Parenting Politics…In My House

With heavy media focus on Yahoo!’s Marissa Meyer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, it’s no wonder that the topic of motherhood is as newsworthy as ever. Yet, this focus seems very narrow, limiting the discussion solely to mothers and work, when in reality we could stand to broaden the conversation to both parents and how they manage the work/life balance. Motherhood doesn’t exist in a bubble, and if we want to discuss the challenges facing working mothers, it would behoove us to look at how entire families manage their balancing acts. I’m not the only one who’d like to see a shift in how we talk about these things.

My friend Annie from PhD In Parenting –  who has written about Meyer and Sandberg before –  is eager for the focus on the work/life balance to move beyond a women’s issue to one that is a parenting issue. In hopes of widening the conversation, Annie has put out a call, asking for parents to write about their own households  and what the parenting split looks like within it. I asked Annie more about her motivation behind this call for stories:

There are two things that prompted me. One is the continued focus on work/life balance as a women’s issue. I’d like to see it be a people’s issue. Why do women need to worry about whether their workplace has family friendly policies, while men (and men’s bosses) just assume they’ll keep on doing what they did in the same way they did before they had kids? The other reason is that I keep being told that equally shared parenting is impossible if the mom breastfeeds. I know that isn’t true (it wasn’t in our home) and I want to provide some examples for how you can breastfeed and still maintain equality.

I’m all for adding more stories to the narrative of parenting, and said that I would be happy to share my own…

We need to start by going back in time, about ten years ago. I was teaching high school social studies and was the primary wage earner while MD was in school full time working on his doctorate. That’s the way our unit of two worked for four years. I paid the bills, and MD wracked them up (well, okay, he wracked up student loans, but we’re still paying for them, so….). Then, just as he finished his program, we got pregnant. Literally, on the day he graduated, I woke up, peed on a stick and bam – we were having a baby!

We also decided to move out of state that summer. MD had a job waiting for him, and I was finishing up my Masters thesis, which I had began two years earlier (Yes. I simultaneously worked full time while working on my MA). At the time we moved, I was already 6 months pregnant, and couldn’t fathom starting over teaching at a new school only to leave 3 months in for maternity leave, so I opted to focus on my studies. MD, with his new job, was the primary wage earner now. Our roles were reversed but things went on as usual.

If by usual you mean hula hooping in the yard while pregnant. Then, yeah. The usual.

If by usual you mean hula hooping in the yard while pregnant. Then, yeah. The usual.

I firmly believe that it was because we had both been the sole wage earner at a point in our relationship that we were able to easily slide into an equitable parenting relationship. We had already done away with the traditional gender roles, so we didn’t fall into that trap either accidentally or willingly.

When the kiddo was born, I was in the editing phase of my thesis, and still focused on my academics. MD was working, but manage to scrap together a month off between paid family leave, paid vacation, and unpaid time off from work. I also firmly believe that MD having an entire month off from work helped solidify are more equitable parenting structure, and I can only imagine the benefits our family would have received had he been eligible for more. (Alas, in this country, we know that ain’t happening).

Here’s a breakdown of parenting in the Norman Nathman household through the years:

-When the kiddo was a wee one, neither of us slept much, but we slept enough. We breastfed, which necessitated me being up with the kiddo at all hours of the night. However, in the beginning, he was also making a lot of wet and dirty diapers. Since I was the one up to feed him, MD was the one to deal with the diapers. I was able to fall asleep much faster/easier and MD is the master of going right back to deep sleep, so he was fine. Breaking up the nighttime parenting like that caused less resentment on either of our parts and assured that we both got some sleep – which is totally better than no sleep. I’ll be honest and say that co-sleeping was also key for us. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but being able to roll over, get my son nursing and essentially fall back to sleep was huge in allowing me to feel like I wasn’t running on fumes 24/7.

Our family of 3(6 years ago!)

Our family of 3
(6 years ago!)

-While MD was home in that first month, pretty much everything else was equal – we shared meal prep, cleaning, baby stuff, etc… After he went to work, only a few things changed. I took on a bit more responsibility when it came to household chores, most notably laundry and grocery shopping, but everything else remained fairly equal.

– Babywearing was our savior. Seriously. I know not every baby enjoys being worn, but EZ was all about it. MD would pop the kiddo into a sling or mei tai and head off on a walk or go do the dishes. I could get things done while wearing him that I doubt I could have accomplished otherwise. Babywearing helped keep us sane well into the toddler years, and prevented many arguments about nap time – both between parents and parent & child.

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A father, his son, and an Ergo.

-Now, with the kiddo being 6 (SIX!) years old, and both of us working, it’s a little bit different but still pretty equal. We both have strange schedules – since I work primarily out of the home, my time is a bit more flexible, however MD only works 4 days a week, so he has some flexibility as well. We split school drop off/pick up between ourselves depending on who is home or who has appointments, etc… EZ has a few after school activities that also get split evenly depending on who is home (as in, if MD is off work, he’s the one taking the kiddo). Grocery shopping is an even split now as well, same goes for cooking. We each tackle cleaning in our own ways. I prefer to clean as I go, whereas MD enjoys doing one huge deep clean every 2 weeks or so. It balances the housework nicely and we manage to have a decently clean house (save for the hundreds of Lego pieces that still manage to fall under foot).

-When he’s home, MD is the go-to parent when it comes to bedtime, and I only do it when he’s working past 8 (which happens 2x/week). The kiddo is old enough to do bath time by himself and he also pitches in with some chores. I’m more than happy to have him see his father fold laundry, wash dishes, make dinner, as well as seeing me take out the trash, do minor fix-it type jobs around the house, etc…

-As I type this, on a Saturday morning, MD and EZ are downstairs playing Wii after having read books together. I’ve worked on our taxes and typed up this post. Our weekends are usually split between things we want to do and things we have to do – each of us gets some alone time if we want/need it.

