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

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flexibility: Not Just for Work

The latest issue of the online magazine Mothers Movement Online has an interesting essay on flexibility. Author Arthur Emlen makes the argument that the quest for flexibility shouldn't be confined to flexible work arrangements. Instead, real family solutions arise from flexibility at work, with childcare arrangements, and at home. His writing is generally momcentric, but not overly so. He says, "When it comes to jobs and child care, mothers have the amazing ability to make the best choices possible. And their success depends a lot on how much flexibility they can squeeze from their work schedules, family arrangements, and accommodating child care." Substitute 'mothers' for 'parents' and you've got something that an ESP family can appreciate.

Emlen's main point is that policy change to help families cannot be concentrated only on one area - say, subsidized childcare. He argues that every family's needs are different from their neighbors' and no one solution will work. He wants families to have choices - choices about which childcare and how much, what work schedules, how to divide up the care of the home. All areas of our lives need enough wiggle room - aka flexibility - to give us the freedom to make the best choices for our families and ourselves. I can buy that.

When the world thinks about how to accomodate the needs of families, I'll bet they aren't thinking about the demographic of ESP families. The focus is probably on the breadwinner dad and the mom trying to balance a job with primary parenting duties. Subsidized childcare won't do the average ESP family too much good; we'd probably opt for reduced schedules for both parents or better leave options for fathers instead. Emlen is right that one size doesn't fit all.


Blogger mom said...

Great essay! You're right about reduced schedules being key - I think this is unusually true for higher status careers where things like "job share" are a laughing stock. Not only aren't reduced hours an option, but for many trying to do "just" 40-45 hours a week = slacker. My friend "Mary" is a scientist and she used to get heckled when she left the lab at 6:30 (Non-ESP men populating the rest of the lab, of course) -- not very parent-friendly. My sense is that some other governments are way ahead of the US on family support -- I wish we could catch up.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any tips on broaching the subject of flexible schedules with employers? Some concrete ideas on how to negotiate with bosses would be very helpful since this seems to be our biggest barrier to ESP. Thanks!

12:57 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

This topic is an excellent one, and we've included a bit of advice in our Breadwinning Tips and Tricks essay in the 'How It Works' section of this website.

The basic tenants of successful flexible schedule negotiation are to be flexible yourself in what you're asking of your employer (e.g., be willing to come in early/stay late on occasion with enough advance notice to set up childcare), be an excellent employee that no boss would want to have to replace, and always convey how what you want will work out for the company (rather than focusing on why it is important to YOU).

It is always easier to negotiate from a position you've held for a long time in good stead. Negotiating for a brand new position at reduced hours or even flexible full-time hours is tough, especially for men (as Marc found out). But hold out for what you want as long as you can - a balanced, happy life is precious.

We'll be addressing this topic in more depth in the coming weeks, since it is a genuine concern of many. Thanks for writing!

7:33 PM  
Blogger niajones said...

Fascinating to read this now a number of years later to see how things have adapted. The hard work and dedication is seemly beginning to pay off with great equality across the board for women to become breadwinners, for men to be parents but it is still a long way off and behind many European countries. More work needs to be done for sure and it is no time to relax , but nice to see the progress that has been made.

5:07 AM  

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