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For the last week, I was out of town traveling on business. Upon my return, the number one refrain I have heard from mothers and fathers alike was this: Who took care of your kids in your absence?
The answer is easy: my husband. Last I checked, I was married to a man who also has a busy and demanding career, but who allows me to do the things I need to do (and want to do) for work because my career is important to him, too. Of course, the question is so much more complicated. Why is this even being asked?
Never once in all the years we have had children has anyone ever asked my husband on a business trip who is taking care of his kids. It's assumed that I, his wife and the mother of our children, am at home, toiling away with the babes. So why don't I get that same expectation?
The reality is, even in the most enlightened marriages with full equality, most people think the mother takes the lion share of childcare responsibilities. But, um, not in mine. Honestly. My kids would probably rather have my husband than me on any given day. Is that really so shocking?
My husband and I truly split the childcare (and other) duties. He often takes snow days, sometimes even sick days, and we try to divide up drop-offs and pick-ups in an equitable way. While this might be unusual, I know we aren't the only ones who live this way. So why is it so shocking to imagine he MIGHT be able to hold down the fort in my absence?
The reality is, I am no better equipped to care for my kids or do anything else around the house than he is. A friend recently gave me the best marriage advice I could imagine: "No two people can stand up in the boat at the same time." This was referring to two career families, but it applies to everyone. When one person is standing up, the other has to do their best to hold the base and keep it steady.
THIS is a good marriage. This is a marriage of two partners and it's the marriage we should assume everyone is in. Otherwise, how depressing is that? Why should one person bear the brunt of all the home life while the other can do whatever they want. It doesn't work that way and it isn't healthy.
At best, marriage is a partnership between two equals. Anything less is unfortunate and shouldn't be assumed to be the norm. So, the person who is taking care of our kids? Is their dad. He isn't a "babysitter." He is their parent. And he is just as capable as I.
Do you ever get asked this question?