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

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lunch with Fran Deutsch

Marc and I had the privilege of meeting Fran Deutsch recently, driving out to her office at Mount Holyoke College to talk with her about equally shared parenting. Dr. Deutsch is a professor of social psychology, and author of the 1999 book Halving It All: How Equally Shared Parenting Works. It is from reading Dr. Deutsch's work that we decided on the name for this website, and we have long hoped to meet up with her and discuss her research and experience with ESP couples.

So it was with great enthusiasm that we made our short pilgrimage to the Mount Holyoke campus. Over lunch, we found Dr. Deutsch to be just as interested in ESP as ever, with plans for coordinating a multinational study of equally sharing couples. She shared with us how she became involved in this area of research, what it was like to collect the data for Halving It All, and her current philosophies about ESP. It was like meeting someone across the world who spoke our own language, and we could have talked with her for days.

Among many ESP-related topics we covered together, here are some of Dr. Deutsch's thoughts:

  • When asked to name their ideal marriage arrangement after children, her students (college students - a representative cohort of Generation Y) most often choose equally shared parenting. The fall-back choice is a full-time working father and a SAHM or a mother who works part-time in order to be home with the kids. Almost none of these young people want a dual-earner 'superwoman' marriage - their last choice. These answers speak to the fact that this generation is highly family oriented.
  • Dr. Deutsch believes that young parents do not yet think that ESP is possible. They want it, but they settle for their second choice or some even less desirable lifestyle because they can't figure out how to get to gender equality. Yet young women, especially, have conflicting desires that could be resolved by choosing equal sharing - meaningful careers and intimate mothering (and unharried, happy lives).
  • In her recent work, Dr. Deutsch has begun to group ESP couples into three categories: Home-based sharers, Balance sharers, and Career/Job-based sharers. Home-based sharers are those whose guiding principle is raising their children together, usually by compromising work (staying at home or reducing their work hours). Balance sharers are those who value both work and family equally, finding ways to fit in family needs while usually both maintaining full-time jobs. Career/Job-based sharers are those who both want high-bore, influential careers; they put work before family and often end up outsourcing a large portion of household labor and childcare. This last category is "not really ESP at all" since they spend so much time on the job that they have very little left of themselves for family, housework, self or their partner. This gets at the idea that ESP is about more than equality; it is just as much about balance.
  • There is one absolute deal-breaker for the Home-based type of equally shared parenting: the belief that women are better than men at nurturing children. Although there is no scientific truth to this belief, it pervades pockets of many cultures. If one partner (or both) believes that this is true, ESP cannot coexist with the notion of being loving and wise parents by sharing equally in the raising of children.
  • Dr. Deutsch believes that ESP couples can be found in every society and every nation. Even in cultures that strongly label women as caregivers and men as breadwinners, or countries where women have few rights, ESP lives underground in the homes of those who desire it enough to make it real.

We left for home with the knowledge that Fran Deutsch is a great believer in equally shared parenting, and a full supporter of our work to spread the news of its reality. We hope this is the beginning of a long collaboration.


Blogger chicago pop said...

I'm surprised to learn that the fall-back choice is a dad at the office and mom at home either full or part time. That's most of what I see around me, and although it LOOKS like nothing has changed, I know that many people wind up in that arrangement because of the econmics. If more women were earning enough to float their husbands in part-time work, we'd see more of it.

But still, the fact that young people who aren't yet on the market view the male-at-work/mom-at-home arrangement as 2nd best still kind of gets me.

Absolutely true about the deal-breaker. The only person that I have yet encountered who has expressed that opinion has been my wonderful, 87-year old grandmother from Ohio, who voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964.

5:33 PM  

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