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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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Back to Work

After 11 months of intermittent job searching, while pursuing other interests, I have landed a paying job in IT support (similar to my last position). My search proceeded through a few different stages along the way. It started slowly with resumes being sent to publicly advertised positions along with a cover letter describing my desire for reduced hours work. Not a single company responded. Next, I broadened my search to include recruiters who I thought could present my interests to multiple employers. Again, not a single employer was willing to entertain the idea of a reduced-hours employee without the benefit of meeting me first. This didn't surprise me, but I wanted to do the research anyway.

My goal then switched to generating some interviews by using a more traditional cover letter. Right away companies called to express interest. I arranged a number of interviews and took the opportunity to discuss flexibility in general terms with those employers who seemed somewhat interested. The consistent response was in defense of the corporate policy of allowing flexibility, but they also stressed that this position was indeed a full-time position with little room for negotiation. Once again their interest cooled significantly after this discussion.

What turned out to be the last stage of my search consisted of almost entirely avoiding the topic of reduced hours. I would occasionally point out that I have worked a variety of schedules throughout my career and stressed that I was focused on meeting the demands of the position. During this stage, my goal was to generate job offers before discussing any benefits. Of course, the risk is that the company might get annoyed that the topic didn't come up sooner. However, these discussions were the most interesting from a negotiation point of view. They were prepared to say they were interested in me as a candidate but often not enough to set an uncommon example.

In the end, after my current employer made me an offer I requested an in-person meeting to discuss the schedule and benefits. They began this meeting by stating that the job was indeed a full time position with a premium on being present during normal working hours. I acknowledged their description of the ideal worker and offered the understanding that they would be taking on some additional risk if they were to settle for less than the ideal. However, I pointed out that every hire includes many risks. I stressed my qualifications, my stable work history, and my desire to find a job that fit in my life. When they pinned me down to a specific schedule request, I gave them two options. Either four 8 hour days or three 8 hour days and two days where I left at noon. They left me alone for about 15 minutes while they discussed the offer with others and then returned to accept the five day option. I agreed to adjust their salary offer down by the same percentage as the reduction in hours.

This whole process has been a fabulous experience and learning opportunity for both Amy and me. We got to stare down both the male breadwinner and the female nurturer roles, not without some difficulty. We struggled to maintain our equality as we recognized the benefits and pull of having a parent available for more home duties. And we solidified our belief in ESP as we entertained other options.

Thanks to many of you who have encouraged us along the way. We couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Evolution of Balance

Whenever our culture shifts, the changes send off ripple effects and cause whole industries to rebuild themselves - sometimes in small ways, sometimes with complete makeovers. Just like with physical evolution, sociological evolution requires our species to adapt or perish.

Today, I believe our society is in the midst of a work/life balance evolution. Its been a long time coming, and we have decades ahead of us before it is anywhere near complete. But we have evidence of it now, measurable evidence. Generation X/Y is demanding balanced lives in all sectors of business, and this outcry is forcing careers to change trajectory and corporations to make changes in how they employee these young and talented workers.

Take this story in today's WSJ on how young physicians are rejecting the 24/7 dedication of their profession, and how medicine is changing to accommodate their wishes. While some (usually older) doctors are complaining about the younger generation's work ethic, others are applauding how this change could actually improve medicine by assuring alert and focused clinicians who can care for patients with a team approach. Medicine is becoming increasingly electronic - portable access to full electronic medical records, for example, with fully updated problem lists and medication lists - which facilitates multi-person care teams. Physicians are becoming more reliant on subspecialists for up-to-date evidence-based patient care - not just other physician subspecialists, but highly trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and (to Amy's delight) clinical pharmacists. All of this not only allows, but supports, physicians who want to practice excellent medicine and still have balanced and happy home lives.

Growth is always hard. Naysayers will balk. Tipping points will require action - evolution will happen. Balanced lives are becoming possible in so many professions previously only open to those who couldn't be involved fathers (or mothers). No more. Let's get out there and tip over some more bastions of imbalance...they're already teetering....

Monday, April 28, 2008

Taking Responsibility

I just finished reading an advance copy of a new mommy self-help book called Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself by feminist author Amy Richards. Its release date is tomorrow, so I figured I'd try to beat most of the crowd to a mini-review. From the title, I immediately assumed that this would be yet another of a string of books dedicated to helping women balance their lives after having babies - you know, those books that assume a woman parents in a vacuum and don't bother to mention the part her partner could play in creating that balance.

