One of the first things you have to decide when adopting as a couple is who is going to be the one who takes adoption leave to be at home with the children. Recent legislative changes mean that you can actually share this between the two of you, but this seems to be rarely a practical solution.
For us the decision was fairly straightforward. I earned more than my husband, and it was just about enough to survive on without the need for a second income. I also work 10 minutes away from home and have fairly flexible working practices, whereas his work was very rigid and a good 45 minutes away from home. Practically speaking it was best for him to take the adoption leave, and for me to stay at work. So, even without taking into account the fact that he is infinitely more patient than I am, the decision was made. My husband became a “Stay-at-home Dad[dy]” which I suppose makes me a “Stay-at-work Dad”.
Before we became parents our household chores were very much shared (with the exception of the gardening, which frankly I hate doing). We alternated doing the laundry, the hoovering, the cooking, and we both equally avoided doing the cleaning until it was necessary. Since the children have arrived though I would say my husband does far more than I do (he does all the laundry, but if it waited until I was at home then that would be all I ever did – children generate SO MUCH!).
Being the sole money earner comes with its own set of pressures though, and some of them have really taken me by surprise.
Before the only real pressure I had was to pay my mortgage, if I lost my job and failed to get another then I would have lost my home, but that only would have affected me. My family is very supportive so I have no doubt I would never have become homeless. Now, it is vital that I keep my job, I have 3 people and a dog relying on me to keep the money coming in in order to keep a roof over their heads. As they are adopted children the stability of their home is absolutely vital. This pressure has lead me to feel a bit trapped in my job. I have a job I do not overly enjoy anymore, but I know it pays a good wage and has incredible flexibility built in, including being only a short drive away from home. All those things tips the balance away from the negative feelings towards my job.
At the moment, there is a perceived uncertainty surrounding my job. The management continue to tell us we have nothing to worry about, but something doesn’t feel right about those almost contrived reassurances. I have had a quick look about, and there is literally nothing around that requires my skill set, is within a reasonable distance and pays enough to support my family as a sole income. Even 2 of those 3 things seems difficult to find. So that has added to my stresses and pressures on me. Leading to a very tired Dad when I get home.
Lack of Me-Time
I get up, I go to work, I get home and spend time with the children, I go to bed. At the weekend, I get up, spend time with the children, go to bed. If I get home from work to find my husband has had an incredibly rough time with the children there is simply no way I can put my own stresses first. He needs a break from them, so I give it to him. I have to push down my own stresses and deal with them later – usually during my supposed sleep time. I am the respite carer as well as the parent, as well as the stay-at-work Dad. I had never expected to feel as tired as I do, but I do, and there is little I can do about it.
I feel guilty. All the time. I am not at home with my children enough, I am not at home supporting my husband enough. I get home and all I want to do is be on my own for half an hour or so and when I can’t do that I feel resentful, and that makes me feel guilty. I know that being out of the house is necessary to keep us in a home, clothes, food, etc. But that still does not stop that guilty feeling that I am not doing enough, not spending enough time with my children, not giving my husband enough support. This guilt pretty much prevents any thoughts of creating more me-time, the lack of which is itself a pressure.
The source of this guilt is that in my mind being a stay-at-home parent is far more stressful than being able to get out of the house 5 days a week. While I don’t think there is anything more I can do to help support my family at home (short of winning the lottery and resigning – fingers crossed) it doesn’t make the guilt go away.
I do my best in everything I can. I try my best to do as much around the house as I can, but I am always aware that when I sit down on the sofa my husband is not there, he’s pottering about doing bits and pieces (usually laundry), which I could be helping with but I simply have no energy left.
My husband supports me, he never complains. He is very patient, just gets on with it, and does what needs to be done. I couldn’t ask for anything more, except perhaps… it would be nice if he learnt what a toilet roll holder was for!