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, July 30, 2008

Odds and Ends from 'Work-It Mom!'

There is something for everyone on the 'Work-It Mom!' website, ranging from innovative and fresh ideas to the mostly stale voice of its sole dad-writer, Avi Spivack, kowtowing to the greatness of mothers. And recently, there have been a few interesting ESP-related articles. Here's a sampling of what caught my eye:

1. Regular blogger Lylah Alphonse has a post entitled
My Husband is Cleaning. Shouldn't I be More Psyched? that explores the guilt some (make that many) women feel when their husbands start to scrub and vacuum. She feels that this is supposed to be her duty, somehow, and feels ashamed that she can't keep up with it and her poor hubby has to get annoyed enough to 'help.' Her post brings up a great topic, but of course you can tell where I'm heading.... Get over it! That voice in your head giving you a hard time is decades of cultural conditioning, not truth. Recognize it, name it, and kick it to the corner. She ends by concluding that "Instead of being upset that I can't do it all, I'm going to try to be grateful that my husband is doing this." No - not grateful as in 'oh thank you, my savior,' but perhaps grateful to be in an equal partnership. She ends with a more hopeful line: "Maybe, together we can get it all done, if we take turns." Yes, what a great idea!

2. Lylah has another interesting post called
Dad On Duty: Is He As Good as Mom? that asks the question "How can moms complain that dads aren't involved enough or nurturing enough if they don't trust their husbands to be good parents without supervision?" Big thumbs up to Lylah for calling out moms' micromanaging as a factor in men's willingness to co-parent or even pitch in.

3. Then there's a member blog post by someone called Software Mom on
Equally Shared Parenting and the Mommy Track. Here our very own ESP.com gets dismissed for the usual sin of "Spreadsheets. Time charts. Long discussions. Intense negotiations. The very words are enough to make me break out in hives." She then goes on to compare the required discussions for ESP to work with her college roommates posting a list of mandated chores and expecting her to follow them. Hmmm... This seems just opposite from the spirit of ESP. If you click over to the Toolbox section of this website, you'll indeed find some worksheets (not spreadsheets, mind you) that interested couples might want to use as a springboard to discussing how to become equal partners in each domain of ESP. These worksheets are highly optional, however; so much so that we've never used them ourselves outside of conducting workshops. But some people love them, so there they are. Time charts - never. Long discussions - hardly. Discussions - yes! So that both partners know their concerns can be heard, without judging each other, and so that together they can create the best option for sharing the family duties. Intense negotiations - no way. What's missing from this author's understanding of ESP is that both partners deeply want equality. Hence, the 'negotiations' are a joy. Software Mom concludes with a description of her own division of household labor (weighted toward herself): "It's a path that isn't available or right for everyone, but it's right for us, right now." Yes - I sincerely applaud this idea. She's figured out the right balance for her (and hopefully for her partner). That's what we ESP couples are doing too. With a little discussion here and there (and sometimes no words needed at all).

This is Amy Vachon, reporting from the 'Work-It Mom!' headquarters. Now back to you, world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Preparing for Fatherhood

Men are disadvantaged in the quest for equally shared parenting from long before their babies are born. I'm not complaining or anything, but by the time a woman gives birth, she has had 9 months to physically prepare - her body has changed internally and externally, she had felt the baby move and kick, she has endured all manner of aches and nausea. Psychologically, I think this is nature's way of assuring that she'll be a strong mother since she has already sacrificed so much before she even meets the little person she'll be responsible for the rest of her life (together with equal responsibility by her husband, of course). Add to this the pains of labor and delivery, and then our culture's expectation that moms are in charge and our workplace expectation that moms get months of maternity leave while dads get a couple of weeks if they are lucky, and you have a set up for inequality. Moms can get way, way ahead of dads.

Parents who plan to equally share childraising can do a lot to overcome some of these barriers - the cultural and workplace ones at least. But the natural ones won't budge (unless more men gestate and give birth).

Well, one guy made an attempt to create his own way around this nature barrier. When he learned that his wife was pregnant, he rather inexplicably started to grow a beard. He didn't plan to do so, but a gut-level urge overcame him and he found himself making a personal vow not to cut his facial hair until his baby was born. The beard grew and grew, getting scraggly and bushy. He became a mountain man who drew stares from strangers.

