When I started telling people I was working full time again, for the first time since my children were born, I noticed I was getting one of two reactions. Reaction one was one of excitement and congratulations. “Wow, that’s awesome, you must be really excited.” Reaction two almost always came with a sad face. “What about the children?,” concerned people would ask. “How will they cope? How will you cope?” At first I’d brush it off with a firm: “Oh, we’ll be fine, we’ve got it under control”, but then it started to annoy me. I bet Twiggy never gets that response when he tells people he’s working.
I know the concern is coming from a place of love, I am not writing this post to point the finger at people who were genuinely worried about our family. I can see where it stems from. For many women, the reality is either they are single parents or their partners work in traditional nine-to-five jobs, add commuting and overtime to that, and for many women they are the ones who find themselves doing the lion’s share of the child rearing. And for many women who also work, they still find themselves coordinating after school care, extra curricular activities for their kids, filling in the mountains of school forms, making sure uniforms are ready and putting their hand up to do their time in the canteen.
For many women, this is how daily life works in their family unit not because their partners don’t want to be involved more, but because the way society is structured it is not an expected, nor easy path to step in and be both a money earner and share equal parenting duties. And thus, because it’s written in the “parenting manual” mums fill that role. And for the men, who have chosen to take on that role themselves, either through necessity, circumstance or choice, they are up against not only the daily grind, but the entrenched parenting stereotypes which do not represent them, nor the role they play raising kids.
So, when I am consistently asked how my children will cope with me going back to work it annoys me because I am married and my children have not one, but two parents and in our house we both take that role very seriously. When people give me the “concerned face” it makes me realise that they have not noticed that Twiggy does in fact have a very involved role in the day-to-day running of this house and family. That he does do school pick ups and drops off, he does go to excursions, he does cook meals and wash clothes and make school lunches and stand in the rain watching netball games. He does bath the kids and clean their rooms and listen to them read. He does all of the things that I do. We do them together. We are both the parents to our children. We both take our roles very seriously and have made big sacrifices so that we could do that. Now I’m working office hours he is doing more of the daily grind, as I have the past eight years.
Some would say I was lucky. Yes, I suppose you could say I was lucky to have married an amazing man and to still have him in my life. As recent events have shown me, we are both lucky to have each other. But I will not say I was lucky to have a man in my life who plays an active role in his kids’ lives. I will not say I am lucky to have a man who does his fair share of housework. I am not the keeper of the house. I am a woman, but it is not my job to control all the domestic chores. I am not lucky that my husband washes his own underwear and mine, while also managing to run a successful small business.
When someone is concerned that my family will fall apart at the seams when I work, it dismisses the huge role my husband plays in our lives. He has stepped up to the plate, as I did when he started his business and I paid all the bills. He has stepped up to the plate, as he did when I forgo my career to birth babies. We are like many families in Australia. We help each other and like many other families, we rely on the help of our family and friends. We are just doing the best we can. We are a team.
It is time women stop thinking it is their primary role to look after the house and the kids just as much as men need to stop thinking it is their primary role to earn money. The reality is, for many of us, that is not the case anymore. It is time the systems in our country change to reflect that. Men need to have access to parental leave and be supported at work to have more flexible hours to parent. Women also need the same flexibility to both work and parent. A woman’s work is not just in the home and men do want to be in their kid’s lives.
The reality for most families is that childcare is expensive, work is a necessity and there is no easy way around balancing work and family. Everyone does what works for them. And in our case I work full time, Twiggy works full time hours at irregular times and the kids are fed, housed and looked after with love.
So the answer to your question is – yes, the kids are doing just fine. Twiggy and I are fucking exhausted, though.
Thanks for asking.
You guys are amazing parents and are both doing a brilliant job of bringing up 3 smart, kind, funny, lovely human beings. x
AMEN. And God bless fathers everywhere that take the mantle of parenting on with pride and grace. Good on you both and I hope that life settles into a slightly less frantic pace as you find your new rhythm.
And that’s all how it should be – apart from the wiped out, exhausted bit…be great if someone had figured out a way to bypass that in amongst the overload! I take my hat off to the two of you, for just getting on with it in a way that works for you, at this time – which is different to the way you’ve done it in the past. And that’s the crux of it – there’s no one way to manage parenting and working, and no one way that’s going to work for time and all eternity – it changes as the circumstances change, and we all have to learn to roll with it.
