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Parenting as a team

When you raise kids with someone, I guess it’s pretty obvious that there has to be an element of “team playing” in the role. I’m not talking about being consistent with behaviour, or praise, or whatever – I’m on about the more back-to-basics stuff. The DOING stuff. The bits of being a parent and living in a house that are vital, but often overlooked because they’re just so, well, OBVIOUS.

When I first became a mum I was on maternity leave for a year. The first part of the year was all newborn baby sleep deprivation, adjustment and trying desperately to get out to meet other mums. The second part of the year was all about setting up a new direction in my career, building a portfolio so I could start freelancing. 

Within that year, we made some pretty massive changes to our roles on this “team” we’d created.

The (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine was the one “bringing home the bacon”, so to speak, and I did much of the stuff at home. But when I started working again we needed to reassess how we did things. I just didn’t have the time to do ALL the washing, ironing, cleaning, cooking, shopping, toilet scrubbing alongside work AND raising a tiny baby. That was when the NLM started doing more around the house and looking after Frog for periods on his own, so I could crack on and get some work done.

We haven’t always got it right though. There have been times when we’ve both felt unappreciated and over-worked, downtrodden and taken for granted. I’ve written before about feeling annoyed that everything with the house always seemed to fall to me, just because I was a woman. It’s a subject that has come up again, since then, but I think it’s generally because (like me) the NLM is often so busy, he just doesn’t realise stuff needs doing.

The last couple of months have seen another shift in our roles on the team. Before the summer, I was out of the house for work by 4.30am Monday to Friday, meaning the NLM did the whole morning routine before he went off to do a full day teaching kids in a secondary school. Over the summer the routine changed again when I left that job, we relocated 200 miles away, and the NLM was on school holidays. Recently, I’ve been readjusting to working from home again and doing the lion’s share of the house stuff. The NLM’s new job means he’s out of the house by 7.15am most days and doesn’t get back until gone 6pm most nights. He spends evenings planning lessons, marking and preparing for the next day of teaching.

Up until last weekend I was starting to feel that familiar pit of resentment in my stomach. I still had work to do, but was having to juggle it alongside all my other responsibilities as a mum.

The NLM’s long work hours mean I do the morning and the night routine. I do tea time and all the washing and cooking. It’s up to me to fill in forms for pre-school and make sure Frog has a packed lunch to take with her. I do the ironing, the cleaning and make sure the fridge is stocked and the meals are planned. I spend afternoons crafting or running around the park or getting out the play dough with my three year old. Come 7pm, I am exhausted, but that’s when the second part of my working day begins, when I fire up the laptop and get typing.

It didn’t feel like much of a team, to be honest.

But then, on Friday night the NLM and I had a chat. “I have a huge deadline on Monday morning and I can’t get all my work done in just the evenings this weekend”, I told him. So, at 10.30am on Saturday morning I trundled up the stairs and locked myself in the office until 10pm that night. Meanwhile, the NLM got out the poster paints, the play dough, the glue and made a trip to the supermarket. On Sunday, we swapped. I took Frog to the beach, cooked a roast, did the washing and put her to bed while the NLM worked.

While weekends are important for family time, sometimes it’s just not possible to fit an activity in that we do all together. From an outside perspective we were very separate all last weekend but, actually, I can’t remember the last time our role as a “team” worked so well.

How do you work as a team in your house? Do you have set roles and responsibilities within the home?