For the last three months or so my wife, Clare, and I have reversed the traditional roles in our family. She has been going out to work after three years at home with the kids and I have been the one who has stayed at home and been a full time parent. It got me thinking about other traditional roles in the family and society and whether our role reversal had extended into different areas. I suppose I was asking the question that all stay-at-home Dads (and many go-to-work Dads as well) ask themselves: Who wears the trousers in our house?
Clare is now the main breadwinner in our household. I am the primary child carer. But, as ever, things are not quite that simple. Clare works flexibly and with compressed hours which means that she is around far more than the wage-earner in a typical family might be. When she is at home she mucks in enthusiastically with the childcare. In fact, it is the one thing that she really wants to do because like many working parents she desperately misses her children when she is away from them. On the flip side I have some savings and have managed to maintain a modest income that pays for my round in the pub and a little more besides.
When it comes to our relationships with the children we are probably a little more traditional. Clare is definitely more forgiving, nurturing and comforting than I am. The children probably get away with a little bit more with her and Arun in particular pushes his luck with her more than with me. Most of the time I am a pretty laid back father but I have imposed a certain structure on the day and occasionally do slip into my persona of “Victorian Dad”. Despite the fact that I am the stay at home parent, I am still more of a disciplinarian than my go-to-work partner.
Next we come to the thorny issue of housework. I am very careful in how I describe myself. I am a “Stay at home Dad”, not a “Househusband”. This is partly because my main motivation for staying at home is to care for my children, not to care for my house. But also because there is something slightly emasculating about the term “Househusband” whereas there is something modern and progressive about the phrase “stay at home Dad”. Clare and I split the housework. I do the food shopping and the cooking (because I enjoy these things) and she does the washing and the ironing.
So at the end of the day am I any closer to answering the question: Who wears the trousers in our house?
Clare and I would probably describe what we have as a genuine partnership. However, this answer misses out one, or rather two, tiny but massively important elements. Our children are the ones that really run the household. Our whole lifestyle and routine are geared around their needs. Lie-ins are a long distant memory, long haul holidays to exotic locations are impossible, hedonistic nights out have been shelved. The fact of the matter is that the ones wearing the trousers in my house are also the ones wearing the nappies.