If You're Keeping Score,
You Already Lost
Iva: Welcome to a new episode of The Mompreneur’s Guide to Work-Life Harmony. I’m Iva.
Desiree: And I’m Desiree.
Iva: Today's episode deals with the presence of resentment in our lives. And this is really a very broad and a very complex issue that can be many layers deep, and we don't want to tackle this in an over simplistic way or gloss over it for the sake of simplifying it. We do want, however, to contain it within the scope of how resentment can show up in our lives, specifically related to dealing with our spouses, and to simply start an open and honest conversation about it because even in the most healthy and robust, relationships, resentment can rear its ugly head. And so, we don't want to just state that resentment should be avoided at all costs, because that is very unrealistic. We do want to explore, however, how to effectively recognize it for what it is and how to proactively deal with it so that it doesn't grow into something that can blow up in your face down the line, so to speak.
The first thing about resentment is to know first and foremost, what is it and what triggers it. So, resentment isn't necessarily about a single feeling, but rather, it refers to a process of chewing on a particular sentiment, without allowing any resolution. It's the reiteration of anger, as the key pattern in feeling resentment, and the constant, like going back to that annoying memory of sort. So, Dr. Peter Ladd, who is the author of the book, Relationships and Patterns of Conflict Resolution explains that resentment is actually a form of civilized, anger. And Mark Sigel gave one of the clearest definitions of resentment to Psychology Today, and I quote, “Resentment refers to the mental process of repetitively replaying a feeling, and the events leading up to it, that goads or anger us. We don't replay a cool litany of facts and resentment, we re-experience, and relieve them in ways that affect us emotionally, physiologically, and spiritually in very destructive ways.” And now we can really dive deeper into some of the triggers that can really open up this can of worms in our relationships.
Desiree: Yeah. That last part of the quote really gives me goosebumps where it mentions that it's destructive. It can really become quite, quite a dangerous turf to move on. But before I dive into sort of the specific triggers I really want to give a disclaimer about our husbands. They are really the most supportive, husbands, they really, they respect what we do, they support us, they're very, very hands on and I speak, I know I speak for both of our husbands here. They are such hands-on dads, and they help here, like everywhere they can as well. And they are extremely supportive which I know I feel extremely grateful for that supportive, and in us trying to grow our own business, right, because I know not every husband is as supportive, unfortunately, what you hear from all around us, so I just really want to give that disclaimer about them!
But still, that resentment does creep in because, for example, they don't understand the physical changes that we go through, first of all, when we are pregnant, when we are going through that whole change, physically, emotionally, hormonal of what it means to carry a child, right? And often, as women we get very emotional about these things, and, and they just don't experience it so it's like, in a way, they don't understand it entirely. So, sometimes we expect them to understand and get sympathy or some words of encouragement, but they don't even, they may not even see what we see, and they may not understand that fully right?
Also, they don't seem as needed as we are. And that sounds really weird when I kind of thought about that point. I was like, ‘Well, wait a second. How is that a good, like how is that a bad thing, right?’ But the thing is, my little one clings to me all the time! It's always mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy and I was like, ‘Well, why don't you go ask about your dad? He can help you with that.’ No, it's mama and I was like, ‘Go to Papa- he will help you with this.’ Now, you know, I just need a minute, but they want us all the time and it's just like, ‘Why will the apple juice taste different if I pour it, you know?’ It's a bit like why, why do you need me all the time? But then, also, I feel guilty about so many things. That mom guilt that we often tackle in our conversations. It creeps up in every situation all around us and yes we are trying our best to manage that feeling, but I don't feel they feel guilty about anything, how's that possible?
Iva: It seems like it's annoyingly absent from their psyche. It's annoyingly absent from their DNA somehow. I do feel the same and sometimes, it's a funny anecdote, when you go to sleep at night, you are attuned to every single noise that comes from your children, and sometimes in the morning, the next day, my kids woke up three different times: one, you know, peed on their bed, the other one needed water etc, whatever. And then the next morning, I discuss it with my husband and I say: ‘Oh, well, you know, the kids were.. I’m so tired. The kids were up like three times last night.’ And he's like, ‘Really, that happened?’ I said why do I even bother, you know? We can be abducted by aliens and you wouldn't even notice it in the middle of the night because your sleep is so deep and profound. And there's a little bit of resentment like ‘Okay, so how come I'm listening to the cries and for you it's like it never happened??’ It’s non-existent.
