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To question the normal division of chores and childcare based on some recent threads?

(95 Posts)
theydrinkitinthecongo Thu 01-Jan-15 21:53:57

Bit of background - I don't have any DC's, but DH and I are in the 'shall we' stage of life. Lot of friends having babies, feeling like it might be our next step but a few things worry me and it mostly comes from threads on here.

Is shared parenting, and I mean real shared parenting where neither parent feels taken advantage of/put upon etc.... the exception or the rule?

Our relationship is fairly equal right now, but do we need to have 'the talk' before even thinking about trying for a child to ensure we're both happy with what divisions of labour/chores/childcare should be?

I just keep reading things (mainly on this board which may have skewed my perception) which make men sound like entitled children with no desire to contribute to family life unless you repeatedly sit them down and explain to them what they need to do.

This isn't normal family life, is it?

Mammanat222 Thu 01-Jan-15 22:02:56

I think that if you are going down the having kids route you need to accept and be prepared that things are going to change.

Your relationship, your finances, your priorities and yes inevitably the division of labour will shift. Maternity leave means a lot of men get away with doing fuck all and even with the best of intentions my RL experience (based on myself and other people who have kids) is that the stay at home parent ends up doing more. Interestingly I have been a sahm and OH has been a sahd and the previous statement has remained true for us.

When we have both been working full time its been a more equal split but not 50/50.

I think the general rule is if your relationship is currently quite 'equal' you will find the transition easier and fairer. Communication is key. That means listening as well as talking.

Bluecarrot Thu 01-Jan-15 22:07:26

If your relationship is equal in regards to chores etc now then I can't see why it would be different after a baby.

My DP was brought up not having to do any housework (neither did his brother or sisters). He's been living with me for almost 2 years and still not anywhere near where I think we are equal though we are working on it. ( I'm a sahm to 11 month old and 12 yr old, he works 4 long
days a week, so what is viewed as equal is subjective)

editthis Thu 01-Jan-15 22:17:52

No, of course not. If you are equals now and have a healthy and happy relationship, there's no reason why that cannot be sustained into parenthood. There will always be differences and disagreements - one of you may be tidier, or more organised than the other for instance, and notice or care more when things like tidying or organising need doing. But that just needs to be communicated to the other party, fairly and reasonably, and the other party needs to take it on board - and this stands whether you have children or not.

Having said that, if a mother has maternity leave - which can be nerve-wracking at first - she has to and does learn quickly how things are done, what needs doing, what systems seem to work for her and the baby, and it would be unreasonable for her to assume her partner should know this automatically without the same opportunity, or to dismiss him as useless if he doesn't. My husband was a SAHD for a while and it helped, as he suddenly realised things like the consequences of forgetting to take a spare outfit on a day out (which meant he learnt not to do it again, in the same way I had), or the achievement involved in making the house look the same when I returned from work as it did when I went out, after clearing up eighteen times post-meals, post-play times, post-messes...

So yes, as long as you can communicate, trust and respect one another, you should have no problems. It always amazes me to read how many people on here seem to dislike their OHs.

Somemothers Thu 01-Jan-15 22:20:00

I think it's not really viable unless you do a job with the same hours and the same demands then it's not going to be possible even if you worked the same hours but dp was say a fireman and you worked in tesco in my view the physical and emotional demands on your husbands job would mean you loose in house work stakes

But usually it works like the the person who earns less leaves work not always but as childcare is so high often you simply don't earn anything buy returning to work for the first 5 years or even are at a loss like my sister

MuscatBouschet Thu 01-Jan-15 22:21:49

We had equal careers and pay but haven't managed equality since kids came along, though DH is vastly better than most men. I'd also say that maternity leave is the killer because it allows men to think their lives don't need to change too much. Given that the law has changed now, is urge you to have him take over part of your leave. It will allow him to learn how to look after the baby and will rebalance the inequality.

Also, we have never had well defined rules about who does what, eg DH leaves work early to pick up kid on Tuesday and Thursday. Our best friends did this and we thought it was crazily inflexible. But I now see that it has forced equality on a man who wouldn't pull his weight otherwise, so I'd consider it. Whatever you do, don't buy the standard 'my job is special: I can't leave work, take time off when the child is ill, etc'. Life involves compromises, including being a bit of a rubbish employee for a few years, even for men.

museumum Thu 01-Jan-15 22:26:42

I was scared of that too but honestly now believe it was the result of too much MN. Remember, people only post for ho when struggling / unhappy.
We have a very good balance. I only work four days a week so do a touch more childcare but weekends are shared. I do all nursery drops and pick ups (and tea) usually as I work from home but dh does early mornings, breakfast, bath and bed. I go away once every couple of months for work but and he dies nursery those days. I did all night feeds as bf but dh has done mornings since weaning (we gave ds porridge on waking and bf later to give me a longer sleep).

