The Two Parent Two-Step: Balancing work and home

When I met my husband, he stated firmly that there was no way, no how, that he would ever be a stay-at-home dad. But here we are, 5 years into parenting, and not only has Jason had stints as a stay-at-home dad, but I’ve been a stay-at-home mom too. At various intervals, we’ve both worked fulltime and had the kids in daycare, I’ve worked half-time and had the kids at home while he’s worked full-time. I’ve worked at home, out-of-the-home, and in other countries. He’s worked as a locum vet, so we’ve also had long stretches of him being away, alternating with him being the primary caregiver. You name the parental balance – we’ve done it.

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Certainly Jason’s opinions about being a stay-at-home dad have changed. He actually really likes it – he’s cleaner than I am, and more fastidious about details like the kids getting to school on time. So when he’s home, those things are “done right.” But he also developed a lot of empathy and understanding for stay-at-home moms. He knows what the social isolation is like (hence, the birth of poker night.) And he understands how much work it actually is, to keep the hearth warm and the homefires burning.

But there are still things he doesn’t get. Like, when I am working from home, I am WORKING from home. Which means, I don’t have time to sweep the floor, feed the kids, do laundry and still plan my courses and send out my orders. That’s something he’s never done – worked from home. So too often, I get “well, you are home, so why don’t you…” He wouldn’t be asking after the laundry if I was planning at my office at the college or had Africa Sleeps stuff in a small office out of the house.

But mostly, we are on the same page. Of all these scenarios, we do best as a couple and a family when we are both working part time. And when we are both reasonably close to home, and accessible to the kids. The exception is that I need to get away a couple of times a year, either to Ethiopia for Vulnerable Children or for an academic conference. It gives me fresh air and supports my identity as a professional woman.

I actually prefer working half time… I would say that I’m about 3/4 time at the moment, and it’s busier than I would like. I’m a person to fill my days anyway! But it seems like the kids, friends, the house, the dogs etc. aren’t getting the attention that I would like to give.

I know that when our clinic and shop open, which is looking like the weekend before the May-long, we’ll both be super busy. But our hope is that, eventually, he’ll be working 4-5 days a week, and I’ll be able to focus on volunteering and entrepreneurial/academic  things, while teaching a course or two on the side. This has been the goal all along, but we certainly didn’t think it would be 3 years of the two parent two step to get to this point. At least we’ve gotten good and balancing each other off, and being flexible!

In the meanwhile, Jason’s working long days at regional clinics, so he can be home at night. I’m working 1/2 time at the college, and volunteering/working the other half on Vulnerable Children and Africa Sleeps. This semester, the girls have after-school care two days a week, which should enable me to get two long days in, so I’m available to them and mentally present after school the other three days.

I’d love to hear about your scenarios – stay-at-home, 1/2 time, working at home, working out of the home, etc… and how you manage the juggle between two parent households!

2 thoughts on “The Two Parent Two-Step: Balancing work and home

  1. I’ve been a SAHM for 2.5 years now, since our younger two arrived home from Ethiopia. Before that I worked very part-time for a number of years while my oldest was younger. It’s a tough balancing act.

    I also h/school all three of our kids…two of whom are ‘behind’ on the Canadian system and one of whom might have a learning issue. So in addition to being a SAHM, I’ll also an extremely busy, hard-working mother finding creative ways to educate my kids.

    It makes me crazy when my hubbie assumes I can get extra stuff done b/c I’m at home full time. Those are the times when I realize that he really doesn’t get the impact of schooling our kids at home. A couple of weeks from now I have to be away for an overnighter (and most of 2 days) and I have requested that, in addition to doing the usual things that we usually do on weekends, he provide the schooling instruction/planning for those two days as well. I think too often he assumes that because weekends are a little more laid back, that’s the way it must be during the week, too, when it’s just me and the kids at home. We’ll see what he thinks after that weekend and if any deliberate learning actually happens!!

    Not to complain too much, these are tough issues for balancing. Most of the time we’re on the same accord and there were many times in the past where we worked well together on having me work part-time and having a child at home…it’s just been in the past couple of years that I think he’s occasionally not ‘gotten it.’

    Interesting topic…and I hope you get back soon to your optimal half time solution!

    Ruth

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Ruth. Homeschooling is one thing I haven’t done for more than a week… And don’t plan to! My hats off to those home schoolers out there; I know how much time and effort it takes. It’s like being the teacher of a one room schoolhouse… And I need my time for other things. Thankfully, our kids are doing well in the small public school right beside our house. So it works all the way around. But even in those short little stints that we have homeschooled, a couple of times, I have enjoyed it. And I have enjoyed it when they have gone back to public school! 🙂

      I’m glad that my husband and I are on the same page about our ideal situation. But it is always that juggle and balance whenever life throws something new our way.

      One thing that I’m sure I don’t “get”, is working a 9 to 5 job, and leaving my work at work. I have never really done this. I’ve only worked a 9-to-5 job once in my life, and that’s when I was 20 years old. I always have more work to do, and I find knowing when to cut off my day is my biggest challenge. It’s all fine and dandy to say that I should only work for seven or eight or eleven hours a day, but in reality, life doesn’t always work like that. Especially if you have a doctors appointment in the morning, and then have to make it up at night, or… And with the charity of course, I’m always trying to put in more time to drum up more sponsors. So it never really ends.

      Maybe that should be my New Year’s resolution? Cutting off work? 🙂

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