But I was wrong. This book finally says something that I have wished the others had the guts to say: people, take responsibility for your own destiny! Ms Richards calls on us to stop using the workplace as a scapegoat for why we can't have what we want (with excuses like 'there are no good part-time jobs,' or 'my husband can't possibly cut back at work so I have to do everything at home') and instead take courageous steps to claim the lives we want anyway, and take the unfinished business of feminism back into our own homes to create equality with our partners.

And she's not just talking to women (despite the book's title). She calls for men to stand up for their own rights to balanced lives. "If the fight isn't joined by men who want a life, too, any solutions become 'women's' solutions. A broader drive to redesign work will take a union-style consciousness that makes it safe for men who secretly want balance to say so." [She's quoting Matt Miller from the Center for American Progress in this last statement.]

Richards' message doesn't stop at going for your dreams in the workplace. She tackles women's role in holding onto primary parenthood and calls for us to stop thinking of motherhood as any more important than fatherhood. Using herself as an example, she says "I don't want to deprive [my children] of a nurturing father by pulling rank as a mother." Richards then addresses gender stereotypes in how we raise our kids, and argues that if we want to raise children who are not biased by constricted gender roles, we have to model gender equality for them as parents. Yes, yes, yes.

She also includes a big, fat chapter on getting men to do more childcare and housework. Her own marriage, she admits, is closer to a 60:40 divide (with, you guessed it, the usual gender division). Why, she laments, is this ratio considered fantastic, and why is 50:50 so elusive? Her answer is because we don't have good role models to learn from, and because we focus on physically dividing the tasks of housework/childraising without also including the equal division of responsibility, authority, investment, and management for these tasks, and also because once kids come along "the push toward conformity is strong and it's hard to resist." Her finger is pointed squarely at women here: "A more loaded and fraught explanation is that women won't relinquish control over the house." We can't let go of owning parenthood - whether it be because we think we parent better than men, we simply want to be in control, we fear social disapproval, or we feel unappreciated in other aspects of our lives.

I could go on and on, quoting paragraph after paragraph - especially from her chapter on childcare and housework equality. But, bottom line, I like a lot of what Amy Richards says in Opting In. The title is crummy - it doesn't frame up her arguments well. And the way that she uses Lisa Belkin's Opt-Out Revolution article as a lead-in and conclusion to this book feels like she's trying to counter Belkin's work; I think that the two are simply separate pieces of an extremely complex and personal work/life balance puzzle rather than opposing forces.

Richards is all about the personal - taking responsibility, owning an authentic life, and being a real part of bigger social change toward balance and equality. This is not a self-help book because it doesn't tell us exactly how to get there. It also doesn't focus much on the myriad of benefits that equality provides to men. It just asks us to do. Here at ESP.com, we're all about the doing - the practical steps. So, thanks Amy Richards, for giving the world a nudge in the direction of ESP. We're happy to take it's hand now and lead the way.

p.s. I can't resist one more quote: "In the absence of a society that raises both men and women to raise children equally, we may feel forced to go to extremes in order to come close to fifty-fifty." I love this - it explains so much. With all the social pressures bearing down on couples to assume traditional arrangements (especially after they have children), it takes extreme purposefulness to choose differently. So if ESP couples sound like kooks every now and then because we microscopically examine gender assumptions, well - we're allowed! We're on guard to preserve our equality, not because we're picking each other to death, but because we're a team making sure that 'what is' doesn't engulf what we really want for our lives.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Real Life ESP

No, they're not one of our Real Life Stories couples (although they definitely should be). But they definitely are an equally shared parenting poster family! I'm talking about the couple showcased in a great little article in the UK paper, The Guardian, yesterday. The parenting and work schedules of Mike and Albertine Davies are described - she's a teacher and he's a probation officer and they each work part-time and share care of their two young sons (with a little help from grandma).

The Davies eloquently spell out some of the challenges and benefits of ESP, and I agree with their thoughts. One of the challenges they mention is the salary reduction of two part-time careers as compared to two full-time ones. They counter this with the fact that two part-time jobs usually provide a bit more income than one full-time one (with one SAHP). I would add that two part-time careers can actually bring in a lot more than one full-time one if those part-time hours are closer to 30-35/week than 20/week - and still accomplish the goal of minimal outside childcare requirements if schedules are carefully crafted. And two part-time jobs can sometimes even eclipse the net earnings of two full-time jobs if you take into account families with no grandma to care for multiple kids while parents work.

