Recently, when I received a new job offer the husband couldn’t conceal a look of pure glee. For this was in fact a coveted part-time role that miraculously fits inside school hours. Of course he could smile, I pointed out. Now that I would be once again contributing to the financials (phew for both of us) while still being able to do the most of the pick ups and drop offs (hooray for him) he had a pretty good reason to smile.
For him absolutely nothing was changing.
We laughed about it. Not so sure I’m laughing so much a month on..
Saying nothing has changed for him is not entirely true. He does his fair share of looking after the trio and I know I’m lucky that his job provides a flexibility that allows him to fit around my ever-changing commitments. But when I’d finished off a rather gruelling day this week, I totted up all the things I had had to do to get through to that joyful moment when all three fell asleep, and felt somewhat overwhelmed. I won’t bore you with the minute detail but suffice to say it involved several treks to school in the driving rain, silent screaming at homework time while also trying to fight off my imposter syndrome at my new work. Never mind the internal monologue of jobs I shouldn’t forget – school trips, cake sales, oh and the small matter of organising holiday clubs now I am working again. Uff.
It’s a controversial subject. Who does more. Well controversial for me as obviously the husband will read this and the debate will spark off once again. Yes, I’m grateful to have found a job where I can also spend time with the kids, but having these split days means there’s literally no let up. Come mid afternoon I quickly have to whip off my work hat and don my mummy hat, inevitably looking a bit dishevelled, and power on through until bed-time. I can just about cope with this whirlwind of tasks. It’s the ‘mental load’ (yes it’s a thing) that tips me over the edge. That constant hum in your head of important JBTD (jobs to be done – I work in a world of acronyms now!). This is where the divide is truly magnified. Try as he might, my husband can’t retain these JTBD – he blames his poor working memory. Questionable. If I remind him of one, he then tells me I need to remind him again later at a precise time. Thus boomeranging the job right back to me. He will insist that as a couple everything is split 50/50. I would argue it’s equally unequal. Deliberately ambiguous so as to avoid getting into too much trouble.
I have couple friends where the dad has assumed the stay-at-home role and it’s been revolutionary for their relationship. Both parties get to experience the reality of each other’s position. For we know that both extremes have their downsides. But only when you play it out, only when you’re the one having to remember that you’re out of loo roll or the one having to travel long distance for work (not so much fun as pre-kids), can you truly emphasise. Also, I imagine it’s the ideal exercise therapy for any working memory challenges too!
What’s the solution then? Is it possible to achieve the perfect balance of chores and childhood responsibilities in a partnership?To share the mental load? Maybe having a clear divide is a good idea. Drawing up a list of who does what so you both have to sign up to your half. A parental contract. Then there’s no shirking responsibilities – it’s on the list for goodness sake. Wonderful friends of mine who are in their sixties have always done just this. They have a list of ‘willy’ and ‘fanny’ jobs! Then there’s no ‘I emptied the dishwasher last time’ shenanigans. You know where you are.
So maybe I’ll add ‘make that list’ to the other JBTD.
Or maybe I better just go hide from the other half who’ll no doubt be waiting to list off the many things that he does do. He’s a very good egg really..