The day I started writing this essay, I got in a spat with my husband while I was baking brownies with the kids. He didn't understand why I had doubled the recipe. Despite the fact that I announced this fact multiple times, because I wanted to make them thick like I did as a child. As soon as I poured the batter into the pan, he came in and said, "Oooh, that's going to be so thick! Shouldn't we split the batter into two pans?" I saw red; I lashed out on him telling him how dare he question my nostalgia brownies and why not just say, "Thank you for doing this with the kids and I can't wait to eat them"? He looked at me like I was crazy.Total transparency, I rarely bake so this was a big deal. On top of that fact, because of my upbringing I am hypersensitive to negative feedback when I think I am doing my best. Minutes later, I went to apologize with a spatula full of yummy raw brownie mix to make amends, but he asked me to leave him alone. We were both having a rough day. Within an hour, we were saying sorry and laughing at the stupid fight. By night time, we were pigging out on my dessert and my husband acknowledged that double thick brownies are heaven. Moral of the story? This pandemic is bringing the worst and best out of us.Lately, my frustration and pent up anger have come from observing that this lockdown has brought working mothers — who normally had outside help — back ten steps with respect to work-life balance, domestic tasks, and what is expected of us when we are married with children. I can't do it all. I won't do it all. So what does that look like in my house right now?Here's how we are trying to figure this crazy $h&% out!Look At The Big PictureLife is rough right now. Emotions and anxieties are sky high and it is easy to get upset over trivial things. The things that were already annoying you about your partner (big and small) are now amplified. What is a trapped couple to do? Communicate! I've been in therapy since 2015 for PTSD, which has taught me the language and given me the courage to voice my needs appropriatly, prior to that I didn't think I knew how to do so without yelling. It has taken many years to know how to feel my complex emotions, recognize where they are coming from, and then open up to my husband about what I need from him and why. We aren't perfect. Sometimes a voice will be raised here or there when we disagree or get frustrated, but the two of us know that communication will always be a work in progress. At the end of the day, we want to maintain a loving, healthy relationship — that is priority.Let Your Inner Voice Be Heard"Why didn't he pick up the laundry basket I left by the steps to go upstairs?" "Why did he leave his dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher was empty?"Sometimes you have to take that inner dialogue in your head with all those complaints about your partner "not doing enough" and say it out loud productively and with respect. Instead of yelling at your partner about why they left dirty dishes in the sink, say, "I am frustrated today because I am feeling overwhelmed with my homeschooling duties while trying to accomplish my work. Can we talk about how you can help me during the day?" Your partner is just as stressed as you are, just about different things probably. Sitting down and problem solving together will make you feel supported and part of a team versus it being about "him vs. me."Plan AheadOkay, I am going to say it, men don't exactly plan in advance as well as women do. My husband admits this fact all the time! Instead of forcing him to figure it out on his own, I turn it into a team effort.On Sunday, we ask each other what our week looks like, pointing out meeting-heavy days or stressful deadlines. Each night we review our schedules again, so we can cover one another, which prevents only one person becoming responsible for watching over the kids all the time. We switch/tag team who is responsible for being the "teacher" each day of the week. Sometimes we put Google Calendar invites on our work calenders as reminders for things like when one of us needs to be on a Zoom call and the kids can't be using up our bandwidth. Our short-term memory isn't the best these days, so constant check-ins are saving us.
What Can Each Of You Own?My husband always says how happy he is that I can "keep so many things straight," so he doesn't have to. But even I have a breaking point, and the onus can't always be on one person to remember everything. That's the mental load we all know about as mothers. What household or homeschooling to-dos can you two split up and each be accountable for? There are things your partner can manage, such as being in charge of a certain subject for homeschooling, planning the week of meals and being responsible for certain housework.Sometimes I ask my husband to handle things that aren't on his radar and I may not have the time to do them, yet it will drive me crazy if those things aren't done. For example, my son's school asked for a photo of him for the yearbook (they never got to take school pics) and they wanted us to decorate a page for him. While I was catching up on my work at 9 PM after the kids went to bed, my husband worked on the yearbook stuff. Although not a huge priority, in the end, we wanted our son to be included in this memory book and it was worth the time spent for a lifetime of memories.