"Don't do the dishes that way!"
"Don't punish the kids if they forget to brush their teeth; you must remind them."
Sound familiar? If you're like most other husbands and fathers, it should.
There aren't many things my wife does that get under my skin, but I have a tough time dealing with a scolding or being micromanaged while completing a task or caregiving. And it should; this is called maternal gatekeeping.
What is Maternal Gatekeeping?
Maternal gatekeeping is when mothers and wives, consciously or unconsciously, restrict or control their partner's involvement in parenting tasks and decision-making. It manifests in various ways, from controlling tasks to questioning a partner's ability to care for the children.
It can stem from a desire to maintain a sense of control, fear of judgment, or societal expectations regarding gender roles. Like other women, my wife always meant well. However, its impact on family dynamics can be significant.
Responses to Maternal Gatekeeping
How do men often respond to maternal gatekeeping? Many responded in ways similar to mine.
"Fine. You just do it."
This response puts a stop to the pestering.
"I don't understand how you can get in and out of the grocery so quickly!"
Patronizing like this worked well for me for a while. Tell them how great they are at doing something and convince them that nobody does it as well as they do. Eventually, that led to silent resentment.
I realize that these approaches were wrong, and I consider this a confession. But that doesn't make maternal gatekeeping right.
How Maternal Gatekeeping Impacts Men
Maternal gatekeeping can profoundly affect men, affecting our confidence and sense of competence as parents. When a mother consistently takes charge, we may feel undervalued or disconnected from their children. Over time, this can strain the relationship between partners and hinder the development of a balanced parenting partnership.
Quick Tips to Work Through Maternal Gatekeeping
Express Appreciation: Start the conversation by acknowledging your partner's efforts and expressing gratitude for her role as a mother.
Share Feelings: Use "I" statements to share your feelings and experiences. Avoid blaming language and focus on expressing how specific behaviors make you feel.
Propose Collaboration: Emphasize the importance of working together as equal partners in parenting. Discuss shared goals and the benefits of a collaborative approach.
Offer Solutions: Suggest practical solutions to redistribute parenting responsibilities. This could involve creating a shared schedule, setting clear expectations, and finding activities both parents can enjoy with the children.
Seek Professional Support: If necessary, consider seeking the help of a family therapist or counselor to facilitate communication and provide guidance on navigating maternal gatekeeping.
The Modern Husbands Podcast
We recently hosted Dr. Joshua Coleman on the Modern Husbands Podcast to discuss his book, The Lazy Husband.
Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice and a Senior Fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families. He has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and more. He has been a frequent guest on The Today Show and NPR and featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, and Good Morning America.
Dr. Coleman understands the challenges husbands face as we try to be supportive spouses. He gets that many of us are not lazy husbands or fathers; we're simply on the wrong end of maternal gatekeeping and doing the best we can.
Winning ideas from experts to manage money and the home as a team. 2023 Plutus Award Finalist: Best Couples or Family Content
🔔 Click here to listen and subscribe to the Modern Husbands Podcast on Apple.
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0:01:00 What inspired Dr. Coleman to focus on the topic of men's involvement in parenting and housework.
0:03:16 Dr. Coleman elaborates on the challenges couples face when it comes to achieving a balance in parenting and household responsibilities, specifically addressing men's roles.
0:11:09 Common misconceptions or stereotypes identified in research that contribute to the perception of husbands as "lazy" in terms of parenting and housework.
0:14:30 Practical tips that couples can implement to help husbands feel more involved as parents and in the home.
0:17:19 How the concept of emotional labor plays a role in the division of responsibilities, and what can couples do to address and distribute it more equitably.
0:23:22 The importance of creating a supportive environment for men to take on more responsibilities and the role of mutual respect in achieving this balance.
0:29:10 How couples can navigate potential resistance or reluctance from women when it comes to allowing husbands to do household chores their own way.
0:33:05 Where listeners can go to learn more about your work and purchase your books.
0:33:53 One piece of simple and actionable advice you want our listeners to walk away knowing from today’s episode.
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