To today's topic is maternal gatekeeping. I'm Onnie. I am the founder of Moms Without Capes, the host of this community, and I am happy to be here today. Like I mentioned, maternal gatekeeping was a topic that we talked about or we focused on a few months ago in our casual conversations. What maternal gatekeeping is, is when we as mothers unintentionally create barriers that prevent our partners or other family members from fully participating in caregiving and domestic responsibilities. Many times, using that metaphor of the gate, we tend to hold that gate shut from letting our partners or our kids stepping up and doing things for the good of the family. We struggle because we hold that gate shut and then we start feeling anger and rage and resentment and all of these uncomfortable emotions. We start feeling all of these things because we're like, Why is nobody helping? Why are we the only ones doing all of these? We need to learn how to open the gate. Hey, Rochelle, good morning. Because sometimes this keeping the gate shut, it can stem from our desire to be the best mom possible, leading us to take on more than we can handle.
In doing so, we inadvertently push others away. It's not something necessarily that we do consciously, and it's not something that happens overnight. We tend to do this maybe because starting out with our children as babies, maybe you've had more experience babysitting. Maybe it's the societal expectations that come back, like the women, the maternal instinct and all that. While that is somewhat true, like the maternal instinct, there is no scientific studies that have shown that women are more capable of taking care of children. In fact, I read this great book. It was called... I think it was like The History of Motherhood. I forget what the actual book was called. But it was so interesting about back in the old days, like even colonial America, like how each partner shared equal responsibility for the upbringing of the children. It didn't all fall on the mom, which in modern times it tends to do that. Even when both partners are working outside the home, most of the responsibilities still continue to fall on the mom. I'm not saying that this is every household, but the majority of the household, it still shows that the responsibilities fall on the woman.
Along with those societal expectations or that maybe you have more experience, girls are more likely to be the babysitters and be hired for babysitting jobs and maybe taking care of your younger siblings, we end up taking more of the care, taking a larger role in the care of our children. As babies, it often falls on the moms, to be changing the diapers, making sure that the baby gets fed. As this happens year after year, the men, the partners, I guess I'm talking more of the heterosexual, but this could also happen in same sex relationships. The partners tend to take a back seat. One, they're not really sure how to help. Then us moms start becoming like this project manager. I've said this before about that word help and the partner is being, How can I help? How can I help? Just let me know. I'm happy to help. Just let me know. Then in our mind, you've got to come up with all of the things like categorize and organize things in our mind, like what can they help with? It just becomes one more task to do. This idea of maternal gatekeeping is the idea of holding the key to that gate and then struggling because that person, our partner is not being able to step into the gate.
We need to take responsibility for where can we or what can we do in order to open that gate so that our partner can step up, can step in and be part of the team. I hear this time and again, and I have felt it myself where I feel like I don't feel like part of a team. Most of the responsibilities are falling on me. At that point, I need to realize what is my role and what can I do differently in order for my partner to feel like an equal partner. Some of the things that... I have my notes. Hold on one second. Rachelle, does that make sense? The maternal gatekeeping? I always feel like when I explain that, I want to make sure that it's coming over your understanding what that maternal gatekeeping is all about. When you are or if you are consistently criticizing or dismissing your partner's approach to say, parenting, we'll start with there because maternal gatekeeping can happen not only with child care, but also with domestic responsibilities or domestic chores. But say if we are constantly dismissing or thinking like that, they aren't able to do the things that need to get done, it insist that our methods are superior.
We're the only ones that know what the child needs. This creates a dynamic where your partner feels excluded from important parenting decisions or activities. Again, it doesn't happen overnight. It happens gradually over time, and it chips away at their feelings of equality. This behavior can discourage your partner from actively participating in parenting responsibilities, leading to an unequal distribution of caregiving duties and potentially causing strain in the relationship. You may have noticed that if you continue to do to continually hold that gate shut, that is going to affect, negatively affect your relationships. If you constantly refuse your partner's help to help with household tasks, believing that you can handle everything on your own, that do it all, be it all mentality, it can create a barrier that prevents your partner from feeling valued or involved in family's day-to-day activities. This reluctance to help can lead your partner to feel unappreciated and discouraged from taking on more responsibilities. It can also lead you feeling unappreciated because it creates that break in the relationship and it perpetuates the gate being shut and locked. As you can imagine and as you may have experienced, definitely can affect your relationship.
