Updated: Sep 17, 2020
3 practical tips to start sharing childcare responsibilities so you can both thrive at work.
Ok, so this is going to be a short blog post. Why? Because I've got shit to do. Like, lots of it.
I have to finish making dinner, get the kids lunches packed, fill out the school pictures form, figure out if my son is doing band this year, and text back the mom-group to see if I missed anything else.
There is so much talk in the news right now about how the pandemic is disproportionately affecting working moms, since women often burden more of the childcare responsibilities.
Several years ago, I would have been someone standing at the top of a virtual soapbox agreeing and complaining that this was holding us back.
Except I had an epiphany several years back: how in the hell can my husband help when I am such a sh*tty leader at home?
I had become a great leader at work. I finally learned that I couldn't do everything myself. I had learned the power of investing in, and inspiring, others. I had finally figured out to get big results by empowering those around me. Not by doing it all myself.
But at home? Eh, not so much.
And you didn't have to look far to find evidence of my sh*tty home leadership. There were mom texts that contained the golden keys to all the kids' activity information. There were school emails that only went to me. There were birthday parties and play-dates planned without my husband even having a clue they were happening.
Yet I was often frustrated that I had to "do it all."
I was actually running with a friend last week and this was one of the first things she mentioned that morning. School, in all its weirdness this year, had kicked back off and she felt like she was shouldering way too much of the burden, while her husband got to sit back and just...work.
Being my friend is mostly great, but there can be moments when it's not quite glamorous. I've become incessantly focused on not resting on our problems or limiting factors and more and more on focused on, "Okay, so what can YOU do to make it better?"
(and yes, I also need this tough love from others - hence why I currently have three different coaches to do the same to me!)
So I asked her, "Do you ask him to take the lead on some of this stuff?" Her answer? "Well, not really."
Imagine now that this was your employee. You're running a huge project and Joe joined just your team. You're ticked off because Joe isn't pulling his weight. But Joe hasn't been invited to any of the meetings, wasn't briefed on the project, and has no clue what his role is.
Ladies, the truth is we're often a 150 mph train that's pretty hard to jump on. We have to be a leader even (especially) at home.
When I realized this, it was life changing. How can he help if he has no frickin' clue what's happening, the information he needs, and a role in it all? (and yes, I am still working hard on this. I assure you, my husband and I are no puke-me model of perfection here.)
So what do you do? Well, overall you apply some of the same things you've learned to do to be a great leader. But that's pretty elusive.
So I'll also give you three practical tips to start leading at home.
Divide and conquer. This has been one of our best techniques. And I wish I could say I orchestrated it all, but it largely fell into place. I now handle much of the school stuff, and my husband handles much of the sport stuff. And if you're thinking I got the shorter straw, my son plays hockey (nuff said, right?) and soccer.
Think about what natural divide there might be. It could be that he takes on child and you take the other (or a couple each if you're crazy enough to have more than two children!) Or maybe it's that he handles the morning school routine and you handle the evening. By creating some sort of clear-ish divide, you don't have to stumble over who's responded, added things to the calendar, paid the bills, etc.
Get and use a shared calendar. I'm guessing many of you have some sort of shared calendar. If you don't, I highly recommend the Cozi app. It not only has a shared calendar but also shared lists and other functionality. I'll never forget the first time we used it. I put a grocery list together, and my husband came home later that day with the groceries I had put on the app. I think that was the first and last time that happened, but I still fell in love, with the app, that day.
We now use the calendar for everything: sporting events, birthday parties, school picture days. When something is happening, 9 times out of 10 it can be found on Cozi. Think of this as your Slack channel for your big KCA project (Keep Children Alive.)
Encourage and appreciate each other. This is so "duh" and yet so often not done. Just like in the working world, not much fuels people more than feeling valued and having their good work recognized. It's no different at home. Remember to thank your spouse for something they've handled - directly and in front of others. There's nothing more powerful than doing this in front of your children, especially your sons, to start to model to them what good home leadership and partnership looks like!
Like I said before, this is still a total work in process for me. And I can say, without a doubt, we've come a long way in the last few years.
I encourage you to slow down, bring your partner on the train, divide and conquer, and don't settle for anything less than a true partnership. These are tough times, and we don't know when they'll get any easier. But they also can be a time that forces you to make positive changes as well.