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, June 23, 2008

Our Infamous Laundry

Our laundry has become a topic of national attention. For some reason, it is fascinating to many who read the NY Times Magazine article on ESP that Amy does the light laundry and I do the darks. We've been accused of running a house with all tasks split exactly down the middle - of running our marriage like a business arrangement that sucks the intimacy and love out of our relationship. The idea that our laundry sharing is so clearly defined seems somehow to mean we don't love each other. After all, if two people care about each other, won't everything just fall into place without discussion or a plan to share equally? Love conquers all, right?

Well, judging from the fact that most couples don't come anywhere close to sharing the housework, either very few couples actually love each other or something else may be at play here. Yes, some lucky ESP couples come by their equal housework sharing completely naturally. They are just a perfect blend of male domesticity and female sloppiness. Many, however, have to create this equality through communication and decision-making.

If a couple is motivated to share the housework fairly, they have to ask each other some questions in order to set the stage for this sharing to happen. Questions like...
  • Do we want to split a task equally or divide tasks by interest?
  • For the tasks we want to share together, do we need to come up with a way to do that or will this just come naturally?
Nature is a very handy housework equalizer for ESP couples who have already worked out their work and childraising schedules. It comes naturally for most to handle the housework without much communication. If I'm home, I'll cook; if she's home, she'll do it.

But occasionally, a task that a couple desires to share equally gets out of whack. This is exactly what happened with our laundry. Without accusing, or silent smoldering rage, Amy simply noticed over time that she had morphed into the family laundress. She mentioned it one night, as in "I've been doing all the laundry - what's up with that?" I agreed - she had. Then we wondered why. It could have been fine that Amy did it all; perhaps I could have been doing all of several other chores and the bottom line housework time could have been about equal.

In our case, we didn't like that Amy did all the laundry because laundry was something we wanted to share. So we figured out why it had fallen to Amy: she has a much lower threshold for running the washer than I do. If the basket is full, Amy instinctively dumps it in the washing machine. I, on the other hand, am perfectly content to let a few loads pile up and do them all on the weekend. Different styles. Once we figured that out, we came up with the lights/darks solution to preserve our ability to share laundry and allow us each to maintain our own perfectly acceptable way of doing it. Now, we each go about our own laundry business without being held up or pushed by the other, and without sacrificing our laundry equality. It works well for us. And it isn't so rigid that we don't help each other out all the time.

To me (and Amy), our laundry solution exemplifies our joint commitment to ESP and to each other. We are both committed to preserving our balanced lives and the best life for each other. Either is free to bring up inequalities that become bothersome, and we are dedicated to hearing each other out to come up with a solution that works for both of us. I think this speaks of love more than anything else.

What interesting solutions have you come up with for sharing a specific task equally?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I LOVE the laundry split idea... I thought immediately that it could work for us, because most of the whites are David's (t-shirts, underwear) and most of the darks are mine, with F's stuff in both, so it sort of makes sense anyway.

One thing we've split is the grocery shopping. We do our weekly shopping at two stores. I go to one, and he goes to the other. It was an easy split because he goes to the store he likes better, and I do the same. We both do the shopping with F, who just likes that both stores have samples!

I think it's so important to discuss things, and I can't believe anyone would criticize that or call it unromantic... we think that communication is one of the keys to a strong marriage. What's more romantic than that?

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We really don't split any tasks. We try to maintain the balance by category, but tasks are owned individually. So, he does the laundry and I handle dinner (including a significant amount of carry-in). Sometimes I do some laundry and he does something for dinner, but mostly we each own these tasks. Much of it we never explicitly discussed. Our balance has mostly arrived organically, though in some areas we have to be more conscious, like housework. We have areas we need to talk through more, but overall just knowing that we both are committed to balance in each area allows us the room to make our way to equality in our own time.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Marci and Michelle,
Thanks for your take on this! I think you both illustrate that there are many ways to divvy up the housework domain as a whole, so that about half of it is handled by each of you. Much of it will be purely organic, with little discussion, as Michelle mentions. Other things will require brief experimentation and discussion to balance to both partners' satisfaction. Some couples will dislike the idea of splitting an individual task, and others will find this method of sharing to be a fantastic option.

We actually love splitting up the few tasks we do split down the middle, because with this method there is no question about equality. It is all SO clear.

Love the grocery store division, Marci!

7:10 PM  

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