In my household my husband and I are equal career contributors. Both of us cover the bills. Both of contribute to savings. Both of us work to play. While our career contributions are about parallel, the expectations of managing our career responsibilities alongside parenting responsibilities are not. It’s a topic that I continue to struggle with three years in.
For background reference, I’m a special projects manager who has worked remotely since the summer I learned I was first pregnant. My company has an Austin office, but since my team is located in other cities and since I have to travel for specific projects or team meetings anyway, remote work fits with my role. My husband, on the other hand, works as an operations manager in a more traditional industry. He leaves the house before our daycare even opens, and on the occasion he’s able to make it home for pick-up, it’s pretty much on-the-closing dot. For him and his company remote work and flexibility are like a foreign language.
What does this mean?
It means I am in charge of the wake-up routine and daycare drop-off each and every morning. It means I am in charge of daycare pick-up each day after work. It means that when our kid is sick or daycare is closed for holidays, it is my responsibility to figure it out. The only thing that gets me off the hook – meaning my husband has to figure it out – are no-choice commitments like travel. All other times, my husband’s work trumps all.
It means that unless there is intentional coordination, I am responsible for daily drop-off, pick-up and back-up childcare coverage.
It means my husband’s daily expected (not negotiated or coordinated) responsibilities regarding work-day childcare are zero.
On regular weeks (which seem few and far between these days) this isn’t the end of the world. But when work and/or life gets a little crazy, when I really need to work late (even if this is from home), when I’m super exhausted (growing baby #2 currently) or when I’d just like a general break to go exercise or run errands, I could really use some built-in, consistent co-provider support. I don’t want coordination to be a big a production, an argument or feel like a “favor.”
I don’t want to be the sole responsible party for all things child when it comes to managing parenting and work.
This subject is kind of hard to talk about, though. It’s hard to talk about with my husband because he has a career, provides income, would be more available if his company/position allowed more flexibility and in general is a supportive husband and active parent. It’s hard to talk about because it makes me sound whiny and ungrateful. It’s hard to talk about because I feel guilty, judged or completely misunderstood.
I get to work from home. I have a boss and department that 100% support “do what you have to do.” I get to avoid rigid morning routines, sitting in traffic and get so much personal time with my son. I get to be the dependable mom.
I appreciate all of these things. I appreciate my team and company for these very reasons, and these are part of the reasons why I stay at my current job. I appreciate the chance for a bit more quality work-life blend than others may traditionally get.
I know I am lucky. I know.
Honestly, I don’t even mind bearing this load 80% of the time, but 20% of the time I’m over here stressed, floundering and trying to pretend that everything is okay. At this moment I’m 6 months pregnant with a plate full of major strategic projects I’m trying to tidy up before heading out on maternity leave. And in this moment, I’d kill for a week of just being able to do what I need to do at work on the timeline I need to do it, for my own short-term sanity if anything, not necessarily as the new norm.
This is when I need that other equal parenting half.
I would love to know where other parents stand on this issue. I feel like many working moms are more than content in juggling both their career and the bulk of parenting, whether it’s subconsciously impacting them or not, and I have a hard time being able relate.
Are you an equal career contributor but bear an unequal amount of parenting responsibility? If so, how do you manage and navigate those feelings? And does anyone feel like the expectation of men vs. women in the workplace is completely unrealistic and unfair? When are companies – yes, even those traditional male-dominated industries – going to stand up and say, “You, Dad, go do what you have to do… no guilt, judgement or questions asked?” In my world, if your work is getting done, how or when it gets done doesn’t really matter.
(Note, I’m in an exempt role. I am not familiar with the intricacies of how non-exempt or hourly roles would play out in this conversation, though I’m sure there are major discussions warranted.)
I think there have been major improvements in our society regarding work-life integration.
I also think there are plenty of improvements to still be made. It would be helpful if moms didn’t have to be the only leader on figuring out balance.
This has to be recognized by companies. This has to be recognized by men. This has to be recognized by dads. This has to be recognized by other moms who are magical unicorn fairies and have no problem bearing the weight of the world. This subject needs more discussion in a judgement-free zone.
When a sole breadwinner doesn’t exist in a household, when both parents are trying to pursue careers, when being a stay-at-home mom isn’t an option (or the right path) for a mom, this has to be more than an internalized topic of conversation.
We need to start talking about realistic solutions all across the board, and all sides need to be involved.
We’d love to hear about the dynamic in your home!