Desiree: I feel guilt and worry as well. I like, I get worried about many things and he’ll be like ‘He’ll be okay, he'll be okay’ and I'm like: ‘It's not fair. Why can’t I just be so calm about things sometimes? And then, sometimes I also feel he doesn't know how to support me in the way I needed at that moment, right? He may mean really well and try to give a solution, or trying to get me something when all I need is maybe attention. I just need a word of encouragement. Or I just need a hug, and sometimes it's annoying to me that he can't give me what I need at that exact moment.,
Iva: Well, yes I feel that it's a sense of not getting the attunement from them. And the other the other funny thing is, that also, within us, what we need, changes. All the time, it's very dynamic. So, there are moments where I can be in a certain emotional state. And when I'm talking to my husband, and he's trying to get a word in, I'm like, ‘No, just listen, I just need you to listen, I don't want you to solve my problem.’ But in a similar scenario, we're going through the same thing, and he just remains quiet and I look at him and I'm like, ‘Okay, but what do you have to say?’, and he says ‘You told me not to help out or say anything.’ And I'm like no, this time is different. And they just don't get those nuances within us about those moments so yeah.
Desiree: I know. Sometimes we just need to vent but sometimes we genuinely need support or help with a decision. Sometimes I'm so tired of making decisions, I'm like, can you just make that decision? And he's like, ‘No, it's up to you.’
I know it's up to me, but just make the decision. And there we go, they don't get as worked up, as I do either. Next point, right? It's like I can get really just annoyed or upset or just frustrated about a certain situation, and my husband, in particular, he is so chill. He's Spanish as well, so he's like super calm, laid-back, relaxed, and I’m like, ‘Okay, this situation needs a little bit more sense of urgency or more, you know, focus on what's going on but..’
Iva: Yes absolutely. I feel that they just sometimes as well when they are roughhousing with the children, or doing something that you're like ‘Oh my God! They're going to fall! Be careful, it's too high’.
Desiree: I can't watch what they do.
Iva: And then they're like ‘Relax, it's all good’ and you're already seeing a broken arm and having to go to the ER for stitches or whatever and they're just like ‘It's all good.’ So you wonder whether you're seeing danger in every possible corner because you became all of a sudden this hallucinating person that is just seeing danger everywhere or if its really a very dangerous situation but they're just, I mean they just don't seem to get it, so I don't know which one of the two it is.
Desiree: Yeah, I haven't figured that one out yet either. And this is another good one: They can leave the house whenever they want and no one really notices. Whereas, when I leave.
Iva: It’s like you’re actually abandoning the family
Desiree: I know. And I feel like I have to make 10,000 arrangements first. Make sure I have I don't know, whether it's I really need to go out and run some errands on my own, or I'm actually meeting a girlfriend once in a blue moon, or I actually have a work meeting, or I have a webinar that I'm hosting and I need that time and I'm like, ‘I'm going to be away for a little bit,’ even if that just means locking myself in the next room right? But I feel I need to make a lot of arrangements, and say, ‘Okay, listen, when are you going to be here because you need to watch the little one and you know, he's going to be hungry at that time and I arranged snacks.’ I know he'll do that- I know my child will never starve or anything, but there's so much that goes into planning me being away for a little bit, whereas my husband's like, ‘Oh, I have to quickly run out, back to work and meet a guest or something at the hotel’, and I'm like, okay, and within five minutes he's gone.
And I don't know how long he's gone, but he'll just go because that's just, yeah, for them it doesn't matter.
Iva: Well, they can disconnect.
Desiree: Exactly, whereas I can’t and then I’m so worried or if I said I would be back home, like in an hour and it's already over an hour I feel like bad and worried and I don't know, maybe that's also a problem that I have.
Iva: It seems that, I don't know, they can compartmentalize better, you know, I see it as well, with my husband. When he goes off to work or even if he's working from home, which is the case nowadays. He just locks himself up, and the rest of the house seems to stop existing for him, like he's really in his own. And whereas, I can never fully, completely unplug myself from the rest of whatever might be happening outside, with the house, with the kids, etc. And as you say, it seems like we are definitely more in tune with the rhythms of the day and our children, you know. The naps that they need to take, when do they need to take them, when is it_ all those rhythms, we really have them down to a science but they can very, very quickly just disconnect them, and not even notice that that's going on in the background.
Desiree: Exactly, I feel the same. And then I, it's just life after kids for them, mainly continues fairly the same, right? I mean, they still continue to go to work like they used to. They still, you know, they have their thing. Their world that's like unchanged. Okay, when they come home, it's a little bit different because all of a sudden they have little monkeys at home right, jumping around but in the big picture, their life pretty much continues whereas ours is turned completely upside down, like they have to rearrange everything entirely.
