Working parents – how equal is your relationship?

twenty20_760ea937-28af-4fbd-90d2-9610ee58c299croppedParenting 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.

Working parents

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?

Freelance working

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.







  1. Suzanne
    October 13, 2016 / 3:46 pm

    I really think it shouldn’t come down to earnings at all. I work part time but earn more than my full time partner. If it was all about the money – I should work full time and he could take a break / do more around the house. It’s important to respect different jobs – more traditional jobs now often offer flexible working whereas others don’t – i think taking advantage of flexibility and not being too hung up on earnings is really important. If you’re in it together, who cares who pays for each specific thing. Household chores are difficult but being rigid about who does what, when doesn’t seem to make anyone happy. If you’re in the house with the kids at tea time – do the dishwasher etc. It can’t always be done. It’s tricky to make it work all the time and I admire your ability to identify so many of the various issues!!

  2. Sue Dunning
    October 14, 2016 / 6:53 pm

    I agree with Suzanne on a lot of what she says. Family life is a team effort. Unless one of you feels that you are being taken advantage of in terms of workload, I don’t think it’s healthy to be monitoring who did what when. It can easily spiral into tit for tat conversations that leave one or both of you feeling bitter. No one wants endless bickering.

    Most couples can’t afford anything other than for the highest earner to take priority in terms of career. The majority of couples don’t have the luxury of choice in the matter. That doesn’t mean things won’t change in the future. A successful female medic discussing her late blossoming career said ” you can have it all but maybe not at the same time”..

    I’ve worked part time since my children were born. I don’t have a problem with that. I’ve been lucky to do so. They are now 15 and 12. In theory I could go back to full time working but I choose to be home when they get back from school. I get the dinner on, do the sports club runs. It’s logical, it makes sense that I do more of these things. They are my children, I want to do these things for them. Come the weekend I hand over catering to my husband.

    I now work 30 hrs over 5 days, previously 24 hours over 4 days. There has been an impact on the family. House work doesn’t get done, we run out of milk, birthday cards get forgotten. But as a team we have been finding a new balance of the home workload. My husband accepts that he might have to do more housework, the children too have to pull their weight. I certainly don’t attempt to carry on doing everything I did.

    More importantly it’s ok to accept that maybe things get missed, the house might not be so tidy but as long you get to work and school in clean underwear and you’ve dabbed yesterdays dinner off the school jumper, things aren’t so bad.

    It sounds such a cliché but before you know it the children will have grown up and hopefully you will be left with just your partner and only yourselves to look after. So if the dishwasher needs emptying, whoever is around, empty it. It’s for the team.

  3. October 16, 2016 / 11:33 am

    So true! This is the main reason I am taking redundancy. With two of us working full time, everything else falls by the wayside. My dream is to have a truly flexible job and work for myself so I can always do the school run, sports days, have their friends over for tea – all the things that are hard if you work 9-5, but also have a career that is interesting and sustainable once they get older (and ultimately when they leave home though that hopefully is a VERY long way off!). Working from home, for me would give me the balance that we wouldn’t have to frantically do everything in the evenings, life would slower paced – the washing would be done in the week and dinner wouldn’t be cooked at 8pm when everyone is shattered!

  4. October 17, 2016 / 7:13 pm

    Some very interesting points covered in this discussion. My situation currently is that I am left feeling like a single parent most of the time while my husband prioritizes his full-time job, the one that pays for us. It has caused a lot of discord between us, although I am happy to report that things do seem to be settling down, although the situation is largely unchanged. I basically came to the realization that I could either continue letting everything get on top of me, or I learn to deal with it. Yes, I resent being the one to always plan meals, do 99% of the washing, cleaning, cooking, shopping, bedtime routine, school run etc. But I would still rather do this than go out to work full time and have to put my children in nursery. So, we learn to live with it. I still need my own income, however, and that is a work in progress. 🙂

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