Why is childcare always mum's problem?
My beloved nanny of three years has just handed in her notice. After steering my twins from tiny toddlers to little boys she is leaving to pursue a new career. I wish her the best of luck, but I can't help secretly cursing her for deserting me. You see every time there is a failure in our childcare arrangements it mysteriously becomes my problem.
My husband and I both work, admittedly my hours are more flexible, but nonetheless they need to be done. Yet when a nanny leaves, or a school inset day is sprung upon us, or one of the boys is sick he never turns a hair.
It wouldn't even occur to him that his plans might be thrown into disarray by this obstacle. Instead he simply assumes that I will sort it and drives off to work without a care in the world.
I on the other hand spend sleepless nights worrying about who will take care of my precious children while I work.
Will I find anyone who will work the hours I need, for pay I can afford, who can drive, speak English and above all will cherish my children as if they were her own? My husband slumbers, oblivious, beside me.
You might think that my husband's attitude stems from the fact that he earns more than I do. This is true at the moment, but even when I earned almost twice his salary it was still me phoning nanny agencies, scheduling interviews, telling my boss I couldn't come in when the nanny was off sick and generally shouldering the burden of childcare as well as my career.
It's not as if my husband is hands-off dad either. He changed nappies, fed babies, he does the school run most mornings and every night he puts the twins to bed. But even the most enlightened dads still seem to consider organising childcare as women's work. Ask yourself, when was the last time your husband even booked a babysitter, let alone hired a nanny?
Parentdish editor, Tamsin Kelly, isn't immune to this syndrome. She once came home after a day at work, to find her husband sharing a companionable cup of tea with the au pair, but it was only after her husband had left the room that the au pair revealed that she was leaving the family to return to Germany.
"He doesn't even bother talking to au pairs now when I am interview them because he says it's my decision. When the agency calls he just tells them to call back and talk to me", she says.
It's hard to understand this hands-off approach when the children are those of both parents and in most cases it's because both parents work that there is the requirement for childcare.
But certainly in my case, my husband seems to assume that it is my job to look after the children, and if I choose to work instead then I had better find someone to cover for me.
My friend Claire agrees: "Last time we had to find a new nanny I had to write the ad, sift through all the applications, interview all the possible candidates and it was only when I had narrowed it down to the last two that my husband agreed to meet them. Even then he just sat there and didn't ask them a single question".
A straw poll amongst all the mums I know reveals that this is pretty typical. One even said: "The only thing my husband was interested in was what she looked like, as he said he didn't want to be staring at an ugly au pair over the breakfast table."
Another said her partner wanted to know if the au pair was overweight as he was concerned about the food bill.
A glance at some online parenting forums backs this up as they are packed with mothers fretting over nannies, au pairs, nursery costs and the pros and cons of childminders. But not a single dad is joining in, perhaps because they just assume that we have got it covered.
But there is hope out there. I have complete admiration for one friend who has turned the tables on her man. If ever there is a childcare malfunction or a new au pair is sought, it is his concern. She made it clear from the start that childcare was his department and if it wasn't sorted it was his problem as she had a job to go to too.
I am in awe, but I know hers is a very unusual arrangement. Perhaps we will have achieved true equality when her set up doesn't seem strange at all.
Does this ring true for you? Does it drive you mad?