Reading Captain Awkward's latest advice, to two Letter Writers whose partners flat out decline to help in any way with cooking, childcare and cleaning, highlighted sharply to me one of the aspects of working fulltime that I am most enjoying on a family level.
In short, it's this: I am no longer doing the vast preponderence of the heavy lifting in all these categories. It's not that my partner hasn't been involved in the past - he has - but when it was him working long fulltime hours outside the home, and me working predominantly from home and more scattered hours, it was all too easy to fall into a pattern whereby I cooked all the dinners, did all the laundry, did most of the housework and the errands and the day to day kid stuff ... just because I was there and he wasn't.
Now, with me working 4 days a week in the office and 1 day a week from home, the balance has shifted in a way that I find very satisfactory. Two weekday evenings - Mondays and Wednesdays - I come home to dinner on the table, prepared by someone else (my Mum on Mondays, and husband on Wednesdays). Two mornings a week - Tuesdays and Fridays - I get up, shower, pack my own lunch and go to work early for a 7:30 start, and my husband makes the kids' lunches, gets them organised and takes them to school and kinder. We made the decision to hire a cleaner, so once a week, someone else vaccuums, cleans the bathrooms and mops the floors, and dusts. On Wednesdays, my husband has the day off, so he handles both drop off and pick up for the kids and does some laundry on that day.
It's not like my home duties have evaporated, and nor would I want them to. I still do the morning run for the kids on Mondays and Thursdays, and pick them up from kinder / school / aftercare by 4:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. I still take them to gymnastics and ballet, I still cook the other 5 dinners, I do the meal planning and the grocery shopping and the bulk cooking for the freezer. I do probably 70% of the laundry, and husband and I work together to go the on-the-go tidying and life admininstration / errands that still need to be done. Weekends are very happily filled with family time and catching up with friends - no more weekend work for me, another wonderful benefit of moving out of contracting.
All the same, I'd forgotten how nice it is to regularly eat a hot meal cooked for you by someone else. I'd underestimated how much I would value having two mornings off the delicate balancing act that is morning kid prep. I had not expected how much relief and release of household tension could be wrought by budgeting in for a weekly cleaner (not something we could've afforded before anyway).
These things are all contributing to both my overall sense of satisfaction with my life, and my relationships with my family. I was worried that I wouldn't have the same closeness with my kids when I started this job, but the opposite is turning out to be true - because of how we've structured things, so I am still around for the critical after-school period so often, I feel the kids and I are having more positive and more frequent interactions than when I would get to 4pm all tapped out by a day of relentless juggling of needs. And my husband and I, who have always tried to do things as a team, are working more co-operatively than ever before now that circumstances both allow for and dictate this.
So that's a sunny side, for me. I know I'm lucky - not everyone's partners step up like this - but for me, it's been a very nice transition in that regard.