Parenting is hard work. There’s no doubt about it. Looking after children all day is tough. Working full time is tough. But it’s not just the tantrums and the bedtimes. It’s all the rest of the stuff that goes with it – organising stuff for school, house admin, keeping some kind of social life, emptying the goddam dishwasher.
Now, I know many couples manage to find some kind of balance. Perhaps one of you works, the other stays at home – this can have its own issues of course. Or maybe you both work part time and split the childcare. Maybe your children are older and all at school. Maybe you split everything down the middle – time, money, effort with no qualms or quibbles WHATSOEVER.
But what about families where everything is a bit greyer – one of you works full time and earns more. One refuses to work even when the children are at school. One works part time and takes on the childcare and household tasks.
But what happens when you both work? And more specifically what happens when one of you works more, or earns more and one of you does more childcare? How do you split the tonne of stuff that needs to be done when you both have commitments?
Talking to friends the same threads come up. “My husband’s working late, so I’m on bedtime duty all this week” or “My partner expects me to do all the housework because I work part time”. But I also hear “I feel like I’m having to do everything at the moment”.
Whose job takes preference? Is it the person who earns the most (as usually happens) or do you weigh each work event and late night on its merits? I’ve lost count of the times my friends and I have cancelled a night out or missed a work event because our other halves have to work late. Their point? They’re not going out – IT’S WORK. And that’s true. But where do you draw the line? If you’re both working whose job takes precedence? You might not be earning the same amount, but you’re probably both in an office 9-5 – so how do you decide who has to come home if a child is sick, or who has to miss an industry event if they clash?
Part time working
The problem comes into its own where one of you works part time and does childcare on the other days. Obviously that parent will take a hit on their salary (and often career prospects). Of course they get the joy of spending more time with the children (or stress depending on the day) but does that mean they should take on all of the household tasks? The shopping, the tidying, the washing, the dishwashing, organising parties, buying presents – all the other stuff that, you know, you need to do to not collapse under a pile of filthy washing and end up with just a bottle of beer and a banana in the fridge?
Obviously if you’re at home in the day, you can stick some washing on, get some food in, but what about all the other stuff, the homework, sorting out clothes to go to Grandma’s, organising what everyone’s doing at the weekend?
And what happens when one of you is freelance? How do you split money and chores when one of you is full time in an office earning more and the other is working around the children, picking up bits of work here and there, looking after the children and running a household? Does the dynamic change? With one person earning more?
The issue is even more acute if one of you is setting up your own business, or starting to work flexibly (as I am hoping to do). You may need some childcare to give you some time to get things going and pitch for work, but obviously you’re not earning anything. How do you scale up equally if one of you isn’t earning anything, but is taking on the childcare?
Money, money, money
It may be very uncouth to talk about money, but can you really say it never causes any issues in your household? Whether you have enough is one thing but what about who pays for what? You may have a joint account, but do you both feel happy with your finances? Do you keep your earnings separate and pay into a joint account? How does that work if you work part time but cover childcare? Do you hate not having your own money? Or maybe you resent the fact that you pay for everything?
Children. Who knew they would raise so many issues? I would LOVE to know what you think. Come on, be honest!
If you’re trying to juggle it all – you might like my life hacks for working parents.