As I remember it, I grew up in a typical home. My dad went to work and when he returned from work he ate dinner, watched SciFi movies on the TV in our living room, then went to sleep in preparation for another day of work.
And, while he did that, my mom stayed home and…did, well, everything else. She made dinner, hauled us around on field trips, washed the dishes, handled most of the day-to-day disciplining of my siblings and I, scrubbed the toilets, attended parent/teacher conferences, and all the other things that come up running a household and raising children.
Of course, as a child, when I imagined my life as a married woman, I’d imagined it’d be very different. “When I marry,” as I often told myself and any audience that would listen, “I’m going to marry a man who provides for his family and attends on a regular basis to all household and parenting responsibilities, meaning he would wash, dry, and fold the laundry, do the dishes, cook dinner, attend to the children at night, and wasn’t unreasonable in his requests for “intimate time” (that last part got added on later).
And, when my husband and I first married, he did do his half (minus the childrearing because we didn’t have children). When we returned home from our jobs, sometimes I made dinner, other days, he did. Sometimes, I washed our clothes on every Thursday, other days he did. Everything was shared. And, it worked.
But then a baby entered the picture, and everything, well, everything changed.
With a baby, and while I began to take the everyday parenting of our child very seriously, my husband began to take his job very, very seriously.
I think he developed more wrinkles in the first weeks from being stressed at not being able to provide enough as a dad. He scoured bills with a furrowed brow, and began talking about how our life’s savings weren’t measuring up.
He did all this while I (and whether I was working or not) stressed about everything else, or the color our daughter’s poop, dinner, not having a clean house.
And this isn’t to say that he didn’t also “help” around the house or with our daughter when he could, because he did, willfully.
But, all that he offered was just that, or help, help that was sometimes there and sometimes not when I needed it most.
And that was perhaps the toughest pill that I had to swallow as a new parent: that in a two-parent household the responsibilities of raising a child and caring for a home are not always equally shared or thought about by husbands and wives. Usually, it the wives, whether they work or not who do the most and the husbands attempt to do what they can around that.
16 months into motherhood, and things haven’t changed much, my husband is still working hard at his job outside of the home and I’m still working hard at my job inside the home, but our understandings of each other’s roles and respect for those roles have changed, much.
With time and maturity, we’ve had come to accept, finally, that as parents, we spend our days doing very different, yet equally challenging things. Our realities are different and parenting styles (given the disparity in the amount of time that each of us can spend with our daughter on a daily basis) are different.
As a result, we need different things for ourselves and from each other at the end of the day. We’ve learned to respect each others’ needs and acknowledge each others’ rights as parents and individuals.
We’re not perfect, nor do I want to strive for perfection in this arena. But, it’s working and getting better and better with time.
How do you and your spouse/so delegate parenting and household responsibilities? How do you keep things fair?