There are so many things we don't know about the months and years ahead of us after our child is born. We can't imagine what this new part of our lives is going to be like. Some people, we have discovered, are the exact opposite. They seem to know exactly how things are going to unfold when their child is born.
These people are resigned to some of the same things we are; sleepless nights, loads of washing and nappies, pee and poo, feeling swamped and generally being overwhelmed. The difference between them and us is that for them, it is the mothers who will shoulder the overwhelming majority of this workload. For us, we envisage it as a two person job.
I am confident that I won't be doing it all on my own. You won't catch me rolling my eyes as I talk about handing the baby over to a reluctant father the minute he walks in the door at 6.30pm. To clarify, I might be handing over the baby, but that baby will be welcomed with open arms.
I've said it before, but my partner already does more than his 50% of the housekeeping duties. I'd be lucky to be responsible for 25% of the housework, cooking, cleaning load in our home. That hasn't always been the case. Before my CFS became a factor in our lives I would say the load was closer to 50/50, but my part was always a share, not the majority.
Sometimes I feel guilty that I don't do more around our home. I'm inordinately proud of myself when I manage to vac the house, or clean the bathroom (the two tasks I'm most likely to be found doing, if anything). I notice, acutely, the disparity in our workloads.
We try to play to our strengths and weaknesses when sharing workloads, and Himself's OCD certainly plays a part in his taking on more cleaning and tidying. There are other areas where I take on more than 50% of the load, playing to my strengths. Our equality isn't each doing exactly half of every task, but it is endeavoring to share responsibilities and not having an expectation of one person taking on tasks based on traditional gender roles etc.
All this gives me some idea what to expect after this baby is born. I don't need Himself to "step up" around the house. He already does that. I will need help in a myriad of other ways, but I know that my partner has no sense of entitlement about sitting back and letting me do as much as possible until I make him help or get involved. I expect us to approach this as a team, and while I'm sure there will be disappointments and compromises and difficulties, I know that there is no expectation that the baby-rearing will be my job.
I don't talk about this as some kind of bragging exercise, or to talk about how lucky I am. I talk about it because I think it's important to note that this is the norm in our home. As it should be in many more. It's important that people are aware that equal partnerships do exist, and that it's not unusual to be expecting your partner to be as involved in the practical aspects of parenting, from changing nappies to cleaning.
Himself might not be able to breastfeed, but he can nurture and care for both myself and our child in many other ways. The practicalities of feeding and other tasks might be more heavily weighted towards me in our first stretch of parenting, but there is so much more than this when it comes to acting as a family and a team. We don't envisage our future with me as primary parent, and Himself as backup. We plan for and talk about our future as two equal parents.
Reading this article from Backpacking Dad really bought home for me how infrequent tales of immersed, competent fathers are. As he points out, you are much more likely to find stories from mothers/wives/partners about the hopeless thing that Daddy did when he was in charge of the kids than stories where involved, in control and engaged fathers are.
While Backpacking Dad suggests that perhaps women should tone down these stories of 'hopeless' dads, I actually think the opposite approach is important. Talking about the positive, rather than hiding the negative. Making it known that having an equal partnership, in life and in parenting, is not impossible. It might take work, it might not be perfect but even the struggle to make it that way is important.
I'm not always satisfied with the status quo of my relationship, and I'm sure Himself would say the same. What is important to me is that this is a journey and we move towards a path that we're both happy with. I really have no idea what our equal parenting will look like, but I do know that it will be both our jobs to raise our child, and to negotiate what that job looks like.