Division of Labor

This summer, my husband and I are trying something new…and I don’t think it’s working very well so far. As he began working as a consultant to schools last fall, his day job ended at the beginning of June. To save money, we decided he would become our full-time childcare during the weekdays while I’m at work. At first, we were both enthusiastic about it—especially the idea of one of us parenting our toddler during the days, rather than leaving him with a sitter or putting him in daycare. I must admit I was a bit envious that my husband would have his days free to go the beach or park, take walks with Jacob in the stroller, and just enjoy the sunny, summer weather. However, because this is not an option for me anyway because I work full time (and I would likely go nuts if I were home five days a week), I was mostly happy with our childcare arrangement…until we started living it.

I’ve said before what a fabulous father my husband is. He is…I mean…as much as I’m a good mother. So, mostly. We do the best we can. But, I don’t think that either of us is the problem. The problem is the two of us are the only ones sharing all the work at home while both working multiple jobs outside of the home. We’re both always on duty, tag teaming each other. He cares for Jacob when I’m at work or teaching aerobics. Then, I come home and put on my mommy hat while he goes to teach voice lessons or play softball or go to choir rehearsal or dj a wedding. When we both are home at the same time on Saturdays, there are dishes and laundry to be done, meals to be prepared, and floors to be swept and mopped (because that is where Jacob spends all his time these days). We’re constantly taking turns, with one of us doing chores and the other one running around after Jacob while he pulls pots and pans off the stovetop, gets stuck climbing under and between furniture, throws our shoes and my stepson’s toys in the garbage, and eats any small thing he finds on the floor.

Every Saturday (the only day my husband and I are both off from work), a conversation something like the following ensues:

Me: Can you please take Jacob while I go do X (really important thing that I’ve been waiting all week to do–something like pay the bills or put away all the laundry from the weekend before)?

Husband: Sure, it wasn’t like I had anything planned for the day except spending it how I spend every other day—chasing after our son. We’ll see you tomorrow when you’ve checked off everything on your to-do list.

Me: Really, all I need is 30 minutes. Can you watch him for 30 minutes while I do Y? Oh..wait, I really need to do X though…and Z. Well…I think I can get by just doing X…or no…Z. (I look over at Jacob.) Oh! What does Jacob have in his mouth?! (Remove old, dried up piece of cheese with dust on it from Jacob’s mouth.) One of us should sweep the floor today. Okay, I’ll go throw in some laundry, and then I’ll take Jacob so you can go mow the lawn and trim the bushes. Maybe I can sweep the floor if he takes a nap today?

To say the least, this whole system exhausts us. I just wonder if things will take a turn for the much, much better when Jacob starts daycare three days a week in the fall. With both of us having days off from childcare at the same time, I’m hoping our stress levels will simmer down a bit. Who knew household chores and yard work would become luxuries after having children?

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Posted on July 13, 2011, in Parenting, The Balancing Act. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m right there with you. We are in the thick of it now. Running after our very active son while the other parent tries to get something done. It’s tough. Our house looks like it’s in a constant state of disarray and my yard is being overtaken by weeds….

    For us, doing chores at night, after Evan is in bed, has been helpful in checking things off the to-do list. Yes, we are low on sleep but these things (bill pay, laundry, cleaning out the refriderator, planning meals) have to get done. It also means we are outside in the dark pulling weeds….hey whatever works right?

    To keep my spirits up I keep remining myself that it won’t always be like this. Evan can come outside and play while I pull weeds or play with his cars while I pay bills.

    Great post. It’s nice to know I’m not the only constantly battling for balance.

  2. You’re so right! Aside from the bare necessities, I’ve let everything go. My house is a perpetual mess. But what’s more important? Spending time with my son, or organizing the closet? That’s an easy choice.
    But for the other stuff, like folding laundry or sweeping the floor, I get my toddler involved. He has his little pile of hand towels to “fold” while mommy does the rest of the laundry, or he has his own little broom to pick up all the food he threw on the floor. I even give him the light items of a grocery haul to carry into the kitchen and help, in his own way, to put them away.
    I really lay on the praise for helping me and he loves being part of the household stuff. Sure, I end up doing the chores myself, but at least we’re spending time together.
    And every once in a while, all heck breaks loose and the piled-up housework needs to be done. We can’t do it all at the same time, so we just manage as best we can.

  3. Mel– yeah, we try to do things after Jacob is in bed. But, I’m up at 5:30AM, at work all day, and then at the gym until 7PM or so. When I get home it’s eat dinner, get stuff ready for the next day, and maybe go on my computer for a bit after the little guy is finally asleep. That’s about all I can muster. You are so right though, that it’s only a short-term thing! And, these are the times in his life that we will miss the most– when he’s so adorable in so many ways!

    Karla– I love the idea of having my son do mini-chores along with me! I am so trying that this weekend! 🙂

  1. Pingback: Ear infections, nosebleeds, nightmares, coughs, and housework: Another lovely weekend « On Becoming Mommy

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