Is life after children what you expected in terms of who does what with work and caring?

(124 Posts)
carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 09-Oct-08 10:26:57

Hi all

More for the Home Front report needed

We’d like to know a bit about your expectations and the reality of life balancing work and children. Before you had children what did you think would happen in terms of who did childcare and how much paid work you both did? Is this what happened? Is your situation now better or worse than you expected?

We've got tons of great policy suggestions already, so thanks for those, but if anyone has any other ideas of what gov could do to help with this (short of on the spot fines for men for not getting up in the night to deal with screaming children) we'd love to hear them.

Thanks

Its basically as expected. When I was pregnant I decided to leave the decisions about returning to work till I knew the realities of the situation, and with DH and I running our own business, it was possible.

8 months in I'm back at work 2 days a week and basically enjoying myself, feeling like I've got the best of both worlds - involved enough in the business to take some of the worry from DH, but still spending plenty of time with our son.

My biggest issue is flexible working. With a DS that is asleep by 6 every night, if DH didn't work 8(ish) till 4, he would only get to see his son for half an hour or so in the morning, and at the weekends, and I think that would kill him (the look on his face when he gets home late to find DS asleep is very sad) Anyway, being the boss he's arranged it so he's back for 5 most nights (our employees kindly work 10-6 to cover this), but I'm guessing that most workplaces wouldn't have allowed him to do that, which would be, IMO, detrimental to their relationship (DS's auntie, who looks after him while I'm at work already sees more of DS during the week than DH does). DH comes home, normally eats with us, and then does bathtime, which gives me a few minutes to collect myself after an often hard day. That's a really important part of division of care for me.

I think it would be nice to see more regulation that would encourage employers to allow different hours, flexible working etc, to allow people to work AND spend quality time with their kids. In DH's case, its not at all detrimental to his work for him to do a shorter day during normal working hours, but then have an hour or two of peace in the evening to get a bit more done.

On the housework side, DH expects me to care for DS. He sort of expects me to do the dinner and the shopping, although he's happy to deal with it when its not there. We share the washing, but he does everything else, so I feel that's fair. And now DS is not asking for BM all day every day, I would say DH does half of the childcare and more than half of the housework at the weekend

Miggsie Fri 10-Oct-08 17:53:48

I never really thought about it until I realised on maternity leave I was doing 90% of the housework...even when I returned to work.
Then I realised I had always done 90% of the housework even when we were both in full time employment and DH was basically useless. He will now do housework when instructed.
He does do childcaring but says it does not come naturally...so he does the bedtime every night which he can just about cope with.
Now DD is at school I have gone part time to school hours, even though I earn more even part time!!!! There was never any discussion of him going part time, although he enjoys his job and I don't, so I don't mind doing less.
Mothers who have boys should sign a pledge that they will bring their sons up able to do domestic chores, and a massive research grant should be made available to see if testosterone makes men unable to notice mess and domestic chores.
DH washes clothes when he runs out of pants, irons when he has no ironed shirts to put on, buys toilet paper whn we run out, buys food when we run out.
Also, can we do research into why men can: hire a cleaner, get a takeaway, spend tons of money on something frivolous with a 10 microsecond thinking time, while women agonise over it for hours and end up cleaning something up????????

Also, I think mumsnet should publish a list of really nice bosses, who let you work part time, and don't mind you working at home/around school hours/sick sprogs etc. These people are what makes working life for mums possible/worthwhile, I have refused promotion at work as I don't want to lose my current boss!!!!!

I also sometimes find my paid employment is an intolerable distraction from: ordering shopping, ironing, housework, after school activities, organising play dates, packing school bags etc etc.

Rowlers Fri 10-Oct-08 19:27:54

When I was pregnant I thought I would want to go back to my job full time so planned to do just that.
While still on maternity leave I realised I would much prefer to work part-time. I did at that point, however, not want to give up my position of responsibility.
My place of work, as I presume is the case in general, does not cater readily for women who want to pursue a career but not 5 days a week so sadly I have gone right back down to the bottom of the pile.
A waste of my skills and experience really.
I have also taken over much of the housework - shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. I suppose I thought this would happen but I hadn't really realised how much I would come to hate doing all of it.
Childcare costs are high and make work more of a luxury if that makes sense. I would welcome childcare help at an earlier age than 3.

Dottoressa Fri 10-Oct-08 20:45:33

My DH is retired, and I worked full time (albeit reluctantly) before DS was born.

The plan was for me to return to work and for DH to look after DS and any subsequent siblings.

I did return to work (in academia) after a year, and was deeply miserable about not being with DS. I stuck it out for vile, horrible, unspeakable 6 months, until going on maternity leave to have DD. I resigned while on maternity leave.

