When life gets hectic, it’s easy to play the blame game. But what if instead of turning on our partner, we teamed up with them? If Adam and Nikki Clarke can do it while running a successful business with four kids in tow, so can you.
When it comes to parenting, Adam has a solid handle on what’s involved – he’s fathered four children in less than five years while his wife, Nikki, concentrated on growing their activewear business, Cadenshae.
“I don’t really think of myself as the ‘primary caregiver’,” says Adam. “I guess in some ways I am, but Nikki and I see ourselves as more of a team than ‘she does this,’ and ‘I do that’.”
But while Adam and Nikki see themselves as a team, Adam admits to receiving a lot of well-meaning, albeit sexist remarks over his five years as a dad.
Wanting to set the record straight, Adam wrote a blog post titled ‘How Teamwork makes the Dream work’. In it, he shares how he and Nikki juggle their day-to-day lives, taking shared responsibility for their children, their household and their business.
“Both men and women make comments, and I bet often they don’t even realise they’re being sexist,” Adam says. “A few sly comments have come my way, and while I couldn’t care less, I did think it was worth addressing. We’ve seen a major shift in how households operate since the 1980s, but we have a long way to go.
“There’s still a notion that women are in charge at home, while men are the money makers who can put their feet up when they get home. But the truth is, many women I know are making more money than their partners, and a lot of dads are giving their all at home – this should be recognised, accepted and celebrated.”
Recent research shows that better behavioural, emotional and academic outcomes for children are linked to greater quality and quantity of contact with their fathers. However, governments the world over have done little to stress the importance of fathers, with many countries offering no or very little in the way of paternal leave.
Both Adam and Nikki agree that while the current status quo isn’t fair to either parent, it will take some important conversations to see real change.
“Fathers miss out on precious time with their children, while women returning to work after maternity leave are expected to perform to the same standard while also being the main caregiver,” says Nikki. “This can be extremely difficult when their partner either isn’t supportive enough or his workplace isn’t open to him doing more as a dad.”
So, how can we find a balance?
“Women need more support,” says Adam. “Dad’s need to be available for pick-ups, sick days, to get the milk on the way home. Not only this, but we need employers to encourage their working dads to well… be a dad.”
The progression toward equal responsibility may be slow, but it can happen naturally. Adam recommends working together, communicating well and having the best person at the time do what needs to be done – regardless of whether it’s a ‘mum job’ or a ‘dad job’.
“I think workplaces have to be more accepting of men heading away early, or getting to work late – it’s not all on mum to drop the kids off, pick them up,” says Adam. “Men need to be given more paternal leave and be supported more, but I also think it’s on women to ‘let go’ a bit and trust that us dads can handle it.”
Adam says that, while their set-up may not be ‘traditional’, he and Nikki wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We are so fortunate to own and operate a business together and parent together, and we are well aware of that,” says Adam. “As any business owner will know, it doesn’t ever stop so we are always on call. We haven’t been able to get away and have a holiday as of yet, but this set-up is epic.
“I love my kids and adore spending time with them, I really do. Any other job would have me working from 9am-6pm and I shudder to think what I would be missing out on – a lot of men miss out on so much.”
Our top tips for parenting as a team:
- Constant communication: has your child’s school called saying they’re sick? Get in touch with your partner to see who can collect them – don’t just assume that it has to be their job, or your job. Discuss events and appointments well in advance to make sure you’re both on the same page and have made the appropriate arrangements to fit it in.
- Divide and conquer: if you’re a mathematician, but your partner has more artistic flair, take on the tasks that best suit your strengths. For the tasks that no one wants to do, take them in turns or tackle them together (time permitting).
- Build each other up: did your partner do something with the kids that took the pressure off you? Thank them! Are you feeling overwhelmed by all of your parenting responsibilities? Tell them! Remember why you chose them to embark on this crazy parenting journey with, and let them know how much you appreciate them. They’ll do the same.
“We need equality for both men and women in this area, because teamwork truly does make the dream work,” says Clarke.