【明報專訊】I was going home from work the other day on the minibus. The driver, an older gentleman with a full head of grey and a preference for swearing and overtaking slower vehicles in front of him was having an animated conversation with a young man seated directly behind him.
The two seemed to know each other and there were exchanges about family members and how everyone was coping with the viral outbreak. The young man mentioned that his mother worked as a ''bus mom'' but had been out of work since schools closed.
As the driver pulled into the last stop our young friend asked him a question: are you ever going to have children?
The driver's first response was to swear. A lot. ''Don't you ever ask another man this question ever again!'' he warned. ''If a man has time on his hands he should spend it studying or thinking of ways to make money, not having children!''
As amusing as his response was it also struck me as out-of-touch. Not that the priority of young men everywhere should be starting families and having children, but there is also no hard and fast rule that says these life goals should be the exclusive province of women.
From the very first day my wife Jenny and I became parents we knew that we would be sharing childcare duties. I never really gave it much thought as to why this has been so. Yet this regime of co-equal parenting has served us relatively well over the years, and so might be worth thinking about.
I suppose our arrangement is partly due to circumstance. Long before kids entered the martial picture, Jenny and I made choices to work in jobs that would make us happy. It would be a happiness that derived from a sense of personal enjoyment for the work we did as much as from the impact we felt our work had within the community at large. And we were lucky enough to find this kind of work, with Jenny becoming a college professor, and I, a civil rights lawyer, and then, after moving to Hong Kong, a bookseller.
This arrangement never changed, even after we had kids. Work continued, albeit in a diminished state. Jenny taught her classes and travelled for research. I ran my law practice, went to court and then started Bleak House Books.
Perhaps because Jenny and I wanted to preserve the status quo, we each felt obligated to pull our own weight when it came to the kids. It was, in effect, an unspoken pact, with one person's conduct conveying to the other person a certain resolve; that we could continue doing what we wanted to do but only if we each shared the responsibility of caring for our children. And for the most part, it's worked out.
Is there more to it than that? I'm not sure. Both Jenny and I are proud and independent people. Neither person likes to see the other person do a job that the other person can't or won't do whether it's baking a cake, fixing a clogged sink, or changing poopy diapers. And we try hard to instil this sense of independence and initiative in our children; children who would not forgo having a family or taking on a certain job because of who they are or where they come from.
■By Albert Wan
Albert is the co‑founder and proprietor of Bleak House Books, an English language bookstore in San Po Kong.