When I first ran across his story of this crazy stunt (well worth the read - click over), I thought it was kind of corny. A beard is not a living baby. It is completely optional to the baby-making machinery. But his story grew on me (pardon the pun), and I found myself pondering the value of his attempt to prepare for his fatherhood. Did his beard give him a new identity, like a pregnant woman seems to become her pregnancy her near the end? Did it show the outside world something as drastic as a woman must show when her belly is the size of a beach ball? Did it help him feel the weight of this transition from man to father?

I'm not ready to advocate all men immediately make some drastic body alteration upon viewing the results of their wives' pregnancy tests. But I get it at a deeper level. We could do well to prepare to become fathers in a way that approximates what nature forces our partners to do. Because unless our children become ours through adoption, our babies will always be more of a mental, emotional and physical surprise to us than to our partners. It was this way for me, but then again, I'm not much of a planner anyway. I caught up to Amy pretty quickly because we were both dedicated to making this happen. But how might men mark their passage to fatherhood? What have you, or your partner, done to cross this bridge?

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Romance of Shared Housework

The Council on Contemporary Families released a briefing paper earlier this month that sheds light on the link between sharing housework (and breadwinning) and the strength of a marriage. The evidence is mounting, according to the paper, that couples who share these two domains are less likely to divorce.

The paper's author, sociologist Lynne Price Cook, mentions that some people claim that traditional male-breadwinner, female-caretaker marriages are more successful than marriages with two breadwinners, but then explains that this is only true if the woman in a two-breadwinner family continues to do all (or presumably almost all) the housework - the classic 'second shift.' In fact, according to Price Cook's own research, the couples who share both of these domains are the happiest.

Price Cook makes an interesting statement in this briefing paper; one that I would like to understand better by examining the raw data. She says that the optimum balance of workload (for lowest divorce rate) is when the man earns 60% of the family's money and the woman does 60% of the housework. In other words, what she calls a 40/60 split in each domain (although this definition does not match with our own, since she is using money to divide the breadwinning, not time spent working). She says that her data show "the divorce risk begins to rise again when a wife starts earning as much or more than her husband and he does more of the housework. But this risk does not exceed that of male breadwinner marriages until the woman earns more than 80 percent of the couple's income." Her conclusion is that neither Mr. Mom (SAHD) nor Father Knows Best (SAHM) is a stable marital arrangement today.

It makes sense to me that the most stable arrangement is one in which couples share these domains. I agree that when one person owns a domain (either housework or breadwinning) to a large extent, this can destablize marriages in which partners were expecting a more equitable and balanced way of relating to each other. So far, so good. I can even buy that her data show a 40/60 split to be the most stable balance point - because this is where our culture currently allows couples to safely go.

Men still connect their self-worth to their breadwinning prowess in our culture, and women connect theirs with their ability to care for home and children. So it is likely still uncomfortable for many couples to be true equals in these areas. Not because they can't be, but because they are holding on to gendered assumptions about their roles, and all their friends are doing the same.

Going 50/50 can be risky. Not as risky, per this paper, as going traditional or reverse traditional, but 50/50 can still push people's buttons if they don't consciously reject cultural expectations and if they cannot ground themselves in their own dreams instead. I think that's why some reactions to ESP are so dismissive; it can be threatening.

But once you're past this artificial barrier, the fear becomes a non-issue. Fifty/fifty is fantastic to those of us who want it. My guess, and of course I'm biased here, is that Price Cook's data might look different if she measured time spent working rather than money earned (and I wonder if she had enough true 50/50 couples to compare with 40/60 couples to reach statistical significance on the difference in divorce rates). I also believe (and perhaps she does too) that she is reporting something that will be changing rapidly. Younger couples, for example, likely find social role norms far less important than older couples. My gut tells me they'll crash right through those artificial barriers and keep going without much discomfort. And they will reach the 50/50 promised land.

You can too. Anyone can, if they are ready.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Enormous Advantage

Great article in The Independent (UK) today about equally shared parenting - and other parenting models that place dad on par with mom at home and in the workplace. It seems that Britain is poised to extend the duration of its parental leave policy to a full year, of which all but the first 26 weeks can be taken by fathers. I'd like to see even the first 26 weeks be available to fathers too - so that both parents can learn about caring for their baby alongside each other and mothers are not given such a head start on everything - but I digress.

What's nice about this article is how excited the author is about fathers' equal involvement in raising children - how the author believes this benefits men, kids and women too. Here are some quotes (italics are mine):

"Thousands [of fathers] work part-time, along with their partners, so that they can share the parenting." Thousands? Love it!

