Many women search hard for the perfect child care provider so that they can work. I have found someone who cares for my 1-year-old daughter like she was their own, shares my toddler's every triumph and disaster, newest achievement and frustrated attempt and doesn't tire of me calling to check up on her: my husband, Ross.
We have avoided the feelings of guilt associated with letting others take care of their child, or the feelings of isolation some have experienced when staying home full-time with their children, by sharing our daughter's care.
Three days a week I work outside the home while he takes care of our daughter, Kye. I take over when at night and during other days of the week Ross works on various e-commerce and consulting ventures.
Weekends are generally spent with all of us together, with Ross usually trying to schedule a breakfast meeting or other business in between the brunches, shopping trips and socializing we enjoy.
I have always wanted to give my children loving, intensive care, but I knew that it was a job best shared. Taking care of babies is exciting, but exhausting. By taking turns at it, my husband and I are able to be refreshed, physically and mentally. Our daughter gets to know and love both of us well, and both of us get to spend quality and quantity time with her.
Neither of us knew much about taking care of babies, but we learned together.
There has been some division of labor: I have breast-fed our daughter from the start, so all those night-feedings were done by me, and I'm still breast-feeding her or pumping at work.
It can be hard sometimes to be on a scheduling see-saw with my husband, where when one of us needs business or personal time, the other person needs to accommodate that schedule. And it can be difficult to find time for the two of us to be alone together.
The shared parenting has worked out well from my husband's perspective, although he notes that "Being a part-time, stay-at-home-dad isn't easy. I am comfortable with jumping from one life to another and not having to fit into a 9-to-5 work slot. But much of the rest of the world does work 9-to-5, and I'm often banging up against someone else's lack of availability during my available slices of time.
"But," he adds, "the cost of falling outside the traditional career structure is offset by the benefits to my baby. She's not going to grow up thinking she was parented by two different species: a mama who sustains her, and a man who shows up to kiss her good night. She does flail more excitedly when Mom comes home after a day away (since she sees her home-office dad more frequently, even on his working days), but she's fond enough of me to hand-feed me Cheerios."
Some people--men and women--want child-rearing to be seen as women's domain, and they often use biology as an excuse. Women talk about the importance of their "mother's instinct," and men say that women bond with their babies before they are born--so it is impossible for them to catch up. Their role is to "baby-sit" occasionally or "help" the mother, not just simply be a parent. Much of the world revolves around this pattern--we were not able to find any local parenting classes that were for both men and women.
I disagree that there is a biological basis to good parenting. Kye turns to either of us when she wants something, and she bestows her attention and radiant smiles just as equally.
For further reading: If you are interested in other examples of couples sharing child care, you might enjoy "Halving It All: How Equally Shared Parenting Works," by Francine M. Deutsch.