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A defense of stereotypes

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

With any support service offered, our Doulas will likely recommend that our clients ask for help, and seek to outsource tasks where possible, in order to focus on their journey (whether that be fertility, postpartum recovery, grieving, enjoying baby cuddles, rest, whatever they need).

A stereotype I know, but most men just don't 'see' what needs to be done, and it really does have to be pointed out. When our clients look to their partners, the majority of our clients are women, asking their male partners for help, and there are challenges.

I had some with my husband with our first baby.

When I was in school very few girls did Advanced Maths or Technical Drawing subjects, and when I was a child very few women had careers in engineering and other STEM fields. A lot of this because of gender stereotyping with children of the generation and marketing of toys / family roles.

I was delighted recently to see that Lego are ending Gender based marketing.

The more girls that play with lego, meccano, the better they will be at Maths subjects, architecture, engineering etc.

But a young girl a generation ago that wasn't given STEM toys, today probably has difficulty looking at architecture plans for home extension, parallel parking, doing advanced Maths, her brain simply wasn't wired with those skills.

Similar is true for boys.

A generation ago they weren't given baby dolls and prams to play with, kitchen sets or encouraged to take Home Economics as school subject, where men would have learnt about home budgets and healthy eating.

So in my personal relationship, I don't view it as patience, or retraining, more giving him the skills his brain simply wasn't wired for in childhood. It is immensely frustrating, but because he has so much potential, and he wasn't given opportunity growing up, he was encouraged to prioritise other skills.

In the same way that I can't be upset with my sister for not being able to visualise in 3D, I really can't be upset my husband lacks skill to be home needs aware. I am though grateful that he is willing to incorporate changes into his routine to make our combined lives better.

These are things that worked well for me, I had to give concrete examples and step by step instructions, but slowly he became more considerate:

One day I told him I had had a bad day with baby, I hadn't eaten breakfast until near dinner time as simply hadn't been able to put baby down long enough to make the food. I then asked, in my most weary almost weepy so very overwhelmed voice, if the next morning while he was waiting on kettle to boil for his coffee, if he could just put a bowl of Porridge in microwave for me, "it's really easy, just 2 scoops of Porridge, add 3 scoops of water, stir, stir, stir, then into microwave for 2min30, then just leave it, it would be such a big help to know its there ready for me for when I get downstairs, and I won't have to wait for it to cool"

So the next morning I reminded him as he went downstairs, 2 scoops Porridge, 3 scoops water, scooper in Porridge tin, Porridge tin beside microwave, and then that I evening I thanked him and said it had made my day so much easier as it started out well. 6 years later he is still making me Porridge every morning, even if we have had a row, the Porridge is always waiting for me in the microwave.

Then a few weeks later I added another request, could he set his alarm 20 minutes earlier in the morning, if baby asleep when the alarm goes off then I go for shower and he gets to have sleepy snuggles in bed with baby, if baby is feeding when his alarm goes off then he showers, by the time he is done then baby should also be done and I can have shower while he has baby cuddles.

Again lots of thanks and praise, my day was so much better, it meant I didn't have to leave baby alone to shower during day and I could nap when baby napped and I was already showered so I could go out if I fancied it without feeling gross.

Then I added in other things once he was working from home,

"I have a phone call to make to physio/GP/school/insurance (use whatever excuse works), next time you're between calls and taking coffee break could you hold baby so I can go make my 5 minute phone call, every time I try to get through baby starts crying"

I also leave list on the fridge of things that can be done while kettle is boiling for coffee or lunch is being reheated in microwave:

· If Tumble dryer finished put in basket

· If Washing machine finished transfer to tumble dryer

· If Washing machine empty load from laundry hamper

· If recycling box full take out to green bin

· If dishwasher finished empty it

· If sink full, load into dishwasher

These small tasks add up.

Then give examples as reminders of why you need time as well

"I wasn't able to phone round about the car insurance today as baby kept crying and person on phone couldn't hear me, tomorrow could you make time between meetings so I can do some important and pressing household admin tasks"

"I have the physio exercises to do for my pelvic floor, I need 20 minutes uninterrupted "

I find explaining the problem, providing a solution, giving step by step instructions and then lots of praise really works.

Resentment and anger didn't work for us.

And my husband had inability to know what needed doing, such as checking content of nappy bag before leaving the house, or noticing full laundry hamper.

It's a bit like reward training a child.

His mother didn't do it so I did it. And he is now far more considerate and aware.

What I learnt is that my husband genuinely didn't know what help I needed. He also didn't understand how long the days were at home with baby, he thought it was brilliant, baby cuddles and naps all day, I had to tell him about the back to back outfit changes after baby peed on one, then had leaky poop, then spit up, the constant crying, the difficulties getting wind up/out, the exhaustion from lack of sleep, the neighbour drilling holes when I wanted to nap, etc, for him to understand it was no holiday.

I find language choice makes a difference for my husband,

If I just ask "can you please load the washing machine ", it doesn't get done.

He doesn't see it as urgent or important, he thinks we have loads of clothes, he prefers to sit and play video games to unwind and will get to it 'later' if he remembers,

If I phrase it

"I'm so glad you're home, I've been looking forward to sitting down with you, it's been a difficult day, and there is still a few things to get done, and you look tired, so I'm going to put kids to bed / get dinner ready / wash vomit out of my hair (whatever), would you please quickly before you start your game, load the washing machine, then it won't be making the spinning noise when we're going to bed / it will be ready for the tumble dryer before bed, as I'm all out of clean vests for baby / P.E. uniform (whatever), then we can both sit down together and enjoy the evening together"

If I present it as acknowledgement that neither one of us wants to do dull chores, both of us are tired, then greater chance he will do it, otherwise if he doesn’t then he really is being an ass.

He has his own stresses that maybe he doesn't share as too worn down after the day, so sitting close to him, smiling, telling him I'm happy to see him, the sooner we get stuff done sooner we can enjoy evening, there is help, cooperation, and then intimacy, even if it is just a smile between partners, and that's something we build on.

But he would trip over basket at bottom of stairs before he would 'see' it and know it has to be taken up, its not just there for giggles, so I do have to spell things out, but less things now than before.

That's my view, of my personal experiences, and hopefully it helps someone to view similar perspective on upbringing and skills of their partners.

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