My wife and I thought we were a pretty good team until I started my year off. We went into it pretty optimistically – it would be great because for the first few months both of us would be around and it would mean that we would all have so much more time to do the fun, the important and the carefree things. However, having two parents around the house, looking after the kids has been more difficult than either of us imagined and made us realise just how hard working as a team really is.
At first it was pretty simple. Clare was much more skilled in looking after the children than I was so there was a period of training. I was excellent at looking after Arun but had much less experience and confidence in looking after Meri and more importantly both of them together. Some of it was simple, for example, I didn’t know the times of Arun’s pre-school or which door to drop him off at. Some of it was more difficult – like how exactly do you feed, clothe and entertain a baby and a two year old without someone’s head exploding? However, after a few weeks, I felt I was competent at looking after all the kids. But that is when the real trouble started.
We found that we were simply doubling up on everything. One of us would get Arun up, the other one would get Meri up; one of us would feed Arun his breakfast, the other one would feed Meri and so on until one of us would put Arun to bed and the other one would put Meri down. As a result we were both on the go from 7am to 7pm and we had created no additional family or personal time at all. What is worse, we were stepping one each other’s toes – some things around the house were getting done twice and some things were being missed.
So, next we devised “the contract”. We sat down and agreed who was doing what and how frequently. So for example, Clare did the washing, whilst I did the shopping. However, we ran into problems with this almost immediately. First off, the contract was never in enough detail. So when we went away on holiday for the week, I was in charge of packing the kid’s food whilst Clare was in charge of nappies and pharmacy supplies. Just before we were about to leave we realised that neither of us had packed Arun’s drugs – did they count as food or were they pharmacy? We didn’t know and as such we were constantly missing things because we were sticking to the letter, rather than the spirit of the contract. The other thing that happened was that we started to notice all the things that we hadn’t done and we would bicker about whether the shirts were ironed on time or whether lemonade had been bought in the Sainsbury’s shop. Rather than helping and supporting one another through the day “the contract” turned us into auditors who were constantly checking that the other had done their bit.
Finally, six months into my year off, we have figured it out. When raising a family there is always an endless list of things to do. Generally, one of us will take the lead in particular areas. However, we have remembered our generosity of spirit and we now try to help one another get through what we need to do. We split looking after the kids so that we have one on one time with them and spend time together as a family as well as giving each other a couple of sessions a week off. We try to celebrate all the fantastic things that we do for each other rather than picking on the small things that we might have missed. Harmony and balance is returned to our family life as we have finally figured out how to survive having both of us at home.
Trouble is, Clare started back at work today…