Sometimes, when I am navigating Costco alone, trying to load a 55 pound bag of dog food into my precariously overflowing shopping cart, I think, “I must be doing this wrong.” I see a family rounding the corner, all working in harmony to shop together, a single unit on mission. The children are loading only the items requested by the parents; the husband deftly manages the cart, the wife—wearing her peacefully sleeping youngest child—gleefully checks the next item off her list. I think, “Aww, that’s kind of sweet, that family all shopping together.” And then I think, “Wait a minute. If my family tried to do this, it would be a complete disaster!”
That’s why I shop alone and my husband stays home with the kids. We are tag-team parents, and most of the time it works out pretty well. What this means is that our family of five does not do a lot of “outings” together. We don’t take strolls around the neighborhood together. We don’t go to the Y or the zoo together. And we DO NOT go to the grocery together—not on your life.
Now that we have three children, tag team parenting is pretty much essential to getting anything accomplished on a daily basis and ensuring that each parent has some time to her or himself during the waking hours. Ok, so we don’t tag team everything. Our family does meet around the dinner table at home most nights; we all trek to the children’s Saturday afternoon games, and we all go to church together most Sunday mornings. Otherwise, however, we must divide and conquer in the parenting department.
During the week, my husband and I both work, and (thankfully!) have flexible schedules. So we share the burden of shuttling three kids to three different places every day. We have a general logistics guideline—complete with spreadsheet—but as things pop up, we often re-jigger the original plan.
On the weekends, my husband and I compare what we each want/need to do, measure that against kids’ sports/Scouts/birthday party obligations, and then decide how to best divvy up the day’s activities. He takes our son to run an errand at Home Depot while I take the girls with me to Goodwill. He stays home with the kids while I go to yoga. I walk the kids up to the playground while he works on dinner. And so it goes.
Sometimes I wish our family was able to do more purely fun things all together—like go to neighborhood festivals or the park, but most of the time it’s just not feasible to pack up the whole family and do that. When we are able to do these types of outings, they are more special and memorable—except when they’re more stressful because we don’t have enough practice with said outings!
Generally, I enjoy my alone time—even if it’s doing a chore like grocery shopping at Costco. Nobody whining at me in the back seat. Nobody to argue with about what music to play. Nobody to wrangle in the store aisles. But, of course, nobody else to lift those 55 pounds of dog food either. At least my husband will be there when I get home—more than ready to do the heavy lifting from car to house while I quickly take over kid supervising duties. Tag, you’re it!