Dad. It’s About Time.
You can interpret this statement in a whole host of different ways. That’s just why we chose to use it.
It could mean “it’s about time that Dads got more involved”, “it’s about time we gave Dads more praise”, “it’s about time we gave Dads more support”, “it’s about making quality time with Dad” or “it’s about making sure Dad gets some quality time (with or without the family)”… it just depends on your personal perspective. What does it mean to you?
This theme made me think about “everyday time”. About making time for family, to contribute at home, for work, and then trying to squeeze a little bit of non-kid play into the bargain too.
We can all agree that we’ve got pretty hectic lives these days; Dads, Mums, even the kids are rushing around growing up too quickly.
Now, I don’t want to submerge you under a big pile of statistics, but suffice to say that the role of Dad has changed over the years. In general, Dads are more involved with child care and home-making than in previous generations. Of course we’re talking in averages here, but that’s the trend (if you really want some stats it doesn’t take much searching on the internet; you could start with this Pew Research article if you’d like).
So, what’s my experience?
I consider myself and my family to be relatively progressive, in a casual, not very hipstery sort of way. I work 4 days a week and spend one day with the kids, and my wife does 3 work and 2 kids. It’s incredibly rare for either of us to miss dinner, bath, story and bedtime (I was late for 3 nights in a fortnight recently when we ran our Do Good & Do Well event. My oldest daughter didn’t let me forget it for days). And I get involved in the chores – the astute among you would have noticed that I didn’t say that we “share the chores”, this would imply it’s 50:50, and although I might kid myself that it is sometimes… it really isn’t.
And this is where things begin to look a little bit less progressive; both my wife and I clean the house, cook, do the washing, do the dishes, and do the shopping. But the greater share, and the cognitive burden, undoubtedly lies with my wife. My wife arranges all the kids clothes and sews them up when they break. She did all of the work searching for childcare, kinder, and now schools. And she always remembers to make the kids’ lunch for kinder.
I tend to look after the finances (albeit that we both have full access and visibility), make sure the bills are paid, keep the car service up-to-date, do the lion’s share of the gardening, sort any “techie” things out, and insofar as my basic skills allow me I look after the DIY jobs around the house too (a big shout out to my Father-In-Law who picks up a lot of this slack).
So, we’re hardly a classic 50’s sitcom family, but it’s not quite feminism-gone-wild either.
Then there’s the shopping.
I’m going to avoid diving into the stats again, but another quick Google search and you’ll find plenty of data that suggests that women make most of the everyday shopping decisions, such as for groceries and kids clothing (even if the blokes tend to think it’s 50:50).
For us, we share the supermarket shopping (yes, that’s right, the co-founder of a business that promotes conscious consumption shops at the supermarket sometimes. We do always take our reusable bags). But then my wife also takes the kids to the local market each week, along with a huge pile of plastic pots to get all the bulk staples, veggies and deli delights.
When it comes to making ethical shopping choices, we both roll up our sleeves and get stuck in, albeit with slightly different approaches. I tend to browse the internet (and Goodsmiths, of course!) looking for cool gifts, as well as reading up on the impact of different products – has anyone found an eco stain remover that actually removes stains? If so, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
My wife, she is more… how do I say this politely… frugal, that’s the word. She will scour the op-shops, “free to a good home” Facebook groups, and patch and repair things until they look like Granny’s quilt.
Pretty good combo really.
A good team
My wife and I do talk about these sorts of issues, we haven’t just read too many old-fashioned books to the kids and slipped back a few decades. We’re largely comfortable with the balance of responsibility (especially that day when I added some chores to the list without being asked, and then did half of them).
Have you ever had that conversation where you both start off a little annoyed at the other person for not pulling their weight, and then both end up trying to persuade the other person that they actually do quite a lot?
So the truth is, that I, like many Dads out there, might not share the load on the shopping and cleaning as much as we think we do. And we might have learnt how to carve up some of the family roles from Enid Blyton. But we play our own particular parts in this busy life pretty well… we just need to find a way to make some quality time for ourselves and our loved ones.
I’ll leave you with some parting words from Our Men, Our Shields by an organisation called First 1000 Days Australia.
“When men’s roles and responsibilities are either not acknowledged or denied, the very foundations of our societies are disrupted and our cultural ways of rearing children in nurturing homes are denied.”
So, Dad. It’s About Time. Take it. Enjoy it. And play your part as best you can.