A new situation, new responsibilities. Today, nothing is obvious in our homes. The existing roles mix, and blur and we try to keep up with it. What if we went one step further and completely changed the roles and responsibilities for a day or two? Dad will be mum, mum will be the child, and the child will be dad. “Stepping into someone else’s shoes” is an exercise that will change our point of view. Start by telling each other how you see your loved ones in the family. The children can say what mum is responsible for and what dad is responsible for. What seems best about being a parent, and what seems to be difficult. The man says what he thinks is the upside of being a woman, and vice versa. The more things you can notice, the better, because after the game, you can confront what you have thought up with real life experiences.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What does mum/dad do most often?
- Where does mum/dad usually spend time at home? (the kitchen, living room, the kids’ room)
- What is your son’s/daughter’s favourite way of spending time?
- Who usually prepares breakfast and who prepares dinner?
- Who knows how to operate the washing machine/dishwasher?
- Who does the shopping?
- What housework do the children most dislike doing?
Let everyone talk about their feelings – what they like doing, what is difficult for them, what duties they would pass on to someone else.
On pieces of paper, write e.g.: mum, dad, son, daughter, and draw one piece of paper each. Become that person for one day. It’s best to do this during the weekend, when the adults don’t have to work, and the children don’t have to study.
And so, you begin. If you’ve taken on the role of a child, try acting like one. Do a bit of whining, show sincere reluctance to brushing your teeth, ask a few questions like: “What’s for breakfast?” and so on. A child who’s taken on the role of a parent will probably behave towards you the way you act every day. You’ll hear if they’re frustrated with it, whether or not they are paying attention to you or if they encourage you to do something.
If you’re the dad, and you’re supposed to be the mum, you do what she usually does. You may feel lost in it, you may also find that something is beyond your control or that you enjoy somethings.
Each of you may feel the same way but keep playing your role throughout the day. Certain behaviours may be exaggerated, but this will only show you even more clearly what works for you and what does not. As well as what can be improved.
Try to make the relationships between the roles you play similar to those you have on a daily basis. If everyone’s always asking dad to help them with every problem, do the same now. If mum always moderates the arguments between the children, let her be the peacemaker now too.
All props, costumes and gadgets that can help you get a better feel for the role are welcome. Make it fun by painting a beard or applying the adult make-up that mum uses.
An honest conversation
After a whole day of role-swapping, sit down and talk about what you’ve been through. What did you like? What do you think is the hardest thing about being a mum/husband/child? Maybe there are suggestions that someone has too much on their plate or that someone’s behaviour is unpleasant for others.
Try to have an honest, constructive conversation. Talk about your feelings without judging the behaviours of others. For example: “While being mum, I had to keep reminding you to wash your hands, it annoyed me”, “When, as the child, I heard that I had to eat up all my dinner, I felt that you didn’t care about my opinion”.
Finish the sentence
Everyone who played a part should finish the sentence:
- “I appreciate mum (dad, son, daughter) for...”
- “The hardest thing about being mum (dad) is...”
- “The coolest thing about being a child (parent, husband) is...”.
Compare your observations with your experiences. Maybe this will help you all improve the distribution of responsibilities within the family. Write down your ideas and new solutions on a piece of paper, then hang it up in a visible place so that everyone can look at it from time to time and see if the theory is being put into practice.
“Tenderness and freedom. Let's build balanced relationships” is a campaign run by Kulczyk Foundation along with “Wysokie Obcasy” and “Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation”.
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