Modern families look different than they did when I was a kid. Educational and career opportunities for women have changed, reproductive technology makes family planning possible and for all kinds of couples to become parents, and our economic outlook is overcast at best. This means that in many two-parent households, both parents work outside of the home. In my case, my partner and I both have careers we love, and that means one of us often has to compromise. We fight about it, like most couples do when both parents are committed to their careers.
When my husband and I met, we both had degrees, careers, and had been the "bread-winner" in our previous relationships. My husband's ex-wife had been a stay-at-home mom for a good part of their marriage. I supported my ex-husband though college, and then several periods of unemployment, while he tried to start his career in an unkind job market.
In my previous marriage, I didn't have the luxury to change careers or go back to school. I had to work. Then, I was a single mom and I had to work. Now, I am married to someone who has a great job, and even though I probably don't have to work, I don't want to give up my career, he doesn't either, and neither of us should have to.
What this means for our modern family is that we don't really follow traditional gender roles and we both do our fair share of what our society has arbitrarily decided to be "women's work." What it also means is that there isn't a "default parent" when it comes to school meetings and doctor's appointments. Honestly, we don't want to do things the traditional way. It's not fair to define roles and responsibilities based on gender just because it's typically done that way, but that also means, we've had to learn to compromise, sometimes, the hard way.
When You Are Both Tired
Sleep deprivation is horrible. Sleep deprivation when you have to work the next day is the worst. Having a fight with your spouse about who deserves more sleep when you both have to work the next day is a zero sum game. No one wins.
When You Have A Sick Kid
The only solution is to alternate who stays home when a child is sick, but it never ends up working out that way.
When One Of You Has To Work On The Weekend
This fight takes many forms:
"But, the weekend is our time."
"Now, neither of us will get a chance to relax."
"Why didn't you say no?"
"Did you forget we had plans?"
"But, I was going to catch up on sleep."
When One Of You Gets A Job Offer
It's hard to feel excited about a job offer when it means that both of you will have to navigate a new system, commute, schedule, and routine, and that it might mean moving or that both of you will have to change jobs to accommodate it.
When One Of You Has To Work Late
My husband called me one afternoon and said he had just left work an hour late. Not a big deal, right? Well, he works an hour away, so that meant I had to rush out the door to pick our son up from preschool, rush home to meet our daughter at the school bus, wait for him to get home, and then speed to work to make it on time. Ugh.
When You Want To Change Jobs
In the past year, both my husband and I have taken our careers in amazing, bold new directions. It has been exciting, but it's also something that has caused more than one fight when we've faced bumps in the road, sometimes simultaneously.
When One Of You Makes More Money
No matter how often you say that you don't keep score, this will come up. Usually when you are extremely sleep deprived and debating about whose turn it is to get up with the baby.
When It's The Weekend And You Both Want To Relax
When you have five kids, own a home, and both work during the week (like my partner and I do), the weekend isn't necessarily relaxing. I've had so many little quarrels with my spouse about whose job it is to mow the lawn, do the grocery shopping, or mediate conflicts between the kids at an ungodly early hour on a Saturday morning. We both need time to relax.
When There Are Chores To Do
We've reached a point in our marriage where I only occasionally rage clean the kitchen because I just can't take it any more. We now have a pretty fair distribution of chores. Each of us has tasks we are good at, tasks we enjoy, tasks we hate, tasks we can't leave undone at bedtime, and tasks we aren't able to do. There's been a bit of give and take and a few fights, while we've figured out who does what in terms of cooking, cleaning, parenting, and emotional labor. There have also been the things we've decided are not worth fighting about or are no longer things we will worry about (like mowing the lawn every other day like our freakish neighbor), because they are not as important as being able to spend home time with each other or our kids.
When You Want To Have Another Baby
Like it or not, in the United States, women's careers take more of a hit than their male partners when they decide to expand their families. Pregnancy can also mean pregnancy hormones, morning sickness, physical changes, bed rest, complications, bed rest, maternity leave, medical bills, and a myriad of other things that can impact your career and your marriage.