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, May 28, 2007

Dealing with a Job Loss
We have some news to share. Effective tomorrow, I've been laid off. In fact 80% of my department at work is now out of a job, thanks to an IT outsourcing decision. I join the ranks of so many others who have faced layoffs, and it seems they are as commonplace as the rain. For the past few months, we have suspected that this may happen since I knew of the planned outsourcing - but the final decision could have gone so many ways that Amy and I tried not to get invested in any particular outcome. Now we know.

So, we've added a footnote to the 'About Marc and Amy' section for full disclosure of our current situation. I no longer work about 30 hours a week. And discounting my severance and unemployment benefits (happily, I worked for over 10 years for a company with a history of fair employee benefits), Amy is now the sole breadwinner.

In some ways, we're excited about this new chapter in our lives. What better time to be free than at the beginning of Summer? What a great way to test out the realities of finding a new job that fits the ESP model. How meaningful that we can share this journey with you. I even feel fortunate to have a chance to really step back from my career and see if it needs to move in a different direction or not.

Of course, neither of us is entirely comfortable with this turn of events either. Who would be? We'll be a lot happier if we can both enjoy this phase of life rather than fret about it. That is our main challenge.

I think that a layoff in an ESP family has some interesting twists from one in other lifestyle models. Here are some of my thoughts:
  • I'd be a lot more worried if I were the sole breadwinner or if Amy's job was a marginal one.
  • I am very happy that we've always lived below our means - with one car and a manageable mortgage. It is as if we've planned for this situation all along. Instead of the whole family being stressed financially and emotionally by my layoff, we'll have more of me around the house - more time to do chores, household projects, play with the kids, etc.
  • The majority of my life won't change at all while I'm unemployed. I'll still be home four of seven days per week doing the same things I've done for the 5 years since we've had M.
  • I feel like I have some flexibility in the job I do select. I'm expecting that I will need to take a paycut unless I really change fields, since my 10 year tenure at my just-ended job resulted in senior status and pay. Because I'm prepared for a paycut (within reason), I'm not limited to the few positions in my exact field of IT support that pay what I was making. I can look around in related fields with long-term potential instead.
  • On the flip side, I have less time to look for a job than a full-time breadwinner would have. I'm still planning to be 'on' with the kids for two full weekdays so that they won't need extra daycare and Amy can continue her current work hours.
  • Furthermore, I have the daunting task of convincing my future employer that I'm a great bet at reduced hours (that's my ideal goal). Like many women before me, I'll need to prove I'm worthy. I want a challenging position that also allows Amy and me to continue to equally share childraising, housework and recreation, in addition to breadwinning. How many companies are equipped to hire a male in such a position with growth potential? I'm about to find out.

One other challenge that Amy and I will face is how to maintain equality in our relationship and family. Amy's biggest worry when we discuss my layoff is that I'll hog time with the kids because I'll be around more. So we're planning to watch this closely and preserve Amy's sole-parent time. I'll likely pick up more errands and house projects, at least to start.

Most importantly for ESP.com, we want to use this time as an example of the fact that equal sharing is not tied to external whims. It is an internal family compass, and does not cease for fire, famine or pestilence. Wish us luck!


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