Parenting like you’re divorced: The not-so-radical way to save your marriage

Meghan McTavish

Meghan McTavish

Meghan's a columnist, copywriter, podcaster, mother, divorcee—and one-time spiller of champagne on George Clooney. Safe to say, she's a lot of things. But one thing she isn't—is afraid to share. Meghan writes about and creates products for people on the precipice of making a giant leap. She's here to say, "You'll be okay. Yes, you'll lie in bed with greasy hair, wearing...
Updated on Jul 09, 2024 · 5 mins read
Parenting like you’re divorced: The not-so-radical way to save your marriage

I’m about to ask you to go on a little bit of a journey with me here. One that will test your morals and societally-induced biases. A journey that often begins, for many, at the moment when you're standing in the kitchen, surrounded by dirty dishes, a screaming toddler at your feet, and you're wondering, "Is this what I signed up for?"  

I’ve been there. 

You’ve been there.

We’ve all been there. 

And let me tell you, I’ve stumbled upon a solution that’s so crazy, it just might work. 

Here it is: parent like you’re divorced.

Now, before you click away thinking I’m some kind of spy from the land of divorce on a mission to break up couples the world-over—stop (because that’s only half true).

This isn’t about actually getting divorced. It’s about taking the best parts of divorced parenting and bringing them into your marriage. 

Think about it. What’s the gold standard for divorced parents? That 50/50 split, right? One week on, one week off. During your week, you’re Super Parent, juggling work, kids, and household like a boss. But then? Sweet relief. A whole week to focus on you.

So I started wondering: why the heck aren’t married couples doing this?

It’s just 50/50 household labour after all

Here’s how it could work. You and your spouse split the week. During your “on” days, you’re in charge. Everything. Kids, house, meals, the whole shebang. Your partner? They get to clock out. It kind of sucks because it’s a lot of work (although I wager a large percentage of married people reading this already feel like they do this level of workload week-in week-out).

But then…you switch.

I know what you’re thinking. “But what about teamwork? What about romance?” Trust me, I’ve thought about this too. Here’s the kicker—this method might actually bring you closer together.

Imagine really understanding what your partner deals with when they’re “on duty.” 

Imagine the respect that could build. 

Imagine finishing work, heading to the gym, and arriving home with dinner on the table and the kids washed and bathed –  like something out of a reverse sexist Mad Men?

And romance? Let me tell you, there’s nothing sexier than a partner who truly gets how hard you work.

Now, I’m not saying this is easy. It’s going to be a challenge, especially at first. The partner who’s been doing most of the domestic work might feel guilty taking time off. The other might feel overwhelmed by their new responsibilities. But stick with it. The payoff is huge.

Let’s riff on the mental load for a second

You know the “mental load.” It’s the invisible work like remembering about dentist appointments, birthday gifts, and to write thank you cards for the grandparents. 

This system forces you to divvy that up too. No more defaulting to one person (usually Mum, let’s be honest here) to carry it all.

I can already hear you saying. “But what if one of us doesn’t work outside the home?” 

No excuses here. The answer is simple.

Treat running the household like a job—because it absolutely is one. When the employed partner comes home, that’s quitting time for both of you.

The drawbacks…or benefits?

Now, here’s where I get even more honest for a second.

This method might bring some issues to light. You might realise there are deeper problems in your marriage. You might find out that you’re married to someone who doesn’t agree to go 50/50 on the housework with you. In which case, it opens a can of worms around being married to someone at all if it’s no an equal partnership.

But isn’t it better to know? To face those issues head-on instead of letting resentment simmer?

Or, you might realise that you actually CAN do it all on your own. 

In which case you gain the confidence to step into the next phase of your life—co-parenting with an ex-partner.

And the kids? In my experience, they often thrive with this setup. They get focused, quality time with each parent. Plus, they’re seeing a model of true partnership and equity. That’s a life lesson right there.

I know this sounds radical. I know it goes against everything we’ve been taught about how a marriage “should” work. But maybe that’s exactly why we need to try it.

Because let’s face it—the conventional way isn’t working for a lot of us. We’re drowning in chores, resentment, and arguments about who does more. Isn’t it time we tried something different?

Something as radical as (clutches pearls) 50/50 household and parenting labour?

Wrapping it up

So here’s my challenge to you. Give it a shot. Try it for a month. See what happens. 

You might find yourself appreciating your partner more, feeling more appreciated yourself, and remembering why you fell in love in the first place.

Who knows? This “radical” idea might just save your marriage. And even if it doesn’t feel like a perfect fit, the conversations it sparks and the understanding it builds could be transformative (and at least you’ll get a few weeks off laundry duty).

After all, a happy marriage is the best thing. But a partnership where both people feel valued, understood, and supported? That’s a close second. And it’s a whole lot better than a miserable marriage.

Meghan McTavish writes for Kiindred and also podcasts at SELF care-ISH on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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