Over the past one hundred years, generations of parents have battled with the balance of quality of living and bringing up their children. There has been a real shift in working parents with a much higher percentage of households now seeing both parents going out to work.
Many men and women have had to make the choices between full time work and a balance in family life. Personally, I made the decision not to work full time whilst bringing up my children. It is a decision I have never regretted and whilst I work amongst a group of younger men and women, pushing to further their career, I am fortunate to never have felt like I’m missing out. I believe the main reason for this is because I feel like I still have time. Whilst I still hold down a 4 day week job in education, my husband and I have found a formula that works for us. A crucial 24 hours of time I took to stay home that has made all the difference.
One thing we have learnt as a couple is that you don’t ever want to feel like you are jealous of each other. I would often look at my husband’s weekend and at how free he seemed, football on a Saturday (often followed by beers in the clubhouse). Lazy day on Sunday (moaning about injuries sustained in Saturday’s game) and it made me realize how important it was to have those days, moments to feel relaxed and sane. Never underestimate the time it takes to keep a house clean, get food in the cupboards and bring up happy healthy children. It is so important that you, as a parent, also feel happy because this in turn rubs off on your children. As our children got older and I looked at going back to working more hours, we both agreed that having one day at home would mean that we both had the chance to relax more at the weekends. In truth, I simply didn’t earn as much as him so it made sense for it to be me.
Any woman that has ever had to work from home will understand the difference between being about to crack on with your work when the house feels tidy and clean, to trying to struggle through the mess to get work completed on time. Without generalizing, I look to a typical day in my household. The man wakes up, he showers, gets himself ready for the day ahead. Perhaps makes his breakfast and then begins his day of things to do. That day may consist of phone calls for work or popping to the DIY shop or indeed a game of golf. In contrast the woman starts her day by thinking, what needs to be done first. For me, there is a strong sense of achievement when my washing basket is empty. During lock down this has become more frequent then normal (long gone are the days of copious amounts of uniform and sportswear) in fact there have been days where I walk around the house looking for things to wash! A good start to the day is putting a wash load in.
Knowing you have work to do from home can play on your mind, but not nearly as much as the kitchen that needs tidying or the bedroom in desperate need of a hoover. Personally, getting these jobs done first frees up some space in my head which allows for the other things I need to do. Our house has never been a stereotypical 1920’s housewife and house husband one but that doesn’t mean I don’t often wonder if he even sees it, the mess, the crumbs, the jumpers laying across the sofa. The jeans on the bedroom floor, the dust on the toilet lid. I envy in so many ways the way he can just see past it. It is not expected that I will do all of these jobs but somehow, I just can’t seem to leave them.
I think it is important that we don’t feel like we are any less significant because we choose to stay home. Many a time I have heard people make flippant comments like ‘she doesn’t work she just stays home’. Well actually, she has 3 children all under the age of 7 and she probably hasn’t had a day off in those last 7 years Jeff! Find a balance that works for you all. I know women who work full time and do an amazing job (I call them superwomen) equally I know men who work part time.
In no way do I want this to sound like we live in blissful harmony. Pre-Covid19 the weekends were still full of running the children to tournaments and dance shows. Plenty of washing….there is always washing. You can not do it all, even with the best will in the world and that’s OK. If lock down has taught us anything, it is that you are important and you need to take some time for yourself. Needless to say, before I started writing this blog, I cleaned the kitchen, our bedroom and put a load of washing on! Bring on the next 24 hours.