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

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Party Lessons

Follow-up from previous post....

Well, my inlaws came, they feasted, they laughed, and they left again. The house is quiet in comparison to the way it was just hours earlier, with the shrieks of many children running through sprinkers, playing jump rope and constructing marble runs all over our playroom. Now that our kids are in bed too, it is especially quiet - except for the sound of me bowing and scraping in front of Marc.

No one noticed a charge of guard.

There was plenty of food.

Fun was had by all.

My grand experiment to demote myself from Chief Party Director to Assistant to Party Director has been humbling. It got a little rough a few hours before as I watched Marc decide we didn't need the fruit salad he was originally planning to include. I got a little squeamish as I heard him ponder cutting up 4 stray plum tomatoes as a replacement dish to feed 30 people. I was a bit snippy as I asked him if I should perhaps be clearing the counter of stray papers to make room for the coffee pot. But when he sent me to pick up the bagels (awesome - I could make sure there were enough!), I had a little talk with myself.

"Amy," I said. "This is your equal partner and your chance to show that you mean it. And here you are fixated on outward appearances. You're going to blow it. Stop. Remember what's important here."

Despite all my fears, Marc pulled everything off at least as well as I would have done - probably better. He was fully capable, and although the party was ever so slightly different because he was at the helm, it was also more relaxing for both of us once I let go. There were even leftovers (especially bagels, of course).

What did I learn? I learned once again that trusting my equally sharing husband is a really good idea. I learned that my way is not the only way, and that a party can be excellent even if you don't shop until the night before or clean until that morning. I learned that I'm fortunate to have a partner who, because of his equal competence in the home, was able to step right up to the role I'd vacated without having to ask me how to do it. I learned that I'd rather prioritize our equality than my fear of outsider judgment.

As the family was leaving, my mother-in-law thanked me specifically for a great party and then turned to say goodbye to her son. It was only then that I mentioned that this had been Marc's show and I had been only the helper. By now, she knows us well enough to not be surprised, and so she redirected her gaze to Marc and gave him a hug.

I can now say this was an experiment well worth my anxiety. Even if Marc had failed, this would not have been a reason for me to take back control next time (or heaven forbid, right during the party). A disaster would have simply allowed us to discuss the mistakes later as a team. His failure would have been part of his learning curve rather than my 'I told you so.'

All my learning today took place before the party began. The real success wasn't that Marc turned out to be capable, but that I was able to let him take over.

I hope I can remember my lessons for next time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you for doing this experiment and reporting on it, Amy. No matter how much I like to think that I have released over-control of domestic matters, I see so often the little ways in which I remain tight-fisted. A party is such a great example. It does help that Marc is so insistent on you letting go. Jim and I often just fall into the pattern of me managing and him doing what I ask. I'm going to see if he's interested in sharing this a bit more. I know he'd do it way more low key - like Marc did - and we'd have a lovely (and likely lower stress) party.

I really loved this post. It felt very real-time - it helped knowing how you were feeling right in the midst of it, as opposed to a few days or weeks later in the retelling.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks, Michelle! If Marc and I can try this, so you can you and Jim. I definitely learned that much of my usual pre-party stressing is really unnecessary - even when I am 'in charge.'

3:29 PM  

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