This week is a big work week for me. My husband is a couple of weeks away from being away until September and so, in the interests of necessity, I blocked off most of this work to get as much of my work done as possible before I enter a (terrifyingly) long period of tour-widowdhood.
But, here’s the thing: I feel really guilty about it.
I don’t feel guilty about not being with The Small. She’s having the time of her life hanging out with her Daddy. I’m pretty certain she isn’t giving me a second thought judging by the smile and mud plastered all over her face after spending the morning jumping in muddy puddles with her dad.
No, I feel guilty for my husband. I feel guilty because I know how hard it can be looking after The Small and how boring it can sometimes be. I feel guilty because it can be a lonely old day when you’ve only got a toddler to talk to. I feel guilty because, compared to a day entertaining a toddler, a day in my office with the door shut, SONOS playing and a Jo Malone candle lit, is basically the equivalent to a week’s holiday in comparison. I feel guilty because I’ve been able to sit down all day, eat my lunch with both hands and (in between doing lots and lots of very important work) check Facebook fairly regularly.
I actually feel like I’m cheating, or being sneaky, when I head off to work. I wonder if all mums feel the same. We go on about how bringing up children these days is a more equal undertaking between mother and father, but in reality do we actually believe it? My husband is more than willing to step up and do his share. Each week we sit down and check our work commitments and figure out how to fit them all in. Each week we share the childcare, we share the money-earning and we share the exhaustion. It’s a partnership, an equal responsibility…there’s no question that his work should get priority, or that I should take a step back and be the default carer.
So why do I feel so guilty asking him to do it?
If I really believed that it was and should be an equal undertaking, I wouldn’t think twice about asking my husband to watch Billie for three days this week but the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to think that perhaps, for all my forward thinking and liberal leanings, I’m actually still subconsciously attached to the old way of doing things.
It wouldn’t be a surprise. My blueprint for parenting was that of my own parents’ and let’s face it, that’s a pretty old model. In this new equal parenting venture, our generation blazing the trail and it’s not fully established. It’s not even comprehensive. It’s not even the dominant model. Most families are still maintaining the more traditional image of a working dad and a mum on maternity leave who returns to work after a year, often on a part-time basis, or not at all. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but perhaps this is why I’m still struggling to believe that it can be, or should be, anything different.
Don’t get me wrong – I wholly believe in the concept of 50/50 parenting. In fact, my career and my financial status depends on it, but I’m just not sure we’re all there mentally. I’m trying to make this work in a society that hasn’t quite embraced it yet. When our builders turned up this morning, there was a distinct look of surprise on their face when they realised that my husband was going to have the baby all day while I would be working upstairs.
Here’s the interesting thing: people aren’t surprised that you’re a working mum. That’s old news. People are surprised that you’re a working mum and that your husband is at home looking after your baby. That’s still, very much, new news and it’s something that we need to support, engage in and be proud of because there are some awesome dads out there helping us change the world one nappy at a time.