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

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.


Blogger JohnMcG said...

I think one of the problems is cultural rewards.

Who get more social "payoff" -- the woman who brags about how the great dinner her husband made last night, or the the woman who complains about how her husband left the kitchen a mess after said dinner?

I think it's also the case that in traditional set-ups, a the stay-at-home parent's self-worth is somewhat tied up in being the "only" one who can do certain things. If dad is also a competent parent, then that collapeses. So if dad forgets something when packing the diaper bag, that is sufficient for him to be an unreliable parent, and mom has to do everything.

I thought the answer was to sweetend the deal on my side, but that's running against a pretty strong current, and is a recipe for even greater resentment.

The cultural reinforcements go the other way, too. I'm sure Spivack gets a lot of strokes for his, "Dads are clueless; moms are the best!" act, more than he would for an "I AM a competent parent and person, damnit!" tone.

I don't know if I have any answers. A generation ago, men were supported when they complained about their wives' looks or cooking. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore, at least in the circles I am in, and that is a good thing. Maybe it will take a generation for this to work its way out.

10:22 AM  

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