I don’t think of our family as remarkable in any sense, but I do think we’re outside the norm when it comes to our parenting split. I don’t think of my husband as my son’s babysitter and he doesn’t see himself in that role either. Sure there are days when I take on the brunt of household chores or parenting responsibilities, but the pendulum swings both ways. Next weekend I’ll be gone for a couple of days, but I have no worries over what will happen while I’m away. MD doesn’t live up to or default to the “big oaf” daddy trap – it’s insulting to both of us. He’s a parent just as much as I am. Our parenting methods might differ, but our goals are the same.

I will say though, that we do get some pushback from those outside our family. MD’s place of work sometimes doesn’t understand why he tries to rearrange his schedule to be able to attend school or sports events. When he wanted to take a month off after the birth if EZ, he was met with a bit of resistance and a lot of bewilderment from his boss who couldn’t comprehend why MD would want to be home with his family. Also, because I work from home, there’s a lot of expectation from others that I take on all of the housework since “it’s just so convenient!” There is still definitely an overall attitude that women – by default – take on the majority of household chores, regardless of their work status. If a woman chooses to be a homemaker, then I can understand that thought, but otherwise? We all live here, we all pitch in, it’s as simple as that. We’re raising our son so that he understands the value of equality, both inside the home as well as outside of it.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our village that helps us out, made up of both biological family and chosen family. Our intentional community of friends and relatives help us out from carpooling, playmates, shared meals, in times of need, etc… That helps lighten the load for all of us. We are also fortunate to have work that, despite some unique challenges, affords us with a good degree of flexibility.

All that said – it’s far from perfect here. There are days where the house is littered with rumpled baskets of clean clothes because nobody feels like folding them. We probably eat take out more than we’d prefer simply because we get too lazy/busy to cook. I’m fairly certain my kitchen floors haven’t been washed in months (they look clean, so…) and there’s usually a dirty pot or dish in the sink. But, for the most part we’re happy, healthy, and usually have clean underwear, so I’d say we’re managing pretty well.

Yeah, it can get messy, but we have fun.

Yeah, it can get messy, but we have fun.

What about you? What’s the situation like in your house? Are their two working parents? One parent working the other at home? Just one parent? What does the work/life balance look like in your home?

149 thoughts on “Parenting Politics…In My House

    • Thanks Estelle! I completely agree re: policy and societal issue. It’s difficult to discuss true parity in parenting when we don’t have the political and social structures set up to support us. Thanks for sharing your post.

      On Sun, Mar 3, 2013 at 11:29 AM, The Mamafesto

  1. I love this post! It really gives me hope about the future of the American family. I’m only just finishing my BA, and will be trying to secure a career in teaching before raising a family, but this sounds like exactly what I want, and will definitely be a topic of conversation with my future husband. I grew up barely knowing my father (or should I say, my father barely knew me), and my mother worked full time, earned her master’s degree, and raised 3 kids by herself. I honestly don’t know how she did it. I’m really proud of my mom making it work on her own, but I definitely have fears of my life turning out the same way. I love meeting families where the father does an equal share of everything. It brings tears of joy to my eyes and gives me hope!

    Much love from me to your beautiful family🙂

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Jaime! I think knowing what you want before you head into parenting is huge and will hopefully help set the path once you get there!

      On Sun, Mar 3, 2013 at 11:46 AM, The Mamafesto

  2. I think the real work to make a change has to do with how we raise our sons! My husband and I have 4 of them and we constantly challenge societal ideas of “man” stuff and “woman” stuff. We are determined that our boys will grow up like their father – a person who parents his kids, he doesn’t “babysit” them.

    • I completely agree Doctor. If we want to challenge those societal stereotypes, we definitely need to start in our own homes – glad to see I’m not alone!

      On Sun, Mar 3, 2013 at 12:39 PM, The Mamafesto

      • Great, thought provoking post – and you make lots of really valued points.
        It sounds as though you’ve got a good partnership going🙂
        Sadly, sometimes this isn’t possible –
        sometimes parents can’t choose roles, share responsibilities, or negotiate.
        Enjoying your blog – thanks!
        Emma.

      • Thanks for your kind words and your thoughts. I agree – we’re very lucky in our situation. But, we also work hard at communicating and ensuring we’re both getting what we need, etc…

        On Sat, Mar 9, 2013 at 12:45 PM, The Mamafesto

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  4. This was interesting to read. I always am curious how other parents do it. My husband and I are pretty equal too, but I always feel like other work-at-home moms do it all without any help–and frankly, it makes me resentful! Found you through Blogstar!🙂

    • Thanks for coming over and leaving a comment, Chaunie! Since posting, I’ve definitely heard of many parents (mostly women) who feel some sort of resentment in their work/life balance. I wonder is that resentment is fueled by personal or societal pressures…

      On Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 8:17 AM, The Mamafesto

  5. The hubs and I strive for equal. We both work but daycare/preschool is closer to his office so he does drop off/pick ups. It depends on our random daily schedule who deals with sick days. The rest of the daily family stuff is shared as well. If I cook, he does dishes. If he starts the laundry, I try to remember to get to the dryer before it all gets wrinkly. I’m a Libra — I like equal. Nice post — congrats on the FP!

  6. Me and my partner both work full time and share the evening duties. I will always cook dinner but that’s because i hate washing up and he always puts little one to bed because i can’t lift her in and out of the bath and I get home about 2 hours earlier than he does. Hoovering, washing, mopping, food shopping is done by both of us as a team. You’re right, we’re in this together and we both live there. As soon as our daughter is old enough, she will be expected to help. Fantastic post, really enjoyed reading and it made me think about the dynamics of my own household.

    • Thanks so much, Helen! And yes – I think a huge part of it is getting the kids involved too – breeds both responsibility and the knowledge that housework is something that should be done by all who live in the house (which will then hopefully translate into their own adult lives!)

      On Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 4:13 PM, The Mamafesto

  7. My husband and I have always been an equal party to our relationship and the raising of our child.

    Here is how we spit our tasks:
    I cook, he cleans up the mess from cooking. We share house cleaning. I do the groceries for the most part and he takes out the garbage and takes care of the yard work. When it comes to our son we are equal in discipline whoever is closer or directly involved is the “bad guy”.