"The pathetic wail of, "I want my mummy!", is already turning, quite often, into "I want my daddy!" Sounds like our house.

"Finally, it looks as if the tide is starting to turn....to a time of greater equality and more shared parenting. Something that seems to me to be of enormous advantage to absolutely everyone." Although I know that ESP is not for everyone, I like the idea that making ESP accessible to everyone is an enormous advantage. And more shared parenting? Wow, we might even qualify as a trend soon!

The article goes on to profile a few involved fathers, most of whom seem to be ESP dads. It's a really nice round up - check it out!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Top 11 Reasons ESP is Growing

Okay, I cheated. The first 10 reasons are here in this Strollerderby blog from Babble magazine - a great list of ways our society is changing to make it more acceptable for men to be involved and equal parents. The list ranges from small physical signs like diaper changing stations available in some men's bathrooms to more all-out evidence like a growing number of breadwinner women.

Here's my eleventh reason: Because Daddy and Mommy want it. Yes, according to leading sociologists, Generation X and Y parents want equal marriages and balanced lives more than they want almost anything else. Definitely more than power jobs that take either parent away from family. This is true for both women and men; in fact, 2/3rds of men in this demographic say this is what they want.

The article starts by intimating that ESP may be an impossible dream. Ah - not so! Equal parenting is not an exact, black-and-white situation. Think of it as co-parenting in which both partners have a general goal of being equal in their involvement with the kids, home, career and self, and then it becomes perfectly attainable. Not perfect, but perfectly attainable.

These little signs that traditional mom-lead childraising is not the only option will snowball over time. Right now, we have a small number of ESP parents forging ahead against still-strong cultural and workplace barriers. But soon, as role models lead the way, it will take slightly less courage for the next wave of men to ask for a reduced-hours work schedule, take paternity leave or show up in public with their own diaper bag. And then someday each of these things will become so commonplace that they'll be easy to claim by any man who wants them. A critical mass will be reached and ESP will be an obvious option right up there with all the other standard family arrangements. I just know it....

Hat tip to Daddy Dialectic for linking to this Babble blog.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Going with the Flow

We are just back tonight from a few days visiting my family in Michigan, and I have a moment to post up something I thought about on the plane ride home before I head off to bed. We were on a packed plane, with two seats in row 23 on the left and two seats in row 24 on the right. A few very good natured passengers endured Marc and me passing stuffed animals, a laptop, snacks and other items over their heads for the duration of the flight. Two tired, somewhat cranky kids who were sad to leave their grandmother and cousins made it through with the help of this juggling.

As I settled down for the last half hour descent, I thought about one of the things ESP means to me. It means I don't have to spend one minute thinking "I'm stuck doing more again" - even if I might actually do more on any given day. If I was a SAHM, I might not think this either - I'd hopefully be settled into the idea that it was my responsibility to do all the childcare most of the time. But if I was a mom who hoped for a partner who pulled his weight and was disappointed time and again when I was left with the bulk of the childcare, I would probably be mumbling this under my breath frequently. With ESP, all of the sharing is built into our lives - the daily schedules, the planning, and the natural way of relating to each other. Not because we nitpick every task so that it comes out equal (I can hear the Greek chorus starting up its chant of scorekeeping); just because we both want things to be generally equal and both assume they will be.

With ESP, if I find myself doing the majority of the childcare for a stretch, my first reaction isn't annoyance with Marc. It's more likely to be annoyance with myself for not cherishing the time I have with the kids while they are still young. And to me, that makes it a lot easier to go with the flow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Unintended Consequences of Inequality

In April 2007, Britain extended its maternity leave benefit to a full year for mothers. Supporters were thrilled to see such a giant step in the direction of supporting families and their ability to spend time with their children. However, the BBC News reported yesterday that there may have been some unintended consequences of this legislation. It appears that "some employers were thinking twice about offering women (of childbearing ages) jobs or promotion(s)."

I'm sure it's already illegal in Britain to discriminate against women who are of childbearing age so it's not likely a new law will be used to solve this problem. Instead, a possible solution could be to turn the maternity leave into a parental leave policy. Even this move is not a quick fix because women would probably continue to take the majority of the leave, primarily due to cultural expectations. But what if the leave could be made a "use it or lose it" benefit for each parent. Six months paid time off for mom followed by six months paid time off for dad. Either parent can opt out of the benefit for any reason.

