Cupids Health

Maternal Gatekeeping, Explained

Moms have a habit of wanting things done a certain way. And there’s s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but there’s a limit.

What is maternal gatekeeping
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Moms have a habit of wanting things involving their kids to be done a certain way. And there’s s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but there’s a limit. Are you a mommy that constantly shows their partner how to feed the baby the “right” way? Do you insist on picking out your child’s clothes, their toys, where they go, and what they do all the time? Are you a mom guilty of leaving pages of instructions for your nanny when going on date night? These habits sound harmless like they’re no big deal. However, they could be a sign of “maternal gatekeeping.” Displaying such behavior is prone to drive a would-be caregiver away, which may leave you burned out, angry, and irritated.

Does this sound all too familiar? Are you a mom that just cat help it and wants to micromanage every tiny detail involving your baby? Read on to learn more about maternal gatekeeping and how you can nip this behavior in the bud.

What Is Maternal Gatekeeping?

How to overcome maternal gatekeeping

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According to The Bump, maternal gatekeeping is where a mom serves as the ultimate gatekeeper for anything infant-or toddler-related, including blocking other caregivers from becoming involved. And while it’s normal to want to be in control of your baby’s care, maternal gatekeeping can cause a growing conflict, especially with your partner, as well as mommy burnout. We’ve been made to internalize that “mommy knows best?” But where does that leave everybody else? After all, if you’re always taking care of your baby, even when it’s another person’s turn to care for her, you’ll feel tired and depleted by the end of the day. Moms can exhibit this behavior towards all kinds of caregivers, whether grandparents, in-laws, babysitters, and nannies.

However, it’s especially prevalent with a partner. Moms can easily and unknowingly get in the pattern of gatekeeping even in the most balanced relationship since they tend to spend more time with the baby. But how will others step in and help you out when you feel like you’re the only one able to handle certain baby-related things?

Signs that you’re guilty of maternal gatekeeping include:

  • Looking over a caregiver’s shoulder as they tend to the baby
  • Directing someone pre-emptively instead of letting them figure it out.
  • Turning down plans since only you can watch over your child
  • Critiquing how another person handles a task, like changing the diaper or bottle feeding.
  • Looking up information about child development but failing to share it with your partner.
  • Complaining to loved ones about what your partner can’t or didn’t do.
  • Feeling resentment, frustration, or wishing your partner helped out more.

RELATED: The Mental Load From Motherhood: Real Mom Talk

Dangers Of Maternal Gatekeeping

Why maternal gatekeeping is dangerous

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Here’s why maternal gatekeeping is dangerous:

  • Strives for perfectionism– Perfectionism rather than “good enough” is what maternal gatekeeping strives for. According to Fatherly, mom has really, really high standards and thinks that she’s a perfect parent, but she’s unsure about her partner’s parenting skills, and her partner becomes unsure about himself too. Mom believes there’s a right and wrong way to parent and thinks hers is the right way. When daddy does stuff his way, mom tries to control him or handle it herself.
  • It isn’t fair to your partner- Maternal gatekeeping leaves out the dad. He may feel a little irritated but somewhat relieved of all that responsibility or deeply suspicious if he’s competent enough. Ultimately, he’ll accept that mommy knows best and that he has little power to discuss the situation. These patterns of behavior will slowly reinforce themselves.
  • Leaves mom with all the burden causing bitter feelings– You’ll never catch a break because you always want to be in charge of taking care of the baby. You’ll miss out on going out with your friends, won’t catch up on work, or just enjoying your hobbies. You’ll end up feeling exhausted and start to resent your partner because you feel like he isn’t doing enough. On the other hand, your partner will feel resentful because you’re constantly micromanaging his every move.

Overcoming Maternal Gatekeeping

Maternal gatekeeping is common for moms, especially first-timers. Here’s how to deal with it:

  • Discuss roles with your partner beforehand– Even before the baby is born, discuss how you plan to parent. What is it that you agree on or disagree on? Have this conversation beforehand, and settle on a middle ground.
  • Strive for “good enough” parenting instead of perfection– Moms strive to be perfect because of a society that still judges women harshly on their capability to be perfect caretakers while judging men on their ability to provide for their family. Still, mommy doesn’t know it all, and she certainly doesn’t know best. Motherly advises that parents acknowledge that peace, instead of perfection, should be the goal. It’s OK if your partner holds the baby differently; it’s OK that how he soothes her isn’t how you do it. It’s also OK to miss milestones, not always be present, and have a life separate from your child’s.
  • Focus on safety- Step in when it comes to safety or health. If your partner mixes formula in the wrong ratio, for example, show them how to do it. But if they sing a song before reading a bedtime story or dress the baby in an outfit different from the one you chose, then let them do it. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
  • Get out of the house– Go out into the world to gain perspective while someone else watches the baby. Go for a night out with friends, go to the gym, or even a drive. Anything to take your mind off the baby for a while.
  • Take a class – Take a class with your partner to get on equal footing. Learning the same information will put you on the same page.

Sources: Fatherly, Motherly, The Bump

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