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via Laura Danger (used with permission) and RDNE Stock Project/Pexels

Domestic labor expert, Laura Danger explains how to beat the 'nag paradox'.

Is there one person in your household who makes most of the domestic decisions and then delegates tasks to a support member? If so, then you’re probably familiar with the “nag paradox,” even if you’ve never heard it explained that way.

More often than not, in heterosexual relationships, wives carry the domestic mental load and the husband is a support member taking orders. Eventually, this dynamic can become toxic when the wife has to tell the husband repeatedly to do a task, or it isn’t accomplished to her liking.

This can leave the wife feeling rejected and vulnerable. It can also make the husband feel criticized, so he gets defensive and calls his wife a nag.


Laura Danger, a mother of two in Chicago, Illinois, is a licensed educator, certified coach, and content creator who counsels couples on emotional labor and explains the origins of this problem.

"Women are more likely to have grown up facing the pressure to perform household tasks than men," she told Upworthy. "There's a lot of cultural messaging about how women are naturally better at managing the household. The creep of imbalance isn't always an active or malicious choice. Household inequity is the norm in our society, and we've been taught that list-making and taking direction is the way to solve it, rather than collaborating."

She recently released a video that perfectly explains this paradox and how it affects partners differently.

What is the Nag Paradox?youtu.be

"The nag paradox is that very tricky and very common household dynamic where one person manages more of the mental load and is making more of the decisions around the logistics of the household," Danger explains. "And the other person is playing a support role, or is in a position of taking directions, or only giving periodic feedback."

She continues to say that the nag paradox is a “trap” because the person in charge of the decision-making process is attempting to connect with their partner, who may get defensive from being told what to do or critiqued for their performance. “The idea of nagging is that somebody’s upset about something that doesn’t matter. Domestic labor matters. Connecting with your partner matters. You’re not a nag for wanting partnership,” she says in the video.

She adds that a big problem with the nag paradox is that it can easily lead to two dangerous behaviors, “criticism” and “defensiveness,” known by influential psychologist John Gottman as the 2 of the Four Horsemen, or behaviors that can lead to the end of a relationship.

“It’s a setup for both people because, after a while, you don’t want to be vulnerable,” Danger continues. “You don’t want to open yourself up to that feeling of ‘I can’t do anything right’ … and the other person is saying, ‘I feel like I’m constantly being rejected.’”



So, how do couples overcome the paradox? On her blog, Danger says it’s all about taking time to connect and both partners understanding that domestic labor is a serious issue.

“Meet weekly and use this time to set standards, trade tasks and take your household seriously,” Danger wrote. “The resentment of one person managing more of the mental load, making more decisions and being put into the position of delegating, making decisions and giving guidance can be solved by doing the opposite! Work together. Be open and curious! You’re partners! Clear communication and some preventative care.”

She shared an instance where a couple she worked with broke the cycle by working together and communicating clearly.

"One couple I worked with had one partner who had a high-stress job that kept them away from home for long hours, and the other stayed home with their two kids. The breadwinner felt helpless when they came home and tried to help because it never felt like it was enough," she told Upworthy. "The stay-at-home parent felt alone in decision-making and felt like they were pestering their spouse. They broke the cycle by deciding a few tasks that the breadwinner's spouse could jump in and handle without feedback and agreed on expectations. Then, the stay-at-home parent stepped back and trusted the other to do what they committed to."

"They created a list of favorite meals, shopped for the kids' clothes online and planned their annual trip together," she continued. "Finding opportunities to make decisions together as a team and getting clear on expectations limited the frequency of one telling the other what to do. They would never get to an equal split, but their resentment broke down when they traded the nag paradox for collaboration."

Smoothing over resentment and building a relationship where both partners work together can be challenging, but Danger tells Today.com that it’s worth the effort.

"If you're already emotionally or mentally exhausted, it can feel like too big a battle to wage,” she said. “But it is worth it! If you want to have a relationship that's better or more balanced in the long run, it's worth doing."

His message is making so many SAHMS feel seen.

Stay-at-home moms work round the clock performing myriad duties, both physically and emotionally demanding, all for zero compensation. But even more dismaying than the lack of monetary gain is the lack of recognition these full-time moms get for what they accomplish day in and day out.

That’s where Donald Schaefer comes in.

Schaefer, a man who seems to be upwards of 80 and living in Florida, is a bit of an unexpected influencer in the mom corner of social media. But nonetheless, his Instagram and TikTok are full of videos meant to offer financial tips, recipe ideas and emotional support specifically for this demographic.

One video in particular is making stay-at-home moms, aka SAHMs, feel so seen.


In his “special message to stay-at-home moms,” Schaefer offers SAHMS the rare gift of being told what an “incredible job” they’re doing, saying that their “dedication, hard work and love are the cornerstones of your family’s well being.”

