Work Life Balance

Co-Parenting Means Forgetting The Gender Roles, Not Flipping Them

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My husband and I never set out to be a model for co-parenting. As a woman who started out as a single mother, I was pretty comfortable raising my daughter all on my own. My husband is helpful and hard-working by nature, so he sees jobs and completes them. We never discussed splitting the household work or who was in charge of which chores. We just take care of the house, our daughter and each other.

Then, my work hours got longer. My days became a little more stressful. I started working after we put our daughter to bed, instead of helping with the laundry or the dishes. My husband took over bath time, to give me another half hour or so to get some work done. After his own twelve-hour shift, he would take Brenna to the park, so I could have some quite time to decompress and then work some more.

My husband took on all these extra duties without a single complaint. He doesn’t make passive-aggressive comments about all my time spent working. He never whines about making dinner four nights a week. He just picks up the slack, shrugging me off any time I try to thank him. “You’re doing a lot too, babe,” he’ll tell me.

I’m pretty sad that I missed last week’s meeting here at Mommyish, because I guess the topic of co-parenting came up. Koa Beck, our deputy editor, wrote that she was disappointed to hear that many couples who co-parent have trouble with resentment and anger over the set-up. I understand what she means, because it’s upsetting to hear that gender equality might make things more difficult. But I think that looking at this as a gender equality issue might be part of the trouble for those families.

In my house, my husband and I don’t think of ourselves as progressives because he does the laundry while I work late. We’re a team. We’re a couple who works together to take care of our home. In a month from now, when I have more time at home, I’ll be able to cook dinner every night. It’s something that I’m really looking forward to. And having the wife cook dinner will not mean that we’ve stopped co-parenting. Gender equality doesn’t mean that the husband does all the traditional household duties while the wife brings home the bacon. Co-parenting means that as a couple, you do whatever is necessary to help each other, completely disregarding specific gender roles and instead focusing on what makes your house happiest.

Equality isn’t found in who does the vacuuming and dusting, it’s how you look at your partner and your relationship. Co-parenting doesn’t mean that the gender roles are flipped, it means that you’ve stopped caring about them at all. If you’re truly practicing co-parenting, there’s no room for resentment, because that would pre-suppose that there’s a standard you should be adhering to. In our house, the only standard is that the chores get done, the little one gets taken care of and my husband and I have a little times for ourselves every once in a while.

I feel really lucky that I’ve found a partner in my marriage. I come home every day to a man who helps take care of our house and our kids, not because he’s proving a progressive talking-point but because that’s what our family needs from him right now. And if the roles were to switch anytime soon, we’d still be co-parenting. We’d still be a team, taking care of our family together.