Everyone says that marriage is work. Children are work. Work is work. Life is work.
We are an ordinary little family—mother, father, two girls, aged 6 and 8. We live in the suburbs of a big city. Jeff teaches; I’m a writer and editor.
In the early days, Jeff’s job meant a steady income and a steady schedule. I stayed home with babies and sometimes (often) felt like I did all the work. The girls grew a little and I took on freelance jobs, which meant a little more money, but also time to run the girls to kindergarten and playgroups and swimming lessons, and still get dinner on the table. I wrote late at night, and Jeff folded laundry and learned to cook. We made it work. I returned to full-time office life and, instead of housework, I spent hours shuttling across the city on trains and busses. Jeff took up the duties I left behind me—handling the daycare run, making breakfasts, lunches and weeknight dinners, and refereeing after-school playdates. He did nearly all of the work.
The girls have grown up a little now. Jeff’s teaching life continues with all the predictability of the school calendar. My career has changed again, but it’s steady now, and also close to home. For now, we are finding our spirit level when it comes to work and life.
We work well together, most days, but as always, our approach is fluid. Our roles are not rigid—I fix things, he gets books back to the library on time. He navigates the camps and lessons sign-up, takes the car in for tune-ups, and does all the laundry. I cook company dinners, update the computer and plan the weekly grocery list. He helps with math; I dictate the dictée. We switch duties as time and urgency dictate.
I realize now that this is the work that everyone talks about. The work of children. Of making a home. Of building a marriage.
This is what a partnership looks like, too, I think. This is teamwork. And this is what we teach our daughters. They help with a growing list of duties. They set the table, put away their clothes, and ready their backpacks the night before. We teach them to be capable. To help out. To be part of a team.
Works for us.