Watching his daughters and granddaughters with kids, Schaefer says that he’s “amazed” at what accomplished every day, and because of that, he was inspired to remind all SAHMS that “what you’re doing matters immensely.”

“Sometimes in the midst of the chaos of daily routines and endless chores it’s easy to forget how important your role is, but every meal cooked, every scraped knee kissed, every bedtime story read, it all adds up to shaping the future generation,” he said.

@magicman1942 Special message for the stay at home moms. #stayathomemom #personalgrowth #inspiration #stayathomemomstruggle #workingmom #personal ♬ original sound - Don

Schaefer went on to say that it’s “perfectly normal” to get overwhelmed or exhausted with all the responsibilities and isolation that come with the job. That’s what makes self care so necessary.

“Whether it’s stealing a few moments for yourself during nap time, indulging in a hobby you love, or simply just taking a relaxing bath at the end of the day if you can find the time. Prioritize your well being,” he urged.

He then encouraged SAHMs to carve out moments to celebrate the small victories and appreciate the joys of motherhood, whether that looks like “a successful day of homeschooling” or “simply seeing your little one smile.”

Finally, Schaefer brought it all home by reiterating that even if it doesn't always feel like it, a SAHM’s value is “immeasurable.”

“Trust me. You are the heart and soul of your family and your efforts create a warm and nurturing environment where everyone can thrive. Keep shining your light and know that you are appreciated, loved and admired more than you’ll ever know. You’re doing an amazing job, and the world is a better place because of you,” he concluded.

Understandably, viewers were moved.

“Made me tear up!! What man takes the time to encourage moms? None I’ve known. Thank you,” one person wrote.

“This definitely made me cry,” another echoed. “Thank you for such kind words and taking the time to make this video. It touched my heart so much.”

One commented, “I’m not even a SAHM, and I still felt this! ALL moms can relate I think…thank you sir!”

And still, another simply wrote, “Needed this.”

For every SAHM (or any stay-at-home parent, for that matter) may these kind words help bolster your spirit, and remind you that what you do is important indeed. You deserve that, and so much more.

For more of Schaefer's content, find him on Instagram and TikTok.

Jrdan Klen counts the number of requests her 3 kids make in a day.

There never seems to be any downtime when you’re the default parent. You know, the parent that the kids go to first when they want anything, especially food. They're also the go-to person for school forms and bedtime stories, and the parents that the school reaches out to when a student is sick has to go home.

Some parents are the default because there’s an imbalance in the home, which forces them to assume most of the day-to-day child-rearing responsibilities. In other families, one parent is the default because the other is busy with work or other obligations.

Popular TikTokker Jordan Klein wondered why she becomes overwhelmed halfway through the day while watching her children. "I have three boys, ages 5, 3, and 1, and I continuously lose my sh*t. Sometimes it comes out. Sometimes," she said in a recent post. "I lose my sh*t right around 2 or 3 p.m. every day without fail. My husband works from home. But he does not lose his sh*t consistently. So, what's going on?"

To get to the bottom of her situation, she conducted a scientific study where she counted the number of requests she gets from her children on a given day, and the results were unbelievable.

This validates my burn out, right? #momtok #momsoftiktok #sahm #boymom #toddlermom #toddlersoftiktok #3under5

@jothemama

This validates my burn out, right? #momtok #momsoftiktok #sahm #boymom #toddlermom #toddlersoftiktok #3under5

"I downloaded one of those little counter clicker apps on my phone where I could just push the screen, and it ticks up one number, and I was just gonna hit it every time one of my children ...made a request,” Jordan said in her TikTok video.

Just ten minutes after downloading the app, her kids made 86 requests of her. She even didn't count repeats, and kids love to repeat themselves. “I guarantee you that if I were to ask my husband how many requests a day he gets at work... it's in the single digits, for sure," she added.

And they say being a stay-at-home mom isn’t a full-time job! “This validates my burnout, right?” Jordan captioned her post.

"I feel this completely, and point it out often to my husband. Like yall, Dad is RIGHT THERE. Ask him," CrochetFeen wrote in the comments. "I have 3 kids too and ‘Mom’ is now a triggering word," Sandra added.

The quasi-scientific experiment gives Jordan some excellent ammunition when talking to her husband about how they divide parenting duties. Even if it doesn’t mean he takes over the default role after work, it at least makes a great case that Jordan deserves more than a few lengthy breaks throughout the day and a few days off every month.

There is only so much stress and mental anguish that parents can take before they are no longer effective and cannot provide a happy and healthy home for their children. When evaluating domestic responsibilities, we often consider having a professional job more stressful than raising children. However, Jordan’s experiment proves that parenting can mean a lot more emotional labor, and families should take a second look at how default parents are valued.