In the decade we’ve been parents, we’ve each done a 5-year spell as the work-from-home parent, who is also in charge of the shopping, lifting and cooking side of things. Obviously, the office parent chips in, but the family buck stops with the Primary Parent (or Primary Caregiver or Mom or House Spouse or Dad or One to Be Phoned First... we’ve never really found a term for that job that sits comfortably).
We both know what it’s like to come home to a family in full flow of dinner/bath/bedtime – and to feel enveloped by the love, but a little cheated about the bits you missed (while simultaneously feeling a little relieved that you missed them).
We also both know what it feels like to be so tired of family that you pounce on your partner as soon as the key scrapes the lock, handing over all clingy children before locking yourself in the bathroom to stare blissfully at blank tile for a bit.
You know? I know you do.
But all of a sudden we find ourselves with two full-day jobs, and two expectant sons carrying extra-mural art supplies, soccer boots and musical instruments. And even though our home is stocked with quite frighteningly wonderful folk – our housekeeper runs marathons for our province whilst sporting a black belt in karate, and our brand new au pair is studying education – I am having a hard time getting over all the family out-sourcing that’s suddenly going on.
And even though, if anything, I am seeing more of the boys as I race home a little anxiously each day– I feel less in touch than I did when Dreas was the one helping to compile the science dioramas and expertly ferreting coloured pencils from inside the couch.
How do parents cope?
I want to know how everyone else handles it. (Yes. Here’s the bit where you email me all the advice you can.) In the meantime, I can tell you the things we have started doing to make sure we are still very much part of each other’s days.
First, meal times have become much more important. Suddenly, sitting around the table for both breakfast and dinner feels essential, and nonchalant mealtime chatter has been replaced by earnest sharing. I hope we relax into a happy medium soon, but at the moment I am really enjoying the dinner table go-around games of ‘tell us your best and worst thing from the day’ and ‘share the one thing you did today you were most proud of’ and Benj’s favourite ‘Mad, sad, bad or glad.’
We’ve also stepped up the ritual. Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights all have set activities – from pizza night to swimming in the nearest public pool or watching a classic movie together. (You’ve forgotten how cute Kevin Costner was in Robin Hood. Trust me, you want to see it again. Ditto George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)
I know it’s early days and we’re possibly overdoing it a little – but it’s times like these when I want to tip a cap at families without a stay-home, lift friendly parent – be they two-office job or single parent families – and say: ‘Gosh it’s not easy, is it? Here’s to the love that keeps you going.’
How do you cope with juggling work and family?
Read more by Sam Wilson
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