When I did my readers survey, one reader asked the following question:
You talk about feminism, but I don’t recall you ever discussing sharing childcare with up your husband. Maybe you have and I missed it, but I come away with the impression that childcare is yours alone. Is there a story here?
I think part of the answer is that my blog is about my journey, and that’s what I explore in my parenting posts. But this reader is right – because of this my husband ends up being conspicuously absent. So let me take a moment to address my husband the role he plays in parenting in our little family.
To start with, my husband generally trusted my judgement on everything parenting-related. After all, I already had so much parenting experience from my 10+ younger siblings that I might as well have already raised a family of my own. I knew how to care for babies, I already had a discipline strategy (the one my parents had followed, and that I’d used with my younger siblings), etc.
As I began rethinking the parenting methods I’d been taught, though, I talked through all of it with him. He became increasingly excited about what I was learning because the new methods I was exploring jived with the importance he places on critical thinking and experiential learning, etc. Even though I was the one thinking and researching and reading, we really explored these ideas together.
There were times my husband thought my new thoughts were crazy, of course. He is slightly stricter with Sally than I am, and he sometimes thinks I’m too lax. Sometimes this has bothered me – and him, of course! – but the reality is even as we parent slightly differently (emphasis on the word slightly), we really are on the same page when it comes to the big pictures.
My husband is an extremely involved parent, and I love to see him working with Sally. He gets down on the floor with Sally and puts together puzzles or teaches her card games that really should be far beyond her abilities, he plays an awesome game of sharks and minoes with her in the pool, and he cooks pancakes with her every Saturday morning. But more than any of that, what I love best is that he never passes up an educational opportunity.
At his heart, my husband is a scientist, and he passes that love on to Sally. Whether it’s the moon or a grasshopper or a bug infestation, he’s always right there to explain it to her – or, importantly, to help her figure it out for himself. As I watch Sally’s curiosity and love of nature, science, and discovery grow, I know I have my husband to thank.
I think the reason my posts on parenting focus so much on myself is that parenting has changed my life in a way that it hasn’t changed my husband’s life. It’s not that parenting hasn’t changed my husband at all, it’s just that my husband didn’t come from the conservative background I did, and he therefore doesn’t have the sort of issues to work through that I have.
The other part of the question I started this post with focuses on the sharing of childcare. Because my husband and I both work, Sally attends preschool during the day. Nevertheless, my husband does less of the childcare than I do, and for two reasons. First, he often works evenings as well as during the day, leaving me home alone with Sally. (My job, unlike his, does not require evening hours.) Second, my background leaves me feeling guilty when I leave Sally with my husband, which makes me less likely to leave him with the childcare (even though he practically begs me to go out, etc!). I’m working through this second one and have made a lot of progress.
You can expect some posts on this subject in the future, though, because we’re going to be balancing care of our new baby more equally for a variety of reasons. Namely, we won’t be putting him in daycare immediately, meaning that my husband will put in some real daytime hours watching him. This is something we’re going to have to work through – and it’s not him, it’s me.