Chatting to an old friend of mine tonight, nothing special about either of us, nothing much different about how our Sunday night’s were transpiring. Washing to be folded, beds changed, bags packed. School lunch prep, multiple fussy-fucker dinners prep. Wrestling into showers, coercing into beds. Tantrums, fights, tears. Just your bog standard Sunday night for a large contingent of Aussie families.
But they are one half of a parental team. I am running solo. The difference? Not much from what I hear, well for at least one half of their team that is.
I get that a lot of people have a kind of unspoken agreement about roles in a family. I understand that it takes some give and take from both parties to plot a smooth course across life with little people. Although I don’t personally agree with the archaic stereotypical male earning the dollar while mum does the rest; for a lot of families, it appears that this 1950s model still works for some.
And if that works for BOTH of you, then kudos to you – I am jealous!
But over the time of writing this blog, I get the distinct feeling, from the ongoing subtly bitter commentary, that this particular situation may not be as symbiotic as it is an expectation of marital “bliss”, perpetuated by the idea that earning the almighty dollar trumps all..and by those that do so.
Now before you decide to jump down my throat in a barrage of indignation.. Answer me this:
Have you stood in both sets of shoes for an equal length of time? Have you enough experience in both these areas to comment with authority?
I have, as have my fellow solo parents. And the jury is out, to a degree.
Righto; working 40+ hours a week to put food on the table, a roof over heads, clothes on backs and an education to give a head start in life is not just an admirable role, but a necessity. This is a fundamental part of Western society. Work = money = food + shelter + education + material needs. It needs to be done, no doubt. I do not chastise a hard working person that forgoes to provide for his or her family. It is hard to not be there all the time. It sucks having to do something you perhaps don’t want to do every day, but because you have to, for others.
Running a house / home / family is no bloody picnic either. Life isn’t all go with the flow, snack plates and playing at the park. It’s not just doing the washing, buying and making food, bathing kids and bedtime stories. It’s not sitting down to watch a midday soap opera as a break after you’ve done the vacuuming.
It is fucking relentless.
There is no 45min for lunch. There is no clock in or clock off time. There is no rhyme, reason, system or process to your daily life. There are never enough hours in the day to get done what needs doing. Your subordinates do not respond to requests, logic or any form of reasoning and to top it all off; there is no HR department or union to complain to when you feel work conditions are not suitable. If your truly unlucky, you may not spend time with another adult for days on end.
Now I am fully aware that there are many, as I was myself part of once upon a time, perfectly cohesive family units, equally sharing both the home life and working roles. Respectful of the intricacies and demands of working and raising a family. Aware and empathetic towards each other. Supportive and flexible.
This article is not for you.
This article is for the dinosaurs our there that think a salary is more important than the reason you’re earning it. This is for those hard working folks that come home and expect that their day is done. To be waited on, tended to, propped on a pedestal and worshipped. For those that ignore the work that goes in to the happy family you come home to every day. This is your wake up call. That is not what family is about.
But more than that, this article is for the pseudo Solo Parents out there who have to put up with this. I hear you – I know what you do – you are amazing.
I don’t expect change. I don’t want arguments. I just want to acknowledge you. You are the rocks, the glue that binds the family together. Without you, family would not be.
Family life is unfortunately about sacrifice. We forgo so much for our little humans, even if they don’t appreciate it at the time. But what I hate to see and hear is parents forgoing respect and empathy for each other. Our kids see it, absorb it, become it.
So be aware of each other. Be supportive, help each other, have empathy, care, listen, love. You did once and it was the basis of having a family. Your kids will emulate what you do at home.
Be what you wish your children to become.