This post is sponsored by Little Ones *keep an eye for the new Little Ones packaging and features.
‘Oh she’s in childcare already? Because mum works?’
It was an innocent enough question from a lady sitting next to us at a cafe but it really ground my gears. And this came from a woman who was drinking a glass of fancy local chardonnay at 11 am on a Tuesday. I was like ‘You used to be cool.’
Our daughter isn’t in childcare because I work. She’s in childcare because BOTH her parents work. My income was not optional before we had a kid and procreating has made it even less optional.
I have to work but I also want to work so that leaves me in a weird limbo of staunchly defending my choice to return to work but also shrugging my shoulders because I didn’t really have a choice. The one thing that has made my return to work go smoothly is that I share the parenting load with Mr Smaggle.
If you want to talk about how to share the parenting load it gets pretty awkward VERY quickly.
- It makes some men mad because no one likes to be told they’re not pulling their weight
- It makes some women mad because no one likes to be told they chose someone who’s not pulling their weight
- It draws attention to a MASSIVE societal problem that needs addressing
- It’s hard to do without infantilising the men who don’t pull their weight which is part of the problem to begin with
- I will 10/10 get someone calling me a Feminazi and say how they feel sorry for my ‘husband’ (we’re not married) and that conversation is so boring it makes my eyes water
It’s a hefty topic so make yourself a cup of coffee and let’s get on with it. On that note, I’ve teamed up with Woolies (you can read my other posts I’ve done with them here, here, here and here.) to bring you a few things that are working in our house to make sure we share the parenting load.
1. Lay down the ground rules before you have a kid
We were on the fence about having a kid for years because it looked really hard, really tiring, often quite boring and super expensive. I still get a little miffed when I hear parents say that childfree people ‘have no idea how hard it is to have kids’. Yes – they do. That’s why they don’t have them.
Despite how utterly illogical it is to procreate, eventually the idea of parenthood lodged itself firmly in our brains and we decided to go for it… but not before we laid down some ground rules.
1. Neither of us are the boss – we’re in this together
2. Both of our careers are important – school holidays are a joint problem
3. Everyone must refer to me as the Grand High Wizardess and Chicken Twisties and Halo Top ice cream are to be delivered to my bedside when I command
4. I want a pony
The expectation was that I would return to work ASAP and we would share the parenting load from that point onwards. It made sense in the early days for me to do the feeding (because of Mr Smaggle’s useless man nipples) and because I was on maternity leave, that kind of meant I did most of the stuff like putting her down for naps but when I went back to work there was no reason why I had to continue to do all that stuff and that’s when we transitioned into a more equitable arrangement.
And to be fair, back in the very early days, Mr Smaggle did EVERYTHING he could do to make up for what he couldn’t do. He did most of the nappies, every shower/bath, sterilising the breast pump parts several times a day. If we were going somewhere he’d pack her bag while I was feeding and make sure it had nappies, wipes, toys and a spare set of clothes in it. He recognised how much time I spent feeding our girl and made sure I pretty much didn’t have to do anything else.
Now? We split everything. He does breakfast, I usually do dinner. I do most of the cooking, he always cleans up after she eats. He usually does shower/bath and I usually dress her. I make sure to buy new onesies every few months when she goes up a size and he makes sure daycare has her most recent immunisation records. We don’t really discuss it, it just kind of happens but there’s no reason why all of that stuff should fall to me. I work the same hours he does. I get the same amount of sleep. It makes sense that we share the work.
2. Say ‘You decide.’
Because I was on maternity leave, I started the feeding of the solids and did all the research and made the purees. The first day my partner gave her lunch he asked me what he should feed her. There were packets of baby puree in the drawer, frozen portions in the freezer and even some fresh stuff in a container in the fridge. He was there for her first taste of puree and knew what kinds of food we gave her. He was asking because he wanted to know what I thought but instead of telling him I said ‘You decide.’
