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!