Iva: Absolutely. And, you know, wouldn't you agree that the bottom line of all these triggers we have been talking about, can really be condensed two main points, which I feel are:
First of all, the cultural expectations about women, about housework and childcare, how do they fall on our lap, versus how do they fall on men’s laps and that, and that all this creates serious resentment issues in this dynamic.
And the second main point I would say, is what is known as the Motherload (mental) fatigue, it's all those little irrelevant things that no one else has to deal but us and they are full time, and they are unquantifiable.
And what do I mean by that? A quick example. My husband is really, really helpful, and hands on, and bath time that's his thing, so he's in charge of bath time, and that's fine. And he gets them ready with pajamas on, everything great.
But then I walked back in, and guess what? The towels are on the floor, that is not where the towels are supposed to be the, the anti-slip mat that you use on the bathtub for the kids, that also needs to be hung, because otherwise it gets moldy- it cannot be wet so you need to hang that. But then, the diaper cream, you know, it's strewn over the bed, okay, well, the diaper cream, it doesn't belong there. And the dirty clothes, you know, the hamper is literally one step away from where the kids threw them.
Desiree: It’s like they get to have the fun part of things.
Iva: Like seriously, it's one step away! Really, the effort that it takes to put it where it goes, is not far-fetched.
So, this is the motherload (mental load) fatigue, this is the other part where you're like, ‘Okay, thank you for helping me with bath time, but not really, because that's also part of your responsibility as a parent, so.’ But, also, yes you did a bath time like, essentially you did bathe them and you put the water and soap on them and then you got them dressed, but the rest of what it entails, is the mother load (mental load) fatigue that I'm talking about, you know those little things that nobody notices but they need to be done.
Desiree: Totally. However, this is actually normal for 67% of first time parents especially couples in that study, actually they noted more conflict, more resentment, lack of intimacy, the feeling of being unsupported, so it's actually fairly normal. And what I also, however, tried to do, is put things very much in perspective, and to say ‘Okay, (trying to help myself here) and trying to say, ‘Okay, we've been living in this part of the world in Asia for a very long time now. And if I look around me and then some of the cultures we've lived in, the dads are not that hands on, they don't really help much at all with the children, or the household.’
So okay, trying to then see the flip sides in that I am very lucky. I'm still complaining, but I am actually quite lucky and I have to be grateful. But still, you know, our dynamics of the relationship really shifts, once we become parents, and things are not equally divided. We do want them to be equally divided, especially as mompreneurs. We're not stay-at-home moms, that's a different story. If you're a stay-at-home mom, yes, you dedicate yourself to that. But I think our situation becomes a little bit more complicated, because we're also working and I often feel that that may not be as respected. I know it's respected but I don't feel like it is sometimes. And, I'm also trying to work. I'm also trying to squeeze in work time, amidst all of this parenting, and that's when I think my biggest frustration tends to come in. We tried to share responsibilities but also, I guess the frustration comes because of exhaustion, lack of sleep, things like that. I mean, it all kind of plays a role as well.
Iva: Absolutely, yeah. So, I guess, to your point, in some of the some of the proactive actions that we can take and some of the practical solutions that we can start really looking into with all of these triggers as you say, having this mindset shift, if you will, to know that the load is not going to be evenly split. It's never going to be 50-50, Because as nurturers, and as, as women, biologically, a lot more is put on our plate from the get-go. And that's just the way it is, you know. As much as probably my husband would liked to have breastfed the kids, physically, he wouldn't have been able to so. So there's that aspect of saying like, ‘Okay, to what extent can they realistically, help out and put in their share of, or shoulder the load. But to what extent is innately us women having to do it. Like for example, giving birth. That falls on us, yes or yes, that's just the way it is. And we can argue, we can say a lot of things but that's the bottom line_ it falls on us.
So, I also think and I do understand and that's a little bit why this resentment comes in. But it's also like, if you're keeping score, you already lost. Because if you're counting like: ‘Well, I did this and you did that’ and again trying to do that even split of the parenthood load, it's not an exercise that is going to be healthy in the long run for either party. And for us, most specially, it's something that we're just going to have to tackle, with the help of other things so I think that you have one big solution to this, which you can share with us about, about that.
Desiree: Yeah, I mean, I mean the first one you've just completely mentioned about trying to split that load of parenthood, in the way it fits in your routines because every routine and every household is completely different, but also try to keep it flexible because otherwise even more resentment can build up. When you say, ‘Well, you're usually in charge of bath time but it just wasn't possible today, you need to agree to keep it flexible but if you have a sort of split, I think that's very helpful.
