I recently had to describe how my family works to someone I’d never met before. Although I’m quite used to do doing this, explaining that I, a man, get the kids ready in the morning, take care of the grocery shopping, laundry etc. took a little time.
While my family stands out because I gave up full-time work altogether, it really has become quite normal to see men on the school run, nursery run or even working compressed hours or from home once a week so they can be on hand and help out on the domestic front.
Conversely, after a spell of shared parental leave, it is rare indeed for women not to go back into the workforce. Many choose to work part-time, but they work and contribute to the family’s finances.
This, I believe, means we have to re-assess who exactly provides for a family. In my family’s case, Mrs Adams is the main financial provider. As she will readily admit, however, if I wasn’t on-hand to take care of the school and pre-school runs, the play dates, the after- school clubs and shopping then she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on her career.
There’s a balance: we both provide for the family, albeit in different ways. This is a trend most parents of young children can probably relate to and it’s one that’s also been noted by baby wipe manufacturer WaterWipes.
While Mrs Adams and I have long acknowledged the existence of this balance, WaterWipes has given it a name: the Parent Pact. The company has gone a little further, however, and taken a good look at who is considered the provider during the months after a baby’s birth.
I was quite surprised by the results. I imagined that in the haze following a baby’s birth, both mum and dad would consider themselves providers. After all, both parents have to pull together and domestic life faces a lot of disruption.
WaterWipes quizzed a number of parents about their thoughts on who is the family’s provider after the arrival of a newborn and just 17% felt mum and dad were the main providers for a child in the first six months following a child’s birth.
In this day and age it is very common for dad to change nappies, take their newly-born offspring off for walks, bottle feed them and so on. Even so, the provider was still considered to be the financial provider. The caring support provided by both parents to their kids, not to mention each other, didn’t seem to register.
I found that a little sad. It didn’t reflect my personal experience or the experience of many of my peers.
In this day and age, where shared parental leave is a reality and stay at home dads and career women are steadily (…but slowly) becoming the accepted norm, the idea of who is a provider needs to be re-evaluated. It seems to be one of those cases where society has moved on, but language hasn’t.
What is your opinion on who should be deemed the provider in the family setting? Do you think we are too stuck on the idea that men provide and women nurture? Should we be more flexible in how we use this language? I think it would be great to create discussion on this issue so please do leave a comment below with your thoughts.
Disclosure: This post was produced in collaboration with WaterWipes.
5 thoughts on “The Parent Pact: Who is the provider in your relationship?”
A very interesting post. As an executive coach I’ve worked with a number of mums and dads and witness a variety of challenges particularly for men. Some men are clearly struggling to adjust to getting the work/life balance they want – particularly the desire to be an active parent whilst also being the financial provider. They struggle to express this emotional need for fearing that they will be considered not committed to their work (by the way I am acutely aware that women also face the same discrimination). However I’ve worked within companies to deliver parenting skills course and the benefits to organisations afterwards are outstanding- it breaks down barriers between staff of all seniority and creates strong cohesion.
Wow, companies offering parenting skills classes? This is a new one to me! It sounds like an excellent idea and what a superb way to break down barriers between staff, management and also break down tight, gender roles and discrimination. I approve.
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Always interesting to read things from the Dad’s perspective. Once the breastfeeding stops and the body has recovered, I don’t think there’s anything a mother can do that a father can’t. I’ve definitely seen plenty of Dads pushing buggies around our local park, which feels great, even though you don’t know who might be doing the bulk of the paid work. There’s certainly plenty of child-related labour to go around.
Oh yes, plenty of unpaid labour to go around indeed! Thanks for your comment and glad you agree there’s nothing beyond breast feeding to hold dads back.