IAmNotAPrincessIAmAKahleesi Thu 01-Jan-15 22:26:48

We have always shared everything completely and I have never felt taken advantage of or put upon

Over the years we have done all combinations of both working ft, one sahp one working, both working pt and now DH is my carer and the main parent. But even though our circumstances have changed we have both always taken equal responsibility and have pulled our weight, it definitely can be done smile

NoArmaniNoPunani Thu 01-Jan-15 22:27:48

We are planning to split the parental leave between us and then both work a 4 day week. I think we are probably in the minority though.

museumum Thu 01-Jan-15 22:31:09

I must admit though I was pretty keen to keep my non-mother part of my identity. I know I was first of my ante-natal group to take time out to myself for exercise for example, despite ebf-ing. I would feed him then head out on my bike knowing I had two hours from then clear, right from a few weeks old.

dustyovaries Thu 01-Jan-15 22:32:52

I think this board is a bit skewed. For example, I'm not going to start a post declaring how amazing my husband is (which he is) or chipping in that DH is a saint (almost) on posts bemoaning shite OHs. Out of my circle of friends only one is lumbered with a manchild, the rest pretty much pull their weight and things are more or less fair.

I never had to have the chat with DH before LO came along, I just knew he would be brilliant and he's exceeded my expectations. Great husband, brilliant dad.

Somemothers Thu 01-Jan-15 22:34:41

poster MuscatBouschet sorry I don't agree with that at all my husbands a chemo nurse

Their is no way he could leave work in the middle of giving chemo he dosent work in hospital he works in people's homes they would and could die if he just left some jobs are special and I would hope of you were in a car mangled on the m1 or having a op you would think it's a prey special job

SingRingPing Thu 01-Jan-15 22:35:58

We always pull our weight and work as a team, but then we were like that before DC. Since dd was born we have taken it in turns to have a lie in on the weekends. I'm a SAHM so I do more housework but only what I can realistically get done, at weekends it's shared. If someone's doing bath/bed the other person is tidying/cooking. We both sit down together to relax. All parenting decisions are made together. I couldn't imagine being in a relationship with someone who wasn't hands on.

Somemothers Thu 01-Jan-15 22:37:14

Also you haven't taken into account emotionally you may feel many women feel totally different when the babes in hand.

But I think if things do become difficult because talk now about who will give up their job

duplodon Thu 01-Jan-15 22:38:37

I have thought so much about this in the five years since I started out on my first maternity.

I was raised to be pretty stridently feminist. I had ' the talk', oh did I have the talk. About how important my career was to me. About how I wasn't going to be doing the second shift. About how I wouldn't be on maternity leave to house clean but to spend time with the baby. We agreed housework wasn't a huge priority and all that malarkey about dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

He cooked for me when I was feeding, we shared night time chores when it wasn't just boobs on demand, we divided chores blah blah... but ultimately, by the time we had two and then three children, it just wasn't how I expected and I was off on maternity more than at work and there was just no way on God's earth it could be equal... I was the one doing the daily routine on repeat, and what you do you become fluent at and he just... didn't in the same way.

We have tackled this after our third baby by seriously decluttering and simplifying routines etc but it's difficult to explain just how much more housework there is. Stuff I really didn't care about, that neither of us valued, like having a place for everything or folding clothes etc are just so completely essential to avoid complete and utter stress. I'd imagine this reflects having three under five and it may be different for others, for people who enjoyed housework and organisation before kids. It's been a bit of a baptism of fire for us but I think we have negotiated a healthy balance now. I still do more but it's not because he's a manchild. I think it can be important (unless you have masses of money to outsource it all) to realise that keeping a tidy, efficient home is actually pretty important for the family's well-being, and valuable in a way it isn't when you're single or in a couple. My values have changed and I am at home more, doing it more, more fluid and fluent and efficient at it... and that's okay.

nooka Thu 01-Jan-15 22:39:20

Whenever they do surveys on housework etc the results consistently show that women do a lot more than men, even when they are both working full time, so no I don't think it's just MN.

That doesn't however mean that it's inevitable that any given man will take advantage or any given woman will take on more than her share. But it does need to be talked about, negotiated and reflected on. It's not about setting up rules so much as being on the same page.

I agree with others who have said that maternity leave doesn't help, and that sharing it if possible is a good idea. Watch for assuming that it's a problem caused by lazy men. I'm sure there are plenty of lazy men out there, but I've also watched mothers exclude their partners (possibly not consciously) giving them the message that they are the lesser parent and creating a really unhealthy dynamic that leads to the dad doing less and less over time.

