I do all the work. My husband gets a promotion and it’s the biggest deal in the world—and I’m happy for him. But I work, too, and I still do everything else—doctor appts, birthday planning, you name it. I resent this, I admit it! How can I get him to do more?

Couple of thoughts that may run contrary to popular beliefs, and are not meant to invalidate, but provide an opportunity for reflection. Resentment, frustration, and burnout come from a place of helplessness (anger does, too). That is, we find ourselves “in” a helpless situation where we do “all the work” and the work is too much for one person, and we don’t have a quick remedy or see options to change or improve the situation. Yet, even though it may not seem this way, we are the ones who write our own “job descriptions.”

In life situations, there are three options: 1. Accept 2. Change or 3. Leave. We are not stuck. If we, as mothers, take responsibility for what we have put onto our plates, we have taken the first and most powerful step toward creating real change in our family life. There are few have-to’s in life. We choose to have children. We choose to work or not work. We choose to add in additional schooling. We choose to join organizations or volunteer. We choose to live within or beyond our means. Those are choices. They may not feel like choices because of how we did not pre-plan and proactively set ourselves up for a more peaceful life, but ultimately they were choices we made at one point in time. And, we can take courage to make new, meaningful choices that can lead to real change. Some of that change can occur right away, and others might require a short- or long-term plan for freedom.

It’s helpful to clarify values and whittle down what we truly want to do to things that align with our core values. Delete the extra tasks, obligations, material items, relationships, and other things that ultimately do not create more connection between you and your partner and you and your children–your center-stage people. The people on your secondary and tertiary stages are not going to be there when it matters most. They don’t get the best of you. Save the best of you for your husband and children. Serve it up every day on a platinum platter.

If your husband doesn’t help enough, divide labor by skills (not equality) and give him a specific list of things to do that’s he good or good enough at and a timeframe to do it by. Use time-blocking to clarify your needs to him–“Please do this list by Saturday at 11 a.m.” Most men are not going to think of what we think of. They are wired to protect and provide. As mothers, we build and maintain the nest–very different tasks. (If your husband doesn’t protect and provide, or is addicted to something, then you have a whole other issue that needs to be addressed before the topic here can be relevant). Even when mothers work outside the home or are the main bread-winner, research shows the home roles stay fairly consistent. That’s why women feel so wiped out!

Husbands want to be adored, and valued, the same as we do. When they feel that from you, most will want to complete “your list” whether verbal or written. They want to see you gentle, open, smiling, and happy. That is what they want. They want you to see them as your hero–as competent, capable, and strong. State your needs to him. Talk about your values as you state your needs from the adult-integrated state: “I value our marriage and clear communication, so I want to share some important ways I will feel more supported by you.” “I value rest and silence, so I would prefer if we have a weekend with no outside commitments.” “I value fun and friendship, so I’d like to think of some things we can do together to create more of that in our marriage. I’ve taken some things off my plate in order to make that happen.” “I value physical touch and words of affirmation, so I’d like you to touch my hair at night and to hear more often about how much you love me. I will do the same for you.” Tell him you need a soft place to fall sometimes and you want it to be him. Go into loving practice each day with each other. Make a commitment to do so–above all your other commitments. Revel in your tasks–we are so lucky to be women. We get to make people with our bodies and nurture them to independence. We get to partner with another person to evolve in consciousness. WOW.

Once children are grown, they will not remember if your house was clean, if you were on the PTA, or what car you drove. They will remember your open, expansive eyes, your warm smile, and your calm, consistent leadership. If you have created a life that doesn’t allow you to be that mom and that loving, spacious partner in life to another human, then it’s an opportunity to start scraping the plate and get to what matters. There is a way to have a life full of “get-to’s” and to have very few “have-to’s”. It’s a life of enthusiasm and delight that you can have no matter your financial status, marital status, education status, or any other status. It’s a state of being within you that leads you to clarify your values and to live in alignment with those values. This is an important legacy we can model and leave for our children, and they are counting on us to do it.