Have you read The Wife Drought? Great quote from Tanya Plibersek about being “lucky”. It’s a great read, although I imagine you may not have time read it at this point in time 🙂 I went back to work when Henry Hotdog was 5 months old – there were people who looked at me with genuine horror “I just cannot imagine leaving a baby that age at home” I found the best reply was “that’s why I’m leaving, do you know how much work babies are?!” I am so proud of you (I have no right to be) but I am SO PROUD of you and your new job. Well done.
Oh how I get this Bianca. I get told so often how lucky I have to have a husband who helps with his own kids, who cooks dinner, baths the kids while I work. It’s very frustrating and I try very hard not to lose my nut but it’s not easy. I’m so glad things are working out for your family – exciting times ahead. Happy Easter 🙂
While I appreciate your point, Bianca- you ARE lucky and it’s not fair for people to assume the bottom is going to fall out of your family just because you go back to work full time, assuming that your husband isn’t that supportive is a huge (yet common) leap- I’d also make the point that even when people’s concerns are valid, like when I went back to work full time as a single mum without a supportive husband at home, they are no easier to hear and are not helpful in any way. I ask myself what about the children every day but I don’t have much choice other than to cope.I’d people ask me how I’ll cope without offering to help me do so, it’s really better that they don’t ask at all.
Yay!! I get a little tired of people telling me how ‘lucky’ I am to have a fab hubby…we both work at our relationship, chose each other, support each other…we are a team! Luck doesn’t come into it, I’m fortunate to have an understanding hubby who is hardworking and takes his parenting role seriously. We lift each other when needed and at times one of us will take on more than the other but not based on our sex…based on what’s best for our family. I wonder how it would feel if women targeted men with their ‘concerns’ about work/like roles. Yeah, don’t see it happening. Hope you are loving your new job x
Fantastic post. My husband works full time but the moment he walks through the door he is hands on deck to get the troops fed bathed and put to bed. After that I’m on the computer to do my freelance writing work and he cleans the kitchen. We do what we have to to pay the bills and our girls don’t miss out and still have me home as a stay at home mum. We too are exhausted but our hearts are full and there is joy in our home. Hope you have a blessed Easter Bianca. X
lady, your kids are better than fine. You guys a killer team, setting a killer example of what awesome humans are like.
The ‘lucky’ thing drives me crazy. How many inept men are out there that the ones who pull their weight are considered rare? And we’re so ‘lucky’ to have them?
I hear you on the ‘lucky’ thing. Yes, I am so incredibly lucky to have my husband in my life. But for completely different reasons to those being implied by anyone who says I’m ‘lucky’ he takes the kids out of the house so I can get some work done!
Beautiful stuff. How’s the job!!
FABULOUS post. thanks.
Oh goodness me, I can’t love this post enough! What shits me most is my reaction to agree that yes I am lucky my Huz is a good, active and present father. He is, but we are very much a team, we both do our freakin best. We are parenting together. It’s not my job to keep house and play mum.
yes to all of it ,and also would add the judgement on the husband by others that he is hen pecked or somehow less of a man for putting his children first
Yep. You know I hear you on this one. Great, and important, post. xo
Love this so much. In every bloody way xx
Great post! It’s like when people say to me how good my husband is to babysit his children. Nope, they’re his kids. He is also responsible. Have you read Wife Drought, by Annabel Crabbe? I can’t wait, but I’m waiting for it to come out on audio book so I can listen to it while I sweep the floors, because I love the delightful irony of that x
There is so much I love about this article. Mostly the fact you are bloody exhausted. So am I, and my husband!
Of course they are fine. They are lucky to have a positive, intelligent female role model who also happens to be their mum. It’s actually when they are teenagers that it might get a bit more challenging I think.
Oh gosh, my computer self posted that before I finished the comment. Then I forgot about it.
It sounds like you have a really good setup with being able to fit around each other’s schedules. Also, little kids are so resilient. They will make the most of mummy time or daddy time at whatever time it’s offered. I think it’s actually a really good time to go back to work so that, during the challenging teenage period there is more opportunity to cut back if you need to.
Yes, exhausted. But everything is coming up roses 🙂