Ask A Mom: Division of Home Labor, Bathroom Habits, and Cars Up the Nose

WBTV’s Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
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Q: My husband and I work for the same bank, the same number of hours per week, yet the majority of the housework and childcare still falls on me. He’ll pick up some of the slack if I leave him a to-do list, but if I don’t remind him that afternoon pick-up is at 3:15 or trash day is Wednesday, things never get done. How can I get him to step up and help without always having to spell it out for him?—Melissa 

A: My unscientific presumption is 80% of women reading right now feel this question in their bones. You. Are. Not. Alone.

Also, good on you for not mentioning who makes more money. In this situation, the person who brings home added bacon doesn’t matter. The fact you and your husband work the same number of hours per week indicates you face similar time constraints, so all chores shouldn’t fall on one person. Technical “bread winner”—whether that’s you or him—doesn’t get a free pass at home.

I took your question to three marriage counselors (one a male!). Before I share their professional advice, let me throw out a suggestion that my friends and I have talked about before, simply as a starting point:

When you mentally review what you do versus what he does, make sure to take stock of all things. Not just what you know you do and wish he helped with, but also the stuff he may do that you don’t think about because it’s handled. This could include monthly bills, finances, keeping vehicles up-to-date, yard work, or insurance issues. If you write an actual list (God, do I love a list), there might be more on his side than you think. Or, maybe that list will prove your point even better? Either way, it’s good research.

And now, advice from three actual therapists who get paid to answer these kinds of questions:

[1] “Recent studies show men endorse the concept of gender equality,” says Dr. Randy Wall, a (male) psychologist with Charlotte Psychotherapy & Consultation Group, who specializes in working with men. “However, even between the ages of 18 and 34, they still cling to traditional views of who is responsible for household chores, so you may have to spell it out for them. I recommend approaching husbands with an ‘I-statement.’ For example, ‘It is frustrating to me when I have to remind you what time to pick up the kids.’ Then engage in a conversation about equitable distribution of household responsibilities.”

[2] “Division of labor is something I hear about with frequency,” says Susan Morrow, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), who works with individuals, marriages, and family therapy in Charlotte. “One partner over-functions in their ‘second job’ at home, and the other under-functions. If your beloved is a reasonable person, I recommend you ask for a meeting. Make sure it’s at a time when you’re not frustrated, and when you are in a ‘good enough’ relationship groove. Letting him know how you see your own self becoming managerial might push him away, and impact intimacy. Allow the conversation to flow. Hear him before you offer solutions. Then, make a suggestion to have rotating days of who is the ‘point person’ for the day. The ‘House Manager,’ if you will. One caution I do tell my clients: It benefits current status quo for him to not do as good of a job as you. If his performance as House Manager frustrates you, you are then at risk for doing it all yourself. So, set realistic expectations.”

[3] “There’s something in the way Melissa asked the question that I think is a real clue,” says Jennifer Leddy, LCSW, who has a private practice in Matthews. “When she says ‘How can I get him to step up and HELP…’ it illustrates how many of us still operate under the old gender role definitions that housework and childcare fall under the mom column. Even though women have college degrees and successful careers, many men and women still assume old gender roles at home. It’s understandable because it’s probably what we saw growing up; human default is to repeat what we see. But to support a desired change in roles, couples can take the conversation from asking a husband to ‘step up and help’ (and a ‘to-do’ list), and instead sit down to strategize together as a team. In that meeting, assess all needs for the house, kids, family, school for the week/month, and then put each in a ‘mine,’ ‘yours,’ or ‘shared’ column. Together. Do it together. And be mindful not to assign tasks based on gender roles. This approach can help a couple shift communication towards shared accountability, and away from frustration and resentment.

The most important thing to remember? Remain patient. Changing roles takes time and we might need gentle reminders along the way.

Q: Hi Molly, I’m at a complete loss! Our almost 5-year-old granddaughter just will not do #2 in the toilet! We and her parents have read many articles, prayed, talked, and begged to no avail. Any help would be greatly appreciated!—Desperate Gran

A: Dear Desperate Gran,

She’s okay. So says U.S. News & World Report.

“The reality is the skill of micturition (peeing) and defecation (pooping) require different neural pathways and unique muscular systems that can mature at different times,” Dr. Natasha Burgert writes in a well-read 2018 article. “I assure you that many, many children pee on the potty, but poop in a diaper.”

If you are truly interested in reading the details Dr. Burgert lays out in clinical fashion, I invite you to check her words here.

If you just want an overview (I can’t believe I’m about to write what I’m about to write): Poop can hurt a child. Even one painful constipation can stop them for trying for weeks. The article also suggests if the child is generally a busy kid, they’ll stop for a minute to let a bit of poop out, but not fully evacuate their bowels. Over time, that poop backs up. Once that happens, it’s increasingly harder for their body to tell them they need to go. When they finally do get the signal to try, the process can really hurt. Back to the issue of pain.

Dr. Burgert says you have to ensure the child feels confident that pooping won’t hurt. She even suggests giving over-the-counter stool softeners. In her article, she goes into specifics about the position a child sits in on the toilet AND suggests a process where the child wears a diaper, sits on the toilet, feels good about pooping in the diaper, and then eventually you start cutting a hole in the diaper so what goes in falls in the toilet and the child feels success.

Let’s be honest—I have now educated all of us more than maybe needed and typed “poop” way too many times, so I truly encourage you to check that link for other ideas.

Or, as Dr. Burgert suggests, call your pediatrician. They’ll most likely reassure you that your granddaughter is fine.

Q: My child is putting cars up his nose. How do I get him to stop?—Laura 

A: Assume you mean Matchbox cars? I’d hide them. Done.

Thank you guys for sending such good questions. Tons of submissions this month and we enjoyed choosing them. (And no, we didn’t pick the swingers from Nebraska who asked about good clubs to visit in Charlotte.) Keep your thoughts coming. You ask, I’ll answer. Just go to the homepage of Charlotte Parent’s website and scroll down to the right. You’ll see the box to type in your questions.

Until next month… (or tonight at 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 11 p.m.).


MOLLY GRANTHAM is an anchor, author, and mom of three. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or catch her on WBTV News at 5:00, 5:30, and 11 p.m.