My wife and I are both parents to the most delightful little baby I’ve ever met. But I’m the one who gave birth to him. I’m the one who carried him in my body for 10 (mostly hellish) months, and I am the one who breastfeeds him approximately one million times a day. I am also the one who works primarily from home. Given all of that, you might think that I would be the primary parent, but that actually is not at all how it works in our family. I totally respect that different families need to have different divisions of labor, and that for some 40/60 or even 30/70 works just fine, but for me, raising a child with my wife has to be split 50/50 all the way. The bottom line is this: Our child has two parents, and I want him to be able to turn to us equally, and for us to be equally engaged in his upbringing. For us, that means we both do the work.
I didn’t always feel this way. When I was younger, long before I had children, I thought I would likely be a stay-at-home mom, and whatever partner I had would work, much like my father did, leaving the kid-raising to me. I liked the idea of having more control when it came to the kids, and I didn’t mind that more control would also mean more responsibility. But that was a long time ago, and these days, I feel differently. I have an amazing partner and co-parent, and I think that we both deserve equality within our parenting relationship.
My partner and my child are both amazing people. In fact, they are probably my two favorite people in the world. And they deserve to have a robust and strong relationship with each other. But that can’t happen if I’m doing the majority of the parenting, can it? Kids learn to trust and count on the people who take care of them, so it’s important to me (and I think it’s important to my wife, too!) that our baby have as near as possible to equal time with both of us.
We both work hard for our family in a variety of ways, so there’s no reason one of us should be saddled with the majority of the childcare labor. I work as a freelance writer and also as a housewife, and both of those things have just as much value as my wife’s job, even if they don’t always bring in the same amount of money.
Many of the families we know with different divisions of labor often end up frustrated. The parent who does less of the childcare feels frustrated that the kids “don’t like them as much,” the kids feel stressed when they're in the care of the secondary parent, and the primary parent is just so burned out and exhausted they can’t enjoy their time with family. I know that this isn't the norm by any means, but even so, it's not a reality I ever want for us. Having a more equitable parenting arrangement enriches all of our lives, and makes our family unit stronger.
And beyond that, we both decided to make this human together, so that’s how we raise him.
It is absolutely heartbreaking that the person who actually got me pregnant, supported me through pregnancy and birth, and has worked her ass off to take care of our child is often asked asinine questions like, “Oh, so does that make you like a step-parent?”
It’s not like I’m just sitting on my butt hanging out while my wife is caring for our son. The fact that I don’t work outside of the home does not negate the fact that I am working. We both work hard for our family in a variety of ways, so there’s no reason one of us should be saddled with the majority of the childcare labor. I work as a freelance writer and also as a housewife, and both of those things have just as much value as my wife’s job, even if they don’t always bring in the same amount of money. It’s ridiculous to assume that I would do more parenting and she would do less simply because she works outside of our home and I don’t.
And furthermore, we handle every other aspect of our relationship with a focus on equality and balance, so why should parenting be any different?
We also happen to be a queer family. And while I would argue that it is just as important for fathers to be equally engaged with their children and that heterosexual mothers need parenting equality just as badly as I do, that does color our own personal experiences. There are many, many people in the world who may not see my wife as a full parent, even though she totally is. It is absolutely heartbreaking that the person who actually got me pregnant, supported me through pregnancy and birth, and has worked her ass off to take care of our child is often asked asinine questions like, “Oh, so does that make you like a step-parent?” Thus far the only real way I've found to counter any of that is by defying it. When my wife is a fully-equal parent, when she’s the one who reads our son his bedtime story, when she’s the one who carries him into the doctor’s office, we’re able to show through actions what people don’t often care to hear in words: She is his mother. She is engaged in mothering just as fiercely and completely as I am.
So yes, I do insist upon only doing half of the parenting labor. It’s a value that is important to me personally, but it’s also one that I believe makes my entire family stronger. And in the long run, we all win when we insist upon living our values.