This is much more important.
Would you trust him with the stuff that matters?
Can he sort out the delicates from the not-delicates?
Can he plan and shop for a week of meals that the children will actually eat?
Can he leave work on time to get to the doctor's for the immunisation appointment?
Can he do the washing-up when it needs doing, and not twenty-four hours later (and dry it up and put it away afterwards)?
Can he get them up, get them dressed, tidy their rooms, make their beds, do their hair, get them fed, sweep the rice krispies from under the table and still get them to nursery on time?
Would you trust your husband/partner to look after your children and your home properly?
And does "properly" only really mean: "the way you want them looked after"?
Because I'm not sure I can, and do. And I know I should.
When we had just had L, and were talking about our options for working and childcare, there was never any question about whether I should go back to work. I like my job, I'm good at it, I like my colleagues and it brings (brought) in useful money. I was also, at the time, better paid than B.
So we had a conversation. It went a bit like this:
Him: Well, I could always go part-time and you could go back to work full-time
It was instinctive. I didn't, and don't, want him to be what Rebecca Asher calls, in an article in yesterday's Guardian magazine, the foundation parent. Partly that was a visceral wanting to be the person L (and now the others) turned to with cut knees, or sore fingers, or broken hearts, and partly that was because I knew that I didn't trust him.
Not that I didn't trust him to love them as much as I do, or to notice when they were ill, or to throw himself into traffic for them. B loves our children as much, if not more, than I do, and is, in many ways, a better, certainly in the sense of more relaxed, more instinctive and more prepared to make an idiot of himself, parent than I am. But I didn't trust him to do all the other stuff that still seems to go with it. I knew, and remain convinced that I was right to know, that what would happen was that I come in every evening, tired and stressed, only to find that the house wasn't tidied (to my standards), the supper wasn't cooked (to my standards), I had no clean knickers for the next day, and I was left, grumpily and resentfully doing stuff that, in my head at least, we had decided was his job.
So instead, I am the foundation parent, and especially now that my working days take up an even smaller proportion of my week, I take on a much larger share of the day-to-day running of children, house and general administrative stuff than B does. As (by extension) I've just admitted, that's my job...
And this is, Rebecca Asher says, normal. I am normal. What happens is that when women are at home on maternity leave (the first six months of which, despite changes being brought in next month, will remain the preserve of women), we start taking on all this stuff that used to be shared. We are at home, we are bored, the baby is asleep, the washing needs doing, we want, when our partner gets home, to be able to sit and talk like we used to and not nag about state of the kitchen floor, or the shopping list for next week, so we do it. And then:
even when mothers return to work after maternity leave, the responsibility for the domestic chores accrued in that time often remains with them. In fact, women carry on performing almost the same number of domestic tasks when they switch from looking after their children full-time to working outside the home part-time. And even if they work outside the home full-time, they are still more likely than their partners to take responsibility for household chores, and to take time off work to look after an ill child.
What Rebecca Asher doesn't, of course, address, is whether this is also, but inversely, true in households where the father is the foundation parent. Do stay-at-home, or part-time working, dads also do all the other stuff? I suspect that my feeling that I would still have ended up doing it says more about my latent Monica-ish-ness than it does about the nature of parenting as a whole and there are plenty of dads out there who are just as much of a dab hand with a mop as I am.
Whatever the case may be there, Rebecca Asher maintains that for women returning from maternity leave domestic inequality becomes a habit, and, presumably given that she is here only talking about mothers who do more paid work than I do, a habit that I am likely to have fallen into more heavily than most. But it's not just that. Apparently I also take on this stuff, and do it, however grumpily, because I like the control, or I want to be a martyr, or because I want others to think I am supermum, however much of a myth we all know that last to be. And, as a result, husbands and partners make even less of an effort, because they know that when they do, they will only be criticised:
The forks go in that drawer, not that one...
The sheets aren't ironed...
They had fishfingers for supper last night....
To be honest, I'd probably stop trying too.
Now, obviously, I have no solution to this. Although it would be nice to say that parents should have a discussion about sharing the chores, or a rota, or some sort of organised division of labour, it's also true that, at least where B and I are concerned, I think both of us would resent our shared time with the children being taken up with the dull household tasks when instead we could be doing things as a family, and it's not as though I really want him to be sorting out laundry when he could be sitting on the sofa giving me a cuddle once they're in bed (although it would free up some handy blogging time...).
So what this eventually made me think was not how badly I am treated, or how unfair my life is (that was last week's rant), but actually how unfair my feeling like this is on B and the other men like him (because, after all, I am, apparently, normal). Because I do trust him, of course I do, I wouldn't have married him, much less had children with him, had I not done so, but I've never really let him prove himself worthy of that trust.
I'm not in a position to go back to full (or indeed part-) time office-based work (I'm not qualified to work in Scotland, so failing a career change, remote working is my only option), but maybe it's time for a girls' weekend away. If nothing else, we'll find out if he can trust me...