Friday, 22 January 2010

Role-reversal

Since I returned to work after maternity leave for my daughter, back in the days when you got five minutes off for the whole bloat - pop - be awake non-stop procedure, my chap and I have in effect reversed traditional roles. In other words, I work full time and he (Andy) runs the home and is the main carer of our children. This is not to say he does not work outside the home. He is a musician and plays amazing classical/world/folk guitar
( http://www.myspace.com/andykirkham )
but his work at weddings, in restaurants and at private parties happens in the evenings or at weekends. I'd say 99.9% of the time the fact we are gender-muddled (!) does not put a single related thought into our heads.

To be honest, between the pair of us we could just about, possibly, if we looked really hard, lay claim to some kind of organised system somewhere in our household. Let me see……we eat every day. That’s ‘system’ enough. But since Andy has adopted the home-running role, he has become the relative expert in working out what needs to go where, why, how, when and has most ‘what ifs’ covered. I would be so bold as to say, he does a much better job than I would have done. Truth is, I am capable of returning from the park with no memory of the child I escorted there.

The times when a mummy-dad and daddy-mum in the family does cause a stir nearly always happens in the presence of those in our parents’ generation. More specifically our parents. Many times I have tried to help my mum understand by explaining that I am like her husband was and Andy has the same role as she had but there’s still a point she refuses to get. She tells me over and over that Andy is a man in a million because he cooks. I won’t depute he’s a man in a million but not because he cooks! She used to cook but she would never have described herself as a woman in a million. I guess it's because she doesn't believe you can really properly reverse roles.

And in keeping with how our parents always saw greater fault in their own children than others, to Andy’s parents, he’s simply a freak of nature. He is still regularly asked when he will get a proper job.

One thing I do miss out on though is the camaraderie felt through female martyrdom. When asked by a neighbour with a knowing and sympathetic look if I was ‘ready for Christmas’ (eye roll, sigh, puff, shake of head, look of despair) a few days before blast off, I was tempted to reply, ‘I don’t know, I’d have to ask Andy.’ I cannot share this distress because I don’t have it. When females congregate at a social gathering around the washing up and have a little moan about their lot, I feel phony and want to send Andy in to replace me. He’s busy in the living room trying to work out the offside rule. Again my mother revels in my lack of 'lot'. In the presence of my sister – who is the main carer for her children – I am often told that ‘I wouldn’t understand’ when Claire is having a well-earned break from looking after the children.

I do also wonder if there will be any lasting impact on our kids. Will my daughter want to find a man to look after her children and will my son think it strange if he finds himself in the world of work? Our set-up is actually still relatively rare but for us it has worked really well. Actually I should not be so hasty - I had better check Andy agrees with that statement - after he's sorted the laundry, hoovered, written his shopping list and mopped the floor. However, I will admit I do sometimes wish I was at home full time with my kids. With Andy too of course, as I certainly would still need some main caring. Here’s to the windfall that will realise this!

21 comments:

  1. Believe me, you are NOT missing out on female camaraderie round the washing up! Do you want to talk about getting ready for Christmas, what size clothes your children are wearing, what you're going to put in the party bags, goose fat versus lard for roast potatoes...?!!

    My suggestion - go part-time - have the best of both worlds! I would go part-time working now if I thought my husband could do part-time householding. This is not a gender thing - just a him thing! I know I'm a bit of a control freak but I came downstairs this morning after a day of illness in bed yesterday and found a war zone. He entirely lacks the "look behind yourself" gene which means that he if he opens a cupboard door, he doesn't close it, if he has a bath, he leaves the water in, if he takes his coat off, he drops it on the floor right there. Truly unbelievable. Definitely part of his brain missing.

    Sorry, I have used your blog comments to get something off my chest! Feel a bit better for it though xxx

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  2. goose fat claire (being chief cook and bottle washer and a kitchen control freak), I also now feel I'm not as terrible around the house as I thought I was...

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  3. There, I made myself and Nick feel better all in the one moan.

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  4. People's attitudes are so odd. Mr FF is years younger than me - 16 to be precise - and (another gasp coming up) we met in a chat room (but not deliberately - I had lost my way en route to a bichon frise chat room)and it seemed to be a main talking point for a long time amongst family and friends. Twelve years on we don't think anything of it - just as you and Nick don't with your set up.

    My dad was a musician and my mum's mantra was 'never marry a musician'. She got fed up with being alone night after night. I should think however you are so tired after a day Being Molly Potter that you do not mind too much

    Are you on Facebook?

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  5. It doesn't surprise me that your man is as equally multi-talented as you. Beautiful music.:-))
    I'm sure that because your arrangment works so well for you all and allows you both to have careers it must be a great thing for the whole family.
    good on ye.
    :-)

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  6. Who cares what people think!! And what's the 'norm' nowadays anyway?

    I was more than happy to tell people that I wasn't in the least stressed out about Christmas dinner because Chris was cooking it!! I was also amused at the looks of envy I got too :-). We share what needs to be done.....depending on who feels like doing what and who's around at the time! If we had kids and it worked for us I'm sure he would have no problem staying home and looking after them...

    Right, I'm now off to have a listen to your man's music...

    C x

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  7. Different roles;equal worth.

    That is our motto in a very traditional household - but I'd still hold it if the roles were reversed.

    And as for cooking - well, I'm a dab hand as they say up north.

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  8. At the end of the day, whatever works is good, huh?

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  9. Yes, you are on Facebook. I sat listening to Andy singing 'Goydiatodam' as I did a search for him on FB and then found you. His guitar playing is amazing - it reminds me a bit of good old Richard Thompson.

