Don't Wait for the Government
Wow - there is so much talk just in the past few weeks on gender inequality and what to do about it! There's the treasure trove of Mother Load papers, the Opt-Out Revolution re-mix battles, the commentaries (just a few of the best links here). Statistics and trends are being tossed about, and the mood is a mix of frustration that our country is so behind most European countries in childcare benefits, and excitement that the tide may soon be turning. Solutions are proposed by many writers. These solutions all involve either government intervention or big changes by employers; the results of government or business action would be such 'necessities' as paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave, long parental leaves such as those available in Scandinavian countries, on-site daycare, better paying part-time employment and flexible hours. These are all great ideas that need further analysis to make sure that any laws inacted by our government actually result in real benefits to families, or any business changes actually keep companies profitable enough to stick around to provide income for those families. We are cheering on the political action groups proposing such changes.
However, today is today. 'Your life is now', as one of my favorite John Mellencamp songs goes. And the statistics say that more and more young parents want egalitarian marriages and balanced lives. How do you create a balanced and sane lifestyle that allows both a father and a mother to pursue their dreams - career, childraising, hobbies? By embracing equally shared parenting!
We firmly believe that equally shared parenting is not a 'someday in utopia' option. It is an option for a huge majority of families right now. Couples are not embracing it, research says, because the barriers are too difficult. That may be truly what stops people, but we say 'baloney'! Overcoming these barriers will take some courage - you may have to approach your boss to ask for the hours you really want, change jobs if your company can't accomodate you, or even change careers if necessary. It may take a few years before you can actually piece together a sustainable life of equal sharing. But if you don't start today, you will have to wait for those 'someday' government or business changes to trickle down to your specific situation. That may never happen.
Penelope Truck's Brazen Careerist blog entry for today is nicely aligned with our philosophies. It says that most people can get a job that fits with the life they want, and we all reap what we sow. I'm not saying it will always be easy. I'm saying it is more than possible, without any government help.
And when one parent, then another, and then another, asks for what he/she wants at work, the effect will eventually snowball and businesses will be courting us equal sharers because we are such good, hard-working, efficient employees.
Still think it is too hard to get the job you want? Well, there is way more to equally shared parenting than the breadwinning domain. In most households, there is a lot of work to be done equilibrating housework, childraising and recreation time (to the degree possible with unequal work situations). This stuff can happen now.