I had an epiphany while reading this charming little essay, Freer, Messier, Happier from Jeremy Adam Smith, and that is that the cobbled-together, barely-holding, constantly re-arranging care arrangements for our children that we have pieced together as working parents … are it. They are not temporary stages we are passing through on our way towards something permanent and stable. This messy patchwork of care arrangements – its favours and returned favours; its sick children one week and different working hour requirements the next – are how the modern working parent operates these days.
I keep thinking when are we going to get over this next hump and finally figure something out that is stable and simple and stream-lined with our care arrangements but actually no, this is it, this is functioning. And having had that epiphany, having adjusted my expectations, I think I would now tell other women considering a path of working-outside-the-home motherhood that this is ok, that if it works it works. Embrace the mess, keep going.
These trends have changed the way moms and dads relate to each other and to their children. As men lost the ability to reliably support families on one income, families responded by diversifying. Men have developed emotional and interpersonal skills by taking care of children—since the mid-1990s, the number of hours dads spend with kids has nearly doubled—and women have gone to school and to work. In the eyes of many couples, equity between parents has moved from a nice ideal to an urgent matter of survival.