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

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Packing and Driving

We just got back today from a mini-vacation to New Hampshire. It was a lovely adventure - part hiking and mountain lake splashing, part Storyland (a children's story-themed amusement park). We went with another couple, whose 5-year old daughter is a perfect companion for M - they were a great team of giggles the whole time. And T had his share of fun as well (as did Marc and myself).

On the way back home, we got to talking about the ESP spin on our vacation. We were pretty equal all the way around, but we noticed two interesting inequalities: I was the one who packed us up, and Marc drove the whole time. How classic - how traditional! Oops. We talked about why this happened (in truth, this is fairly common for most of our vacations) and what it might mean.

I obviously felt the need to control the contents of the suitcase - to make sure that there were enough clothes for everyone, bedtime books were included, children's acetaminophen and adult's ibuprofen were packed just in case, there were enough diapers for T and adequate hairclips for M, etc. I can only imagine what Marc would pack if he were in charge - and my imagining had us stranded and cold with no medicine, no clothes and only dirty diapers. You would have thought we were going into the wilderness, not a fully functioning town with its own drugstore. Heaven forbid we had to wash clothes in the hotel's laundry facilities. I was acting just like a gatekeeping mother.

As for the driving, we realized that however subtle, we were modeling for our children that men drive and women ride. Although we didn't pull over and switch positions mid-return, we vowed to mix this one up on future car trips.

There's a chance that you are wondering if we're crazy with all this nitpicky examining. After all, what we did worked out just fine, right? It is easier to just have me pack and Marc drive, because it requires less thinking and analyzing. But we think we're onto something by noticing. It is not just by chance that I pack every time - it is because I would have a hard time handing this chore over to someone else and trusting that our vacation would be just as fun that way. It is quiet control thing, and it leads me to handle all the worrying and list-making and scurrying in the days leading up to a trip. What if I could let go of this half the time? What could I gain by trusting that Marc is capable? Would I learn something by finding out that we could survive without 2 extra outfits apiece? And it is not chance that Marc drives either - it is a comfort zone thing - something we just automatically do when we're in for a long drive. I think it might slowly turn me into someone who doesn't think she can drive as well for long distances - which is silly.

We've vowed to shake up both of these stereotypical inequalities, even though they are so seemingly insignificant in our daily lives. Even though we don't believe that couples have to split every task down the middle to equally share, we noticed that these two tasks were being unequally shared for reasons we want to eliminate. This is the kind of stuff that flies below the radar in marriages that aren't so devoted to equality, and we actually think it isn't so insignificant after all.

So, I...am...going...to...let...Marc...pack...us - I think - no, I know! No eye rolling, no complaining about his packing. And Marc is going to get booted from the driver's seat.

Have you ever noticed little inequalities and brought them up for discussion?

Happy Labor Day weekend! May your labors be equally shared.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is hard to let go and not try to control. My husband and I have fallen into some traditional roles as well. Pre-kids, we split driving on long drives fairly evenly. But in more recent times, he's done more driving and I've done more pre-trip packing and during trip child wrangling. On a trip a few months ago, he packed two of our kids and forgot underwear for our daughter. But it is true that there are Targets in Ohio too. And I expect we (not just him) often learn better from having to deal with the consequences of our actions or inactions.

On a recent long trip (back from NH also actually), I actively tried to do more of the driving than I'd been doing. I think one reason we've fallen into traditional roles is that I feel I do better with the kids on the trip than he does and I get frustrated when he doesn't do it "well." But like anything, if you don't do it, you don't get better at it. So I tried to step back and drive and let him do what he was going to do with the kids.

8:21 PM  

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