    Friend request pending

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  10. I do all the cooking and clear up after myself in the kitchen, because I am a kitchen Nazi, the other half of the partnership, can cook, but generally it tends to be survival food, having said that she makes much better lasagne than I do, and her cakes are brilliant where as mine aren't. We both clean and stuff, she does more of it, as I'm full time at work, it always looks better when Jen does it for some reason, less smeary worktops etc. I am better at "deep cleaning"... ie when bad things have happened. I'm also much better at undoing screws and general electrocuting myself. It usually balances out, except when it doesn't, but I usually knwo about that quite quickly.

    he is good that Andy, is it tonight he's playing Molly, I think i am babysitter in chief, so I can't make it in all probability, *sigh*

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  11. Claire - I suspect I don't have the 'look behind me' gene - nor Andy or our kids. Is that why we don't know what colour the floor is or have any notion that a floor is meant to be flat? Perhaps the 'look in front of me gene' is failing to shine through too. I suggest you come and be our housemaid.
    and
    Again no charge.

    Nick - I have never had potatoes done in goose fat. Now where do I go with that - see I would be rubbish at 'hovering around the washing up' chit chat.

    Claire - good job there is no charge because I would be unsure as to who owes whom by now.

    FF - I would see people that judged us for our role reversal as 'probably not our cup of tea' so it's a good filtering process. I guess you can't do that with family - and that's really the only place we do feel judged - hey ho. Well done you - rescued from your disorientation in Cyberland by someone 16 years your junior - that's beautiful. Yes on FB and we are connected - but as I said, you'll only find my sensible, serene and sombre side on there. Andy's out tonight playing......guitar widow that I am.

    Clippa - Thank you lovely. yes. His guitar stuff is very important to him.

    Carol - it's just those pesky parents that know how to get under your skin and press all your buttons (because they put the buttons there in the first place). One flick of my mum's 'what a disappointment' eyes and I am crippled. I exaggerate!

    Mark - actually cooking seems to be the task that does quite readily get handed over to the chap. Goose or lard?

    Mr Type Junky - a case of collective best feet forward. I get the nits out the the kids hair, wash up and over-cuddle and tickle the kids - that plays to my strengths. Andy's only doing a few numbers at Wensum Lodge...with his band (Eastern Stray Notes) and Sebastiana. They'll be many more opportunities...

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  12. Sorry typejunky is Nick, I just normally forget to log in!

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  13. I knew that.
    Dang! You've blown the appearance of me having lots of different followers!

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  14. Compared to Jim, you are looking behind you eagle-eyed! There are not only systems in your house but I have seen you and Andy in action maintaining them! I should have taken more notice of the signs when I met him: We never went to his room because it had mouldy cornflake bowls, hundreds of little tiny notebooks with only the first two pages written in scattered everywhere and blood up the wall (which he never explained). I have progressed from: Trying to train him, to walking behind him undoing his chaos and tutting loudly, to undoing his chaos and focusing on his good points! He is a very personally clean man at least!

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  15. Wot?? Fake followers? Whatever next??

    Is there such a thing as rôle reversal, since it assumes some kind of sexual stereotyping?

    Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
    His wife could eat no lean,
    And so betwix't them both,
    They licked the platter clean.

    Let each contribute according to their talents.

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  16. The lasting impact on your children?

    That we do what we do the best way we know how to do it, and we get it done.

    Lovely lesson.

    Pearl

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  17. Claire - name that system. Appreciate the personal hygiene while it lasts xxx

    Codgi - yes I see myself as the fat eating wife of Jack Sprat...that suits me well. I had better start finding some talents to put into the pot then! Duck? Chit chat chit chat.....lard or goose, goose or lard and I can say with authority...definitely duck - kudos through the roof. Thank you.

    Potty Pearl (check out her bloggy madness) Yes - Andy does it all. Best way. See you offered me something thoughtful and I did flippant - our own role reversal.

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  18. Systems I have seen in action in your house: CDs (verging on anal), toiletries, clothes (very neat), recycling, books, art, food cupboards...endless in fact! These, interestingly, are all areas (apart from perhaps toiletries and books which are slightly organized) where I have chaos rather than systems. Perhaps that's why I notice them! Our venn diagram does not overlap on system areas clearly! My systems tend to be more invisible - in how I approach things rather than in the physical world! xxx

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  19. That list made me glow with pride and temporarily made me feel like I might be an organised and tidy person. I do aspire to be so. And then I looked at my 'art system' i.e. a desk next to this computer desk. It has on it...
    a lamp, a telephone (good so far), a bauble, about 30 acrylic paint pots - lids all off, some funky foam - cut and scattered, some sparkly wrapping ribbon - knotted up, glitter - some in pots, some scattered over the desktop, a book on personality, my work notebook, a complex diagram showing the interelation between causes and effects of poverty, some tinsel, a toy car, some ruined paintbrushed becaause I forgot to rinse them, a toilet roll, a book on moral problems, a book of pastels - unopened, tweezers, a pile of miscellaneous books, photos and paper, wire (somewhat unravelled), a bit of screwed up newspaper, an empty tuperward pot - not lid, a full tupperward box (for shoving stuff in),several bits on the floor bacause the desk can't hold it all and absolutely no workable surface space. I will shove the stuff a bit when I need some and all will be well.

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  20. Well, that's what art is all about - what kind of artist would you be if you had a systemized art table?! I think you should be very proud of yourself xxx

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