By Demetria Gallegos
- Everett Collection
- Parents fall into roles within the household. How hard is it to change them?
When my daughters ask what’s for dinner, I have the extreme pleasure of saying, “I don’t know.” Because I rarely do. Their dad makes almost every meal, usually from scratch, and in his hands, it’s tasty, economical and healthful.
John’s reign as Meal Parent began almost 16 years ago, shortly after our oldest was born. When Jamie was ready for solids, she got home-made baby food, which made other mothers in our playgroup feel a little insecure. I don’t remember ever asking him to be in charge of meals, but he was good at it, and – as the parent at home – he felt it was his responsibility.
At the time, with just one little baby, I never would have imagined who I have become. Turns out, I’m in charge of Homework, Housekeeping, Photos and Tech Support.
I never understood how unrelenting the chores of parenthood would be, and how we would naturally fall into these roles. It’s beautiful when it works (did I mention he’s also Laundry, Shopping and Dishes Parent? – I know, I hit the jackpot).
But sometimes you have to take on jobs that no one wants. Midnight Parent, to help the child with the bad stomach. Sewage Clean-Up Custodian, after a basement shower drain kept exploding. Bug Killer. Shoveling the Driveway for Three Days After a Blizzard to Extricate the Cars Parent. You step up when duty calls. Every time these roles are invoked, I reflect anew with deep humility on how single parents do it.
I wrote this week about how John has been Pet Parent all these years, and how I considered challenging his primacy when one of the girls set her heart on adopting a cat. In the end, I chose not to, in part because of my respect for the thoughtful process he has gone through with the girls to evaluate different potential pets and our ability to care for them well. It’s always been his turf.
But things are changing and roles are shifting as our daughters get older, and we all become more mindful of how entrenched these patterns have become.
Propelling the four of them through homework can still be onerous, but increasingly, they track their own responsibilities and progress.
The girls and I have finally begun to feel guilty about leaving dishes in the sink, and realize how much John has been spoiling us.
One of our girls is very interested in cooking, and has begun trying recipes on us – to our delight. We need more of that to happen. And, in truth, I should probably make more than the occasional grilled cheese.
Jugglers, which parent are you? What do you think of the division of labor? Would you set up things differently if you were starting over again?
Ron Asks: “How do you divide the parenting roles in your household?”