Having wanted me to work, DH was overjoyed when I resigned. It turned out that he was just as miserable as a childcarer as I was as a working mother!!

Personally, I think the government should pay mothers who want to stay at home. At the very least, they should be entitled to claim the 'nursery grant' if they are not using a nursery. It seems discriminatory that you are only entitled to anything if you want someone else to look after your children!

I think they should also reintroduce tax benefits for married couples. I know some people have a bee in their bonnet about getting married, but all it is is signing a form to say you're going to stay together: it's really no different from any other legal agreement that you might make with a partner.

elliott Fri 10-Oct-08 22:25:02

I was very idealistic about wanting to share things equally. On the whole, in the important respects this has worked - we both work less than fulltime, my job is more important financially and equally important personally, and dh is fully competent in most spheres of childcare and domestic labour. However, I do resent the time I spend organising and planning ahead for the whole family - it is always me who keeps a handle on who is doing what when, and makes sure that childcare is organised, and the right bits of paper and books go with the dcs to school. DH is probably better at just ploughing on with stuff - he does way more washing up than me (!) and there are jobs that I just don't do.

But its always hard to remember what you anticipated - I guess I hadn't really expected all that stuff about organising their social life and school work, which largely (though not exclusively) falls to me.

EllieG Fri 10-Oct-08 22:25:40

My situation is much as anticipated really - I have taken a year off to be with my baby, but I have to go back after that because I am the main breadwinner in our household. I do the majority of the housework and childcare whilst off work, as I view looking after DD as my job for the year (the housework I do cos DH is just lazy hmm) but when I am back in the office I expect him to do 50% - which he will (if he knows what's good for him). I would like to not work but we cannot afford it. My work have said there is no possibility of part-time, though flexi-time may be in place by the time I go back, which will be useful.

MatBackFeck Fri 10-Oct-08 22:33:16

The who does what with work and caring is about 50:50 in our house, pretty much as I expected, though I do a bit more on the cleaning front. The thing that isn't how I expected or how I would like is just how damn much there is of it all!

lovemychildren Fri 10-Oct-08 23:13:07

Most of the women I talk to agree that we do most of the housework and childcare. Men believe they have a god given right to 'time for myself' such as the whole of the afternoon watching football whilst we have to take care of the children/cook/clean/iron etc.
I work full time because 1. the jobs I have always demand it - I would just end up dong 5 days work in 3, although my organisaiton has great policies to support working women - good long paid mat leave, flexible working etc 2. I like the money (and am the higher wage earner)
Hubbie will do a few specific tasks if I ask, apart from mega gardening or DIY that involves ripping things out.
Otherwise I do it all. He watches TV.
Don't really know why I put up with it!

The best flexible working packages are with the civil service or local government, but the rates of pay aren't brilliant.

elastamum Fri 10-Oct-08 23:58:01

My DH has left us and so I now do everything. No I wasnt expecting it - who is? But I love my children to bits and wouldnt change it for the world. I scaled back my work when the Dc's were small and my biggest problem is now finding a decent job to support us all

QuiteQuiet Sat 11-Oct-08 08:48:57

I thought I would stay at home and care for the DC possibly getting a part-time job when they were both in school.

This was not a realistic thought.

I have worked since DC1 was 8 months old. I have had to work as my OH cannot seem to hold down any job.

When DC2 goes to school in the near future I shall/will work full-time.

What could the government do? Pay our childminding costs even if the father does not work, some men are also incapable of caring for children in the way a Childminder does..

bossykate Sat 11-Oct-08 10:06:09

Pay our childminding costs even if the father does not work, some men are also incapable of caring for children in the way a Childminder does..

sorry but i can't let that pass without comment. why on earth should the taxpayer subsidise a man's incompetence like this?

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Sat 11-Oct-08 10:22:51

Before having ds1 I thought I would return to work part time. Once he was born I found I couldn't. I could have made it work (with some difficulty) but didn't want to whilst he was young.

I planned to return to work when he was older. I have done this (with 2 other children as well) but it's not easy because ds1's severe autism (obviously didn't know about that at the beginning) makes childcare almost impossible. I think that has been brought up on other threads, but during school holidays there are 6 places per day for children like ds1 (with about 200 kids in SLD schools in our city). I work full time now, but have to leave early to meet his school bus (no after school care available for him), look after him, then finish the work after he is in bed. And as already moaned about I lost my carer's allowance because of the number of hours I spend in work (despite doing exactly the same number of hours of caring). I am actually doing a funded PhD (call it a 'job' as I already have one so am doing it for the money in the main, although it does give a chance to do research I want to do). Once this finished I don't know what I'll do. Academia is flexible, but there's no way I could do a full time job. Will probably have to try and do 2 or at the most 3 days a week and do it over 5 days during school terms. Or I'll have to try and work for myself.

