Ah - Back to Equal!
With Marc returning to the workforce this past week, we can both breathe sighs of relief. Not just for the obvious financial reasons, but because we can restore full equal sharing in our relationship.
When Marc was first laid off, it wasn't too hard to keep up our equality - apart from Marc taking on a bit more kid-care and housework. But as time dragged on, it became harder to keep up the 50/50 split. Even for us dedicated ESP practitioners! It never got so out-of-balance that we became fully entrenched in our Working Mom/SAHD roles, but we definitely gained an appreciation for how easy it is to slip into these personas. Marc slowly took on the majority of the cooking and he began to take responsibility for getting the kids ready for school most mornings while I concentrated on getting my own self ready for work. In the evenings and on weekends, I started to have a creeping guilt about not taking over all the childraising/housework so that Marc could get a break, while at the same time being resentful that I had so many other tasks to do. My Mommy-Day Fridays dissolved into yet more dual parent time with Marc simply because he was there. Both Marc and I missed our equality.
All along, we did little things to minimize this erosion. For example, we noticed what was happening to our morning routine and took some small steps to correct it by Marc take early morning bike rides on set days to get exercise and to give me some solo-parent time. We maintained our bedtime routine sharing schedule as best as possible. We parsed out weekend time for Marc-on, me-on, or both-on with the kids. We switched things up when either M or T got too used to Marc's omnipresent availability. And Marc worked really hard at finding the right job, a process we shared with the kids as much as possible.
Now that Marc is back to work, I'm feeling a bit more pressure on my days for sure - morning routines are back to being my full responsibility on set days of the week, and we can't rely on Marc to be free to run errands while I'm at work any longer. But the payoff is so much better than the pain! The guilt has disappeared. There is no more tension between us about who is doing 'more' and who is doing 'less.' We're a team again.
Looking back, it was so useful for us to go through this time. It cemented our beliefs in ESP, and our willingness to fight for it. It gave us a chance to walk the walk - to hold out for an equal partnership by choosing transient inequality and rejecting 'permanent' inequality. It helped us demonstrate to ourselves that we could hold out - that our careful financial planning would keep us from crumbling until Marc could secure a job that did indeed fit with our lives. And it demonstrated that - yes - reduced hours jobs can be found (and even for men!) if you don't give up. We would have searched longer than 11 months if necessary, but we hope that someday finding a company that believes in something other than the mighty 40-hour work week doesn't require this long.