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, June 17, 2008

Where are the Children?

It's time to tackle one of those criticisms of ESP that showed up in several NY Times article reader comments. Today, let's examine the notion that ESP must be harmful to kids. Or, at the least, that it is all about selfish parents who want what they want - without considering the needs of their children.

Here are some excerpts of choice comments from the NY Times:
  • From Scotto: "What I find tragic in this article is that the children are completely left out. What do the children want? Are not the real losers in all of this is [sic] the children?"
  • From Joe: "What if getting from 60-40 to 50-50 meant significant amounts of time the children would have to be away from both parents, from a young age?"
  • From Brian St. Pierre: "Good lord, the poor kids, raised on a schematic, mechanical, politically correct schedule."
You get the idea. But what about the children? First of all, the NY Times article addressed a particular parenting lifestyle - ESP. It wasn't a parenting piece, so it makes sense that it didn't include information about the kids other than as proof that yes, indeed, the profiled people were parents. The absence of a discussion on how ESP affects children doesn't translate to ESP being a lifestyle that ignores the needs of children, however, any more than mentioning you like broccoli means you don't like apples.

There are no concrete data on how ESP affects children, except that ESP affects their outlook on gender. We have no proof that equal sharing leads to (or doesn't lead to) better test scores, higher college admission rates, or more beautiful or well-behaved children. There are also no data on the important things, like its effect on self-esteem or happiness. No data exist because no data have been collected. Someday, I hope we do have this information, but we don't have it today. We do know that children with involved fathers do better than those with less involved or absent fathers.

ESP actually is, for us, primarily about parents. On that point we'll agree (although many couples we know are motivated to practice ESP foremost because of their children). But it is about creating happy lives for both parents who can then be their best selves for their children - day in and day out. We're thinking happy parents make a happy home which makes for happy children. We also like to think we're modeling a happy marriage for our children to see, and showing them that adulthood is not just drudgery or sacrifice - it can be just as fun as being a kid (in a responsible way, of course).

By showing our kids that that they have a team of equal parents raising them, we hope we're diluting out the not-so-perfect parts of each of ourselves and giving them a close-up look at two very different ways of dealing with life's ups and downs. Plus we're hoping that our kids grow up to see, first hand, that men and women are equals in all aspects of home and work.

Kids raised by equal parents are not likely to be subjected to any more schedule-rigidity than children in traditional households, especially those with two working parents. They may actually have more
'down time' than some children because they often require less or no outside care. Parental care in ESP families can approach that in families where one parent stays home - only the time is divided by two parents in an ESP household. We can't imagine that seeing both their parents more often could be a negative thing for children.

Among the comments is this rare insight from someone identified as 'JP' who was raised by equally sharing parents: "Knowing that my parents were committed to balance and equality in their own relationship and seeing them work out that balance in constructive and loving ways throughout my childhood had a profoundly positive effect on how I grew up and on what I now expect and cultivate within my own relationship."

And finally there's this comment, by a poster called Ricardo: "I find the example couple, the Vachon's [sic] a really irritating model - the 21st Century all American family in which the parents' lives revolve around their children."

Guess you can't please everyone!


Blogger John Feighery said...

Wow! Isn't it somewhat of a human instinct to do everything to make your kids successful? Besides, I think making your life "revolve around your kids" is much more fun and fulfilling than the alternatives, such as work or introspective hobbies.

As for scheduling, we have always found that kids are happier when their day is organized. That's why almost every preschool you walk into will have a chart with the day's schedule.



9:13 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Great point about the value of scheduling, of which we are actually very fond. And getting deeply connected with your kids is a beautiful thing - I agree - even though I also feel that having a separate identity and my own passions is also a great thing to model for my kids.

7:20 PM  

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