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, October 08, 2007

Leftovers for Company

Men are doing more around the house than ever before, but there are some areas of home management that still fall mainly to women. Take planning for dinner guests, for example. In most homes, exceptions withstanding, women take the lead in picking out the menu, shopping for the food, cooking, and generally planning the evening. Men are mostly urged to get out of the way, or are asked to help out (as directed by their wives).

But why? Aside from the obvious cliche answers, I maintain that men are fully capable of these activities. In our house, where we tend to examine more tasks for equality than the average married couple, we decided to put 'dinner for a guest' to the ESP test. In other words, it was my turn to do all the planning and Amy's turn to help if needed.

The result: leftovers. Not leftovers as in an almost full pan of homebaked lasagna. Leftovers as in 'empty the fridge and serve up what we have'. Some of us got to finish off the baked squash from last night, while others dug into the leftover pasta. Dessert was the end of a package of store-bought cookies.

Now mind you - this was NOT Amy's way. She loves to cook for company and enjoys trying out new recipes, putting together a fresh meal, and she feels that her efforts are a way to honor the guest. But because we practice ESP, there is room for my way too. In my world, serving a good friend (as this guest was) leftovers is like saying 'you are part of our family'. To me, that is the greatest honor. And besides, I served perfectly good food that tasted just fine.

Amy will be the first to admit to cringing and wringing her hands at my plans when she got wind of them. It was a stretch for her to trust that the evening would be enjoyed by all even if my meal was served. I didn't do anything out of spite, or to teach her a 'lesson'. I truly made my decisions because this is the way I would have put together a meal for a guest if I were a bachelor.

In the end, the evening WAS enjoyed by all. Amy admitted that turning over the reins to me was freeing once she was able to let go - she could sit back and watch the scene rather than go into people-pleasing mode. I admit that I love Amy's way of caring for guests too.

It takes two people to make equal sharing work, and the barriers are often subtle. We could have gone on forever in our usual unequal dinner-work division without too many problems, but putting ourselves up to this challenge is how we both grow.

4 Comments:

Anonymous David B. Bohl at SlowDownFAST.com said...

Marc,

What a great approach. I love it! I can see how a man (like myself) can 'get away' with it.

My problem is different. I love to plan the meal, shop, cook, and entertain, yet I always make the same mistake: I over-buy both food and drink.

My wife and I have a longstanding joke (more like a reality) in that she tends to under-buy and I always buy and prepare too much.

Is it because I'm afraid of running out? Depriving my guests? Not impressing them?

I think if I use your example I've lowered the bar of expectation - FOR MYSELF!

Thanks for sharing.

David

8:51 PM  
Blogger mom said...

Reliquishing control is something that many people - myself included - who do want equality struggle with. Thanks for the great model. Must try this at home.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

What are the standards in our home for a dinner party, cleaning, sharing responsibilities? This blog sparked a discussion of this in my home. I realize the spirit of this blog entry is to appreciate that Amy stepped back and let Marc plan an evening with guests on his own. And I totally appreciate that.

But, taken literally, Marc laid out a challenge--which I understood to be this:

"In most homes, exceptions withstanding, women take the lead in picking out the menu, shopping for the food, cooking, and generally planning the evening. Men are mostly urged to get out of the way, or are asked to help out (as directed by their wives).

...In our house, where we tend to examine more tasks for equality than the average married couple, we decided to put 'dinner for a guest' to the ESP test. In other words, it was my turn to do all the planning and Amy's turn to help if needed."

BUT, Marc didn't really pick out a menu ahead of time, or go shopping for the food, or cook. He did plan the evening, but that didn't seem to be the whole of the "challenge."

It didn't seem very equal that one person prepares a fresh meal for dinner guests, while the other serves leftovers. Whose leftovers were they? Were they all from meals that Marc prepared previously and shopped for and he just didn't feel like cooking that evening? Or were they from meals that Amy prepared?

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the point being made, but I don't think the challenge was really met.

Having said that, I think you guys are great--and thanks for your website and ESP.

--Lisa

P.S. As an aside--Marc's comment that "I truly made my decisions because this is the way I would have put together a meal for a guest if I were a bachelor" also got me and my husband talking. He pointed out that Amy allowed Marc to do things his own way--for better or for worse--as they say, and I appreciate this point of view. But I couldn't help thinking, "But you aren't a bachelor, and doesn't that change something?"

P.P.S. We are free for dinner anytime Marc would really like to take "dinner for guests" to a different level--without leftovers.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Lisa,
Thanks for pointing out some possible inequities - I may have to ask Marc for a re-do of the challenge! Seriously, though, the big message is that I had to make room for the idea that Marc's way of entertaining could be equally legitimate. He has now given me 'permission', by example, to serve leftovers to company myself if I choose. There is some freedom in realizing that.

You're right that Marc is no longer a bachelor, and this fact counts for something in what's expected of him now. I think he meant that without my influence, he would have found leftovers perfectly lovely food to serve his dearest friends. As it turns out, it was actually one of his friends (and now mine too) who was the victim here.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Marc the Chef...and thanks for writing!

8:19 PM  

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