This dad wants to return to the office five days a week leaving his wife with more child care and household responsibilities than she's had through the pandemic. And we're guessing a lot of parents can relate.

By Zara Hanawalt
July 08, 2021
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An image of a husband and wife working with their son.
Credit: Getty Images.

While pandemic parenting is unspeakably difficult, it also represents some ways in which we could improve life for working parents. Flexible schedules, work-from-home setups, the normalization of kids interrupting virtual meetings—those can be game-changers. And now, as we navigate a return to relative normalcy, we're forced to reimagine a life without those things and many of us are realizing we want certain hallmarks of pandemic parenting to outlast the pandemic itself.

One mom took to Reddit to lament the changes as her husband prepares to return to work in-person. While the husband has the option of working in-office just three days a week, he's chosen to go back to on-site work all five days—and his wife is not pleased about this.

"I know he likes going to the office because he gets to commute on foot/bus, gets to go to his gym, see coworkers and socialize. That's all great but with me being at home I am left to fill in the rest of it alone, while also working full time," the mom writes. The couple has a 3-year-old child and another baby on the way.

This mom is feeling what so many parents are experiencing right now. As a fellow work-from-home mom whose husband was able to work from home through the pandemic, I know exactly how she feels. Having my husband return to his normal work setup, which involves traveling for four days at a time, several times a month, has been rough. And I think a lot of mothers will relate to this Reddit mom's frustration over the fact that her husband is choosing to work in the office more frequently than he needs to (even though we also understand the husband's desire to part ways with the messiness of pandemic parenting).

For the original poster, the husband's return to in-person work represents a loss of the great rhythm they've achieved through the pandemic.

"A few improvements I've noticed with us both being home is sharing more of the childcare responsibilities and upkeep of housework, and I've appreciated how much he has taken on without prompting," the mom writes. "It has made this year much easier. Thankfully my company is very flexible and will allow me to work from home as much as I want moving forward."

While we totally feel this mom's frustration, we also have to acknowledge that, in the grand scheme of things, she's pretty lucky. So many parents have been forced to continue working on-site while worrying about bringing COVID home to their families. Others have lost jobs and struggled to make ends meet. This particular family didn't have these issues—and the mom adds that her child is in daycare, her husband will have a generous paternity leave, and they're considering hiring a nanny or having grandparents help with child care. Again, these are privileges so many families simply can't access.

But no matter how privileged you are, the fact remains: our pre-COVID reality wasn't really working for any parent. The mom points out that she doesn't want to send her young child to daycare until she's a year old because having to pump breastmilk while she's away from her child is so much work. That's a very real issue most moms have had to contend with—and it has some very real long-term implications.

This mom's post also brings up some important points about gender roles and the importance of compromise in marriage.

As several commenters point out, there's a delicate balance to be found here. "There may be compromises in this too where he only goes back full time after you are done breastfeeding and pumping ( which is already alot of individual work on its own!)," one Reddit user suggests. "Or at least promise to have a conversation later about it once you guys get your bearings after having a second child."

Another user suggests coming up with a system under which the husband takes on some responsibilities, like packing the daycare bags, doing laundry, or meal-prepping—things that can be done outside of work hours.

But another user sees this situation from a different angle. "Oh my… what a gift to have so much time together for family leave. You are blessed," she writes. "I had to go back to work full time as an RN straight into the peak of the pandemic in April 2020 when my daughter was 8 weeks old. My husband got two weeks off. Unpaid...It sounds like you have childcare options. Embrace that and take time for yourself so you don't feel resentment. Gentle reminder that breastfeeding is also a choice, and it's ok if it becomes too much of a strain. Formula is a miracle!"

The bottom line? After adjusting to the realities of pandemic parenting, we're now being forced to adjust once again, and no matter how your family is approaching this challenge, there are bound to be some bumps in the road. Ultimately, we all have to compromise, find a new rhythm and do what works best for our families and hopefully, embrace some of the positive parenting changes that have come from a horrific situation along the way.