    Mornings are not his thing, so I take care of getting our son up, myself ready and both of us off to both dayhome and work. I pick the little boy up after work, but once I get home my husband takes over and often will put our son to bed (teeth brushing, etc.)

    My benefits at work are a little better than his in relation to illness and vacation so I get the sick days for our son. If this was different then it would be reversed.

    For us it’s about who is best equipped to handle each situation. Communication, when I start feeling overwhelmed or stressed I speak up and say something and without our relationship we shuffle things around.

    I would say that before you even start trying to have kids, have the conversation about what that would look like. Who would do what? Time off, etc.

    This is how we stay sane in my house

    • I’m with you on the mornings – I am totally a morning person, MD isn’t, so I have no problem waking up with the kid, getting breakfast started, etc… knowing full well that I can “check out” or do my own thing later on while MD and the kiddo hang out or do stuff. Communication and playing to your strengths in order to get that balance is key – glad your family has figured that out!

      On Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 4:16 PM, The Mamafesto

  8. When my husband and I were first married, we were given custody of my niece and nephew. Both of us worked in demanding jobs with weird hours, and we were forced to take a look at parenting responsibilities early on. We traded off who took off with sick kids, etc. When our own kids were born, we opted for me to stay home. When the first was two years old, we moved so my husband could go to grad school. I worked 4-12 so I was home during the day, and he was home with her at night. Now I’m back to being a SAHM, but we’re looking at changing that in the future as the youngest and last is now almost ready for school.

    I am glad to have found someone (who grew up in a home with very, very, very traditional gender roles) who sees parenting as both of our responsibilities.

    • That’s great! flexibility is key when it comes to both parenting and that work/life balance and it sounds like you and your husband have each experienced every possible format of how that pans out.

      On Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 4:23 PM, The Mamafesto

  9. Okay, so we don’t have kids yet, but I think a lot of couples get in trouble with their household “policies” way before children come along. I think it’s important not to “complete” with your partner about who is doing more. I have no problem cooking and cleaning all day while my hubby watches TV, if that’s what I feel like doing. And I know that the next day I might want to veg out while he’s working in the yard. As long as each person understands that maintaining a household is a team effort, things work out for the best. It seems like your family has an effortless “division of labor.” Congrats on FP!

    • Thanks! And yes – equal doesn’t necessarily mean “tit for tat” at all – it can mean that everyone feels that they’re doing an equal share of the work. Some days it may lean more heavily on one person and switched up the next.

  10. Unfortunately, it isn’t only others who fall into the trap of sterotyping a mother’s role in the family. I was convinced that I could (and should) “do it all” for many years of our marriage. It wasn’t until our 2nd child was born and I experienced some extreme burnout that I began to wake up to the fact that my husband wanted and needed to participate in ways that I had not left open to him thus far. Sure, his bedtime routine is louder and more exciting than mine – but it isn’t “wrong”. Really learning this lesson has taken time and lots of reminders, but we are so much more balanced now. Now, he works nights, so he’s in charge of “day care”, homework when the kids get home, and early transportation to after-school activities. Since his days off are in the middle of the week, I tend to do more of the weekend kid activities – particularly in the morning – so he can have quiet in the house for sleeping. Most important lesson I learned? Don’t be afraid to ask for help – or to accept it – just don’t put conditions on it. If the only way it is “helping” is if it’s done “your way” – you haven’t saved yourself any effort or stress and probably alienated the person trying to help you.

    • Yes! I think so many of us are conditioned to just take it all on and not ask for help and see doing so as a weakness, when in reality it’s totally not. Glad you’ve found some balance in your family!

  11. I LOVE this post! Society is so messed up into painting a picture of the “perfect” family when there is none…who’s defining “perfect”??? If it works for you, it works! Plain and simple.

  12. Wish I would’ve found this earlier.

    I’m actually studying household work and work life roles of dual career marriages. Sounds like you went through a little bump here but figured it out. I believe communication is the key to maintaining the motivation for a family.

    I think it’s great that your husband was able to take upon more of the housework and it’s evident now that there are role reversals within relationships and men are beginning to take some of that non-traditional roles. Especially with educated women like you who are beginning to delve themselves into careers.

    But on the real, serious props to you handling school, a kid, and a marriage all at once. Sounds like you somehow figured out a way to stretch the 24 hour window to several hours longer. Thanks for the great post!

    • Thanks for your kind words! And yes…communication is totally key, b/c otherwise resentment builds and festers and is just unpleasant for everyone.
      (and no…no magic here. The reality is that in a 24 hour day, something usually gets left by the wayside…one day it might be sleep, the next some dirty dishes. but it all balances out somehow)

  13. Great post! My husband and I both work full time, away from home. He used to work out of our house but even then he wasn’t a house-dad. We’ve always had great daycare, preschool and after school care. My daughter is happy, funny, and well adjusted. I signed her up for high school this morning! And she is proud of her parents. She thinks it is great that dad finally started his own business. She is proud of her working mom. Luckily I work for a family friendly company so if I have to come in late it isn’t a big deal (like today – both orthodontist appointment and school registration). When my daughter was younger people used to get snooty because I worked. It was awful, but I’m glad that I did and I wouldn’t have done anything different as far as parenting is concerned. We’re an exceptionally close family. We spend a lot of time just talking – not to our child or at each other, but WITH each other. We also spend a lot of time LAUGHING and having fun. One of the things I keep saying on my blog (an unusual parenting blog) is that every family is different. Now I just need to finish that best selling novel so I can stay home and write and pay for my daughter’s expensive college education!

  14. I write silly stuff, but I’ll chime in. A lot has to do with how kids are raised. There are still families out there where traditional male/female roles are strictly adhered to. This is the case even where the woman works full time!

    I get off work before my wife, so I get the kids and I cook dinner nearly every night. I clean up after dinner and my wife bathes the kids (I used to think this was a good deal but not so much now that the kids are a but older).

    I do cut the grass still and momma does almost all the laundry, but that’s more habit than anything else.

    My oldest is a girl and the little ones are boys. We’re not hippies or liberals or whatever, but we’ve tried to teach them that there are no such things as boy jobs and girl jobs so to speak. My daughter said one of her friend’s dads was appalled that her dad (me) cooked. That mindset is hard to change.

