By Rob Sturrock

I was lucky enough to marry a wonderful woman, Julia, whom I love and admire deeply. Julia has a terrific career as both a lawyer and an advocate for consumers who get screwed over by banks, credit card companies and insurance dealers. Her work is meaningful to us both, and impacts thousands of people in the community.

When we got married on a windswept beach in Hawaii five years ago, I vowed to Julia that we would walk together as ‘soulmates, best friends and equal partners’. It wasn’t until we started having kids, that I saw how truly unequal her working life was compared to mine. Having two small kids, Aila who is four and Luke who is one, has been a major test to my promise of equality. It takes planning, compromise and hard work every single day. But it’s worth it to Julia, myself and importantly our kids.

Our relationship is founded on love, but also mutual respect. Our careers matter equally to one another, and we try to act that out every crazy, kid-fuelled week of the year. It started with me taking three months’ parental leave for each child. While I had precious bonding time with my babies, Julia could get stuck into her career with full force and effect. The impact was profound.

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Rob shares the responsibility of parenting equally with his wife.

Now we’re both working again, we split parenting as evenly as possible. We both work four days a week, taking one day to care for kids. It still amazes me how few men even consider part time or flexible work arrangements. We also take turns caring for Luke and Aila if they’re sick, or need to see a doctor mid-week. Plus I’m as involved in their daycare as Julia. I attend the information evenings for our daughter’s pre-school while she works late, drafting amendments to Bills going to the Senate in the morning.

Sharing the mental load of running our family home is a big deal to us. We both take initiative for housework and don’t wait to be handed a task list. It’s on us both to update the family calendar with birthdays, work conferences and bill due dates. If Julia’s work week is particularly hectic, I accommodate it, and vice versa. And we each have babysitters on speed dials.

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Rob and his wife Julia both work four days per week and take turns caring for their two children when they are sick.

Now that our kids sleep through the night, we encourage one another to socialise with friends. Julia can head out for dinner with friends to vent and laugh, knowing that the kids are fine with me at home. Given how isolating parenting can be, making time for friendships is crucial.

One of the best things about our relationship is that Aila and Luke will see equality role modelled every day. It will be normal and uninteresting to them, but it will shape their character and values for life. Equality will be at the heart of who they are.

When I was caring for Luke on parental leave, Julia would be asked how homelife was going. Were things spinning out of control with me in charge? She would tell them, ‘It’s awesome. I love my job and I get to come home to kids who have been fed and bathed, dinner is cooked and ready, laundry is done, bins are emptied, bills are paid. This is what it must feel like to be a man’.

Empowering and supporting Julia is one of the best things I can do as a husband and father. I want to get better at it every day, and genuinely honour my vows to be her equal.

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Man Raises Boy by Rob Sturrock, RRP: $29.99 (Allen & Unwin) is out now.