Not Keeping Score as a Partner
by Chelsea Becker, Editorial contributor
Want to know one of my worst qualities? I keep score in my marriage - like a lot. Before kids, it was tallied by household chores and social events. Once our son was born, my score-keeping tallied everything it could...and more.
As a lot of mamas can probably relate to, I was “outscoring” my husband day after day and a lot of the responsibility fell on me, or at least I thought it did. I’d breastfeed around the clock which meant getting up around the clock. I’d grab the baby when he was fussy since I had watched endless videos on how to soothe. I’d frantically do our laundry in the middle of the night. I’d put away every single play mat and book before bed. And I’d still do all the household chores I’d always done. I was scoring higher in parenthood and marriage yet I had felt like I was losing more at the game of partnership.
Luckily, my sweet husband hasn’t divorced me because of my score-keeping demons. He doesn’t keep score or judge me for doing so. In fact, he absorbs my outbursts about how he’s “always doing less,” does whatever chore I ask him to, and helps with the baby at the drop of a hat. He also never speaks up about the tasks he does behind-the-scenes (cleaning gutters, bills, taking care of our tech and health care, researching the safest car seats, etc).
But even with his kind cooperation, I could feel my score-keeping eating away at our relationship. Now that we were parents, did I really want to treat him like this in front of our son? Nope. Did I want this resentment and negativity in our home? Definitely not.
Weren’t we on the same team?
The answer is we are on the same team. We chose each other in partnership and parenthood, yet I was trying to win the game.
It’s a constant struggle for me - the art of not keeping score. It’s something I have to intentionally think of every single day. But what I find is that all it takes is better communication on my part. My husband reacts well to lists and instructions. He’s never going to notice when a book is out of place, and we have different interpretations of a “messy house”. He’s never going to be 9 months pregnant YouTubing ‘how to soothe a newborn’ at 3 a.m. He’s also never going to be able to breastfeed or be the mother who naturally takes on more of the responsibility in the newborn stage.
But he can plow through a checklist. He can add events to a shared calendar to help us stay organized. He can learn how to soothe the baby if I show him or send him a link. He can give our son a bottle and eliminate a night feed for me. He can help me in any way as long as I give him an opportunity before doing it myself and taking it out on him.
So that’s what I’m trying to do: giving him the chance to help in his own way and throwing the scorebook out the window. Because being on the same team feels good and I’m always a better wife and mother when I put us there.
Please tell me you’ve felt yourself keeping score? Am I the only monster? Or better yet, if you don’t, how do you avoid it in your home?
Chelsea Becker is a San Francisco based writer, creator of becker editorial, and on the editorial team at MU. She’s expecting her first child this spring.