    • I totally agree that kids take what they learn from home into their own adulthood. My father always took on part of the cooking responsibilities and was the default dishwasher, so having a man in the kitchen is the norm for me. I think it’s great when kids can see parents take on a range of household chores that don’t pigeon hole them by gender stereotypes!

  15. I really do appreciate you pointing out that it’s an issue of parents, not just women and mothers. As a male in the corporate environment, it’s often frustrating when a man’s responsibilities as a parent aren’t respected or seen as fully legitimate. For whatever reason, it seems like companies are less likely to accomodate men in their need to parent, creating hours and an overall environment that doesn’t make much room for healthy parenting. Thanks for bringing the point home.

    • It’s definitely a parenting issue and not just mothers (my problem is that most people place the onus on mothers asking how they handle the work/life split and very rarely do men get that same line of questioning). I definitely think it would be a great if there was a shift in corporate thinking when it came to men/fathers for sure!

      On Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 6:16 PM, The Mamafesto

  16. Glad you’re parenting split seems to be somewhat equitable. The whole breastfeeding bit is nonsense–infants breastfeed for how long? But parenting goes on for decades. I really think that the work/parenting juggling act is seen as a woman’s issue because husbands and wives come to an agreement that the woman’s career is less important and can and should be sacrificed to the children, which means it is regularly sacrificed and sometimes does not advance as much as the husband’s. This sometimes begins partly because of existing inequities in the larger society: namely, that the husband is sometimes able to contribute more to the finances of the family from the outset and his work really is more crucial to the family’s well-being. I don’t have kids or a partner, but that is what I observe among in some of my colleagues. It isn’t fair or right, and makes a statement to kids about their value to their fathers. I hope this changes within my lifetime.

    • You hit it right on the head – there are definitely structural issues at play that make it all that more difficult (i.e. women still making less on the dollar than men)

      On Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 6:17 PM, The Mamafesto

      • If we see the problem in a different way, however, as not being mainly about money, but about living a meaningful life, then maybe men and women would come to different agreements.

    • I have found that a family’s well being is not as much a function of winning bread as of winning hearts. Love and laughter bear much greater rewards than does wealth. In our house, we practice oneness thinking: it’s not about my task/her task. It’s about loving each other in the sharing of burdens. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, be the servant of all.

  17. Both of us work, which has changed everything as far as respect goes. There’s still inequality because of his family’s macho philosophy. It’s a battle at times–all because at one point someone decided women do all the housework.

  18. Your family serves as a great model and gives me hope for the future. I’m a bit older than you (all four kids are teenagers) and perhaps part of a different generation. My husband is very traditional, which was a surprise to me following our marriage. We met in NYC and didn’t spend time around his extended family until a year after our wedding, when we moved to his hometown. Then, I realized that the males and females followed fairly traditional gender roles, perhaps as a reaction to their own upbringing, in which their mother worked evenings and their father spent more time at home. I have tried working every possible combination of full and part time (three long days, four long days, five part days) and used day care, nannies and a combination of the two. Probably because my husband travels regularly for his job, the burden of primary parent and household manager falls on my shoulders. My husband pitches in when he can (laundry during weekends, cooking breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays), but the fact remains, my career options have been limited because of my “jobs” in the household. Fortunately, I am a writer and French tutor, and can always find part-time work. I was resentful about my situation for years, until I realized I really have the better “job.” I love my kids and wouldn’t trade anything for the time I have had with them and the flexibility to work only as much as I want to.

    • I wonder how much frustration and resentment would be alleviated for parents (particularly women) if we had more social structures in place to help when it came to parenting (i.e. paid maternity leave, flexible work hours, paid sick leave, etc… – but that would be utilized by both mothers *and* fathers!). Thanks for your comment!

  19. Wonderful post. Both of us work and we are Indian; hence the gender stereotyping is pretty strong in our families. I do most of the night time (and daytime) parenting. Though to be fair, my husband does help out tremendously with the housework.

  20. Two lines I truly loved about this post:

    “…eager for the focus on the work/life balance to move beyond a women’s issue to one that is a parenting issue” (Yes!)

    and

    “I don’t think of my husband as my son’s babysitter and he doesn’t see himself in that role either.” (I HATE it when dad spending time caring for his own kids gets referred to as babysitting.)

    We have a really great division of duties in our house too (in fact, many times, my husband does more all around than I do). An equal partner is truly essential in child-raising, I believe. Really great post, thanks for sharing your experiences.

    ~Shenoah
    http://www.momsasaurus.wordpress.com

  21. Hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray. I have two sons who are fabulous fathers, I have a brother – ditto terrific. Gone are the days when women raised the children and men came home in the evening and patted their children on the head befoe they headed for bed. I see men at the library these days with their children; on bikes with the little ducks following behind; sipping at babycinos with dad. Many men are involved in their children’s lives. Good on you for pointing it out.

  22. I have to say that I am glad to see a post where a mother is not trying to seen as a martyr to the cause known as motherhood. In our house, we split things pretty equally though the duties themselves can change on a daily basis. My husband is a long-haul trucker so for all intents and purposes I could be labeled a single mother. yet he is supporting us while I also work and when he is home, he does a lot of things I just didn’t get to. But he is lucky in that he can take our boys on the road with him just about any time he wants because his boss/company understands that his children are more important to him. Our setup definitely would not work for most people but I know that the bottom line is that I’m in an equal partnership.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Jenera. That’s great that you’ve found a working balance for your family, even with non traditional jobs (it’s extra excellent that your kids are able to tag along with your husband on trips – how fun!)

  23. Very good post. Thanks for sharing it. Fully agree with your point on shifting the focus on the work/life balance beyond a women’s issue to one that is a parenting issue.

