Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Couple figuring out the give and take of sharing the workload
Pregnant Pause: My husband and I are expecting our first child. We haven't been married long and are still learning the ways of one another.
We are in the middle of deciding if I should go back to work after the baby arrives. One of his stipulations is that if I am not working, then I would take care of all cooking and cleaning, and he will provide income for the family.
Part of me understands this idea, the other part of me wonders why he gets a 9-to-5 work day, and leaves me with the never-ending, no set hours of homemaker?
Do you think he should still help me around the house? I know lots of moms can't stay home. I feel guilty even bringing this up to him.
Carolyn: How about this:
You will be in charge of the child and the home — and all that entails — during the hours he's at work.
He will be in charge of earning money during the hours he's at work.
In the hours you are both home, you will share the responsibilities of home and child equally (with allowances for when one of you is wiped out; equality announces itself best over time, and not in chore-by-chore increments).
By the way, the best way for you both to appreciate what the other does is to trade off for long stretches on weekends — as soon as you realistically can after the baby is born. By that I mean, you go off and do necessary errands, business, yard work, home repairs, etc., while he cares for the baby. In particular, he needs to know what your days really feel like versus what he imagines them to be, since you presumably know what a day at work is like for him.
Anonymous: To Pregnant Pause: I have three kids. Years ago my husband said to me: "We share the work equally. But that doesn't mean we each do 50 percent. It means we both give 100 percent."
Ideally you can cultivate this notion of being a team rather than clocking hours. We both are willing to do what has to be done, and to forgive what the other person didn't get to, since we're both in that position at times. Like athletes on a team, we have strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad, but every day when the alarm goes off we try our best.
Obviously you need a good partner for this or you could get taken advantage of. But if you're going to talk expectations, I'd try to talk about pitching in and working together to create the best environment and future for your child.
Carolyn: Beautiful, thank you. The only thing I would add (at the risk of ruining it) is that "we both give 100 percent even when we both want to go fetal and do zero percent." Because you do get that tired and you can't just bail.
You also both need to be attentive to each other's fatigue, because you need to give each other breaks, even when the only source of that break needs one, too.
It's the respectful, mutually generous partnerships that survive. If even one of you is a taker, then marital strain is all but assured.