The Ideal Mother

Last week we talked about maternal gatekeeping. How, as women, we’re conditioned to believe we’re better at parenting and housekeeping than our partners. How we are the ones who need to control everything, to ensure it’s done right (or done at all). And how we need to stop letting society create these ridiculous standards. 

This conditioning comes from what’s known as the Ideal Mother. This is the idea that a mother know’s best. We’re led to believe this from a young age. 

Men are conditioned to believe they are the ideal worker and the breadwinner. Jobs are designed around the ideal worker. The person who is always available for their work. They don’t have a life outside of work. It’s expected that there’s someone else (usually a wife), at home making sure the kids are taken care of, the house is cleaned, and dinner is on the table. 

So what happens when the wife works too? Life gets complicated. Women are expected to work like they don’t have a family to take care of and care for their family like they don’t have a job. 

But this isn’t possible and it isn’t fair. And it’s time to break this expectation. 

And it starts with a conversation. 

Yes, this might feel like one more thing you have to do. And it is. But it’s also the only way we’re going to change things. We need to get our partners on board here. And not in a guilt and shame-filled way. But in a way that leads us to be true partners, sharing childcare and household tasks in a way that’s fair to everyone. (that is different from sharing things 50/50). 

woman overwhelmed by too many tasks around the house. 
the ideal mother
maternal gatekeeping

One of the first things to discuss is an acceptable level of cleanliness and which Eve Rodksy, in her book Fair Play, labels Minimum Standard of Care. These are the agreed-upon expectations of everything in a house. Who cleans out the cat litter and when does it happen? What about the trash? What about family activities, like soccer, piano lessons, church choir, etc.? How many activities does each family member take on each season? How often do you have family dinners? 

When my kids started elementary school, I decided we were only attending birthday parties with my kids’ friends. Not every birthday party. We were not going to sign up for every activity possible. Each person gets one, maybe two activities per semester. 

Remember, you do not need to spend every day after school driving your kids around to activities. Pick one of their favorites. Carpool. Schedule things so it all happens on one crazy day, where you have take-out for dinner. Or where you can trade off with your partner on who does the driving. Meet a friend for a walk around the park while your kids are at soccer practice. Or spend one-on-one time with one kid while the other(s) are at practice. 

Don’t feel obligated to say yes to everything.

There is no need to wear yourself out. It is ok for kids to be kids. To learn how to entertain themselves. Let them figure it out. 

If you want to talk more about how to incorporate this in your life, how to let go of all of the tasks, schedule some time with me!

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