  24. Nice to see someone hasn’t just figured it out; but written it out..Split parenting styles not only works; but it is the BEST way to raise children. It was, at first, tough for me to “give up” some of the parental duties…I was a single Mom for a bit. Thankfully I married someone who wanted/loved(s) being a parent/is a natural nuturer..and watching him nuture-parent sons has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life journey. I think its called co-parenting for a reason..I think it takes TWO parents to make children for a reason. It just simply makes sense. Doing so created 3 people that I not only love; but like/adore as people. Even if they weren’t my kids..(grown and in college now) Outstanding post! 2 thumbs UP

  25. 2 working parents here. 4 kiddos ages 9-15. We’ve been all over the map breadwinning-wise, my turn, his turn, our turn, staying home, even the single parenting gig (long story and truly glad THAT season is over). We take turns staying home with sick kids, playing taxi to various extracurricular activities, making dinner, cleaning up, housework and general maintenance….it’s all teamwork. There’s no one to be resentful toward when we are both sharing the load, and when we get the kids in on the game, they learn life skills and it lightens our load–win-win. True, we are exhausted and hit the hay ridiculously early, but it’s a full life and we have a pretty amazing family to show for it.

  26. We are a family of 2 parents working outside the home (it is work to stay home as well, and I know that!) and an infant. We split things pretty evenly. He does laundry and I do grocery shopping. I breastfeed but supplement so he feeds her occasionally. He usually puts the little one to sleep. When she was first born he took off two weeks (all he was allowed) but he was up at night, too. And when he went back to work and I was still on leave, he always insisted that I leave the house on the weekends to get out, alone. I feel lucky that he is not someone I have to coach into being a parent. I think parenting should be split/team effort but unfortunately, not all people see it that way.

    Great post!

    • Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your experience. Such a shame that your partner only got 2 weeks. I think that if we had more family-supportive policies in place, a lot of the balancing act would ease up (just a bit).

  27. Terrific post. Splitting things right down the middle was never an issue for us or our children, either. Up until recently I was able to earn quite a bit more than my husband so with the shared goal to raise our children ourselves, the decision of who’d stay home was an easy one to make. Traditional ‘gender’ role thinking never entered into who did what with the exception of the breastfeeding–which given my husband’s willingness to do whatever our children needed would have been something he took his turn at, if nature provided the ability for males to do so. And as for leaving the ball in the court of females to find a family-friendly workplace, I offer that this historically observable trend has likely begun to fade and will probably continue to diminish as a criteria used to narrow down career ‘choices’ as for many of us–about 23 million at last count–a J-O-B at all, irrespective of their stance on whether or not they give a damn, is one to consider taking.

    • Thanks, Claudia! It definitely doesn’t help that we live in a not so family-friendly country (just in terms of policy…how can we be one of the last industrialized nations not to mandate paid maternity/paternity leave!?)

  28. This is such an inspiring and well written post. It reminds me a lot of my childhood and how I hope to manage a family and a career in the future. Huge props on your successes! All of your hard work will certainly pay off in raising a respectable and upstanding son.

  29. I’d say you’re managing just great!

    On the work from home issue, I’m single/no kids and still want the option to sometimes do so largely because commuting in the big city I live in now, NYC (and the big city I used to live in, DC) is a pain in the a$$ even with extensive public transport. I also find that varying my work environment allows me a different sort of focus for the variety of project types I have.

    • Thanks so much! And yes – I think a variety of people (not just parents!) could benefit from working from home if it works for their job.

      On Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 9:07 PM, The Mamafesto

  30. I am not married and don’t have kids but I have been pondering lately if I think I would want to. I’m not sure how I would balance everything. i imagine everyone thinks that but they learn how to do it, but I’m still not sure. The timing of your post and your insight is encouraging though.

    • Thanks for your kind words – glad this post was helpful! And even being in the mix of it all, I sometimes still not sure how to balance it all😉

      On Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 11:13 PM, The Mamafesto

  31. Thank you so much for this read! The parenting roles in our hours are very…different then most! I love seeing how people handle the parenting situations in their lives!

  32. This was very interesting to read! I think my husband and I need to figure out what our parenting roles will be – we don’t have children yet, but it’s always easier to have a plan beforehand I think. Right now I’m unemployed so I do all the household chores, but my husband does help out with laundry, cooking, taking out the trash and grocery shopping quite regularly. I still can’t imagine myself as a stay at home mother and housekeeper though. I like the way you have divided things, even if it isn’t perfect (because, seriously, what is?).

  33. Great post! We have been a two “working” parent household from day one and now have two teen boys — I like the term I recently saw (I can’t remember where I read it) that it is more a work-family “blend” than balance. So true. Sometimes, the way things got done was by bringing the boys with me to the office on a Saturday morning where they drew pictures,watched some cartoons and hung out in the conference room as I tied up loose ends that Mon thru Fri did not provide enough time to do, often it was logging into the computer after everyone was in bed to work, but we were fortunate to both have jobs where we typically could flex and rearrange schedules to attend school programs, sporting events, run to the dentist, etc. I am not sure we could have done it without that flexibility — we never took it for granted and we worked hard on both sides of the equation to make things work. Sometimes work did take the priority, sometimes family did (I am not talking those critical life events where, of course, you’d drop everything you’re doing to make family come first), and always, or at least almost always, you had to let go of any sense of perfection on any front — a little dog fur on the pacifier that droppedon the floor helped build the immune system🙂

  34. Reading your story it was eerie how similar mine is. I worked full time while doing my MSW. Finished my thesis proposal, went on mat leave and kept working on it. Went back to work, got pregnant shortly after, finished my thesis defence and edits 1 week before my due date. Went on mat leave, moved so the husband could go to school. Finished my mat leave, went back to work. He finished school and now we’re both working… We’ve managed to carve out a balancing act that requires us to manage our work schedules with sick days, doctors appointments, and getting the domestic stuff done. What works for us may not work for everyone, and if his work place was not understanding of his family responsibilities… well, things just wouldn’t work at all.

    You’re right, in an age where so many families have two parents in the workplace, work/life balance is not a women’s issue.

    • “in an age where so many families have two parents in the workplace, work/life balance is not a women’s issue.” <–that really is the crux of it and if we could get both gov't & corporate policy to realize this, we'd be heading in the right direction!

