Forget blame. Re-imagine what a true partnership at home looks like for you.

SheThrives Equal Partnership at home.jpg

In many ways, we’ve come much further in the boardroom than we have in the lounge room. Equality starts in the home. 

“It’s a team effort”. 

“It takes a village to raise a child”. 

“You don’t have to do it alone”. 

We have heard it for years.  We’ve been saying it ourselves for years.  Then why, does the task of raising a family, managing a household and pursuing a career, so often feel like a solo mission?  Why, do so many women pull back on their careers, or their own wellbeing, because they can’t see another way to make it all work?

It’s easy to become de-sensitised to the growing evidence-base reporting the inequitable split between men and women when it comes to the unpaid physical and mental labour required at home. When we consider the domestic responsibilities of raising a family and managing a household, there’s little debate that women, on average take on a significantly greater proportion of the load, than men.

In many ways, we’ve come much further in the boardroom than we have in the lounge room. Equality starts in the home.

When women take time out of paid work to raise children, we tend to take on the bulk of the household and childcare responsibilities, and in doing so, we receive fulfilment, personal development and other intrinsic rewards. This easy and obvious division of labour can also help to make the household run more smoothly and the lines of demarcation are clear. For a period, this seems to work.

However, when women go back to work, we tend to hold onto much of the domestic and childcare responsibilities, despite the addition of external work commitments. Seems a little mad, doesn’t it? Additionally, many women report delaying their return to a career because of the demands of managing their household and their childcare responsibilities. Sounds a little unfair, doesn’t it?

So, how did we get here, and does it matter?

There’s much social commentary and even more social media conjecture that fleshes out the reasons why many women find themselves in this unsatisfactory situation of inequality at home. Looking at the reasons why, CAN be useful… but every family is different, and every situation is unique. So, whilst it can be valuable to reflect on what you could have done differently, we suggest that a more powerful perspective is to forget blame, and to instead consider how you might re-imagine what a true partnership at home looks like, together, so that you can start chipping away at making this your reality.

From our experience working with women all around the globe over the last 10 years, this usually isn’t an overnight occurrence. It is however, 100% possible. Like any change-process, re-establishing a more equal partnership at home requires some considered communication on your part, and sometimes a shift in perspective across the board.

What does a true partnership look like in your home?

Wendy McCarthy, AO and women’s rights campaigner recently shared her views at the CBA Women in Focus International Women’s Day Lunch. Wendy expressed that anything less than a 50:50 split of household duties was unacceptable. Her ambitious statement may feel achievable in some households, it may be a reality in others, and it may feel like an unachievable target for others still.

A true partnership looks different in every family and without doing the calculation, you’ve likely got a gut-feel as to where your partnership currently feels. With some further thought, you can start to imagine where you’d feasibly like it to be.

We believe so much in the positive impact of achieving a more equal partnership at home for working mothers, that we have devoted an entire chapter to it in our 8-week online Career Comeback Program. In our ‘True Partnership at home’ chapter, we share how the solution is part-psychology, part-planning and part-practical. There is no one-size-fits-all equation, or ultimate ratio of domestic duties, but with some earnest application of our tried-and-true approaches, a more equitable, sustainable and enjoyable division is possible.

(On the topic of enjoyable, it would be remiss not to mention the intimacy benefits of a more even split of the household chores. The Journal of Marriage and Family reported in 2016 that couples who share their chores more evenly, also experience higher levels of sexual gratification. Sounds reasonable, very plausible and yet another reason to get started on adjusting the balance at your place.)

Our program takes you step-by-step through the psychology-planning-practical foundations of achieving a more equal partnership at home, and here are 5 suggestions to get you started:

1. Begin with the list.

Audit your domestic responsibilities. This involves writing down all the domestic and parenting responsibility areas in your household (focus on areas of responsibility, rather than individual tasks, and allocate a timeframe for each). The next step is to rate the responsibility areas as either: Cull, Allocate or Outsource.

2. Sharing is caring.

This one, critical conversation could change everything. Sit down with your partner and divide the responsibility areas amongst your family. You may take it in turns to choose areas, or you could share them out differently. Make sure you involve the kids if they are old enough to take on regular responsibilities, it ensures they learn the value of being part of a family team and they usually grow from the empowerment and sense of contribution.

3. Let it go. 

Curtailing the control freak in you is more important than ever when your family members are willingly sharing the household load.  Perfect is not important here.  Getting the job done to a good-enough standard is.

4. Keep talking.

Check in regularly to see how each family member is finding their responsibilities. Has anything been left off? Agree on a way to “Call it out” if someone is not delivering. This is not a once-off initiative, it is a way of life, a new team drill, so it deserves regular airtime and focus.

5. Keep going.

Remember that your partnership at home is a living, breathing and evolving system. We are living in a time of unprecedented change, where women have opportunities our ancestors only dreamed of. Equality does begin in the home and if we continue to work on the equality we’d like to see in our homes, our societies and workplaces may just start to follow.

UPDATE! We’ve had so much interest in this topic, that we have fast-tracked the release our “True Partnership” online program – Subscribe to our updates if you’d like to know when it is released.