I count myself very fortunate to have many friends in this same life stage of early motherhood. We trudge together, text at all hours, and share absurd stories of our little ones’ new tricks. What this also means for me, though, is that I realize my parenting struggles aren’t unique. And I say that as a good thing–my challenges aren’t bizarre, they’re average. It doesn’t negate their importance or take away their weight on my shoulders, but at least I realize I’m not completely crazy. In the past six or so months I’ve found one topic resurfacing over and over again in conversation: the parenting balance. No matter the family makeup (stay-at-home-mom/dad, work-from-home duos, or full-time working parents), this issues persists. Being a ‘team’ in parenthood is paramount yet puzzling.
After having Colton, E and I decided that I wouldn’t go back to my public relations job. Daycare in this area is wildly expensive and I counted it an honor to stay home if we were able to financially swing it. So, for the first few months, mom = life. I was Colton’s sole source of food, his primary comforter and the diaper-changer-extraordinaire. E was a wonderful support to me in those times, but naturally I took most of the burden.
In the past couple of months, I’ve noticed a shift–something it took me weeks to find words for. Colton was gaining in independence, able to eat on his own, sleeping through the night, and yet I felt off-kilter. Somehow, despite those leaps in growth, I felt less secure in my position as one of two parents. Honestly, I didn’t want to vocalize it. I thought because I worked from home and had the freedom of time with our son I wasn’t justified in being overwhelmed. Expressing that might make me seem ungrateful for all of E’s hard work. It might make me seem ill-fit for this motherhood gig. How could I ask for more from E when he’d just had a long day at the office?
My sister and I got on this topic one day. Something she said stuck out to me in a big way: your husband may work out of the home 9-5, but parenting is 24/7. So consider it this way: you both work 9-5 and, after that, it’s all hands mutually on deck. I felt so liberated by that approach. Suddenly I wasn’t an incompetent slacker (to put it harshly). It’s not about E doing me ‘favors’ by helping with Colton. It’s about the parenting balance.
Since that conversation with my sister, E and I have had a lot of talks about what this looks like. I want to be clear that it isn’t a scorecard approach. I’m not asking for an even split nor do I believe that can really ever exist. Instead, he and I talk about where we can help the other. How we can share the joys and burdens of daily life with Colton. We are a team. We sub in when the other needs a break. E knew nothing of the unbalance I was feeling until I brought it up. And I want to be so crystal clear that he is a magnificent partner to me in this process. None of what I was feeling stemmed from him. It was a step in the journey of us realizing what this new life looks like.
Together we came up with a few ways to divide and conquer daily activities. Everyone’s process will look different and what is helpful to us may not be relevant in your situation. But, if this provides any framework for you, I’m happy to share. We’ve just begun this conversation, too. It isn’t a one-stop-fits-all method. As years progress we’ll need to tweak and adjust. But, for now, I’m tremendously grateful to be sharing this parenting balance with E.
E does our breakfast
L does breakfast for Colton
L does dinner
E does bath time + bedtime routine
L does vacuuming, grocery shopping + meals
E does trash duty + yard work
Are there things that have helped you find your parenting balance?