      On Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 8:55 PM, The Mamafesto

  35. Thanks for this. I stay at home and homeschool. We hadn’t always planned for a large family, but now we love it so much, we hope for more. We have 7 children, and it’s a bit chaotic at times, but basically, equal. We both work our asses off, and when the time comes for chores, we all pitch in together to get it done. We give allowance to the kids for their work, and the older ones make a significant difference in how the house looks. My husband tends to be much better at cleaning, and I’m better at cooking, so it’s pretty easy to decide who does what. We have made decisions I am proud of. We don’t expect each other to do too much, and we help the other person out as much as we can. With each additional child there is incrementally more work, and don’t let anyone fool you, it ain’t easy! It was good for me to hear that you are happy with your set up. I hope you have another child, siblings are pretty awesome.

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  41. Up until Hurrican Sandy, I was the sole breadwinner in my house. I live in a blended household.of my biological mother, my adopted mother, youngest brother,and stepfather. My bio mom geta disability check for my brother and my stepfather also receives some type of SSI check. My adopted mom is now receiving SSI/retirement check. I am no longer working my 9-5 because I’ve decide to be a blogger/writer full time.
    Although there are 5 people who are able to clean up afyer themselves and help around the house,only I do anything…and my adopted mom on occassion. I clean, I cook, do laundry, make store runs, and when I’m low on cash, I hand wash underwear,tahirts and the occassional outdoor clothes (but only mine and my daughter’s). I wish there was more balamce but until there actually is,I’m Florence from the Jeffersons

  42. I come from a background where traditional roles are expected. I’m a Christian and we homeschool, so most of the mothers I interact with are fully-committed, stay-at-home moms with breadwinner husbands.
    But our family breaks all the stereotypes.
    Paul and I both work quasi-part time so we can homeschool. He works at a mission helping men with addictions, substitutes, does construction work, illustrates, and teaches art classes. I tutor, freelance write, and run our four daughters around because we’re banking on full-ride sports’ scholarships for college.
    Because activities go into the evening, Paul usually cooks meals. If I’m home, I cook. If we’re both home, we both cook. We all clean up, except if the cooks want to opt out, we can. The girls do all the housecleaning. I do the laundry. Paul pitches in on everything but the laundry (he really hates laundry). I don’t mind laundry because I listen to books-on-cd while I fold, so I get some “reading” in while I do chores. Homeschooling usually falls to me, but Paul takes them on birding expeditions and teaches them all the hands-on stuff (building chicken coops, gardening, and moving irrigation pipes).
    Our girls don’t have any sense of “man’s” work or “women’s” work. We think in terms of “family” work. We allot chores according to work we hate and work we like. If we all hate it, we divide it up. Otherwise, we trade like Monopoly properties to best accomplish our purposes.
    It’s really fun to live this way. Moms don’t have to be the sacrificial martyrs we grew up with. Dads don’t have to be the clueless oafs we grew up with.
    The downside is neither of us have really succeeded in becoming amazing at our careers. Finances are usually tight. But we eat really, really well, we eat together, and we love to be with each other. That’s saying a lot:)

    • I love the idea of thinking it as “family work” because it all truly benefits the family. Each of us also has chores we don’t mind/hate and so we try to be thoughtful in splitting the load in that regard. Love hearing how the work/life balance works in other families – thanks so much for sharing!

      On Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 3:32 PM, The Mamafesto

  43. I found your post amusing and here’s why: My husband and I have been married for 11 years and this isn’t the first marriage for either of us. We are what one would consider retired although I am always busy – can’t say the same for him, lol. Here is my point: We had a minor tiff the other day. In his exasperation he emphasized “I have to do my OWN laundry and clean my OWN bathroom!” I tried to stay calm before I answered “So do I ! ” After he gave that a moment of thought, the argument was over.
    All I can say is his mama and somebody else had him spoiled rotten! Thanks to everyone out there who gives their children BOTH perspectives to learn from.

    • Yes! If we instill these values/norms in our kids then hopefully there will be less issues like this in their relationships in the future!

      On Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 4:40 PM, The Mamafesto

  44. You ROCK and your children will have a much better chance with adapting in the world vs thinking there are roles to play in a marriage and raising children. If everyone took this attitude, we’d most likely have a lot less stress in relationships!! I’m not saying that a stay-at-home mom or dad isn’t good but when both work, it’s best to not role-play ever.

  45. We, too, had a shared parenting schedule. My husband worked at home and I was able to take off work until my youngest son went into kindergarten. My oldest boy was 7. I found work in town so was able to get a district transfer to a school close to my work. I worked 3 long days from 7:30 to 5:30 and on those days my husband would pick up the boys. Then, I had two days of 7:00 to 1:30 so I was able to pick them up and take them to soccer or baseball. It worked out really well for us. We both took the weekend off to attend soccer matches and baseball tournaments or go sailing. When they were babies my husband spent a lot of time with the eldest while I was breastfeeding the youngest, and, yes, he wore him a lot when a baby until about age 3. We both cooked, we both did laundry, He did most of the grocery shopping, I did most of the sweeping, etc. When the boys were older they saw us trade jobs, they saw their Dad cooking, etc. and they pitched in with chores as well. Now, at age 32 and 29 they are both excellent cooks, they both clean and do laundry. They are both in relationships and they share and share alike.

  46. You hit the nail on the head with this post. Today’s world is about choices and then adjusting life patterns to fit those choices. In our home we are working toward that shared responsibility. Truly, an even split did not exist when our son was young, but over time, my husband and I have worked our way to where we are both present in the give and take of keeping our family moving forward day to day and participating in routine maintenance activities. And we are teaching our 13 year old son to be there too. My goal is to have him learn from our mistakes and send him off to a wife someday being better prepared to participate in family responsibilities.

  47. I could write a book in response to this post. I have struggled so much trying to walk this tight rope. My husband has not only expected me to take on the majority of house and parenting responsibility but also EXPECTED me to bring in a substantial salary. I did it for ten years (working as a teacher) before I quit and started on a completely different path to save my health, my sanity and my children. Now I’m going into massage therapy to control my own schedule and still bring in an income.

