In the traditional world of parenting, the man of the relationship would go out and do his job earning all the money whilst the woman of the relationship would stay at home and look after the 2.4 children, making sure the house was spotless and dinner was on the table for when Daddy arrived home. She would then tuck all the children up in bed, pour her husband a beer and clear up from dinner while Daddy relaxed after his hard day at work. This is a man’s world, after all, and so this is the roles we should take on, right?
Wrong. I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen anymore, or that those who have a traditional set up of dad at work and mum at home are wrong, but the whole perceived idea that men shouldn’t take part in the upbringing of their children is quite frankly, bollocks. I’ll always remember my nan being shocked that Craig was changing Alfie’s nappy, as she had four children and often told me that my grandad never changed a single nappy! On the one hand, it’s quite hard to believe, but then on the other hand, it’s really not.
More and more women nowadays are going back to work after having children. For many it is a choice because they have worked hard to forge a career doing something they love, and they couldn’t imagine having to give that up. For others, it’s a necessity to pay the bills. In lots of situations, the female of the relationship is the breadwinner, so it doesn’t make sense for them to give up work or go part time when they are earning more money than their male partners. And that’s great – it’s brilliant that so many women are in this position that they are earning as much as or more than their male counterparts. It is after all, what many have been fighting for, for years.
But where does that leave us on the childcare front? Surely men can’t stay at home and do the childcare….can they?
It’s no secret that I’ve not exactly enjoyed my return to work. I find it hard to be away from Alfie so much, and it’s not how I envisioned my role as a parent – leaving him “to be brought up” by someone else (as I so often hear about working parents). I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t think I’d make a brilliant housewife (I hate cleaning and am pretty lazy when it comes to chores…) but I know I’d love being a stay at home mum and being with Alfie every day. Or even having a bit of a balance and working part time. However, this isn’t going to happen for us any time soon, so I just have to come to terms with the working full time thing.
The thing that makes that easier is my husband. It’s not often I say nice things about him, but here goes.
Craig is a wonderful father. He absolutely dotes on Alfie and has been there for both of us since day 1. Ok, so he may have fallen asleep a couple of times during my labour, but it was pretty long, so we’ll forgive him that. It was Craig who changed Alfie’s first meconium pooey nappy, Craig gave him his first bath and Craig who picked him up out of his basket at night for me to feed him when I could barely get myself out of bed.
I’d like to think that our parenting is shared 50/50, perhaps even 60/40 since my return to work. Craig technically does longer hours than me, but when you factor in my travel I’m out of the house longer than him. This means that whilst we both do the nursery drop off together (which I love), 9 times out of 10 Craig does nursery pick up on his own. When I first went back to work Craig would pick Alfie up, give him a snack, a bath, and put him to bed before I even got home. Often he’d also have my dinner cooked for me. I know, I’m a lucky lady right?
Well, actually, no. I hate it when people tell me I’m “lucky”. If the tables were turned and I was the one picking Alfie up and putting him to bed, then having Craig’s dinner on the table when he walked in the door from work, would people tell Craig he was lucky? No, because it would just be accepted as normal. So, no, I’m not “lucky”. This is just what works for us, and the way we do things. It’s about give and take, helping each other out and not having defined roles. We just do what needs to be done.
Equally, I’m a huge advocate of the phase promoted by The Dad Network – “Dad’s Don’t Babysit”. Because they don’t. They parent. We have a pretty good system I think about what happens when one of us wants to go out. I don’t have to “ask permission” or ask Craig if he minds looking after Alfie so I can go out, in the same way he doesn’t have to ask permission or check I’m ok to look after Alfie. We talk to each other, tell each other our plans and it’s just automatically assumed the other person will then take charge of the child. It runs pretty much the same it did before we had Alfie. Admittedly it was a little harder when Alfie was younger and I was breastfeeding, but not impossible. It just meant a bit of pre-planning from me in the fact I needed to express enough milk and a bit of extra effort from Craig because Alfie wasn’t used to taking a bottle very often. But I managed to go on hen do for 3 days just fine, and it wasn’t a problem. Just like if Craig wanted to go on a stag do for 3 days, it wouldn’t be a problem in terms of childcare.
I’d like to think this way of parenting is fair to both of us. We both do equal amounts of working, chores and childcare, so we both need a break. You often see people saying that mums need a break, but what about dad’s? Don’t they need a break sometimes too? I have no problem when Craig says to me he’s off to watch the rugby with the boys, or going to the pub for a drink. Equally he has no problem when I say I’m popping out to see a friend for lunch or a coffee, or I need to do a bit of shopping that’s quicker if I leave Alfie at home. It’s all about give and take and shared responsibility. After all, Alfie is 50% me and 50% his dad.
We have even discussed that Craig might be the one to stay at home and do the childcare in the future. Admittedly, now I’m back at work I’m not so sure about this, but that is purely because I would like to be at home with Alfie. However, from a financial point of view, it doesn’t make sense for me to cut my hours, so if we needed to, I would have no problem with Craig being a stay at home dad. In fact, I would love it and so would he. It means he has to do all the chores as well, right?
I guess you could say we have a more modern approach to parenting, and life in general. Everything is 50/50 in our household – there is no my money or his money, his chores or my chores (well, apart from the washing, that is always MY job, and the bathroom is HIS job) and there’s no assumption that Alfie is my responsibility more than Craig’s. Yes, it was a little different when I was on maternity leave and breastfeeding, as I physically had to do more for the baby, so Craig picked up the slack and did more round the house, but to me that’s just another example of give and take and helping each other out. I get that different approaches work for different households though, but it does make me a little sad when I hear people saying “you’re so lucky that his dad helps you so much” because that implies that the baby is the woman’s job. If we want equality for women, then surely we should realise that men can look after children just as well as women can, in the way that women can do work just as well as men can?
Without sounding hypocritical to everything I have written above, I am grateful that I have a husband who is like this, as I know there are many women out there who do have to do it all on their own – and for some of them that’s fine, but others it’s not and it’s a struggle. I definitely couldn’t have coped with my return to work if I had been expected to look after Alfie and the house solely on my own. As much as I might moan that Craig is lazy sometimes (he is), he also moans that I’m lazy sometimes (and I am), on the whole we have a great system going and we make a fantastic team.
As they say, team work makes the dream work. Go Team Jones!
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