As part of my doula prenatal visits, I try to introduce discussions about the planned methods of parenting and who will do what. Most first time couples seem to dismiss the topic. I am sure that they believe they 'have it sorted'.
What I find most interesting was recent conversations I had with friends, most of whom echoed the sentiments in the book 'The Post-Baby Conversation'.
This had me questioning why had none of us highly intelligent, strong, women had known enough (or been strong enough) to hold the 'post-baby conversation'. We clearly didn't 'have it sorted' yet!
Reading 'The post-baby conversation - What new parents need to say to each other' was a real memory jogger for me. It bought back painful memories of the period post-partum when I (like many other first time mothers) struggled with my new identity and my role in life.
Here are some excerpts from the book (for those of you with children already you may empathise):
'Motherhood strips us of our self-worth if we are not very careful and very strong... When we are not earning money and not engaging in the big wide world, when we spend our days feeling weary from the monotony of endless domesticity, it is hard to ask our 'hardworking' partner to give us a break, or to share the out of work tasks.
We become subservient beings, we make up excuses for our partner's lack of involvement, and we live with an unresolved fuzz about the privelege in our lives, on the one hand, and our demoted status on the other. If we don't value ourselves, we won't ask for equality.' (p14)
'What confronts many women post-baby is radically different from the dreamy picture of marital bliss and harmony we envisaged. First, the actual job is overwhelming. It is impossible to imagine, before you have a baby, how much work it will add to your life.
Second, our identity transforms - this can be more uncomfortable than giving birth. Becoming a mother means becoming a culturally infused icon..
Third, we lose our economic value and independence. That has a huge impact on most women. When we remember that the women's liberation movement has fought long and hard for women to be educated and to have the right to financial equality, it should come as no surprise that we feel demoted when we forego paid work.
Fourth, we lose our freedom - and discover the power of a basic human urge. We can now understand why wars have been fought for liberation.' (p19)
According to Osborne, 'most couples don't talk about who will do what post-baby, and as a result, most assume traditional roles. Kerrie James maintains that this model will ultimately lead to feelings of unfairness, and will cause the sense of inequality to rise dramatically.
The problem with the model that says he is financial provider and she looks after the house and kids is that his job is 40, 50, maybe 60 hours a week.
However, if it is the woman's responsibility to look after house and kids, she is on call 24 hours a day. She can rarely have a sick day or a long lunch.' (p44) (that equates to 168 hours a week).
She goes on to suggest that to create equity 'couples actually write down all the tasks involved in looking after a baby... and all the household tasks, and then work out who will do what. Couples need to have a conversation about responsibility (being shared) and then a conversation about planning for how that will occur (who will do what, and when). (p 45)
She goes as far as to suggest that both parents work 9-5 and that childcare (including responsibility for everything child-related) be shared equally between both parents out of work hours.
Osborne states that 'The idea of having to re-fight the women's liberation war in your own living room is extremely confronting. Renegotiating your own status can be difficult, particularly if your partner does not take your concerns seriously...
The way out of this murky period is to find the strength to value ourselves and calmly ask for the things we need. While it is easy to blame men for doing very little, it's women themselves who need to change before a change will occur in men.' (pg 115)
I highly recommend this book - if you haven't seen it already (and particularly if you are planning for the birth of your first or even second child). Even if you have already had your baby, you may want to consider sharing this book with your partner. It's never too late to have the post-baby conversation.
You can buy this book online from here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1877082783/ref=as_li_tf_il?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1877082783&linkCode=as2&tag=themoddou00-20 (affiliate link)
To receive your free Family Tasks Checklist (to supplement this book) click here