    I think my husband has suffered with machismo AND enjoyed the benefits of feminism. That’s a terrible place for a man to get stuck and we’re still working our way through it. He’s not entirely happy with my decision though he has been warming up to it the more I’m able to ease his aching body. (He’s an overachieving workaholic).

    Anyway, thank you for posting this and helping me see that we are all working through this together.

    • Wow – thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with what sounds like a pretty inequitable situation for so long. But I’m glad you’re finding ways to make it work better (and not have it fall mainly on you). Glad you found some connection here as well.

      On Sat, Mar 9, 2013 at 9:10 AM, The Mamafesto

  48. love this post ~ this is an ongoing struggle at our house. 2 working parents and a busy 6yr old! I work from home and my husband works evenings ~ end of the day routines seem that much harder solo as always it’s a work in progress xx Jen

    • I’m with you on that solo parenting in the evening thing. A few nights a week it’s all on me and it’s definitely a different dynamic. Thanks for sharing!

      On Sat, Mar 9, 2013 at 11:27 AM, The Mamafesto

  49. I’m adding my second comment and do believe that if a family thinks it is important for one of the parents to stay home with their children, that mom or Mr. Mom may also need help or some extra time away to restore sanity and energy. I do believe that many families can get by with spending less money, having only one car in order to make certain kids get more quality time and not more money spent on them. i know, however, of many women who just would be too unhappy doing this and men too; and if that’s the case, the happiness of all should be taken into consideration. Again, just saying because in this reader’s mind, the parenting skills of our nation needs to be thought through more so for how a child is going to grow up not only with balance, love and tough love, but following guidelines, respecting authority and still maintaining individuality. Parent hood is a loaded plate.

    Many blessings to all readers as I have been someone who has worked in the juvenile justice system and sometimes with the best of parenting skills, children and young adults go astray and end up in the system. Keep them talking, love them in the right ways and follow through with consequences maintaining respect at all times.

    • I agree that there’s no one “right” way to do this – (just like raising kids/parenting philosophies) – you need to do what works best for your individual family!

      On Sat, Mar 9, 2013 at 1:05 PM, The Mamafesto

  50. I thought you’d shared something very good and reall🙂.. In asian context, at times i just dont understand. We have this idea, household is managed by the mama, while going out to labor/earn a living is father’s duty to provide for the family. And the idea if this were to be ‘equal’ or shared, the focus of each party is not longer there and hence the father can’t succeed in the working environment and the mama can’t focus on household and child raising.. Just wondering how you think about this idea.

  51. Good experience, I have no children yet- but I really feel those shoes.
    Indeed, some parents these days discard responsibility- not accepting the fact and situation of ‘parenting’ and being shadowed by ‘work’
    I believe ‘a time with your kids’ makes a great difference in a child’s entire growth stages and life.

    Thanks for this post!!!

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  53. Add a child with special needs to this package and watch the issues grow like Jack’s beanstalk. Women, including professional women are being placed in situations where they are unable to work to support their families. Lost potential income and low quality of life for stay at home parent. Divorce rate about 80 percent.

  54. My husband and I have shared parenting down. However, we don’t have the shared bread winning thing down (which should be the other side of the coin, correct?). I like my career in education (never intending to be a primary breadwinner) but it doesn’t make much money. My husband happily takes on more household duties when he’s not working (he’s in school now) but doesn’t necessarily see the need for sacrifice when it comes his career. How do you decide who has to set aside their career aspirations in the meantime while the kids are young? We’ve talked and talked about this and I’m willing to leave my job that I love to look for higher paying work but not if felt like he wouldn’t do the same. That’s the heart of shared parenting, right? When it comes down to the hard decisions or the tough jobs, I’ll give up something if I knew my partner would do the same.

    • That is such a tricky balance to be sure. Right now, MD makes much, much more than I do, but (as he has made clear multiple times) he would trade in his work for being a stay-at-home parent in a heartbeat. And, I have to admit, he’d be an amazing stay at home parent, probably even better than me (I call myself a PT stay-at-home parent since my income is really a PT income at the moment) Unfortunately, the disparity in our income makes that pretty much impossible at the moment. There are very few jobs that I could get where I would be making as much as he is now annually (he’s a pharmacist). So, he has to shoulder that burden at the moment.

  55. Kids should indeed see equality inside and outside. This idea would seem weird, probably impossible to most of the people who live in my town. This totally depends on views of parents, their superstitions,etc. And if posts like yours fall into the hands of working parents, their ideas might change if even a bit. So I shall make a point of sharing this on my Facebook page.
    There is one article I wrote which is about gender inequality outside the house. Maybe you would like to check it.Here is the link-
    http://reignofthoughts.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/gender-inequality-in-india-a-new-angle/

  56. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

    When our twin boys were about one, their doctor said one day after asking us about childcare arrangements and nannys and daycare came up: why hire someone else to raise your kids? We’d never thought of it that way. Now, our twin boys 5, we understand how a full-time two-working-parent family can mean that for a large proportion of time, ones kids are under the care, influence, and energy of others, shaping those children’s minds and hearts. If this is the situation we are in, we can only hope those caregivers are excellent and offering as much heart and nurturing as guidance and skill-teaching.

    My husband and I worked our way from, not full-time, but a lot of daycare, to an equal split of being with our boys, working (self-employed and asserting the need to clients and customers for flexible schedule), and a 16-hour-a-week preschool schedule, as an effort to CREATE and ASSERT and LIVE a life that offers more time with our kids in their early years. We don’t want our boys to be raised by someone else, however loving a nanny or skilled a pre-school teacher may be.

    I never thought I would voice these ideas, formerly taking childcare for granted when one has a career/job, but after being around so many young children in these past few years, I’ve come to feel that on a deep emotional level, pre-K children do best with ample, present time with their mother and father.