I realize there are other factors to consider here, such as how this idea might be modified for single parents, mental or physical illness or divorce, but I firmly believe that policies should be gender neutral if we, as a society, are going to break down the cultural barriers that reinforce inequality. And, as in this example, harm women.

Hat tip to Rachel, a generous reader in Estonia, for sending us this news story!

Monday, July 14, 2008

From Traditional Marriage to Equal Sharing

Joining our Real Life Stories page are Michelle and Jim, a couple who had a traditional marriage until they carefully planned a conversion to equally shared parenting. Michelle has transitioned from a stay-at-home mother to a writer and writing/communication coach, and her husband Jim is a small business owner who runs a parking lot maintenance company and also partners with Michelle in her coaching business.

Jim and Michelle have worked out a schedule that allows them approximately equal solo-parenting time, time at work, and time for themselves (they have a regular weekly date night too). And although their schedule may seem complex to us outsiders, it runs smoothly for them because they both know where they need to be when, and because they both value what the arrangement brings to their lives. This couple is, above all, extremely thankful for their ESP relationship - for the balance they each receive, for the sharing, and for what they feel their equal involvement brings to their three children.

Thank you, Michelle and Jim, for adding your voices to our Real Life Stories!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Keeping Score

Let's tackle another big criticism of ESP today - one that has been mentioned in so many blogs and comments to Lisa Belkin's NY Times Magazine article that it wins the Anti-ESP Sentiment medal of honor. It's the notion that equal sharing requires, or leads to, scorekeeping and accounting and he says/she says arguing about how many minutes each parent has spent washing the dishes.

Believe me, if my life was reduced to these kinds of activities, I would be the first one to abandon ship. I'm all about having an intimate, warm, loving relationship. That's my main motivator for keeping ESP alive in our own family. How could I possibly be happy if my marriage was reduced to such tedious and friction-filled tallying?

In the NY Times Magazine, there is talk of color-coded charts and making things come out even. I can certainly see how a reader, especially one bent on finding a reason to dislike equal sharing, would jump to the conclusion that Excel spreadsheets were required to distribute the family workload equally between two people.

But think about it. There probably isn't a family in the nation that doesn't require some sort of planning to coordinate the children's care and activities, and the parents' jobs. Maybe it's a big family calendar with Aidan's soccer schedule and Elizabeth's Kindergarten early release days marked on it. Maybe it's the discussion most parents have about which days of daycare to sign up for. Perhaps it is the big discussion many couples have about whether one of them should stay home with the kids and what that might look like financially and practically. And unless one parent does 100% of the childcare and housework (with the other parent doing 0%), they will need to talk occasionally about who is taking Susie to gymnastics on Tuesday and who can stop by the grocery store for milk on the way home tomorrow.

It's not that much different with ESP. Yes, parents who decide they want to share equally in the care of their children and in breadwinning and housework (and recreation time) will need to have an initial discussion of how to structure this. Work schedules, daycare/preschool/school schedules and recreation schedules will all have to be laid out and fit into the family time puzzle. ESP parents will want to piece the puzzle together in a way that feels as close to equal between the parents as possible. Traditional parents will assemble their puzzle in a different way.

Once the basic schedule is laid out, nature takes over. ESP couples will naturally find that they have about equivalent time for housework, and will have built equality into their breadwinning and childraising time. Yes, crazy things like evening meetings, business trips, that girls getaway in Tahoe, or sick children will get in the way. But ESP couples will handle these things the same way any other couple would - by communicating and figuring out the best solution each time.

The big difference between ESP and other family arrangements is that equal sharing couples keep equality in the back of their minds as they go about their lives. In other words, they have an equal-sharing mindset. They know that if Dad just returned from a 3-day fishing trip with his buddies, Mom should feel no guilt about taking a few nights to go out with friends. No one needs to keep score; it just comes out about even because both parties want it to. Both parents know that ESP is their best life, and so they are both motivated (without scorekeeping or judging) to make things fair.

Still...the myth that ESP requires onerous chartkeeping and accounting lives on. It is an easy excuse for those who don't want to consider equal sharing (people we don't want to be in the business of convincing to do so anyway). But for those who might want the equality and balanced lives that ESP provides to both mothers and fathers, I'd like to say this is nonsense! ESP requires contemplation and purposeful decisions that go against our culture. ESP requires two willing participants. But it does not require scorekeeping.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

ESP: The New Babymaker?

