Reality set in the day my husband quit his job. Last year I wrote an article called “Equal Career Partners, Unequal Parenting Responsibilities.” When I wrote it I was frustrated by my career-parenting load, and I wanted validation for my situation. I expected moms in similar boats to chime in and say, “YES!” I wanted backing that corporate America needs to focus on and support work-life integration for DADS as much as it does for moms. Rather, I was caught off-guard to read some of the reactions to my post.
Instead of my article rallying the troops, there were sentiments along the lines of needing to communicate with my husband, being tired of moms complaining about the invisible load, and owning personal responsibility. I write blogs knowing my vulnerability is on the line and agree my post was a little on the venting side, but I went from anticipating support to being a little ashamed that I had fallen into the classic complainer trap.
More than a year later, I’d like to revisit that “complainer” stigma and give an update on our status.
To this day, I still think there are plenty of moms who could and can relate to similar situations – navigating a lopsided parenting split when it comes to managing careers. Melinda Gates even speaks to the burden of unpaid work in her book The Moment of Lift. Regarding her and her husband’s efforts to balance out household responsibilities, she tells a very relatable story about Bill Gates agreeing to commute their daughter a few days a week so she could attend a particular school that was a good distance from their house. Once other moms started noticing him in the drop-off line, more dads began bringing their kids to school. Because if Bill Gates could make the time, so could they!
In my situation, the major underlying issue was the inflexibility of my husband’s job. If the kids were sick, the onus was on me. Daily pick-up and drop-off – on me. It wasn’t a matter of “letting go,” miscommunication, or my husband not raising his hand; it was a matter of being in a male-dominated industry that did not prioritize flexibility for dads. We were in a gridlock.
What readers didn’t know at the time of my post was that my husband and I had already had several tough discussions about these struggles. The concerns had been brewing well before kids, and when I was six months pregnant with #2, it boiled over. Coincidentally, the day that article published, my husband brought up quitting his job. Thus leading to the day my husband quit his job.
It had clicked. I felt heard. And we went for it.
The decision to leave a stable job was risky, and it unfortunately took us nearing a breaking point to make that decision. We began saving and preparing immediately, so that my husband could resign at the end of my maternity leave and watch our son for a few months while he looked for a new job. I’ll be honest; even while trying to remain as positive as possible, the financial risk was scary and stressful. We had to sacrifice to make it work, but we did, and now our lives are changed… for the better.
After a few months, and right before the COVID-19 chaos began, thankfully, my husband landed a new position. It’s been a total game-changer for the family since.
His new job means he works normal 9-5 hours. He now drops off and picks up the kids from school. He can work from home if he needs to. He gets a full night’s rest, lives a healthier lifestyle, and is less stressed. His job is still challenging, yet he has better boundaries. That enables us to be a better team.
I significantly underestimated how much a job – not just work in general – could add to household stress, and I had no idea how much a career switch could improve our partnership. It took a leap of faith to find out; and I’m grateful.
I say all this to give hope and encouragement to those also navigating this tricky career balance. Moms, if you’re feeling resentful and over-stressed managing your household, don’t settle for being stuck or the one solely responsible to figure it out. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a shining light on real work-life parenting struggles and the need for teamwork. Evaluate the source of the frustration, and see if there’s an alternative that would help, even if it’s down the road. Or, even today. Yes, there are little steps you can start taking now to balance out the household load. It may not be an easy or smooth ride; you may have to sacrifice or be loud, but just don’t undervalue yourself, your feelings or your contributions. If there are two of you, there are two of you to help.
I know there may be different stances on this, not every couple is in the same boat, and some people will not relate to this article at all, but if you’re reading this and thinking, “YES!,” hang in there. This is how we set examples for our kids, make progress on gender equality, and advance the roles of both working parents.
I don’t know where my family would be today if we hadn’t taken this risk. I don’t know how we would have survived quarantine life of April 2020. And I still don’t know what the future holds. Starting a new job right before a pandemic? For now, we’re just hoping things work out. And if not, that’s ok. I’m confident that we can figure it out and make it through because life on the other side is worth it.
Having kids is hard; it’s a lot to juggle… on top of life… on top of your career… on top of everything else. But you’re allowed to stand firm in your values, wants and priorities, even if it takes a little work to get there.
We’re better together!