    My husband and I are making it work, but it is stressful as we’re on such a tight budget and the balancing act can simply feel challenging and at times exhausting. But so is life with young kids no matter the arrangement. We want to raise our kids versus have our kids be raised by others … how can we make it work and bring a societal shift about? Insist on a shared parenting lifestyle if at all possible and find creative ways to bring it about. This may mean simplifying, looking with scrutiny at our career paths and the idea of career itself – is our career more important than the fundamental wellbeing of a child? We can take a look at our true material needs and reject the notion we need certain things, do with less items and more quality time with each other. With less monetary pressure, we have more time to do what matters most: being present with our developing children so they are emotionally healthy, happy, feel wanted and cherished by the two people who brought them into the world.

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  59. Loved your post! I particularly agree with you and Anne’s comments that it’s a parenting issue and not just a women’s issue.

    I’m on the other end of parenting now that my son is grown but I can still tap back into memory and give thanks that my husband is who he is. We worked together as a team and over the years trading parenting and primary bread-winner roles back and forth multiple times e.g. when I went back to school for my MSM degree at Stanford he took over primary parenting so I could live close to campus during the week until I finished, later he wanted to pursue a business dream so we talked about what was needed and I took over as primary bread-winner to give him mind-space to do so, etc.

    What worked for us was that neither of us got hung up on “traditional” roles and tying our value to that role. My husband has always been secure in who he is as a person (and his manhood) which frees him to not worry about whether something is perceived to be “man’s work” or not. He’s a better cook than me and likes to cook so he does the cooking, I’m faster at cleaning the kitchen and don’t mind the work so that’s what I do. For us, it’s just always been to do what makes sense. But I count my blessings because around this topic – alot of people have no sense.

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Carly! Sounds like you guys found a great balance based on your strengths, and really that’s what it all boils down too. It doesn’t have to be “tit for tat” as long as everyone feels valued/appreciated and the work is getting done!

      On Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 4:08 PM, The Mamafesto

  60. Having raised 2 boys to grown and another to “almost there”, over the years, the hubby and I had to learn the hard way how to find a balance. He has always worked, and often in “irregular hour” jobs. I have been both a working mom (with irregular hours) and a SAHM. The biggest hurdle we ever faced was learning to let go and let the other do…even if it was a different way. And communicate! Feeling like the load is out of balance and not speaking up only leads to bigger issues down the road.
    You wouldn’t do anything important as a couple without talking about it – and raising your kids is the most important thing you’ll do.

    • Yes, letting go and allowing your partner to parent in a different ay is definitely something I’ve found many parents (mainly moms) wished they learned earlier. Thanks so much for sharing how things worked in your home!

  61. I think this issue is complicated as it isn’t always possible to be equitable in your share of household tasks. Because of the nature of my husband’s job, we don’t see much of him during the week and he regularly comes home past the children’s bedtime, or not at all (like this week, when he’s abroad). I have three children and at times my single parent friends often say that my life is not unlike theirs. My life is made easier though by taking the cleaning out of the equation as I pay someone to do that. Three days a week I am, at the moment, working, so the house doesn’t get too untidy. The hardest thing to be honest, is not the household tasks, but making sure the children get enough time and attention (and their homework done).

    • Yeah, I think the big take away is that each family needs to do what works best for them, but still allowing for each family member to feel valued and appreciated. I think getting to that point would be much easier with greater government structural support, but alas…

      On Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 3:07 PM, The Mamafesto

  62. So great to find this blog! I’m pregnant with twins due the time I finish my MPhil thesis, then fingers crossed I’ll start my PhD programme. Well this was the plan but I’m often (pretty much all the time) told it’s a pipe dream and twins are crazy. I’m holding out on the fact I’ll have lots of babysitting support from my Mum, and my partner is incredible…he’s Danish and they’re very egalitarian over there (compared to the British that is)! To be frank he does everything around the house so I can just focus on studying…but he takes it as normal, no grudges, mood swings, counting how much he’s done versus me etc. (my friends complain of that sort of thing a lot)…I guess I’m working hard and it’s natural he wants to help too. Anyway meeting with my supervisor today so fingers crossed all will go well with the first plan…All the best!

    • Glad you found this space as well! And good luck to you – sounds like you have amazing things in store, both personally and professionally and what a plus to have such a supportive partner!

      On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 5:15 AM, The Mamafesto

  63. For all the mom bloggers out there, hop on over to LCC’s blog page. We have wonderful therapists who do play therapy and talk about: children’s behaviors, parenting, and a variety of other related topics.

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  65. My wife is a stay at home mother of our 2 year old and 4 year old. My wife loves her mommy role and until both of our two little girls are in enrolled into private school she will remain the person who teaches and nurtures them at home. We will not allow our children to be raised and corrupted by strangers in some child care center. Once our kids are in elementary school full time, then she will consider the choices for advancing her education and going to work. Even then, our kids will come home from school to their parents, not a baby sitter or child care provider. Because of the good choices that we have made together, we are financially capable of surviving on a single income. Of course with the current administration doing everything it can to destroy our economy and encourage laziness with government hand outs, and the high cost of forced Obamacare, my income is beginning to decline. That is probably the single biggest obstacle we face. Our family healthcare costs have already increased by 32% even though we do not have coverage. We are self pay. Soon we will be forced to pay a fine for being self pay. Still, it will be cheaper to pay the fine than the monthly amount under forced government healthcare. There is a lesson taught to our children about being independent. About not taking the easy road and relying on someone else to pay your way. We will be survivors, as a family, with a mother at home, and a father who works very hard to keep them safe and secure without the help of the government. Our family does not live in a village nor does it take a village to raise our children. Our children will be protected from the dangers of government indoctrination. We are the old school traditional American family and very proud to claim that title.
    Congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed.
    Well done!

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  67. I just realized I never stopped by to thank you for writing this. I think your point about youneach having been the sole/primary wage earner prior to having kids is an important one. We had done that too, with each of us supporting the other one through university degrees (and it will happen again when I go back to school).

    • You’re welcome – thanks for the prompt! And yeah, I think if most people had that experience before kids factor into the picture it would make that transition a lot less fraught with inequality.

      On Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 9:59 AM, The Mamafesto

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  69. I just came across this & really appreciate the perspective. I’m the mama of an 8-month-old, currently in year 3 of a PhD program while my husband works part-time. Looking for different models of how to share the parenting, wage earning, housework, etc.

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