A Psychology Today online columnist asks an interesting question of women: "If your partner took on more of the housework and childcare, would you consider having more children?" The question is likely tied to the recent NY Times Magazine story about the declining birth rate in some European countries (although this story is not referenced), with its theory that this trend is inversely related to father involvement in childcare.

The Psychology Today column attempts to connect equally shared parenting with a higher willingness among women to have more children. Hmmm....interesting theory, although I'm not sure we ESP families can (or want to) back it up. Remember that ESP has equal challenges for women as it does for men - in letting go and in staying equally involved in breadwinning. At the very least, I would modify the connection to one between the satisfaction of both partners with their current family arrangement and their interest in adding extra work to their lives in the form of caring for and feeding additional children.

It comes down to whether what you've got is working for you. If it isn't, you would be wise to see the red flags waving you to pull over and halt baby production. We all know that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. But if you're happy, well, you may or may not want to add to your family, but at least you've got a decent level of satisfaction from which to start the discussion. Happy and willing parents make babies, and babies born into happy homes are off to a good start.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Welcome Brazen Careerist Readers

Just when we felt the blogosphere was quieting down about the NY Times Magazine article, up pops career blogger/columnist Penelope Trunk with a classic attack post today. It is designed to provoke, in Penelope's standard fashion. And the odd thing about it (well, really not so odd because this is how she works, in her brilliant way) is that she ends up half supporting what she starts out to detest - equally shared parenting.

But first, a disclaimer: We've emailed back and forth with Penelope a few times over the past 2 years, and she had been genuinely helpful and fully supportive when we were just starting this website and trying to widen our readership. She seemed super nice and fun, to use her own words.

However, we can't pass up the opportunity to shed new light on some of her attacks:

1. Shared care (the term she uses for ESP) shields people from the reality that their careers are not great.
What she means is that you can't gun for a top management position, competing in the very top of your field, and practice ESP. We agree with you here, Penelope. But who cares? Some people do - those who narrowly define a career as one that can only be accomplished at fever pitch. The odd thing is that we have perfectly appealing careers ourselves, and Penelope might even coach others on how to land positions with titles like ours. But she is defining 'great' by time rather than effort. Jobs that overtake one's life and boost one's ego with big accomplishments are not what Penelope herself says that Gen X/Y want - she says they want balanced lives instead. In which case, they would probably say 'amen' to her definition of 'not so great' careers.

Maybe the best answer to her point about 'not so great' careers is a quote from Penelope herself. This one is from her blog two weeks ago on June 27, 2008: "I know that people who are workaholics are scared of two things: Not being great at work, and having to face an empty personal life. And I'm worried about both." Perhaps high-power careers shield people from the reality that their personal lives are not great. Just a thought.

2. You need a lot of money to do shared care.
This myth has been floating around for a long time - it's one of our top naysayer comments. Penelope adds to it by saying that you need to have family nearby if you're going to do ESP because they will have to bail you out. Huh? Family help is not a part of our lives except on rare occasions; Amy's family lives in the Midwest and mine is in-state but a long car-ride away. In fact, we can't think of another ESP couple (and we know many) that relies on family care.

The money issue is solved by doing the math. Two parents who work reduced hours can result in two decent paychecks (more than the single paycheck awarded to a sole-breadwinner household) and a big reduction in outside childcare costs (remember, we don't use grandma for childcare). Two paychecks also insulate a family against layoffs. But more importantly, take a look at who elects to practice ESP - not the rich, but those who value time over money. In fact, I have a theory that 'lots of money' would be a huge deterent to ESP - not too many high powered, wealthy people are inclined to chuck it all to reduce their hours and be with their families. The irony is that those who could most easily afford not to work at all are those who could not possibly think about cutting back to value something other than accomplishment and yet more wealth gathering.

3. Shared care kills two careers.
Here, Penelope says neither parent can have a decent career when both cut back to do ESP. Again, if you define a viable career as top-of-the-heap, mucho bucks, this may be true. But the very people who aspire to ESP do NOT aspire to these careers. They would stifle them. Penelope highlights Dylan Tweney (a nice guy who has been very supportive of this website) as someone who tried ESP but found he wasn't able to grow his freelance business while 'working 4 hours a day.' Who says anything about 4 hours a day? We work 32 hours a week - hardly 4 hours a day. Many people would be thrilled to have careers like those of many ESP couples we know. Yes, it may be hard to land jobs that allow perfect ESP schedules in today's business world, but it is not impossible - and if you want something bad enough, it is worth the effort. Gen X/Y are demanding flexible jobs and more time with family, which means that these possibilities will likely open up tremendously in the near future. And traditional marriages with a stay-at-home spouse kill one career for sure (at least temporarily); if that's what both partners want, hurray, but if it is not....

