If by any slim chance you had the slightest inkling that life with two working parents was going to be easy in any way, let me break it to you – it’s not.
Not at all.
Sure there’ll be days you two will think you’re rocking it all. You have to hold on to those days because the rest of the time it will feel like you’re trying to navigate through a field filled with grenades. One wrong step and BOOM… it all blows up!
This minefield may be the reason why a growing number of millennial men want households with a stay at home wives and mothers. I’m dismayed that 58% of senior high schoolers who prefer the man be the main income earner and the woman take care of the home (this number was 42% in 1994), but I kinda get it. There have been countless times where I’ve wished we’d open up our marriage to a third spouse – a husband, a wife, just someone who would want to stay home and take care of our family.
That’s happened on those days when we both had demanding schedules or a big presentation to give, and lo and behold you find your kid in her crib with green chunky tears streaming out of her eyes. Immediately, at least for us, we go into negotiation mode – pitching whose day is more important or tallying up the times we’ve each stayed home.
It’s been years of negotiating and we don’t have it all completely figured out, but we’ve learned a few tricks that make things work a bit smoother.
1. Sweat the small stuff
Before kids, the whole dual income household thing wasn’t very hard. If there’s an impromptu meeting at 6pm or a week full of late work nights or travel, you can easily adjust. Once kids are on the scene many of the things that make your house (and life) function can’t be ignored. Babies need diapers, they really shouldn’t eat popcorn for dinner and they go through closets of clothes in a matter of days. Plus, kids can’t commute to or from daycare on their own, and unlike small dogs, can’t be left in a crate while you head out for the night.
These and every other small detail that makes your home and life tick needs to be discussed and assigned. You can assign these as permanent roles or switch things up regularly. Whatever you choose, be sure that you stay focused on your tasks and let your partner do things as he sees fit. And, if there is too much to do, be sure to ask each other if it really needs to happen or if there is someone who can help get it done.
2. Calendar everything
Everything in my life is scheduled on my color-coded Google calendar – work meetings, workouts, nights out with friends, my girls’ swimming lessons, Frank’s travel dates. And, all of it is shared with Frank so it’s on his calendar too.
Does he really need to know when I’ll be at Pilates class? Yes, so he knows he’s on call to get our girls started on breakfast before I get back to walk them to school. I also need to know when he’s traveling so I’m sure not to plan meetings around school drop off and pick ups. It’s not enough to just schedule the time in. Each scheduled time has to include as many details as possible – location, time, who’ll be there, so there’s no fumbling around as we rush out to the birthday party. This works especially well if there’s a last minute trade and the other parent has to step in.
3. Weekly check-in
Even though Frank and I calendar everything between us, we also review the week ahead every Sunday (and sometimes more frequently). After the girls are tucked into bed we spend 10 or 15 minutes chatting about what’s coming up that week – who has early morning meetings, who has evening events, and who’ll take the girls to their activities or playdates.
Sure, these aren’t the most romantic moments of our relationship, but we usually have wine in hand. Plus, it makes the week ahead less stressful so any quiet time we do have during the week can be spent Netflixing and chilling, instead of arguing.
4. Assess and reassess
All of the tech tools, systems and processes you put in place won’t stop the shit hitting the fan every now and then . You’ll still have times where your priorities compete with your partners, or your partner will be out of town when your kid falls sick on the same day you have a big presentation. These one off events will happen.
It’s when these events begin happening frequently or when other changes happen in your life – your little one may start kindergarten or your new job comes with a longer commute – that it may be time to go back to the beginning. Assess all the small things with your partner once again and reassess how you’ll both balance everything on your plates.
These are the things that work for me, but I know they may not work for everyone. What do you do to keep you and your partner organized and coordinated when it comes to managing your family, work and life? Tell me in the comments below.