Once you have kids, you can easily fall into roles, stereotypes, and patterns that are not fair, healthy or equitable. We are exhausted, busy, and focused on the new life we have created and sometimes just trying to get through the day. Stereotypical gender roles, work policies, and societal expectations are against us. So while you likely spent some of your 9 months of pregnancy coming up with your birth plan, I would like to argue that it’s your post-birth plan that is the most important.
While no two families are exactly alike, we can all benefit from a more conscious and strategic starting point. Being intentional about planning things like daily schedules, meal planning, childcare, chore distribution, and how you spend your day as a stay-at-home mom or full-time career mom (and everything sideways and in between) will advance equality in the home and workplace and, in the end, a more enjoyable parenting experience.
How do you plan for the unknown? Start with the basics. You know you’ll be breastfeeding/bottle feeding/pumping all the time for 3 months. ALL. THE. TIME. You know you’ll be changing diapers, potty training, chasing toddlers, and running 14 errands before school pick up. You know you’ll be cleaning the kitchen and cooking 5 times a day because they are always hungry and you have to feed them; you know you’ll be cleaning up messes, organizing toys, then spending hours with garbage bags trying to sneak toys out of the house. You know you’ll be making lunches, cleaning the kitchen, and then going to work and scheduling doctor appointments and the plumber on your lunch break. After work you will come home to dinner, baths, books, cuddles, and likely more work after everyone is in bed.
Moms usually carry the burden of the at-home work and the “mental load” of running the family — even the breadwinners. A recent study by Welch’s found that moms work the equivalent of 2.5 jobs. I’m sure that comes as a shock to ZERO MOMS. Unfortunately there isn’t an easy fix (hello, gender pay gap), but there are some things we can do to work toward equity in our homes and control in our lives.
If we are more intentional about our choices, we can choose to disrupt inequitable patterns. For example:
List out ALL the household tasks (anyone else wonder how disgusting the refrigerator would have to get before someone else cleaned it?) and divide them equally between you and your partner. If you discuss the division of labor in advance, you won’t be picking up all the slack and it will also allay frustration with your partner over these tasks.
Make a plan for specific life events. When you have a new baby, you don’t have to be the only parent who: gets the baby every time he cries, knows the tricks to get him to sleep or stays home with the baby while your partner takes your older child to soccer or dancing.
Having an organized home — like an organized office — makes a much better “work” environment for everyone. For example:
Both parents should know where the lunch bags are, where the soccer stuff is, and where the toys go. Similarly, both parents should be aligned on household schedules and policies (e.g., naptime, acceptable meals, screen-time). Being organized is important for seamlessly passing off childcare duties to your partner, a sitter, or a nanny — which gives you more freedom.
Simplify your life. When your family has fewer toys, clothes, and household “stuff” in general, there is naturally less to clean, launder, and tidy and more time to play, read, or whatever else it is you like to do (because no one is excited about finding and matching 35 pairs of toddler socks). Keep ongoing donation bags for clothes, houseware and toys in your closet or garage — knowing it’s there will help you move stuff out as you find it.
You deserve time for yourself and a break EVERY DAY. If your only “me” time for the week is a pedicure or a Sunday yoga class, that’s not enough. Demand it, ladies. And take it.
Don’t take any sh*t from colleagues, your in-laws, the person in the grocery line, your partner or anyone else about leaving work early for a child’s recital, pumping at the office, not having a “real job,” breastfeeding in public or anything else we do to take care of ourselves and our family. Call out micro-aggressions and stand up for each other and the importance of what all moms do.
Whichever path you’ve chosen, understand to your very core that raising children is the most sacred and important thing you can do as a parent — and be proud the way you’re doing it.