I would actually quite like to be a full time carer for ds1 - but only if paid a decent amount for it, so I could do it properly and not have to spend time late at night trying to scrape together pennies. If ds1 was to go into full time residential care it would cost the local authority over 200 grand a year. I would be happy to be a full time carer for a lot less than that! But £40 odd a week does not cover mortgages (not sure how much CA is now as I no longer receive it).

enduringsurrey Sat 11-Oct-08 11:20:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

grouchyoscar Sat 11-Oct-08 14:57:25

I've always been a bit of a feminist and thought that once I was pregnant it would be a joint effort but DS arrives and I've fallen into the role of a 50s mum

Ho Hum

I do the housework, the SAHM bit, the finances, the PA job, the project management and DH goes to work to earn the wage. Yep Mr Grylls would define me as 'just a housewife and mother' hmm

But I do love being a mum and everything that comes with it

stayinbed Sat 11-Oct-08 16:15:10

i do everything i can to make everything work how i want it. i have always known how i don't want to be, and i make sure not to let things go that way. the really helpful part is having a dh who is very supportive of me. luckily he is my boss at work and has really helped me integrate raising dcs and working full time.

i think tax breaks for those using early years childcare including childminders, nurseries, nannies or whatever, as a means of returning to work, could really help more women get back to work

madrose Sat 11-Oct-08 20:53:09

pretty much as i thought - paying far too much for nursery - tax rebates would have been useful. going to find it a nightmare when dd goes to school, wilk have to rely on au pair to manage.

it's the cost that hurts the most

Trafficcone Sat 11-Oct-08 21:23:57

I thought I'd be a SAHM. What a bloody joke that was.
I am now considered lucky for only having to work 3 days a week.
In terms of housework etc, that's my job, I'm the wife, not Dh! Ditto the children, I see it as my job but I have no problem sharing it with him.
My Mothers generation have no idea how lucky they were IMO.

hunkermunker Sun 12-Oct-08 00:50:43

This pretty much sums up what I think the Government should do

Make it easier for women to be mothers, not "one of a range of people who can look after the children, all equally important".

PavlovtheWitchesCat Sun 12-Oct-08 07:32:54

I anticipated going back to work, but did not think I would work as much as I am. Thought DH would work more that me, but not worked out that way.

We share childcare equally and DD is in nursery 1.5 days a week. I am happy with the level of paid childcare, but would prefer to have another day at home with DD. Can't afford it.

Anna8888 Sun 12-Oct-08 09:37:49

hunkermunker - I agree with the sentiments in your link. I disagree quite profoundly with the unbridled use of the artificial mother-substitutes on the market for young babies.

I used to get a lot of funny looks and veiled and not-so-veiled comments about how difficult my daughter would find it to go to pre-school because she was so attached to me - I didn't use any childcare other than my mother for the first year, and only the very occasional babysitter thereafter, she breastfed and coslept and never encountered a cot, bottle, dummy, doudou (cuddly toy for sleeping), teething ring etc etc.

As it turns out, despite being right at the tail end of her school year group (November birth, in a school system that does an intake following the calendar year), she is one of the most self-assured, confident and happy children in her year group.

She wasn't attached to me so much as secure with me - and by the time she went to school she could talk, so that she could make her needs known to adults that she didn't know, and was secure with them.

jellybeans Sun 12-Oct-08 13:55:22

People are obsessed with 'independence' but, as described by Anna, dependence is needed first.

Cammelia Sun 12-Oct-08 18:28:01

Why doesn't the govt re-introduce tax breaks for married couples. Sorry to everyone who thinks that marriage is "out-of-date" (whatever that means) but it isn't rocket science to accept that the child is better off in a secure family unit.

Couples who co-habit can be just as strong, I know, before the arguments start, but how does the govt judge who is really living together and who isn't, unless they have a marriage certificate? (to prevent fraud)

if one of the married couple can claim both parties tax allowances it would be so much easier fro mothers (or fathers) to stay at home.

Why isn't there the financial incentive that there used to be?

Makes a lot more sense than the tax payer funding child care outside the home

catweazle Sun 12-Oct-08 18:39:46

The govt won't introduce tax breaks because it is too expensive to administer and would require a move away from independent taxation. They are on a mission to seriously reduce the number of civil servants and this sort of work is very labour-intensive.

CHOCOLATEPEANUT Sun 12-Oct-08 20:22:01

I would love to work less but have to work full time as does dh but her works shifts so I am on own with kids a lot and exhausted.Its much much harder than I thought but I did not antcipate working full time but we have a big mortgage and I earn more so no choice sad
Sometime I wish it was the 70's when people had less and I could have spent more time with kids like my mum did

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