Released On 23rd Oct 2020
Caroline P's blog: Division of Labour
Since our au pair left us at the beginning of lockdown, my partner and I have tried hard to share the family and home responsibilities. I know that his intentions are good – but I also know that we haven’t succeeded, and both acknowledge that I do the bulk of the work – mentally and physically - to keep this family and household ticking over.
I’ve read a lot of articles recently that suggest I am not alone - that this pandemic has disproportionally affected working mothers, with them doing more at home than fathers, and that their performance at work can be perceived more negatively because of their caregiving responsibilities. The hope that many of us had at the beginning of the pandemic that everyone working from home would level the playing ground a bit – no more presenteeism, both parents at home to shoulder the responsibilities – don’t appear to have come to fruition.
When I was thinking about this, and pondering this blog, I remembered returning to work after my first maternity leave. Having spent maternity leave in the home, and thus taking the bulk of the at-home responsibilities, I worried that these would remain on my plate when I was back in the office full-time. So, in what my friends thought was a spectacularly unromantic and bossy move, I wrote out a list of what we needed to do to keep the house and family in order, and how we would get those things done. It was actually easy – with our schedules, we had already planned to split the morning or evening routine, which allowed one of us to get into the office early, while the other got our daughter ready and dropped off at childcare, and vice versa in the evenings, each day of the week. With the list in place, it just meant that the morning routine was the same for whoever was doing it that day – dishwasher, get the kid dressed, put a load of laundry on - likewise, the evening - bedtime routine, hang out laundry, start dinner. While plenty would baulk at this prescription, I knew that for me to be happy and functioning in our relationship, we needed to have equitable home workloads and this “list” laid it all out on the table.
Fast forward through a decade of juggling different methods of childcare and flexible working, and that initial division of responsibilities has fallen by the wayside. As this pandemic way of life continues, and with all the anxieties that seem to go hand in hand with it, I’m beginning to feel a little bit burnt out. Writing this blog has made me examine what I’m feeling and, as a result, I’ve made a promise to myself to create that list again. With both of us in the home and no consistent childcare outside of school, it’s going to be a hell of a lot longer than it used to be, but if it means we more equally share the load, I think it’s time well spent.
Caroline works in communications for an investment manager and lives in London with her husband, 11 year old daughter, 7 year old son and - until COVID-19 - an au pair who kept the wheels of the house turning.