I was inspired to write this post after I read a ‘Working Mother’ article “14 things my parents never had to do because my mom didn’t work“. It was going good up until points 10: Manage the household from the office; 11: Manage the household at home; and 12: Worrying about traveling for work. The author says that she has to “…make doctor’s appointments, go grocery shopping, plan birthday parties in between meetings“. This is true, it’s got to get done at some point during the working week. But your working husband also probably can do that stuff too? Right? She then says she is “…still primarily responsible for cooking dinner, cleaning the house and organizing their social life“. Hmmmm, your husband can also do that too, no? Finally, when she goes on work travels she has to “…prepare everything in her absence from my daughter’s wardrobe to preparing frozen meals for my husband“. OK, so yes, sure, when a partner goes away on work travel you need to be supportive and help make it easier on the person left behind. But the choice of ‘chores’ that need to be done are soooooooo stereotypical. Really? Your husband can’t make wardrobe choices on his own? Is he able to dress himself? I presume so because it sounds like he still makes it to work everyday without getting fired. So why can’t he dress a child? He really can’t cook his own food? My goodness, how did he ever survive before he met you????? After reading this and getting me mad and upset, it got me thinking more about the ideal working parents situation and equality. Are all parents ‘created’ equal? Is it actually possible??
Chris and I are pretty equal in most things. Before Aviana arrived into our world we shared chores. There are some things that Chris is better at doing than I am and vice versa. There are also some things that Chris prefers doing than I do and vice versa. So we always tried to make things equal: one night Chris would cook and I would wash up, then we would swap the next day. I would put the washing on, Chris would hang it up, the next time we may swap. And then we negotiated on other chores. I did X if Chris did Y. We also hired a cleaner (Something I would happily give up anything else for….clothes, tea, haribo, driving to work….if we ever needed to financially cut back somewhere, it’s a marriage saver in my mind). Grocery shopping, decorating, tidying, gardening, organising, bill paying….etc. we are pretty equal. Yes, there are odd times when we have to assess the balance, but we often do it on conditions at the time: our health and work.
We are also pretty equal on the work front too. We take home similar amounts of pay. Although Chris gets a bonus whereas I do not! We are also the same age, and therefore have similar amounts of work experience. We are progressing similarly in terms of accountability and responsibility, although we do very different jobs, and therefore different types of stresses, but our workloads ebb and flow for both of us.
Now we have new jobs to add to our life resumes/CVs. Parenthood! We are equally experienced in this new role…as in, we both have very little experience! The question I have is, is it possible to be equal parents in life too? Does it matter if Chris is mummy and I am daddy? Do these labels mean anything in terms of the roles we play as parents and how we raise our daughter?
Currently there is an imbalance. First of all, physically I grew Aviana inside me and I am also the milk provider. Chris does feed her bottles, so it’s not like he has zero responsibility for this. Secondly, I have just spent almost 7 months off work on maternity leave. I have been Aviana’s caregiver during working hours and weeks and past couple of weeks I have been on ‘vacation’, getting things in order around the house, enjoying two weeks of holiday with my family and relaxing a little bit. Although I have been back to work for a couple of odd weeks during my maternity leave and a few days here and there, this week I am back to work officially, properly, full speed ahead. Eeeek.
The balance will shift. But to what? Will it be equal? How will we adjust to our ‘ideals’? How will we negotiate chores? How will we decide whose meeting is more important when we have to pick up a sick Aviana from daycare? How will we decide who does each parenting task like feeding, bathing and dressing our baby? Because we are both equally capable of these tasks. And pretty much any other future task. Party planning, birthday gift buying, holidays, doctors, caregivers, blah blah blah.
How will we adjust when we have different ways of doing these parenting tasks? What will we do when one of us thinks we are doing it wrong, do we let it go? Do we debate? Do we continue to negotiate? Do we have time to be equal?
How much do we want to pay for convenience like we do with our cleaners, gardeners and other services such as online shopping, food preparation, holiday planning etc? How much is our time worth in ‘outsourcing’ so we can spend more time with Aviana?
I’m nervous. I have expectations to be an equal working parent, but in reality it will probably be different. I’m just not sure how it’s going to be. Will my annoyance with that article I read be proven to be naivety on my part? I hope not.
How equal is your parenting with your partner? Is it what you thought it would be? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? Does any of this ‘equality’ ideals even matter?