A common assumption about ESP is that it requires a couple to achieve what many feel is impossible - two part-time jobs. In the same location, no less. And do we dare hope for each job to pay well enough, provide adequate health care benefits, and be rewarding to each person? This does seem like a tall order. Let's break this down a bit before getting too discouraged, however....
1. Does ESP require part-time work? No, it doesn't. ESP means that two parents work about the same amount of time, and that there is no primary vs 'less-than' career. So while it wouldn't be equal if he works 50+ hours a week and she works 20, two full-time jobs that hover around the standard 40-45 hours would certainly qualify. To get to the tender, meaty, best part of ESP, however, we want both partners to have balanced lives - not just equal job hours. If both parents work full-time, they will each have less time for the other parts of their lives than if they could reduce their work hours. This is just a mathematical truth unless someone has found a way to increase a day beyond 24 hours. So, the more you work, the more difficult it will be to balance your life if you are like most people. For some, work is largely an invigorating, inspiring and fantastic activity; people who enjoy their work so highly (and we all would love that, right?) get far more from their jobs than a paycheck, some socializing and accomplishment. I would argue that work can also be part of the recreation domain in this case, and that a demanding full-time job doesn't preclude a balanced life. And for some people who are used to working 50 hours a week, a 'drop' to 40 hours frees up a whole 10 hours a week to create this balance! Bottom line, we know many ESP couples who work full time.
2. What is part-time anyway? We also know couples who manage to thrive on two 20-hour positions. But most families require a bit more income than this level of employment would provide. Amy and I both work 32 hours a week, for example. Many companies, including both of ours, offer adequate health benefits at this level of work. And some companies (e.g., the government, or Marc's previous employer) consider 35 hours to be a standard full-time work week. So really, why are we all hung up on a small jump below the magic number of 40? We shouldn't be. The great news is that by slightly reducing your work hours, and accepting a slight pay reduction, it is far easier to feel like the rest of life can fit into your week. Even time for yourself.
3. Where are all these part-time jobs? Recent data show that many people (primarily women) want part-time work but only a small percentage of them can find it. And a common complaint is that the part-time jobs out there are scut work no one would enjoy doing for very long. There is some truth to these worries. It took me many months to find a reduced hours position that challenges me and pays enough, and where I'm considered a full contributor despite the fact that I leave early two days a week. It was not easy; in fact it was discouraging and frustrating to be denied fantastic positions I know I could have excelled at just because I wanted to invest 32 hours rather than 40 into my working life. But like the quest for a mate amid all the dating that doesn't pan out, I knew I only needed one. And eventually I found it. My feat is nothing extraordinary and I'm just a regular guy. That means you can do this too. You can ask, ask again, move on to another job or line of work if necessary, and eventually you'll hit pay dirt. And the more of you who reach for what you want, the more employers will listen if they want to attract and retain talented workers. The world considers it perfectly legitimate that employees continually job-search while on the job. It is normal to leave a job for another that pays more or represents a step up. Why don't we allow ourselves to move up to a job that makes us happier and gives us more time for what we want in life? To me, these are life's true currencies.
If you want to devote all your waking hours and your soul to your job, ESP would fit your life much the same way the desert suits a walrus. Don't bother. Just smile at us silly people who want balance and equality, and move on. But don't tell us it isn't possible. Part-time or full-time, we'll find a way just like you'll find a way to climb.