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Forget flowers and chocolates. The true route to lasting love is communication and sharing the load.
It’s Valentine’s Day and, while it may be nice to get a bunch of flowers or chocolates from time to time, that kind of ‘romantic’ touch is not going to get you to the end of the week, the month or the year.
So what might be the glue that cements your post-children relationship – if you have one? For many the secret to a strong relationship is a sense of teamwork. Countless women at the top of their professions stress the importance of both a supportive employer and a supportive partner, of sharing the family responsibilities more so that both the positives and negatives don’t just land mainly on one person, creating resentment and misunderstanding.
Research on sharing parental leave by Helen Norman from the University of Manchester shows the probability of relationship breakdown reduces when fathers look after their babies alone in the first year, although she says it’s a complex issue. Equality, after all, is an ongoing struggle, with ups and downs and all manner of fake dawns and backlashes.
While Valentine’s Day, like all the other Days, may be merely symbolic and a good marketing ploy for card shops, florists and sweet shops, it is a good chance to focus on the relationship basics. In the spirit of romance, then, here is workingmums.co.uk’s guide to help Valentine’s Day have a lasting impact:
1. While chocolate may offer instant gratification, the true route to lasting love may lie in the more mundane everydayness of sharing the full load of parenting. Even if the odd box of Quality Street is welcome at any time…
2. Communicate. It comes up time and again and you don’t have to have an hours-long discussion every night about the ins and outs of your day at work when all you want to do is watch Netflix and crash out after the kids go to bed and you have to do the whole thing again the next day. Remember the small things. Saying hello to your partner when they or you return from work or in the morning is important, as is any other form of acknowledgement that they exist. You may have been up half the night for the last week, but the simple basics of communication will not exhaust very much more of your energy. It may not be Love Story, but on such simple everyday actions are shared lifetimes built.
3. Listen to your partner’s answers and make an effort to concentrate. To people who don’t have children this might seem rather an unnecessary point, but it is very easy to nod and say yes and then instantly forget whatever it was your partner said about their entire family coming over next week. The resulting tension could be the source of major relationship turmoil. It is not that you are intentionally not paying attention, it is merely that your short-term memory is on overload and knackered.
4. Take time out regularly to go out or, if no babysitters are available or you can’t afford them, create special stay-in nights without children present. This means you may have to stay awake so mark them on the calendar and get as much sleep in beforehand so you can keep your eyes open. Try not to talk about the kids, work…or politics. It may be a challenge, but challenge can be fun. Ask Bear Grylls.
5. If you are seeking a new partner, try to suss out their supportiveness factor through a number of subtle questions and what if scenarios to see if they get the whole working parent thing eg test their in-depth knowledge of the school calendar. Have they heard of inset days or Key Stage 3 and, if not, what do they imagine they are. Even if they fail the test, their answers could be highly entertaining.