The Second Shift

In the Dan household, our days begin around 6 a.m. with a piercing revelry from the kids' room. After a couple of hours of controlled chaos, we leave the house a little before 8 - disappointed that today too we are running late.

new amanda logo 88 (photo credit: )
new amanda logo 88
(photo credit: )
'I figured it out," announced my highly analytical husband one day. "If all goes well, in the course of any given 24-hour period on any given workday, I spend one quarter of it as a father, sleep for a quarter, and work about half." A recent Jerusalem Post article, "A woman's work is never done," made much of the double onus on a woman of pulling down a full-time job and raising a family. While it is unfortunately statistically true that women bear the brunt of the child-rearing and household maintenance, at least my mother and I were lucky enough to marry "liberated" men who feel like equal partners in these endeavors. In the Dan household, our days begin around 6 a.m. with a piercing revelry from the kids' room. After a couple of hours of controlled chaos, we leave the house a little before 8 - disappointed that today too we are running late. Without fail, every time we're assembled by the door and waiting for the elevator, one (or three) midget(s) has a toxic waste emergency. By 8:30 a.m. the troops have been distributed to their various day-care posts (or frequently to Nurse Savta during these colder months). Proudly wearing my "stripes" - the lines of snot that are inevitably found on my shoulders - I enter work as early as possible. Working at a feverish pace, I now accomplish more than I did before having children in two-thirds the time. (No more collegial lunches, however.) Through a complicated and ever-evolving formula, my husband and I work out each morning who will be the poor sap to have the car and pick up the kids. One or both of us races to regroup the ranks by 4 p.m. and their day ends (hopefully) by 8:30-ish at the latest. When the now year-old twins were waking multiple times a night, I would hit the hay shortly after tucking them in. My husband burns the midnight oil working on his Sisyphean task of a doctorate and I now try to get a jump on the next day's e-mail or do some catch-up reading. Or sit in mind-numbing bliss in front of the boob tube. Phew. THE DAN family unit is not at all unique: all our peers also belong to the growing number of Israeli families juggling two full-time jobs and kids. Among our friends at least, with the male set being as "liberated" as my husband, household maintenance and child care is generally equally divided. For me, this comes naturally: As professional musicians (read: starving artists), my folks decided to prioritize their finances after finding that it was more important to put food on the table than hire a cleaner or pay for day care. (With their unpredictable lifestyles, it was a pretty safe bet that someone would be home during the day to watch the younger kids - even if it was while practicing or giving a music lesson.) Mom and Dad both cooked and cleaned, and dinner time was family time. Who cares if Dad's specialty was omelettes and Mom tended to not remember how much hot pepper she had already put in the chili... We kids learned at an early age how to run the clothes washer and stick the laundry in the dryer. Running the microwave came slightly later. As my oldest boy, Ya'ir, is not yet three, he is naturally not yet up to doing laundry - so his father does it for the entire family, including the hanging and folding. (And manages to wash the floor after the twins' nightly raucous feast, in between baths and story time, of course.) But Ya'ir is now learning to lend his little hands to the household enterprise and is very handy as a singing telegram messenger. Though you can never be sure that the proper message is delivered, his approximations of "Tell Abba to come get Yaron from the bath," can turn into real gems. He is also very useful in fetching and delights in throwing refuse in the bin and "helping" to carry it out to the dumpster. When in the proper mood, Ya'ir acquiesces to pick up toys before he retires. Yes, even if he didn't make the mess. Ya'ir helps me peel onions and garlic with his "knife" (a rubber spatula) when I cook and especially loves to stir the batter when we make cakes. When Ya'ir and I make meals together, it is my husband who minds the twins. Later it is my husband who is required by our inflexible oldest child to sing him to sleep each night. Like Mary Poppins, he sounds Practically Perfect in Every Way, doesn't he? But I'll let you in on a secret. My blessed help-mate does have an Achilles' heel: As a desperate Sudoku addict, the children could be committing murder and like a lunatic, he would still be muttering under his breath about missing twos and threes. Of course there is also the unfortunate fact that he no longer brings me flowers on Shabbat. (His excuse: The kids will eat them.) The writer is the mother of three-in-diapers.