I love that the Davies mention the balanced lives that ESP provides each of them, the equality that is felt between them, and the intimacy that comes when "the other person knows - really, really knows - exactly what it's like."

The article is part of the kick-off of the paper's Work/Life Balance Week. Big thumbs up for The Guardian's coverage of a true ESP couple on their first day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Pursuit of Money

Most research on the relationship of happiness to money shows that money buys happiness only when we are abjectly poor. Beyond the happiness that comes from being able to pay for our basic needs (food, shelter, etc.), we don't really get any happier from amassing wealth. Well, new data seem to show that this money/happiness relationship is more linear than we've thought - in other words, more money does provide more happiness. This new information comes from studies of the life satisfaction score of people in various countries, plotted against their mean income. There are many reasons why such data cannot be applied to individuals, but I'm sure many will take this to heart. After all, our whole American economy is built on the fact that we must get rich and have the latest and best stuff to be happy, right?

The biggest problem is that these statistics don't take into account the unhappiness that comes from yearning for money, and from pursuing it at high non-monetary costs. We're conditioned to think that we have to buy a house, for example, and so many families stretch themselves beyond their financial limits to achieve this milestone of modern success. We can't stop there, either, since our house is always smaller or less lavishly decorated than someone else's. Constantly comparing ourselves to others who appear to have more is a recipe for anxiety and unhappiness. And so we slave on, spending our time earning more money so that we can spend our money and be happier someday.

My description may be overly simplistic, but I'm constantly surprised by how tightly this buying-therapy mentality is woven into our lives. It steals our ability to achieve ESP, and that is where I get to speak up. Making a conscious decision to equally share the parenting of our children with our partner usually means rejecting at least part of this road to 'happiness.' This is because we know that the less money we need, the more freedom we have to create balanced lives and share them equally together. The more time we have, the more of it we can give to our kids too. ESP families may not be the richest in town, at least monetarily, but by quitting the quest for more money, we also quit the heartache of not 'enough.'

One line I like in the article about the new money/happiness data is this: "When you're richer, you can decide to work less...." Ah, but how many wealthy people make this decision (short of the Paris Hiltons of the world)? My challenge to those considering equal sharing is to decide when they are 'rich enough' to work less (that's less time, not less effectively), and allow themselves the possibility of doing just that.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Balance is Impossible?

Steve Martin hosted Saturday Night Live on 10/23/76. This was his opening line:

"To, uh, open the show, I always like to do one thing that IS impossible."

I remembered this piece of trivia while reading an article on CNN a couple of days ago. The author shares her desire to find balance in her life with the following statement, "I didn't say such balance is difficult to attain. I didn't say it's rare. I said it's impossible." Ultimately, she encourages women (she doesn't mention men at all) to pay attention to the roles they are playing and the cultural expectations they are trying to meet. She offers this advice as a path to being at peace with a hectic, unbalanced life.

I really like her approach to paying attention to roles and cultural expectations, but her premise about balance is flawed. I understand that life can be hectic at times, maybe even most of the time, but that only precludes the possibility of balance over a short period. Just last week I had a classic unbalanced day with the kids. It included a messy failed attempt at potty training, a large bottle of hand lotion dumped all over multiple rooms and surfaces by my son while he was supposedly napping, a scary fall off playground equipment that luckily didn't require a trip to the hospital, several trips via bike and/or car for dropoffs and pickups, several calls looking for a last minute babysitter, food shopping, a phone interview, and two children that wanted very little to do with Daddy, followed by Amy being away for the evening with a work obligation.

