Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

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Here's where we keep you updated on news about parenting as it relates to division of responsibilities, career versus home decisions, work/life balance, and legislative and grass-roots movements toward equality or better choices for families. We'll also throw in our opinions of life as equal parents in a nonequal world, regardless of what's in the news.

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Equality Blog

Monday, April 16, 2007

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: School Obligations
Every so often, we think it might be fun to share with you some of the things we are working on to assure our own parenting equality. So, today it is the flyer that was in M's cubby at preschool last week when I picked her up. The bright yellow piece of paper announced the school's upcoming yard sale, and asked parents to gather their goods and bring them to the school as contributions. There were instructions - what, where, when, who to contact - and a list of responsibilities that needed volunteers.

As I'm sure is true with all of you, we get things like this all the time - things that Marc and I agree do not absolutely require our participation, but nonetheless have an aura of expectation. Each of them seems friendly enough on its own - worthy causes - how could I possibly not participate? Right? But each time I get one, I cringe inside ever so slightly. While at the same time I see benefits all around - in this case, a way to get rid of things accumulating in the basement that we no longer need, a chance to help the school raise some money, a fun community-building event. Normally, I take these requests and do my best to remember the dates and details, and I'm a good dooby.

Marc, on the other hand, doesn't do nearly as much for these types of 'voluntary' obligations. He volunteers in plenty of other ways - usually in a more spontaneous style that matches his personality. But if you added up all the times that each of us takes on these types of tasks, I'd win hands down. Hey - that's not equally shared parenting!

Yes, yes, I know that you could remind me that ESP is about overall equality, not dividing everything down the middle. And it is. But noticing that I take on about 90% of the school obligations is an interesting thing nonetheless. So, we talked about it. We did not argue. We did not accuse or defend. We more like mulled.

We figured out that I take on these things because I feel that they reflect on the mother in our society, and that if we shirked our duties I would look bad. I also take on these things because I want them done my way; I know that if I just handle the yard sale obligation myself, I'll pick the 'right' stuff to sell, get there in time to help set up and price things, remember the right date, etc. Heaven forbid that Marc screw this stuff up...wait a minute! What a load of crap I've sold myself. I should be signing up like a single parent for these obligations only if I feel happy doing them; instead I've been signing up because I'm afraid of the consequences if I didn't do them.

So, Marc suggested that I start to divide up these types of responsibilities with him. But, he will only take one on if I can agree to let go of those consequences - including the choice to actually participate at all. I decided to start with that yard sale. Marc will now be choosing if the Vachon family wants to participate in the preschool yard sale. If he decides we'll contribute, Marc will be gathering the things to sell (I do get to make sure that he isn't donating anything I actually meant to keep). Marc will be responsible for following all the directions in the flyer, including responding back to the school, showing up on time, remembering the date. I will be his assistant only - and only if he wants the help. I will not be reminding him, reading him the flyer details, or urging him on in any way.

The important point here, for us, is that I face letting go and that Marc takes on a task and all its details without it being assigned to him by me. Assignments, honey-do lists and the like are things you give your subordinates, not your true partner. ESP parents communicate, negotiate, divide up the work, and then go about completing their own responsibilities as full team members.

Phew! I felt light and airy after this conversation. And ready for the challenge. Now to put my letting-go skills to work on even bigger things....


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