I’m not versed in the practice of law, but it’s my understanding that all lawyers have to account for every minute of their time which is billed to their clients thereupon.
I’m beginning to think that parenthood should follow a similar path to put pay to the age-old argument of equity.
Equity in division of solo parenting duties. Equity of time out.
This has always been a bone of contention in our house and from discussion with many other mums, it not an uncommon source of discontent.
Firstly let me state my position. I was lucky to be able to give up work and become sole carer for Harry. I sacrificed my salary and my career, of which I had invested twenty years, to be a stay-at-home mum. I do consider my new role a full-time position, despite the fact my recruitment was an investment in love.
I am aware that my husband works very hard to provide for us and has the sole responsibility of the mortgage on his head as well as keeping a rather high-maintenance mumma happy. That is quite some pressure and I am eternally grateful.
His working hours are fairly defined. He clocks in at 8:40 and clocks off between 5-6. Weekends are then his own – there are 4-5 hours of golf on a Saturday and on a Sunday. The rest of the weekend is divided in to family time and time for me.
Monday, Tuesday and Friday he gets 7:30-8:30am to practice putting in the garage before work. Wednesday and Thursday I have this time to go for a run. Are you keeping up with workforce practices thus far? I’ll continue.
My working hours are less defined. You could say I am on ‘duty’ from 7am (or whenever the Wrigglato wakes) til 7:15pm from when he goes down. Pre-lockdown 3.0 I had the freedom of 15 hours of preschool but as of December 17th, nada (that’s 48 days of 24/7 mumming in case you were curious)
The biggest angst seems to come from those grey areas in between. Where ‘work hours’ and just plain old parenting seem to overlap.
How many times have ‘discussions’ started with “but you had 13 minutes to go and do…”. You don’t round it to the nearest 10. No. It was 13 whole minutes.
I need to be fair and just. I do get time to myself. The blissful start to the day with a run and a shower 4x a week. How many mums get the luxury of uninterrupted shower time? This is a gift from the gods.
Then there’s the occasional “you take twenty minutes” during the working week.
At the weekends run, shower and me time are all mentally clocked in by the husband to help him justify the garden golf exodus.
But what isn’t clocked are the little pockets he squirrels away. The multiple minutes he quietly steals outside of the regular routine. But don’t think they’ve gone unnoticed. Oh no my friend, your clocking card is marked. This is a time felony of criminal proportions.
Exhibit A: Lay in
There isn’t a neat pattern to the Wrigglato’s waking. It can be anywhere between 6:20-7:15. But one thing my legal eye has spotted is the pattern to the husbands rousing.
When the little man wakes, it’s inevitably me that goes in to get him. I won’t lie, I love those sleepy snuggles first thing, a little hot, limpet burying his head in the crook of your neck.
I take him down to get the porridge on, whack on some Bing, feed the cats, make a coffee, perhaps unload the dishwasher or start a load of washing.
All this time, where is the husband? In bed. You can bet your bottom dollar there will be a minimum of twenty minutes before he shuffles in to the kitchen to drink his pint of water in quiet contemplation, to get his stretchy bands down and carry out his morning stretches and to make his breakfast. Quiet contemplation – this really is living the dream.
May I stress, dependent on Harry’s time of waking, this is twenty minutes already in the bag before the day has really started.
Exhibit B: Toilet Time
The pattern of lockdown has been that we have a family snack pot break at about 10ish. Harry and I have some fruit and husband will have a chunky Kitkat (that I have now managed to tune out of my field of vision to save me from lockdown enlargement) and a Diet Coke.
It’s a short little interlude in our day from which Harry and I swiftly continue in to some kind of craft carnage or play mayhem.
But it has been clocked that husband does not trot straight back to the heady world of investment banking. He is not immediately on the phone to the office in Paris nor emailing Boston. No. There is a detour, via the toilet.
What is this strange phenomenon with men? How can they sit on the porcelain throne for onwards of quarter of an hour? Surely there are more pleasant places to contemplate life and the universe, or scroll Twitter and golf sites? I will dwell on this no more but have it noted that a further fifteen minutes of alone time are chalked up.
Exhibit C: Lunch
Everyone needs a lunch break. Sustenance is key to survival, especially when you have the weight of a household on your working shoulders. I have a lunch break. Actually no, I have lunch. And here lieth the next and most audacious thievery of time.
At lunchtime I basically resemble a Hindu god with many arms I’m moving so fast. I’ll be trying to butter little’s bagel whilst stopping the cats from jumping up to sneak a lick. I’ll be turning on the oven to whack in a sweet potato whilst pinging my beans in the microwave, pouring some water, moving his table out, chopping up some cucumber in a nod to five-a-day, locating the hummus he demands and when I finally get to sit down and eat that’s when you hear “mummy can you wipe my bum, I did a poopy!”
All the while husband is on his lunch ‘ hour.’ Fifty-five minutes of this are taken outside in the garden or garage. Here he will set up all his equipment to measure his swing, his trajectory and whatever other things golfers need to measure. He will be in and out retrieving tripods to film the action for evening time critique. And after a vigorous daily session of swinging his club, he’ll nip in for a tuna sandwich.
Whilst rinsing potties and wiping hummus off the four corners of the kitchen I get to watch him indulge in his true passion. In the open air. Uninterrupted.
So that’s an hour. A full sixty minutes we are banking.
Exhibit D: Sneaky
I’ll not spend too much time on this one but be aware husband, having the luxury of an office door does not always save you from prying eyes.
I’m sure this is not too regular. But on occasion I have been known to enter the work domain with a question, only to find the husband on his iPad and the office sofa. I’m usually met with indignant cries of “my computer is loading up” but the face tells me all I need to know. The look of a boy caught with his hand in the sweet jar. You protest too much. I’m adding a default of five minutes to your card sir.
Don’t get me wrong. My days are punctuated by me sitting back, playing on my phone whilst the little man watches trains whizz again, and again, and again. I occasionally nip to the loo at warp speed. I will enjoy a coffee. But that time is never quite my own.
But husband, as you quote the 13 minutes I had at the weekend to dry my hair and get dressed, let us examine your time card. An additional one-hundred minutes a day of time to yourself (I’ve been generous to not include the morning water and stretch routine). That’s five hundred minutes a week. Yes, Eight hours and twenty minutes a week you have sneakily stolen back . And then you need your golf time.
Lawyers bill for their time. How about we settle on ten minutes for me to eat my lunch without a code brown and one day a week where I get the twenty minutes in the morning whilst you get up and feed the feral. And if you’re feeling generous can you chuck in a daily toilet break for good behaviour?
Do you manage an equitable division of me-time in your house. If you’ve any tips on how to address the challenge without sounding petty, please pop it in the comments! And know, your other half is allllllways watching.