So he did and he’s never asked me again. I don’t magically know what she likes and what works. I have to make food, try it, try something else, experiment with different textures and flavours. He can learn all that stuff too.
To be clear, I didn’t snap at him. I wasn’t angry. He also wasn’t asking me because he’s an idiot. He was asking because I’d done it before and it was very reasonable of him to ask me. If I replied ‘Try the beef mince, if she doesn’t like that try some sweet potato. There’s some vegetables in the freezer too but if none of that works let me know and I’ll give her some yogurt!’ I would have set myself up as the boss of her food and I don’t want to be the boss of her food. So I let him do what he wanted to.
Another fine example of this is getting her dressed for bed. I go a little batty sometimes and I decide she has to sleep in a very specific combination of bodysuit/romper/sleep bag and I panic a little if we deviate from that but you know what? It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. So when Mr Smaggle goes to get her dressed for bed and chooses a onesie that (in my head) I’ve decided is ‘thinner’ and ‘not as warm’ as the others (despite it being identical) I just let it happen.
Same as if he chooses a container I wouldn’t choose for her lunch or grabs her blue hat when I would have grabbed the white one. For us, part of sharing the load means me shutting my damn mouth and letting him parent the way he wants to. If I keep insisting that ‘my way’ is the best way, I’ll be doing ‘my way’ all day every day… on my own.
One thing I’m super weird about is nappies and, thankfully he’s weird about them too.
We’ve been using the Little One’s nappies from Woolies from the time she was born and we’ve never had a leak. For real. Except the out the top leaks but sometimes babies do tyrannosaurus sized poo’s that no nappy can contain.
We’ve been on a pretty decent sleep run since she was 4 months old (so decent I don’t even want to mention it, because I’m sure to jinx it) so there’s no way in hell I’m messing with that system. We also live in the country so we do a big Woolies shop once a week and we can just grab them with our groceries. So convenient.
Our wee babe is now in walker size (when did that happen?) and the velcro tabs are giving us life. I can quickly undo a nappy and if it’s still dry, I pop it back on. She’s in that super grubby 11 month old crawling/standing phase so I’m not putting a clean nappy on her so she can drag her butt through the mud outside.
3. Deflect any sole-caregiver commentary with ninja-like precision
Here are some response templates to use when people say dumb stuff to you.
‘Oh mum doesn’t like dressing you in pink!’
Reply – ‘Dad dressed her today!’
‘Oh what did mum pack in your lunchbox?’
Reply – ‘Dad packed her lunchbox today!’
‘Oh is dad babysitting today?’
Reply – ‘Nope! He’s parenting.’
‘What? You left your baby at home alone with your husband?’
Reply – ‘Yep. I sure do hope they’re both still there when I get home.’
‘Oh you’re so lucky having a partner who helps out!’
Reply – ‘We both work full time. He’s doing his share.’
4. Let him do the hard stuff
It’s extremely tempting to snatch our wailing daughter off him when she’s sick and needs cuddles but I’d be doing both of them a disservice if I did that. As much as I want to, I don’t always have to be the one to give her comfort. She should feel just as safe and comforted in his arms as she does in mine and if that means leaving him to hold her at 1am when she’s woken with a fever and needs to be cuddled back to sleep, so be it. It’s HARD – I want to be the one to comfort her and sometimes I’m the only one who can, but I don’t want to set her up to panic every time I leave the house or create an atmosphere were she hates being left alone with her dad. That’s not healthy for any of us.
5. Leave them to it as often as you can
There’s no reason why you can’t take yourself off to the movies and let your partner do the lunchtime/nap afternoon play session on the weekend every now and then. Don’t tell him what to do either – he’ll figure it out. Avoid the temptation to prepare all the bottles/food/outfit changes/activities while you’re gone – again, he’ll figure it out. Also don’t act like having an afternoon off is a gift he bestowed upon you. Take that time – you deserve it.