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Parenthood can feel like a perpetual to-do list. This is how I avoid resentment

Tori Bowman Johnson

Tori Bowman Johnson

Tori, a freelance writer, has worked in production, talent management & branding since her agency role at Vivien’s Model Management in Melbourne in 2011. Tori has recently launched, The First Word; a conversational podcast for women, particularly those who juggle young children & paid work. Tori is also a very proud mum of two little boys.
Created on Apr 03, 2024 · 7 mins read

I was struggling with resentment. I felt like most of us do at some point, ‘I’m tired of having to carry the household and the children within it.’


When my mood crept into the weekend, it interrupted our sacred family time. I needed a way to find peace. 

Here’s what I found; it can be hard to not do it all, when it all needs to be done.

Mic drop. 

A household with children is a perpetual to-do list – and for good reason. Usually, the things we need to do revolve around keeping our little ones alive and happy.

Primary carers wake up and instantly transform from a half-asleep-human to human-with-a-diverse-resume. 

Regardless if it’s Monday or Sunday – we’re on. From first light, we transform into a chef. Then a cleaner. A teacher. A peacekeeper (or a judge depending on how you look at it). A washing machine. A first aid respondent. And for those with toddlers on the brink of full sentences – a translator.

We don’t hesitate to show up in these roles for one second. Our bodies move intuitively and before we know it, it’s 10.17am and we’re a blend of starving, busting, and desperate to skull the last of our cold coffee.

While the morning flow will unfold differently in each household, I think most primary carers can relate to this sentiment; it’s the children before us from the minute we open our eyes. Actually, who are we kidding? From the minute the children open their eyes.

What commonly builds as the week matures, is a spiky sense of resentment for the non-primary carer. The parent who still cares for the children but perhaps not quite in the all-consuming way we experience.

Even though our partners are most likely contributing something else of equal value to the household (let’s go with an income to keep things simple), the relentless nature of child-rearing can wear us down to our bare bones and our most bleak emotional state. In other words, we can allow unwanted resentment to compound, steering us into an iceberg. And then we snap. 

I’m going to put my hand up here. This has been me, and more than once. 

Colliding with the iceberg


I have days where I’m coping, coping, coping … and then something happens (perhaps a child complains their jam toast is ‘too jam-y’ … or someone else forgets to use the very simple words ‘thank you) and … hello iceberg.

I collide with the metaphorical ice mound and I snap. Words of frustration pour out. Tears of fatigue fall. I feel claustrophobic and stuck. My personality exits the building, leaving my physical form to soak up the spilled emotions. 

We are all familiar with this scenario, are we not? 

Now correct me if I am wrong here, but if we fall hostage to an iceberg collision over the weekend, it can be a sorry 48 hours for everyone. It is so hard to shake a dose of resentment when it’s fresh. But it’s such a real shame as the weekend is a beautiful opportunity for family time. 

How do we save our weekends and avoid these icebergs? 

How do we pivot to prioritise good times with our kids, peace within our household, and maybe even closeness or intimacy with our partner over the 48 hours that we’re united as a family? 


The ritual resolution


Here is an idea. This is something I have personally adopted over the past few years, bringing my family enjoyment and easing any tension that may have been festering during the week. 

Find a weekend ritual that gets you all out of the house. A walk, the park, a farmer’s market, a sporting activity. 

In planning this ritual, divide the parental roles (ahead of time) so that no one naturally assumes the lot. You dress the kids, I’ll pack the car. You put their sunscreen on, I’ll sort the snacks.

Allowing your family unit to exist outside the four walls of your home will dilute the normal expectations. There is no sink in sight. No fridge. No vacuum, mop, or pile of laundry. There are no bins to take out or toys to put away. There is the outside world and you guys. There is newness and a fresh slate. 

Avoid expecting the ritual to unfold the same way each week. You might have a fabulous day at the markets one Saturday, only to find the next has you drenched in rain and managing a tantrum or two. It’s ok! Don’t get rid of the ritual yet … stick with it. Let life happen around it.

Consider this ritual to be something you may one day call a family tradition. The more time you invest into this occasion, the more you will fight to protect it from angst or tension. 

If an argument brews before the ritual takes place, let’s say Friday night (worst case scenario); think to the next morning. Use the ritual as a way to encourage yourself to lean into communication and perspective, and reestablish a sense of harmony.

 


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A personal testimony


My experience? 

My family of 4 adopted a ritual about 3 months after my second child was born. My little boy had a horrible dose of colic and therefore he and I rarely slept for more than 45 minutes at a time – ever.

I’d spent a good part of that time feeling as though I’d been hit by a bus and confined to the living room, the bedroom, the nursery, or attached to a carrier, trying everything to help this baby sleep. Nothing worked. 

Come Saturday morning – if I’m going to be honest – I started to feel pissed off.

Everyone else was waking up so jovial. Ready to launch into a day of fun. Meanwhile, life was a version of Groundhog Day for me. I was stuck rocking, patting, burping, swaying, feeding, feeding again, yawning, crying, questioning, Dr Golly-ing. On repeat.

I was stuck under a thick blanket of resentment and exceptionally close to striking an iceberg. 

One early Saturday morning, my husband walked into the living room to find me watching the JLO documentary on Netflix at 5am. 

I was eating one of my toddler’s yoghurt pouches and holding a very awake baby. 

Oh, and I was crying. 

He had read about the local farmer’s markets and suggested we venture over for a coffee, breakfast, fresh air, and the cherry on top – a dose of newness.

So I stuffed my bra with pads, whipped up a top knot, and off we went. Thank goodness we did.

As soon as we arrived, I felt unstuck. 

There was no household for me to sort out. No shower for me to hide and sob. No reason to feel frustrated or alone as I was surrounded by gorgeous folk who were out for their weekend fruit and veg shop. I saw live music play. I patted a happy dog. I ate a very good bacon and egg burger. 

The iceberg? Nowhere to be seen.

The resentment? Now gratitude. 

The fatigue? Still there, but diluted by the enjoyment I felt. 

Almost 2 years later, that Saturday morning market ritual is something we still do without fail. And I look forward to it deeply.

Despite the weather or the number of wines consumed the night before, to the markets we go. We huddle up in the rain or soak up the sun. We are untethered from responsibilities and roles. 

I cannot speak higher enough of finding a family ritual if you’re feeling stuck or swaddled in unease and resentment. Finding a way to free yourself from the heaviness of the primary caring role – even if it’s just for the morning – is energising.  

It’s simple, pleasant, and all in all, just really nice. 

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