"Marriage and parenting [aren't] 50/50. Some days it is. Other days it's 60/40, 70/30, or even 80/20. And you have to be willing to pull your weight, no matter what your partner needs that day."
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 23, 2021. It has since been updated.
A viral photo of an exhausted father sleeping on a hospital floor following a long day at work has sparked an important discussion about equal parenting. The photo—shared by Sara Duncan, a teacher from Fredericktown, Missouri, on Facebook—shows her husband, Joe Duncan, sneaking in a nap on the hard floor of an emergency room after the couple had to take their youngest child to the hospital. "Let's talk about this because it doesn't get enough attention...," the mother-of-two wrote. "What some may see: a dad sleeping while mom stays awake holding their sleeping baby in the ER at 2 am."
"What I see: A dad sleeping on the hard floor of an ER after working 12-hour shifts 6 days a week for the last month, despite the fact [that] his wife asked him to stay home and rest, all because he didn't want his babies in STL alone. Because he didn't want his wife to have to do it on her own, no matter how exhausted he is," Duncan continued. "Marriage and parenting [aren't] 50/50. Some days it is. Other days it's 60/40, 70/30, or even 80/20. And you have to be willing to pull your weight, no matter what your partner needs that day. This is what love is. This is what being a husband is. This is what being a daddy is. And I wouldn't want to do this life with anyone else! Thank you for all you do for us, daddy! We love you."
Speaking to Good Morning America, Duncan said: "I posted that from the bottom of my heart to my husband, because I know that I don't give him enough recognition for how phenomenal he is as a husband and a father. I could tell him, but it's not enough. I really did want to tell people, 'It's not always going to be perfect, but it will always be worth it.'" She revealed that Joe, who works as a cement technician, had just finished a 12-hour shift that night on March 23.
A photo of a dad sleeping on a hospital floor after working a 12-hour shift went viral with the post being shared over 32,000 times. It also sparked a conversation about equal parenting after the image was posted on Facebook.https://t.co/cE1FimI62w— The Independent (@Independent) April 15, 2021
When Duncan told her husband that she wanted to bring their daughter to the hospital to be evaluated after noticing she was wheezing, Joe insisted on joining them. Despite needing to return to a morning shift in a few hours, he changed into clean work clothes and took the one-hour drive with his family to the hospital. "He's an 'I have to be with you' type of guy," she explained. "I knew that he was exhausted. I said, 'Stay home. I know my way at [the hospital], and he was like, 'No. You're not going up there by yourself.'"
At the hospital, Duncan said she looked down on the ground and noticed Joe using the car seat as a pillow to sneak in a snooze while they waited. "I was looking at him thinking how thankful I am for him and how I wouldn't want to do this life without him," she said, explaining why she wanted to capture the moment. "Parenting is really hard," she added. "I can't imagine doing it without him. Kudos to single moms. I have a husband who cooks, cleans, does diapers and baths, and I'm still exhausted." Fortunately, the Duncans' daughter received minor treatment and was cleared to go home after two hours.
Duncan's post has been shared over 38k times on Facebook, igniting conversations about the importance of couples equally sharing the parenting load. Speaking on the subject, reproductive psychiatrist Dr. Alexandra Sacks explained that it's important for couples to discuss their expectations of roles and responsibilities before entering parenthood. They should also touch base from time to time as the parenting experience evolves, she said, to examine how the division of labor is working out for each other.