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The pandemic made parenting easier for me. Having my husband around to help with childcare was crucial.

INSIDER 3/11/2022 insider@insider.com (Sarah Martinez Shaw)
Our twins were born at 29 weeks, which meant my husband was in charge of our other two kids at home while I recovered. Sarah Martinez Shaw © Sarah Martinez Shaw Our twins were born at 29 weeks, which meant my husband was in charge of our other two kids at home while I recovered. Sarah Martinez Shaw
  • Before the pandemic, my husband worked outside of the house, and I did all the parenting.
  • When he started working from home, he got to learn how my days worked with the kids.
  • Now, we're equally involved in our children's lives.

During much of the pandemic, parents have had to do double duty, working from home while parenting and keeping children on task with virtual school. Often, as I saw both in the news and among my friends, mothers sacrificed their time and careers as they tried to manage the impossible during a global pandemic. 

It may be surprising to hear that as a stay-at-home mom, I found that my workload — physical and mental — become lighter. For my family, the pandemic made parenting a shared task between my husband and me, whereas before I was doing all the heavy lifting. 

When the pandemic started, we weren't putting the same effort into parenting

In April 2020, my husband's job sent him and his coworkers home with their computers. Like many families, we carved out space for a home office in the two-bedroom apartment that I, my husband, and our two toddlers shared.

Before the pandemic, I went through the motions of all-day parenting, adjusting to the changing demands of our two young kids smoothly and in a way that was difficult to articulate. My husband, Ian, is an extremely attentive father, and a partner who is always ready to do his part. But he hadn't put in the hours that I had. So if he didn't know the difference between "I need a drink" babbles and "I want 'CoComelon'" babbles, I stepped in automatically.

I wanted our parenting load to be equal, and I resented the ways it wasn't. But it was easier for me to take over because I knew how to do things correctly, and teaching Ian our home-life language felt like an extra task. 

But working from home gave Ian an immersive experience. Suddenly, he was in the thick of daily life, and he'd remain there for a full year.  

I got pregnant with twins

As the vaccine became available and Ian returned to work in person, I became pregnant with twins. The physical stress of a twin pregnancy exhausted me. By the time I was nearing my third trimester, I'd collapse into bed the moment he came home.

Meanwhile, he cooked dinner and cleaned up. Meal planning became impossible while so many foods sounded unappealing to my pregnant body, so he began doing that and the shopping. He also started taking the kids to the park on weekends and doing the bedtime routine.

One by one, I handed over these tasks, as well as the mental load that I'd previously clung to, believing I was the only one who could carry it.

When the twins were born in an emergency C-section at 29 weeks, in a city three hours from home, Ian asked if I wanted him to wait with me during my five-day stay in the hospital. I told him to stay at home with our kids, who were scared and missing me. They needed him.

Sitting in my hospital bed, forced to hand over parenting completely and without warning, I realized that I didn't care whether Ian parented exactly how I would, and I wasn't worried about how things were going. Our children were safe. They would be fed, clothed, and fine without me.

The pandemic helped my husband get to know our kids, their preferences and idiosyncrasies, and the way our home functioned while he was at work. Then a difficult pregnancy and birth taught me how to let go.

With our preemies at home and life returning to some kind of normal, we've found equilibrium and equity. We share our parenting load in a way we never would have otherwise.

Through personal and global crises, we truly became partners.

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