Before I start, I should probably warn you that this article contains some sweeping generalisations. If the following doesn’t ring true for you or your partner then bravo. Really, I’m not being sarcastic. I applaud you. But in my experience as a mum and talking to other mums on a daily basis it seems like it is a near-universal experience that parenting is still very much a woman’s job.
Actually that is probably being a little unfair. Things have moved on for most families since the days of men expecting to do little more in the raising of their children then occasionally ruffling their hair and asking them to fetch the newspaper from the doormat. Dads are definitely taking a more active role in parenting these days. A quick look on social media proves that – men are bathing their kids, taking them swimming, reading them bedtime stories, baking their birthday cakes, taking on their share of the childcare and even writing parenting blogs about their adventures.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re taking on equal share of the parenting.
Because parenting isn’t just about those visible elements, those Insta-worthy photo opportunities that will become well-cherished memories in our dotage. What about the little things? The sometimes inconsequential, often necessary but always unglamorous parenting to-dos? The hidden cogs that keep the whole wheel turning? Those are the things that seem to be a mum’s burden and hers alone.
It’s things like ensuring the kids eat their five-a-day, keeping on top of the vaccinations records, remembering that Wednesday is PE day, taking the baby to get weighed, checking shoes still fit, replacing holey tights, re-registering for free nursery hours, buying a birthday present for the party on Saturday, writing Christmas cards, stocking up on Calpol etc. etc. etc. The list is endless and punishing. I can guarantee if you could see inside a mum’s head at any one time they’d be thinking about at least thirty different things and two of them will always be school catchment areas and nits.
But why don’t men think about these things?
Why is this relentless parenting to-do list women’s work? And why do so many of us just accept that the men in our lives won’t think about all these things that need doing? They wouldn’t get away with it in their professional lives so why is it okay at home? After all some men must have to think about these things as well – single dad families and two-dad families to name two. Is it something we inadvertently teach boys as they grow up? Don’t sweat the little stuff guys, because the girls will take care of it. Is it like when you’re in the first year of Uni and you know you really should do your washing up but you also know that Sally in F12 will do it eventually so by the end of the first term you don’t even think about it anymore because your plates always end up clean?
So what if we just stopped doing the unnoticed and unappreciated parenting crap that takes up so much of our energy and time? Surely dads would have to step up then. And yes I know it’s not as easy as that. I know as well as the next mum how all-consuming and unstoppable these thoughts can be, especially at four in the morning. But something has to change. Yes, dads have upped their parenting game in the last 60 years as motherhood no longer puts an end to a woman’s professional and personal life. But it’s not enough and parenting, for most families, seems far from equal. Until every element of parenting, big and small, fun and dull, visible and invisible, is shared evenly it never will be.
We have far to go ladies and it starts with someone else remembering the library books are due back on Friday.