Stay at Home Dads: Who Does the Washing Up?
John and Mary are one of the only couples I know that have turned the tables on gender-based roles and made the change from stay-at-home-mum to stay-at-home-dad. I have always been most curious as to who does the washing-up, and had other burning questions I just had to ask.
1. What was the reason(s) for you to make this choice?
MARY: We have both been living in Australia on a work visa which meant that I had to continue full time in my job, at the same time John was made redundant so everything fell into place really! I was really excited to go back to work and get out of the house. I had been feeling a little trapped after a year of not working and being a full time mum.
JOHN: VISA situation. We were on Mary’s visa as temporary residents. It required her to go back to work once maternity leave was finished and the decision was in many ways made for us. For me the chance to spend that type of time with my first child was extremely exciting and I was all for it.
2. Who does what housework and chores? How do you divide it between you?
MARY: We have always shared the housework so things didn’t change too much on that front. The biggest change was that John hates to cook and isn’t very confident or organised in the kitchen – cooking was always my job before. I think if he lived alone there would have been a lot of pizza and instant noodles! I was a bit concerned about him not feeding our daughter nutritious foods, but he is actually very good at making sure she eats well. I do have to talk him through recipes on the phone from time to time though.
JOHN: Mary is a far better cook with an arsenal I’ve yet to even come close too despite my now full year as primary carer. She still does most (practically all) weekend cooking while also helping to close out some weekday meals. She does some of the dishes and also an average of once or twice a week trip to the shops. Up until the last couple of weeks I would say none of the vacuuming really.
For laundry, garden, grocery shopping, car cleaning and maintenance, vacuuming and general cleaning, paying bills and looking after finances, daycare and meals mostly, if not all, fall to me. And the dreaded night duties are mine 5 or 6 days a week, oh and the day to day child raising!
3. Has it had an impact on you socially? Have you experienced any bias or discrimination?
MARY: Not really, no. I don’t think people really have too many expectations of gender roles or perceived ‘normal’ family structures nowadays. People do what they need to do to get by, whether the issue is child care, parental separation or whatever, so it doesn’t really come up as an issue. I think a lot of men quite envy the amount of time John gets to spend with our daughter though!
JOHN: There is a definite social loss in the day-to-day contact with friends. Our situation is somewhat unique in that we don’t have any continuity with our childhood friends nor family support over here, other than the weekly phone calls and Skype.
No bias or discrimination but that could have a little to do with the type of workplace we have as well. I’m far from the first one to be a stay at home dad from there, and progressive friends also.
4. Is this a permanent arrangement?
MARY: No. John is currently working a couple of days a week doing short contracts. We would both like to work 4 days a week eventually, but we are quite passionate that we don’t want our daughter to end up in day care more than she is with us. If we had family here to have her on a regular basis we could be a bit more flexible, but as they are all overseas the arrangement works well for us right now.
JOHN: No it’s not a permanent situation but not a firm decision either. We are very open to any possible arrangement depending on wage, flexibility and career opportunities (hers or mine).
5. Which is the easier/harder – working full time or staying at home? Why?
MARY: Haha, depends on the day! Some days our daughter is in an adorable mood and on others she can be very hard work. Same goes for my work colleagues too actually… Of course I get quite jealous when it is a sunny day and John calls me from the park or beach and I can hear our daughter giggling in the background.
JOHN: Ha now this is tricky and all depends on circumstance and what type of day. I would say straight off the top the relentless nature of caring for an infant or toddler is the hardest thing to get used to and for me it places as harder day-to-day. With a job you have benchmarks, parameters, job descriptions and a set number of hours that are known going in. But with all jobs some days are better than others, some projects or tasks more stimulating than others. But you’re earning a sum for it. Now don’t get me wrong you earn satisfaction from being at home as far as the child goes, but lots of it isn’t tangible or measurable (yet anyway).
6. Has it changed the relationship between you and your daughter? How?
MARY: I feel like daddy has become the firm favourite sometimes, but after a day of her being with me not daddy, it swings the other way again. It’s hard to say as they change so much between 1 and 2 years old so the relationship is constantly changing anyway.
JOHN: Yes. I get to see the daily development and share the joy, smiles, cuddles and personality. I never expected to experience this and I would suggest to anyone that if the opportunity presented itself to give it a go.
7. Has it changed the relationship between you as a couple?
MARY: I think it has made us more understanding of each other’s roles and a little more understanding of each other if we are tired or cranky.
JOHN: It has but I would say it has mostly benefited our relationship. I have gained a genuine understanding and appreciation for both sides of the parenting paradigm as has my partner.
8. Do you have any advice for people entering this kind of situation?
MARY: Make sure you discuss your feelings and expectations about the situation. Make sure you are both comfortable with the expected time frame of the situation. Understand that the grass is ALWAYS greener, and don’t be unrealistic about what it will really be like for each of you.
JOHN: Nothing most people won’t think about anyway. Just prepare for it to be harder than you think and you should be fine. Also be aware from the man’s perspective that loss of ‘bread winner’ mentality does play on the mind from time to time.
1. Shared understanding of each other’s roles
2. Chance for Daddy/Daughter bonding
3. Brings home what is important to each of us with regards to raising a family
1. Time spent with your child, playing but also teaching and watching their constant development
(I’ve read articles on deathbed wishes all said they wished they spent more time with family. None wished they worked more!)
2. No boss, commute
3. Ability to decide on a daily basis…do we want to go to beach today or hang out at the pool?
3.5. If you’re a sports fan (particularly from northern hemisphere) you get daytime sports in the background!
1. I feel like I’m missing out on some important milestones sometimes
2. It’s tricky if you reach the point of wanting to try for another baby – it has to be planned to make sure one has work whilst the other takes leave
3. John gets to pick the meals, which means more of his and less of my favourite foods!
1. Personal space and time, and two-way conversation (not so much a problem now)
2. Night duties and broken sleep patterns
3. Thinking of meal times, nutrition and spending so much time in the kitchen and shops
3.5. Mundane chores
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