Another quote from Penelope in a blog post from August 18, 2007: "So if you're considering taking a job that requires long hours so that you can make a load of money, don't do it...consider seriously the idea of making more time for yourself by agreeing to earn less money."

4. Shared care requires an unlikely match of personalities in a marriage.
The argument here is that two caretaking personalities don't fall for each other, and ESP requires two caretaking personalities to marry and have kids. Penelope admits to no data to back up her theory, so I'll throw a harebrained theory of my own up here. Our culture has conditioned men to marry down and women to marry up for a long, long time. Therefore, most couples position the man to succeed outside the home and woman to take care of the home so he can. That's not to say every woman is happy about this and every man loves being burdened with primary breadwinning. ESP is a way for both partners to have balanced lives, something that Penelope has pointed to again and again in past blog posts as a deep desire of Gen X/Y couples - both men and women.

Here's a quote from Penelope in her blog on March 18, 2007: "Today men and women have shared goals: More time for family and friends, and more respect for personal growth at work for everyone, not just the high-ranking or the hardest-working. We are at a shift. The majority of men under thirty say they are willing to give up pay and power to spend time with kids."

5. Shared care caters only to detail-oriented types.
Arghh. The old color-coded charts argument again. I'm about the least detail-oriented guy you can dig up. I hate structure and planning and checklists. Amy loves them. But we still manage to co-manage our home and co-parent our kids. ESP means you have to talk about how you're going to divide things initially, and then periodically check in with each other, because you and your spouse are a team. In exchange for this level of communication in my marriage, I get to have my own home - from how it is run to how it is furnished - reflect me (not just Amy), and that feels authentic.

The bottom line is that Penelope tried what she says was shared care in her own marriage (she's currently divorcing) and didn't like it. Her personal ESP description seems a lot more like reverse-traditional than ESP, however, so I'd be curious to know more. But I don't need to either. ESP is not, and never will be, the right family model for everyone. It is perfect for me and Amy, perfect for many other couples we know, and perfect for many couples who might not even know it is possible.

At the end of her blog attack, Penelope admits that ESP is one of the ways Generation X is expressing their desire to put parenting before anything else (meaning careers). Yes, well perhaps. I'd say parenting and balanced lives.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Canadian Real Life Story

I'm happy to announce the posting of another new Real Life Story. This one comes from Carl, an academic psychologist with now-grown children, who reminisces about the 11 years he and his psychologist wife worked part-time to share in raising their children. Carl's story is a powerful example of how important equally shared parenting can be to a couple, and how they can overcome societal barriers to it if they want it badly enough. In Carl's case, his arrangement cost him his newly-earned tenure status, and he made the climb back to tenure slowly after his children were older and didn't need their parents at home as much.

Please click over to his
inspirational story for more details. And my heartfelt thank you to Carl for sharing it with us.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Expecting Men to be Involved Dads

The NY Times Magazine continued to highlight some important family structure issues this past week with "No Babies?" It looks at why birth rates vary, often downward, throughout the world. One notable exception is the US where birth rates continue to hover around the "replacement rate" of 2.1 births per woman. Many would suggest that this may be because the US is relatively affluent but the piece disputes this as the main reason. Instead they offer:

The old conservative argument - that a traditional, working-husband and stay-at-home wife family structure produces a healthy, growing population - doesn't apply, either in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world today. Indeed, the societies most wedded to maintaining that traditional family structure seem to be those with the lowest birthrates. The antidote, in Western Europe, has been the welfare-state model, in which the state provides comprehensive support to couples that want to have children. But the U.S. runs counter to this. Some commentators explain its healthy birthrate in terms of the relatively conservative and religiously oriented nature of American society, which both encourages larger families. It's also true that mores have evolved in the U.S. to the point where not only is it socially acceptable for fathers to be active participants in raising children, but it's also often socially unacceptable for them to do otherwise.

I think my answer to how other men treat me for being so involved in my home life will now change. According to the most recent data, it's socially unacceptable to do anything else.

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