I can remember a few years back when someone gave me the truth about parenting. They told me that no matter what you believe when you get married, parenting always falls 90% on one parent and 10% on the other. I thought they were wrong. I also thought they were crazy, had a lousy marriage, horrible outlook on life and probably needed counseling at the minimum and more babysitters at best.
Now I get it. Oh, how I get it.
They were not crazy. They were insightful, brutally honest, and prophetic.
What I'm seeing almost across the board is that our current day definition of young family is synonymous with 90%:10% model described above. Is it unfair? Sure. Is it healthy? Doubt it. Is it reality for so many in our society today? Yes. It is what happens to many modern families who have to move away from their own families to support the major bread winner (my husband in this situation). It is a reality in many young families that one member (often the husband but certainly not always) spends more time at work and commuting to and from work than they do with their own family. Most work 16-18 hour days and give their all to their burgeoning careers. And if they are Type A like my husband? Forget about it, you better keep a light on.
Unless the young family makes enough money to include daycare/childcare in the equation, then by default the other parent is left to care for the needs of the children. This is our scenario. First off, this is the lifestyle we choose and I am not asking for pity, conviction or argument. Secondly, Just like in most families, things are ever-changing in ours and we are considering other options to help even out the parenting load. We're getting there.
Now, where was I? Ah yes, the 90% part. One of the parents really does secure 90% of the workload when it comes to the children, house, dog, recycling, laundry, grocery shopping, doctor's visits, dental exams, clothes shopping, daily activities, menu, planning & preparing meals, vacuuming, cleaning in general, picking up, you get it, etc. How can it be different? Raising your children and "staying at home" with them is now your job.
You do it, or you don't.
Would you expect to go into your husband's work, respond to his emails or put on a uniform and speak in acronyms to the Colonel just like mine does? OR would you throw on a power tool, grab your hammer and click together a few beams that will hold up the weight of a new roof? You might but I highly suspect his boss would be holding a "conference"to pick up your pieces after you leave. Point being: both parents have a job to do and never the two shall mix. Is this conducive to great parenting? Would you excuse your husband (or your wife if she is the one to make most/half/even a good chunk of your income) from reading bedtime stories, bathing the children, giving Tylenol at 2am to a screaming teething baby because he is worn out from his day "at work?" Do you allow your husband to come home, change, and rest before becoming ensconced with the family? How many minutes/hours of rest do you allow? Are you bitter? Are you living in the 60s? Is your last name Brady?
Seriously, one of the themes I've come across while befriending women who are in my similar situation (meaning w/young kids, far from family/help, daycare not an option) I've come to understand that our brand of parenting really is 90%. Our husbands work hard. They take classes that require them to be away on weekends. They work long hours (always 13, sometimes 18 hour days) for their families. They drive through traffic, hop on metro trains, and hoof the last mile to their final destination - their workplace. They are forced to go on travel - away from their families for days, sometimes weeks at a time - which then throws another million factors into the mix. As the stay at homer, we now take on 300% of the workload and no longer have between 11pm-5am off. Ever really sleep well while your husband is out of town? Jump at every single creak and crack like me? Yeah, welcome to the "Sleep with the Lights On" Club. These are the times you don't think about when you're walking down the aisle.
While it seems hard to recalibrate and find the energy, patience (oh my God, the patience!!), and love needed to hold things together while we're carrying the 90%, it's also not a great situation for the husband. Who's the one missing out on bubble blowing, sidewalk chalking, and reed surfing at the local pond? Who doesn't get to feel the tight squeeze of his little girl's arm around his neck while she gives wet kisses to his earlobe? Who doesn't know his son can count to ten in both Spanish and French(ish)? Who misses dinner time enjoying a warm meal and catching up with his family?
While I may carry 90% of the house/child workload, I will never feel too sorry for myself because I'm not missing a thing. My husband does the best he can for his current work situation and still misses out on more than he'll ever know. He just finished a Command & Staff course load that was grueling and time consuming. It's over now though which means we just got our weekends back. Weekends are precious to the kids because Saturday and Sunday are the only two days they see him, really see their Daddy. They are precious to me because I get to feel like a family again instead of a single parent who is carrying a really ugly neon 90% sign on her back. They will be precious to him when he looks back and realizes Saturday and Sunday are the days he got to be more than a 10% parent. This life goes quickly. This life with young children? Light speed, fast forward, hummingbird wings times rocket ship quick. I should know, the same "crazy" lady who told me about the 90%:10% theory said so.