I’m saying is when we get these systems in place, when we start to kind of train our brain to not just pounce on something and control it or say exactly how it’s done or take it away from someone else. To make it easier when we train our brain to pause, we actually get to do this in other places, chances are you’re going to see some areas that you’re really trying to control in your job, for example, that you know what you can decide there’s these two to three things that have to be done a certain way. But this other list of 25 things, I can loosen my grip a little bit. That feels good, that’s freedom for you.

And this is just a major asset if you are someone who has some of those anxious or controlling type of tendencies, and that is a lot of us. So you’re in good company if that just whew and now if this episode has resonated with you, I wouldn’t know all about it. I want to know what stuck out to you like you can shoot me an email. You can hit me up on Instagram, take a screenshot of this. Let me know what stuck out to you. Share it over with your partner have some big conversations about this. Let this be the springboard to you and your partner having even stronger teamwork and communication and if you think that this would benefit someone in your community again, snap that screenshot, pop it up on your socials let people know where they can find this podcast and why this episode was so helpful.

Now mamas enjoy the freedom, the breath of fresh air and the joy that you can have from letting go of some of that control and really seeing how the domino effect is your partner stepping up to the plate more and you having stronger teamwork and partnership and a healthier relationship after baby

Published by Chelsea Skaggs: Coach

Chelsea is the queen of taboo topics and new-mom life. Postpartum Together (Blog & Groups) and The WTF Trimester (Relationships and coaching) are your go-to places for life after baby. We focus on communication, connection, and confidence. As a life coach for moms and couples, Chelsea helps you have your strongest relationship with yourself and with your partner, even after baby.

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