Equality in parenting, a Women’s Day ramble reprised

Women's Day

Today is Women’s Day in South Africa. Last year, I wrote about it while pregnant, wondering how much equality there was in parenting. It was sort of a wondering blog, about feminism and parenting. I wondered just how much of the burden would be on me, just how much of the childcare would fall to me, and just how equal I could expect things to be even with the most loving and awesome husband. A year later, I have some answers, although I expect the answers will continue to change in the coming years.

So far, I do the lion’s share of the parenting. When Harley cries in the middle of the night, I’m always the one to take care of her. A big part of that is that I’ve got the boobs. I’m the only one in the marriage who is uniquely equipped to feed and soothe her. We tried the pumping thing, but once Harley started latching on the boob, she really and truly hated the bottle, so it simply isn’t a solution for us. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some form of equality in how Dean and I handle things.

Yes, I’m Harley’s primary care giver. I am the only one on night duty with her, plus I spend most of my day with her. While Dean is at work, I change her nappies, feed her, play with her and generally just have a day together while I also somehow manage to get my work done. It’s a difficult balancing act, but we make it work. But, that doesn’t mean that Dean doesn’t do anything. Especially in recent months as Harley has become more interactive and less of a bundle of hunger and cries, Dean will take her for chunks of time. I get to shower in the evenings, or write my blogs, or just have some time in my own head. He will look after her, whether playing on the computer with her on his lap, or hanging out on the couch together, or whatever else. So I do get some time in the day to not hold her – as much as I adore her, it’s nice to have time in the day without a body on me.

The same goes for weekends and public holidays. But the biggest way Dean helps is by looking after me. Yup, that seems to be our answer to the equality thing. I might be the one who looks after Harley a lot of the time, but then Dean will organize dinner, or brings me drinks and snacks while I breastfeed.

Equality is such a strange thing when it comes to parenting because physiologically we’re so different. I’m the only one who can nurse Harley, and for a time I seemed to be able to read her better. I’m also able to calm her more easily at times – although lately with her waking up screaming from every sleep, he is also helping with the necessary comfort-duty. I also enjoy all the silly parenting stuff; I have fun playing with her, or dressing her, or bathing her. We both enjoy making her laugh, chatting to her, watching her play or eat. But Dean can throw her around in ways I wouldn’t dare but that she adores. He can tickle or twist her in ways that are so great for her, and that make her laugh and grab his beard and have a ball.

We are so different in what we can do for Harley, and there are times when it feels like there’s no equality. There were days or weeks when I felt like I was doing everything. But Dean is so good to me, and that’s what makes all the difference. Even when he couldn’t do that much to help with Harley, he would tell me I was beautiful and wonderful, he would organize our food, or do the laundry, or set me up on the couch with good TV and food while nursing. He made sure that I was well taken care of so that I could take care of the spawnling. And already I see that he’s able to do more and more. I wouldn’t be surprised if by next year he’s able to spend way more time taking care of her – watching Disney stuff together, playing outside, running around, doing projects together. She is growing up so fast, and our roles keep changing every day.

So happy Women’s Day. There is still plenty of hope for us ladies, the good feminists and the bad ones, to find a balance that works for us inside of parenthood. Now excuse me, I’m off to go join them in the living room and enjoy my public holiday.

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