Amy Downes gives some advice to working dads on the best ways to support their partners while juggling work, family life and quarantine
One of the reasons I’m marrying my partner this summer (hopefully), is the fact we make such a good team. Bear with me, the rest of this article isn’t this soppy…
When it comes to the kids, the housework, the cooking and more, we’re pretty good at dividing the responsibilities fairly.
The same goes for our work: Luke’s income is the one we survive on, so it is that which generally takes priority. But he respects and supports my own career goals and makes sure we make time for me to focus on that too.
Of course, in recent weeks, this delicate balance has been tested to the limit.
A short while ago our six-month-old son, James, had a high temperature and seemed to be in a lot of discomfort. After a day of worrying I called Luke and said I thought it was best that we self-isolate. So, by the time Boris Johnson had called a country-wide lockdown, we had already been cut off from the world for a week and were getting used to this quarantine malarkey.
We’re all having to adapt to these new working conditions very quickly, but us working parents are having to do it with the added pressure of looking after our kids at the same time. We’ve become not only parents who are working full time, but teachers, cleaners, cooks and entertainers. And there is absolutely no respite – I really miss escaping to the pub!
So, what are my tips for surviving this period as a couple?
Before I begin, I know that I am massively stereotyping gender roles here, and with those I mean no offence.
I know not all husbands are guilty of these mistakes, and I appreciate the things that every one of you does. But the truth is, these are the things us mums are all moaning about on our WhatsApp groups.
I’m giving you a heads up and letting you in on our little secrets!
That bag of crisps you just finished: put it in the bin. As women, we are not genetically conditioned to go around and tidy up after all the men in our life after we’ve given birth. It’s bad enough tidying up after the little ones all day long, don’t add to it.
This is a really easy win, so take note.
Every time you walk into a room, look around for what might need doing. Is the floor getting too dirty for the baby to crawl on? Did the toddler tidy up his toys yesterday (the answer to that one is always, ‘no’)?
And every time you leave a room, look to see if there’s anything you can take with you. Going to the kitchen? Take the dirty glasses through to the sink. Going to the bedroom? Take freshly done ironing with you.
By this, I don’t just mean playing with the kids (which is important), I mean get involved with the plans for the day.
My other half is easy-going and has taken a ‘let’s see how things go’ approach to our days. But inevitably he becomes disappointed that there hasn’t been time for him to work or read.
When the rugrats are around, everything takes ten times as long and there is no end of emergencies to mess up your timetable. So, chat with her, let her know what you need to do each morning and make suggestions for things to do as a family.
At the moment your partner is likely to be worrying about lots of things: the kids, the virus, the house, her work, the next food shop, those plans she had for next month that she has had to cancel and so on. All of that is going to bubble over at times and, seeing as you’re the person she’s closest to (both physically and emotionally), it’ll be you that she takes it out on.
If she nags, if she gets cross, if she swears and shouts, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t appreciate the things you are doing for her – it just means she’s tired and she needs wine. Or chocolate.
If something is upsetting you, tell her. I don’t know about you, but the person I turn to when I’m feeling low is my other half, and that is even more important now.
Don’t bottle it up, this is an awful time for all of us and our mental health is going to suffer, so sharing our feelings will help.
Those of us with babies under one are used to being at home alone all the time. We’re used to going for hours without a drink because the little one is sleeping on us, or waiting all day to go to the toilet.
With you around we don’t have to do this. So, if she’s feeding the little one: get her a drink, make her some lunch, offer to hold the baby while she has a shower.
We need the help, but we want you to be getting what you need too. Luke and I have agreed that one person will have time in the morning to do whatever they need (shower, work, nap) and the other can take the afternoon. It’s working for us so far and it really does matter to me that he doesn’t fall behind on his work during this time. I also appreciate that he needs a break from the kids too. Is it just me, or are they getting louder and louder every day?
You can read more of Amy’s thoughts on flexible working and parenthood on her blog www.mumfullofdreams.com