It’s common that in our modern lives and economic climate that families with two parents are often relying on both parents to work. Regrettably, in heterosexual relationships, the social condition still exists in our culture that sees the primary responsibility for family care most often falls to women. Whether through choice or culture (or both), such responsibility affects their working lives of them more than it affects the working lives of men. In addition, mothers wanting to return to work can be faced with a lack of employment policies to accommodate them. Forcing them to choose between job security and parenting, or a job that isn’t in line with their career goals or education.

Despite these complex hurdles, working women often do an extraordinary job in balancing their lives to reflect their roles as mothers, professionals, partners, and members of the community. Comparatively, working women are still more likely to work more hours of paid and unpaid work than their working partners. They will be doing more housework and child care than men, are more likely to take a day off work if a child is sick, and more frequently will give up personal aspirations to spend time with family.

These facts are significant in understanding resentment that can build when spouses aren’t helping out enough with domestic and childcare duties. This can spill out into anger, conflict, and disconnection between couples. Sadly, this relationship dynamic has the adverse effect of creating more family distress too, and about 60% of working woman report that parents take out their stress on children negatively. Things can spiral out of hand quickly and issues are heightened if there were underlying relationship problems before returning to work.

When viewed through this relationship lens, it seems obvious, that working mothers – first and foremost – receive the increased support of their partners with domestic and child-rearing tasks around the home. Although a great starting place, it’s also obvious that this is sometimes too simple. Relationship dynamics can be far more complex. Couples can get stuck in a groove around perceived roles and responsibilities that are generational and unconscious. It’s important then, to create a space for discussion, reflection, and change and I’ve listed 5 ideas below that may help.

Communicate your needs: first and foremost, have a genuine, connect-full conversation about perceived ideas around work, responsibilities, roles, child care, and the like. This is very important to help shift stuck values and themes within the family. Avoid blame and criticism and look at setting up this conversation with some healthy communication structures to support a more positive outcome. If the relationship distress is too high and it’s impossible to hold a space for this discussion without conflict, I would highly recommend seeking couples counselling or some relationship support.

Active Fathering: Active Fathering is far wider reaching than being engaged with changing nappies, bedtime routine, and getting kids off to school. All very positive and fulfilling experiences for dads to undertake mind you. It includes how we engage we challenge ourselves to grow and expand and men; understand our emotional worlds, relationships, and parenting in a deeper more connected way. The flow-on effect of active fathering is entwined in healthier children, happier relationships, better homes, and stronger communities. For fathers, it’s pretty simple really… Step up and keep stepping.

Build a Weekly Schedule: This is essential for time management and Job delegation and can include tasks, activities, parenting responsibilities, and time for self. Some families I work with include loads of details around instrumental tasks (whose turn to cook, clothes washing, etc) to promote equality, and parenting duties to promote time for self and work. Many families talk about how valuable this has been for functional living. It’s important that this schedule allows for flexibility and changes to be made easily, and I would review it regularly.

Prioritise time as a couple: Couples where both parents work often report an increased level of emotional disconnection through lack of quality time. And we know that families hinge on couplehood. So quality, caring time together is essential. In my therapy practice, regardless of the issues, couples always do better when they can provide this opportunity for each other. And it’s important to know that you don’t always need a date night or time away, and it can be as easy as 30 minutes one night a week. Turn-take on organising, and make sure there are no distractions with phones or screens. And don’t forget to put it in the week’s schedule!

Honour Self-Care: Most couples recognise that work and family life can often be stressful and that each partner may need time to decompress and express themselves in their individuality and interests. Often independently of the other partner. In fact, doing so can really enhance the relationship ‘zing’ in couples as each person can feel more filled up in their individual pursuits, more supported by the other, and in turn, more excited about the connection in their family relationships. The key is equality, and it can be so important to loop back to point one.

Sean Tonnet is a highly sort after relationship therapist, international educator and Clinical Director for Thrive Clinic Mullumbimby.  You can contact Sean through this website contact page or directly at or