The main solution I think to all of this is just to really continue communicating. It's really not helpful to avoid one another, or bottle it up until you explode one day because of a minor situation, or try to blame each other or being really vague or unclear of your own expectations. So it's very important to practice kind, and clear communication with one another, I think that's the huge key here,
Iva: And also men are incredibly straightforward, compared to women. Because we haven't been educated to be that assertive and that direct, so it tends to backfire on us. So, to your point, yes, using communication, but in a way that it is clear and that is straightforward, and to the point because that's the language that they speak.
Desiree: Exactly. And, and it's also important to always continue to stay vulnerable and open-minded with one another, and that we remind each other all the time that we're doing this together. It's parenthood it's a partnership it's our decision to have this beautiful family together, and just being in that vulnerable state together as a couple, is also really helpful.
Iva: That is so, so vital because it's those uncomfortable conversations, that you say, about how we're feeling about ourselves or about what we need, that really continue to create that intimacy level. And, moreover, I would say that we need to make love with our partners, each and every day, and by making love, I don't mean it in the purely sexual, physical way, but it's in the way we make love in all the shared aspects of our lives, in all the shared activities, right. So, we need to make love it, you know, in the day to day in the parenting as well.
Desiree: And, you know I always say as well. Our relationship is so important. It is the most important we nurture. Because we've been together before and after, the kids are only with us for about 18 years, depending on which culture you're in, and then they're out of the house and then we have the remainder of our lives we're spending together. So, it's really really important. Our partnership cannot suffer in this in this very, very beautiful time in our lives when we're raising our children together.
And we also need to be more clear and what kind of support we need for ourselves because also, each and every one of us is different. For example, if I would like to have more time for myself after I've been with the kids all day and I also really need to get some work done that I maybe didn't manage to get done in my time slots for work, I have to say I really need a little bit of time.
And, or even on the weekends, ‘Do you mind going out with the kids because I need a couple of hours to get some work done.’ Sometimes in some situations, I'll say, all I really need is just a hug at the end of the day and I'll feel much better. But sometimes, we're silently expecting it and it doesn't come, but they cannot read our minds! We cannot expect them to. Sometimes it's also just the acknowledgement and the respect that we want to have from them, that we're also growing a business_ we're also still working. And we're doing that while doing everything else at home and with the kids. So, sometimes just that acknowledgement, and I know they acknowledge it and I know they respect that. But sometimes hearing that really does make a difference. That's the case for me anyways. But I know that he can't read my mind so sometimes he'll know now because we've spoken about it many times, but I just felt that it was a little bit discredited, at times, and I only felt that. It wasn't that way, but after we've spoken about it that became clear and I felt more at ease as well,
Iva: Because you had that open communication and you were also willing to be vulnerable about things that you were in.
Desiree: I also feel one of the solutions is trying to see things through the eyes of your partner.
Iva: And adding to that as well, putting yourself in the other person's shoes, I would add giving your partner, or the other person, the benefit of the doubt. And this is, what has also been known as assume positive intent. So, people, I mean, we can all agree that we don't wake up with the intention of being annoying towards other people. We don't. I don't I don't wake up saying like, ‘I'm just gonna leave all like all my like hair on the sink to annoy my husband because he doesn't, you know, it's one of his pet-peeves and I'm just going to do it today because I'm full on, you know, wanting to upset him.’ And I don't think it happens the other way around. So as you say, looking at it from their perspective, and assuming this positive intent in that. They're probably coming from a different place. And, they are not out to get us.
Desiree: Yes, that's true. We are in this together.
Iva: We are together and we are in a partnership, and we have to play as a team.
Desiree: Exactly, and we should not let resentment build up. Resentment is really a byproduct of unmet needs. So, when we're fighting on who's doing what, at home, it's actually (about) the unmet needs that can be much, much deeper. For example, the need for connection, for a validation, for stimulation, for rest, for intimacy, it may be buried much deeper than we think.
So just to summarize,
It's so important that we want and need to split the load of parenthood.
We need to continue communicating
We need to continue staying vulnerable and be open-minded with one another.
We need to be extremely clear and what kind of support that we need.
And lastly, to try to see things from our partner’s eyes because talking about this, also very honestly with your partner is going to turn that resentment, into a very powerful re-connection.
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Hey mama! We love to keep chatting with you! Wanting to know more about getting rid of the Mental load (aka the Motherload)? Or how to access the Ditching the Mental Load Playbook?