It may surprise some of my readers just how much my husband and I share the parenting responsibilities in our house. Many of you may assume that I’m a stay-at-home-mom blogger. Actually, my life may seem a little different to you after reading the rest of my post.
About a week ago I saw this message on Facebook from a virtual friend of mine; Annie of PhD in Parenting:
Hey parenting bloggers: Do you practice some variation of equally shared parenting? If so, would you be willing to write a blog post describing how you split the parenting/household duties and both have time for yourselves/each other too? Would you be able to describe a typical day/week in terms of how things break down? I’m interested in all types of families, but especially in ones where the mom is breastfeeding.
When my son was born (he’s almost 10 now), I was working full-time as a State Environmental Compliance Inspector. I worked 40 hrs and was the primary “breadwinner” of the family. My husband worked full-time also and our son was enrolled in day care of one kind or another from about 8 weeks of age until he entered school. I often worked outside of the actual office and traveled around the State which made pumping at work challenging – but I made it work. I was the first employee in my office to ask about having some “privacy” for pumping. My female counterparts were actually very thankful as many of them had children about the same time. At the time, the men in the office out numbered the women.
With both my husband and I working full-time jobs and starting a family we really had to share the household and parenting responsibilities. We had to alternate who took a day off if our son was sick. We had to alternate who took our son to doctors appointments. Whoever got home first was the lucky one to prepare dinner and my husband has always been better and keeping the house tidy than I have.
Fast-forward a few years and I switched careers to work for the Federal government as an Environmental Manager and Policy Writer. I managed a region of 7 States and traveled upward of 50 days out of the year. At the time, our son was only about two and my husband was responsible for parenting and work for a few days at a time while I traveled. It was during this time in our lives that we packed up and moved to Florida AND added a second child to the family.
By the time my daughter was born I was lucky enough to be working from home in the same job (Environmental Manager) but with slightly less travel requirements. I still traveled for about twice a month but I tried to pass that off to the newbies in the department as often as possible. I remember the first time I had to actually travel with my pump and bring breast milk back with me on a plane, how scared I was that I would have to trash my breast milk at security. The irony of the whole thing was that I was a consultant for the TSA at the time. Yes, I was working for the very agency that has been in the news many times for harassing working mothers who were carrying breast milk back home to their baby’s. Thankfully, I managed to travel off and on for 2 years while still breast feeding my daughter. While I was traveling my husband was at home working and taking care of both the kids and the house.
About two years ago, I made one more career change which has me traveling less and still working full-time from home. Both of our kids are enrolled in school (3 yr pre-K and elementary school) and enrolled in extracurricular activities. Our lives are busier now than they ever have been but one thing remains consistent. My husband and I both share our parenting and household responsibilities.
We’ve adjusted our schedules and my job is obviously more flexible than his is. Our kids no longer go to public school, so we are responsible for driving them to school each morning and picking them up in the afternoons. Four days out of the week this responsibility is now mine; while I long for Friday’s when my husband is off work and does drop off and pick up for me. It’s amazing how much more productive I am on Friday’s.
Twice a week, our son goes to karate class. While we could attend a later class, I opted for the class right after school so we’re home about the same time as my husband. This means toting a toddler to the karate studio for an hour and forty five minutes each day. These days bring even more support from my husband because he’ll beat us home and have dinner ready for us when we get there. I secretly love these nights because I don’t have to cook.
Starting this Spring, we’ll have to figure out how to add in 3 days of swim lessons each week for the tot. I have a few more weeks to figure out how that’s all going to work.
Household chores? Yes, we share those also. My husband has always done his own laundry since the day we met. While I try to stay caught up on the laundry, it’s really a joint effort. He’s much quicker to realize when the loads need to be changed while I’m getting the kids bathed and ready for bed. Of course there are always nights when we both forget and we’ll have to rewash them the following day (or 2 later). We’ve now appointed our son the dish boy! It’s his one responsibility he has to help with each night. Now that my daughter is 4 I find her willing to help her brother with the dishes or me with the laundry.
Sure we have our own “boy-girl” roles. I hate taking out the trash and he doesn’t do the floors often but we both will step up if we realize they need to be done. The only thing I don’t think I’ve ever done is mow the lawn. I wouldn’t even know how to start the lawn mower.
Grocery shopping? Yep, we split this one too. Sometimes we’ll go together as a family. Sometimes I’ll go by myself or with the kids. Sometimes he’ll go. It really just depends on what the week throws at us. We just have to remember to call the other one to see if they have any special requests.
How do we find time for ourselves and each other? My husband goes to the gym about 4-5 times a week before work while the rest of us are sound asleep. I hardly even know that he’s gone. I try to make time for working out in the evenings after the kids are in bed. I’m not as dedicated as he is and usually only make it to kickboxing class about twice a week. We both feel that it’s important to get out with friends so 1-2 times a month we’ll have “boys night out” or “girls night out” about the time the kids are in bed. Don’t worry – we still find time to love on one another also.
Here’s the thing we’ve learned in our 12 years together and almost 10 years as parents; our lives aren’t perfect and they never will be. We both have good jobs and we need the combined income to be comfortable financially. Sure we could make it work on less; but why. Our kids are loved and well cared for. We’re loved and well cared for. It works for us. There’s always room for improvement but if you really want to make it work, you’ll find a way. It’s also easier to accomplish our goals as a team and as a family.
What about your family? Do you share responsibilities? Do you work and have kids? Do you work and breast feed? Do you work and cloth diaper? How does your family make it all work?
To read how other parents share parenting responsibilities visit PhD in Parenting; Equally Shared Parenting and Breastfeeding? Is That Possible?