“Are you a stay-at-home mom?” It’s a common question when I’m at the local playground with my two kids, yet I’m finding my answer to be more uncommon than I ever expected. My husband and I each work part-time and stay home part-time to take care of our two young children. We share every aspect of parenting and household chores. We decided before we had kids that the best path for each of us, and for our future kids, would be to have our own professional lives and for the kids to see each of us as caregivers and breadwinners. We wanted to be able to share in the joys of parenting and empathize during the hard times. And, best of all, one of us would always be with the kids and we wouldn’t need to hire childcare as long as we lived frugally. That dream became reality 4.5 years ago and, since our first child was born, we each work in our respective offices every other weekday and rotate Fridays. My husband works in the white-collar private sector, and I work for a non-profit organization. We look forward to each day. Need a break from the kids? Back to professional life the next day. But then we can’t wait to be with the kids the following day.
We divvy up tasks by who cares most about a particular issue. Dan is a compulsive laundry-a-holic; I’d rather buy 30 pairs of underwear and not worry about laundry for a while. Dust drives me nuts, while Dan can walk by a dust bunny (or seven) unfazed. Neither one of us is solely in charge of the kids or the house. We both are. It takes a lot of conversations to be on the same page, but it’s been relatively easy to do so.
Almost across the board, when we mention our situation of equally shared part-time stay-at-home parenting, other parents say something like, “That’s ideal.” Yet after 4.5 years we only know two other couples who do this (though we are aware of others in the blogosphere, such as Marc and Amy Vachon who approximate this by working reduced schedules and have childcare help).
At the risk of sounding too Carrie Bradshaw, here are my questions for every parent reading this. If you want to share parenting and household responsibilities but don’t, what are the barriers that get in your way? Put another way – what would need to change, and who should change it, for you and your partner to share parenting and house-related tasks equally? I don’t want to come across as naïve. I know it’s hard to find part-time jobs that are flexible and include health care. I wonder how many mothers and fathers have pursued this kind of job flexibility at work and sharing at home and, if things didn’t work out, what happened.
My husband and I believe that the only way to achieve so much of what this website advocates for is for partners to share domestic responsibilities more equally and enable each other to have professional lives. Perhaps then, taking care of children would not be held in lower esteem than paid work, couples will truly understand each other, kids will get significant time with both parents, and there will be more parity in other aspects of life. Too idealistic? You tell me. Or better yet, join me!