I also know plenty of people who have made things work, one way or another. Whether that's about both flexi working or sharing SAHP over time (my dh for example took four years out). Mostly I think issues come from assumptions people make, often based on their own family dynamics that may or may not be true or appropriate for their new family.

makapakasdirtysponge Thu 01-Jan-15 22:39:22

The husband of my friend who is mostly a SAHM has the DCs for an hour or two before and after work. They have a cleaner, she handles other domestic stuff incl cooking during the week and on weekends they both get time "off" and time looking after the children. He realises that looking after 2 young DCs is hard work and mucks in accordingly.

Both DH and I work (me PT) in equally "important" jobs - we both do chores, shopping and cleaning roughly split according to our time at home, I look after most stuff relating to DC (like clothes etc) and he looks after the house bills. We have equal spends and everything else goes on bills, food or savings. We split my mat leave too which was great for my return to work and their bond. He's very hands on and has always been an equal, he wants to spend time with the DC when he can.

Tbh the majority of parents I know muck in similarly if they can so while I don't doubt cocklodgers are everywhere they aren't as ubiquitous as MN might make you believe...

anothernumberone Thu 01-Jan-15 22:40:13

I would say we are pretty much there. DH would be capable of the odd selfish clanger as am I but generally he does his bit 50/50 and does not need reminding or telling. He is a willing participant in the whole family set up we have. His only big drawback is when there is a change, back to work, toilet training, giving solid foods, etc then he needs a little hand holding until he gets into the swing of things. I cannot explain why but it does not come naturally to him.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 01-Jan-15 22:42:11

Ditto to what Sing says above.
I do think you need to have a talk about it though first if you have a career or enjoy your job and you don't want to remain a sahm after maternity.

I have done the majority of parenting (refuse to use the term childcare for my own children) as my dh has worked away at times and keeps unusual hours, but I have never felt unappreciated or taken for granted because he has done more than his fair share at times.

I couldn't be with a man who didn't want a part in raising his own children.

Somemothers Thu 01-Jan-15 22:46:37

My oh works long hours I am a sham I don't feel taken the piss out of and am very fulfilled and I don't want to pay some one I don't know who doesn't love my children to look after them however when he is here he helps out cooks on Sunday and every Christmas he also give me a lie in during the weekends as I am often up before him on weekdays

unclerory Thu 01-Jan-15 22:47:28

Agree that you should have a discussion NOW before you get pregnant about him taking some of the parental leave. Also talk about him working part time. His willingness to discuss taking parental leave or work part time will tell you everything you need to know about the division of labour post birth.

DH is fab and works part time and does a lot of housework and we take turns taking time off work for sick kids, but he does still need pushing to pick up some jobs, e.g. organising a babysitter, dentist appointments (but the doctor he's fine at bizarrely), organising school stuff. It helps that we both earn similar amounts and so there's 'my career trumps yours' discussion.

Morloth Fri 02-Jan-15 01:06:49

Talk talk talk.

What always astounds me on those threads is the complete lack of communication.

DH and I have en together 18 years. Over that time we have bothworked full yime/ppart time/been unemployed, moved countries, had children, bought and sold houses etc. We talk about everything. We discuss what we both want and need and just say those things to each other and where compromise is necessary it is a two way street.

Talk about it NOW as well, no assumptions or hints.

Talk talk talk.

500Decibels Fri 02-Jan-15 07:37:16

I worked part time for a while after having kids but recently have become a SAHM after redundancy.
I do most of the chores and child care but dh does a lot too. He does quite a few chores. He spends time with kids and takes them out. I have friends and go out with them when I want to. I'm fairly content with how things tick along.

It's not always about the equality of it or the division of it but of how it works in your relationship and how you feel about it.

MewlingQuim Fri 02-Jan-15 07:51:50

I agree that maternity leave can skew things - if one parent has up to a year being mostly responsible for the child then it can stay that way even when that parent goes back to work out of habit.

DH needed quite a kick up the arse when I went back to PT work, but I have friends who work FT still haven't got their DPs to take 50% responsibility and their children are toddlers hmm

Some of the problem seems to be that the women won't give up control after a year doing things entirely their way, it's not just a case of lazy men.

Iggly Fri 02-Jan-15 08:01:15

What do you mean by equal? I do more parenting stuff because I'm around more but DH does some housework.

Parenting a baby equally is difficult esp if bf - better that DH picks up the slack when you're tired etc etc then as baby gets older you adjust.

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