My husband and I are tag-team parents. There are very few things that are “oh, that’s her job” or “sorry, that’s his job” in our house. It’s almost comical when I do a mental instant replay of our dance. I recently stripped the bed sheets, he put the bed half-back-together, I finished it off, and seeing the pile of sheets, he started the load of dirties. He starts dinner, gets a phone call, I keep chopping without missing a slice. He brings in a load of firewood, dashes out to meet a customer, I stack it, thump the wood cart back to the garage where I might be the next one to fill it. It would make any 1950s couple keel over and die. The horror. No division of labor!
How does it work?
We’re both entrepreneurs. Our work ebbs and flows in various seasons. For the past two years, we have alternatively schooled our kids (virtual public). They are home with us and we serve as their learning coaches. Some days, I check them in and review assignments. Other days, my husband does. He prefers math. I prefer language arts. Tag in, tag out.
In the spring, when he’s planting trees, I tag in and commandeer the Grasshopper and mow the grass. It’s 2-3 hours of bliss under the din of mower blades during a wild dance of swipes around bushes and trees while trying not to shoot tulip beds full of grass or shave bald the odd patch of high ground. I thoroughly respect the job now and I’m far less critical if a full pass of grass ends up in the mulch on occasion.
Tag-teaming to accommodate new opportunitites
A few years ago, I went back to grad school. When I tagged out, my husband took over most things at home. I was largely absent, working full time, and going to school nights an hour away, often staying with family for large portions of each week. When I was home, I’d be holed up in my office again, surrounded by books and papers, huddled around my laptop. Homework and thesis writing won almost all of my extra attention.
On top of running his tree nursery business, my husband took over almost all of the laundry (I’m a folding snob – totally admit it – so I didn’t let go of it all), the dish duty, the clutter control, and the shuttling of little girls. He even proudly did Picture Day hairdos! He took over the meal duty, shopping included. The kids were already making their own breakfasts and packing lunches, which was a great help.
When I graduated, the kitchen remained his, for the most part. He loves creating new feasts, and he’s really good at it. We joke about him having to teach me to boil water now that I’ve had a full kitchen lobotomy.
He started plowing snow that winter. We supplement our heat with wood-stoves, so there’s often a fire started by 6 am to take off the morning chill and keep the LP tank full longer. When he’s out, I tag in. I’m a fire-starting, stove-stuffing fool.
I’ve been heads down a lot lately. Getting my site back online, writing, connecting technical dots, diving down rabbit holes, tearing out hair. He’s supported me in every way he can (he’s had the opportunity since this winter has teased us with snow dustings that one can remove with a hefty sneeze.) But the other day, it snowed a real snow worthy of his plowing.
Daddy out. Mama tags in. I whipped up meals, took care of the fires, got the garbage out, checked math, spelling, and some strange science portfolio about beads leaping from cup.
What if your BOTH tagged out?
It isn’t often, thankfully, but occasionally we are both in “crazed, checked-out mode” due to our work schedules. The wonderful part about that, the kids will often tag themselves in when chaos level approaches code orange. They have their regular contributions, but they really step it up in our time of need. We’ve shown them around the kitchen. They can make several meals and bake as well. They can chop up salad bits like champs. Sorting their own clothes and then starting the washer is their deal, too. Swishing a toilet each morning (they are each assigned one), and washing dog snarf from the windows are also on their contribution lists. This past weekend, they even washed the giant German Shepherd.
I’d like to think that our versatile division of labor is refreshing and liberating. Neither of us feels stuck and both of us feel blessed. There’s far less finger pointing or foot tapping, “YOU didn’t finish YOUR job.” We do what must be done in the moment.
Unless it’s boiling water, then I text him for directions.