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

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Not the Same Ol' Same Old

Another one of the themes among the critics of ESP is the notion of "What's so special about this? Everyone I know is already doing it." If you define ESP as an arrangement in which two parents share running their family, I would agree with this criticism. Most couples have discussions about how to divide up the tasks of running a home, even if the end result is far from equal. But we're talking about something quite different with ESP. With ESP, each parent feels neither of them does more at home and that neither of their careers is considered less important than the other's. Both say they participate equally in household management and decision-making, and in the depth of their relationship with their children.

Now, no ESP couple practices perfect equality - so technically no one can claim exact 50/50 sharing. But assume that the viewpoint is more of an overall equality of ownership and involvement. The sad truth is that, today, few couples practice ESP. I can usually tell those who do because their eyes light up when I mention the topic and they can't wait to chime in with, "Wow - us too, and we've always felt different than others." That's not to say non-ESP couples aren't happy, or that they couldn't work toward equal sharing if they felt it appealed to them. We firmly believe that any couple can practice ESP if both partners want it enough, and if both are willing to traverse the barriers society and life put up to get there.

The world is not a bad place because not every parenting couple operates like an ESP family. In fact, I imagine parts of the world would suffer if 'everyone does it.' Who would run for President, for example? A couple of interesting articles printed in the wake of the NY Times story on ESP have compared Marc and me to Barack and Michelle Obama. The Obamas are closer to an equal couple than any other (hopeful) presidential couple has ever been, with Michelle playing the primary breadwinner role in their past and not content to be only the woman behind the man. But I don't think the world is ready for a President who's life is in balance - who is responsible for half of the childraising and housework functions of the family (despite the high level of outsourcing afforded a President of the US). No, we want being the President to be a 24/7 job, interrupted only by the sleep required of the human body. So the Obamas can't be an ESP couple right now.

To get back to the argument that equal sharing is the American norm, let me end this post by describing ESP in a bit more detail than our 'official' definition in our What is Equally Shared Parenting? essay. ESP is the equal sharing, on average, of each of four domains of family life between an intact couple with children; those domains are housework (or all the work, including one-time projects, of running the home), childraising, breadwinning and recreation (or time for self). Yes, many couples share - even equally - the daily repetitive housework. But when you share equally in each of the four domains, the rare magic of ESP comes through!


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