What a day! By Martha Beck's analysis, this is parenthood and I'd better make peace with it - accept that this is my lot in life and skip trying for a balanced life. I say, "No way." I'll make peace with it and go one better - I'll love it. But I won't settle for my life being one day after another of this chaos any more than I'll settle for it being endless runs of 12-hour days at work. By sharing the childraising with Amy, and also sharing the breadwinning and housework, we both get breaks from the occasional hairy days in either role. And lo and behold...the impossible becomes possible.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stymied Equality

Babble magazine's Strollerderby blog tackles the question of why - after all these years of feminist progress - women still do so much more housework than their husbands (even though the gap is closing). Blogger Cole Gamble offers these reasons (and a few other minor ones):

1. Old-fashioned sexism: Some men still think that housework isn't manly and therefore is beneath them (unless it involves danger, or perhaps very heavy lifting).
2. Men don't see the dirt that women see: He argues that a man doesn't avoid housework so much as not notice it needs doing until things get pretty messy. Several comments on the blog point to how this can also be reversed - sloppy women, neat men - and I fervently believe that any such predilection for men to be blind to dirt is cultural rather than genetic. Nonetheless, take almost any two people on the planet and you'll have two different thresholds for noticing and acting on household tasks. This is why it is so important for a couple to talk and come to agreement on joint standards!
3. Women don't like how men do it: Women, he says, have specific ways they want housework done and they would rather do it themselves than accept that it would be okay for their partners to do it differently. Ah yes - when will we realize that equality will only be possible when women let go of having things their way? Gamble mentions his wife's mysterious method of folding clothes, saying "there is some kind of perfect geometry to underwear folding I apparently can't get my head around." And who wants to? Would it be terrible if the underwear were wrinkled? The horror! In ESP, neither partner gets to dictate how a chore is done. Again, those joint standards....

Gamble is a man who is perfectly capable of handling his half of the housework; he's not one of those sexist guys in point #1. But he's not allowed to reach the 50% mark because his wife still owns the management title in his house. He's probably not going to beg to do more housework when he encounters these barriers each time he tries. But he does recognize what's going on - a great first step. Now, it is up to him to challenge those barriers if he wants to claim all the benefits of being in an ESP relationship. And if his wife is ready to reap those same benefits along with him, she'll have a big role in making it happen.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Verdict: A Balanced Life

It was great to read today of this celebrated Florida Supreme Court justice who is resigning to have more time with his family. This includes his 13 year old daughter who just had surgery for an undisclosed illness. His decision is indeed a rarity - a huge step down from a position of such power, authority and outward respect. It takes a brave man (or woman) to take this step in such a large public way.

Judge Cantero reminds us that the standard American Dream of more money, prestige or even worldly accomplishments is not always the best medicine for your soul. This piece reminded me of a story I heard told by Bernie Siegel MD many years ago where he described how even the most busy people find time to care for a seriously sick family member. Both the caregiver and the patient benefit tremendously from this interaction. Bernie wrapped up the anecdote by encouraging people to live their lives assuming the people close to them were always sick. Not in a depressing way but rather in the spirit of living a balanced life where time for others is as important as time for self.

I wonder how Judge Cantero will balance his life in the years to come. Hopefully, with a fully healthy daughter.

Good call, Judge!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Living in a Material World

As I've written about briefly in recent posts, I had the pleasure of attending the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood's 6th Summit Conference this past weekend. It took a few days for me to digest what I heard and saw there - at least enough to write about it here.

Let me say that it was absolutely eye-opening and gut-wrenching. Hands down the best and most important conference I've been to in - well, probably forever. Only about 200 attendees packed the sold-out room as speaker after speaker gave us a picture of what is like to be a child today. By that I mean what our children are bombarded with in terms of blatant or coy advertising (with 'coy' definitely being a play on words) in company's attempts to grow loyal, lifelong consumers of our buy-buy-buy material culture. All in the name of making more money, and then yet more and more money.

I was so naive. I thought perhaps I was shielding my kids from this stuff by my little efforts to avoid commercial toys spun-off from movies. There is no shielding our kids, unless we raise them in a bubble or at the very least move to Sweden. The worst of it is the objectification that our culture creates - the idea that our kids are not people, real humans with feelings and a need to see good relationships modeled for them, but rather something to be bought and sold into the mighty American marketplace. Boys get taught about violence; girls get taught to be sexy.

Do I sound preachy? The amazing thing is that no one at the Summit did. I can't do the material justice. It was presented in a realistic, not dreamy, way. I met the most learned, warm and enthusiastic people there - all experts in their fields who don't do what they do to judge others but to alert us to realities and work for change. I felt honored to be among them - me, a little mom trying to learn more about this stuff. I came away changed myself.

So, you may wonder what this all has to do with equally shared parenting. I went there thinking the two weren't connected, but now I know better. The world that the CCFC envisions is one not run by materialism - it is one in which time is the new money, and where we're dedicated to the well-being of people rather than businesses (necessitating a completely new way of doing business). ESP is likewise focused on the well-being of people (parents, kids), even at the expense of the classic American dream. Time, for balanced lives and for our kids, is our greater treasure; money, achievements and things are not our primary goals.