How can we... What are some ways to avoid doing this maternal gatekeeping? If this is resonating with you and you're feeling like, yeah, there has been over the years, times where you have felt like, let's say, the dishwasher. That's always an example that resonates with a lot of people. The whole idea of you are the only one that knows how to load that dishwasher. Some of the thoughts that might be coming to you are like, If I don't do it, it doesn't get done. Or, I know how to do it correctly. I know how to load all of those dishes in so that we can get the most in there and that all the dishes get cleaned. These lines of thinking can prevent your other family members from stepping in, whether it's the teenagers, your younger kids, or even your partner. Even if they are doing it and you're going in behind them and fixing it or doing it the way you do it, it's going to create some problems in your family. That is your way of keeping that gate closed and maybe letting them do it is letting it open a little bit, but then by you redoing it, it is perpetuating.
It's perpetuating that whole cycle. I know it's hard to delegate. That's one of the things we're actually going to talk about in next week's challenge, is the delegating part. I know that is difficult because you may be saying all of those things. You might be thinking that it's easier for you to just do it yourself. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done correctly. It just takes too much time to teach somebody how to do it. All of these thoughts might be coming through your mind, running through your mind. I want you to take a moment and just reflect on that and challenge those thoughts. Is that correct? Is that really true? How can you counteract those thoughts to serve your family better? Delegating age-appropriate tasks to your children and sharing household responsibilities with your partner allows all of them the opportunity to contribute and take on those responsibilities. By not delegating, by not allowing others to step through that gate, you are denying them the opportunity to serve and to contribute to your family. It is so important to have that open communication, to talk about what is going on, what needs to get done.
How do the dishes get into the cabinet? How do those clean socks get onto your daughter's feet? You want to be able to spell that out. All of those things that you're carrying in the mental load need to become visible. By talking to your partner, by talking to your family to allow them to understand what's going on. Fostering that environment of open communication and collaboration within the family by actively listening to your partner and children's perspectives, concerns, and suggestions. Do family meetings. We should do a casual conversation on family meetings. We've done them before and I know lots of families do them and they're very helpful to get everybody on the same page because a lot of times that miscommunication can contribute to problems within the family. Making sure that you're doing some check-ins. Setting some realistic expectations for both yourself and your family. It involves understanding and acknowledging the limitations of time, energy and resources and aligning those expectations with the constraints. Prioritizing tasks, keeping a family calendar, making sure that it is not full of these commitments that are going to keep you running from here and there and passing each other in the night.
You want to make sure that you are setting some boundaries around not only your own commitments, but also of your families. Let me share with you a system that is amazing. We have used it in our family and I also help other families incorporate it into theirs. It is the FairPlay method. Today, I would love to have you schedule a call with me to talk more about this, or just send me a message with the word Fair Play and we can have a conversation through messaging. But Fair Play Method is a system developed by Eve Rodsky, and I wish I bought the cards up with me. It's 100 cards that outline all it takes to raise a kid and to run a household. By the time it actually provides you a platform to discuss and communicate about what it takes to run a household and to raise a kid. It's about your values. What do you value as a family? What do you value as partners? You and your partner get to decide what cards you would like to keep and what cards you do not have to deal with at all. You may be in a different season.
You may be out of the changing stage, so that card is done. You might end up having only 60 cards and of those 60 cards, thank you. My daughter brought them up for me. Here is the Fair Play cards. They come in a box like this. For those of you, if you're listening on the podcast, you have to come watch the video. But each card contains a different chore or a different task that it takes, again, to raise a child or to run a household. You and your partner might decide that only 50 or 60 cards apply. Then instead of just, remember, having to think of like, Okay, what task can I give my husband to do today that I feel like he is competent at doing and already knows? Instead, has each partner take ownership of the card for your determined amount of time? You can redeal the cards every day, you can redeal the cards every week. That is completely different for each couple. Then what you do is you talk about what it takes to do each task. Say, taking out the trash. What does that look like? What is the minimum standard of care to keep your household running smoothly?
You each discuss that, had the conversation, and then one person would take ownership for that amount of time. You're not holding a card forever. During your weekly check-ins, you actually come back together and say, Is this working? What can we do differently? It opens up that conversation and makes the mental load visible, and it opens up the gate, which is exactly what we're talking about today. It provides you a way to open up that gate and allow your partner to step up so that you can once again feel like a team again. Not that you're going to be using FairPlay cards forever, but it is definitely a start if you feel like you're afraid to open up that gate or you have those thoughts running through your mind, you have some hesitations, message me with the words fair play and let's talk about it and maybe sign up for a call and we can have a conversation to see how this can work.