In order to teach our children not to value what big businesses want them to value (the hottest toy, clothes and other status symbols), we have to model this for them. ESP is a great way to start.

p.s. A huge hug to Mom for introducing me to this conference. It was great to meet you! And wonderful to meet all of you too (and others I don't have links for)! Please keep in touch.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Interactive Dad TV

"The brand new syndicated news segment targets today's dads who strive to be equal partners in the raising of their children."
That's right! This quote came from the front page of the website promoting Interactive Dad TV. This new business aims to sell news pieces to TV stations to attract men ages 25-54. A couple of clips are available on the website to see the kinds of stories Interactive Dad TV plans to produce. The first segment is about a father who created the "Tinkle Tube" to help his son aim better during the early potty training days. The second story is about a father and son bonding on the golf course.

The idea is a spinoff from the online parenting magazine InteractiveDad.com, which offers articles written specifically for fathers. The news section of the site is quite busy, but I'll be spending some time there in the coming days to get a sense for their point of view.

I 'm encouraged to see this kind of attention given to Dads as hands-on parents. Here are a few TV segments I'd like to see...

1. Dad rolling up his sleeves to get good at housework because incompetence just doesn't suit him.
2. Dad encouraging his wife to enjoy a night out with friends because he likes living with a fulfilled partner.

3. Dad embracing the career sacrifices required to be available for his family.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


When it comes to letting go of my grip on primary parenting to make room for Marc's equal role, I have the most trouble around milestones. I think I'm not alone - our culture teaches us that it is a mother's 'right' to mark her children's first smiles, first steps, first tastes of ice cream, first days of school. Sure, I can share these celebrations with Marc. But can I give them up to him too (at least half the time)?

I got to do just that in a very small way this weekend while I was away at the Summit for the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (more about this life-changing event later - I'm still sorting out all the wonder of being a part of it). During a break in the workshop sessions, I checked my voicemail and got a breathless message from M: "Mommy, I lost my tooth!" Her first tooth. I could feel her excitement in the message, and called to get the details. Marc had been there to cheer her on as she made the final pull and was surprised when she found the tiny pearl in her hand. Marc took the picture of her grinning from ear to ear and holding up the tooth. Marc helped her write 'My first tooth - 4/5/2008' on a baggie for safe-keeping until it was tucked under her pillow.

I did have a twinge of 'oh - I wish I had been there' but it was very short-lived. Marc got that milestone to share with M, and I was happy that it worked out this way for both of them. But my ability to let go of this little event is hardly noteworthy. I'm sure many, many kids lose their first teeth in the presence of their classmates and teacher with no parent around at all.

Then there's my friend Kathleen, who purposefully let go of controlling a controllable milestone today - her daughter's first birthday party. A few weeks before the event, she and her husband Tim discussed how they would celebrate, and Tim favored a small party while Kathleen was less sure what she wanted. So they decided that Tim would lead the charge - inviting the guests, buying the food, planning the activities. Kathleen's job was to sit back, assist when asked, and refrain from reminding Tim what was required.

It wasn't completely easy - she had to stop herself multiple times from asking "So, are you going to shop now?" or "What do you want to do about a cake?" But she "practiced ESP," as she put it to me, and held back. The party was lovely - a few friends, a cake that Tim had asked Kathleen to make, appetizers, plenty of pizza, a few streamers, lots of free play and musical chairs for the older kids. No over-structured frenzy. No goodie-bags (thank you, Tim!). Tim served, Tim moved the guests along from food to games to presents, and Tim documented the event on videotape. It was a party Tim-style, and fun was had by all.

Importantly, I'd like to add that Tim and Kathleen are not an ESP couple. Tim, albeit a highly involved dad, works full-time and Kathleen stays at home. What!? That's right. Equal sharing is not just an all-or-none proposition. It is mindset that can be practiced where it makes most sense for each family. The key here is that Kathleen made room for Tim to own something typically reserved for moms - not a token diaper change, but a once-in-a-lifetime first birthday celebration.

Could I sit by and watch Marc plan M or T's birthday party? It would be easy for me to say "yes," but I'm not sure I'd be as graceful as Kathleen. I know it's where I want to go, however. My gut knows that owning this stuff is about me, not about my kids.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Competent Dads on TODAY

Earlier this week, the Today show aired a segment on the 60% rise in the numbers of stay-at-home dads in the last four years. Featured in the piece were Aaron Rochlen, associate professor at the University of Texas/Austin and premiere at-home-dad blogger, Brian Reid. You can watch the piece on Reid's blog site, rebeldad.com.

Watching the clip, I enjoyed seeing dads represented as competent parents and particularly liked the statement by one dad that he didn't feel like sitting in an office all day was any more masculine than caring for his kids. There was also a companion written piece by Brian Reid which has pointers for dads considering staying at home. Brian includes a list that is applicable to all parents from an ESP perspective as well:

Step one: Find the goalposts - How are the household chores divided?
Step two: Be aware of the implications - Why did you choose this lifestyle?
Step three: Run the numbers - How much will this lifestyle
cost or save your family?
Step four: Build in some outs - Take care of yourself. Enjoy your life!
Step five: Consider an exit plan - Keep investing in your career.
Step six: Shoot for greatness - Competence is bliss.

The piece then goes on to outline workplace and government changes that would help dads be more involved. One particular suggestion is attributed to law professor, Joan Williams. She suggests "that workers be allowed to work part-time, with an accordingly pro-rated salary - and benefits and advancement...parents could each work 25 hours a week, make as much money as - and collect the benefits of - a single worker pumping out 50-hours weeks, all without anyone sacrificing their home life."

Now that sounds like a winning plan!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gender: Nature or Human Invention?

This is another of our very belated book reviews - of books that belong on our Resources page but for some reason or another were late in arriving there. Today's review is about Barbara Risman's wonderful Gender Vertigo. Published in 1998 when she was a sociology professor at North Carolina State University (she's now at the University of Illinois at Chicago), Gender Vertigo examines what is means to be men and women in our culture - and it means so much more than most of us could consciously admit!

Gender Vertigo suggests that our labeling of everything as 'masculine' and 'feminine' is taken for granted as a way of organizing all aspects of our society. That what we all assume is the natural nurturing instinct of women is in fact a gender structure "so accepted that we seldom even see it." We've built it ourselves.

In particular, Risman examines how this plays out in families and then presents 15 'feminist' families - in other words, ESP families ("in which the husband and wife...actually agree that they are equally responsible for earning the family wage and doing the family labor of housework and childrearing"). In her study, interestingly, the 15 families shared several characteristics: high education for both parents, fathers who were rather easy-going, secure about themselves and family-centered, and mothers who often outearned their husbands.

She divides the ESP couples into four relationship types: dual-career (two parents who were equally career-centered), dual-nurturer (two parents whose lives centered around the family), post-traditionals (parents who had escaped traditional relationships and wanted to avoid them now) and those pushed by outside forces (parents who became equals due to outside circumstances). I think Marc and I are dual-nurturers-who-value-our-careers!

It gets really interesting when Dr. Risman interviews the children in these 15 families. In fact, involving the ESP kids in research is rather rare, so she provides an important look at what equal sharing might be doing to our kids. Although she doesn't delve into how ESP affects kids' self-esteem or other life-functioning characteristics, her data show that ESP kids believe in ESP and fully expect their adult lives to be similar to their parents'. Interestingly, however, coming from a family in which a mother and father are true peers doesn't prevent kids from considering their own classmates to be gendered. The ESP kids, like all other children, believe in differences between girls and boys and consider themselves to fit in with these societal gender expectations. As Risman says, "It almost seems as if these children believe that boys and girls are opposites but that men and women are magically transformed into equal and comparable people."

Dr. Risman's concluding chapter introduces the dizzying out-of-the-box thinking that would be needed to produce a world not organized by gender - in other words, a world where equality is possible. She argues that this type of thinking is the only exit from "deeply held but incorrect beliefs about the natural differences between women and men."

Gender Vertigo is a feminist sociology text, written for a social science audience. But don't let that stop you from being inspired by its messages. I'm definitely inspired to be a part of what Dr. Risman envisions for our gender-equal future. I'm happy to read what we might be inspiring in our children when they someday pick their partners and set up their families. I'm thrilled to read of Dr. Risman's solid belief in gender as social invention rather than a natural constraint.

And I'm happy to introduce you to the latest entry in our Resources section: Gender Vertigo.

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