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

Friday, September 19, 2008

Letting Go of the Motherhood Payoff

We've blogged here many times before about our culture's sacred mother/child bond and how a mother's claim (or stronghold) on playing the central role in her child's life can be a significant barrier to ESP. It is often taken for granted that women can claim centrality in parenthood. But ESP means believing that motherhood is no more important than fatherhood.

It was nice, then, to see this pair of articles on Parenting.com (not sure when they were published in print, since we don't subscribe) - one describing how a competent father can trigger feelings of jealousy in his partner, and the other giving tips to moms on how and when to let dad parent 'his way.'

I liked many parts of each article, and cringed at other parts. Here's what I loved the best:
  • "Most important, moms say, remember how lucky your kids are to have two hands-on parents. Gleicher [a mom interviewed for the article] hopes that having a caring, involved father will one day spur her daughter to choose a guy with those qualities. "She won't end up with somebody she doesn't respect," she says. Speaking of respect, adds Gerken [another mom interviewed for the article], it's the best cure she's found yet for parental jealousy. "Just to glory in your husband's abilities as a dad, I think, is key," she says."
  • Lots of generally good advice for mothers to get out of their husbands' way and even learn from men's style of parenting (in the second article).

And here are some of the phrases that made me recoil:

  • Calling an involved dad the "extra pair of hands" that moms have always wanted. No, we're whole, separate people - you don't just get our hands, you get our minds and hearts and souls that are wrapped up in caring for our children as much as yours are. We don't work for you. We work with you as a team of two parents.
  • Saying that women want dads to be competent, but they "don't ever want to be pushed off that throne of being Mommy." What follows are examples of mothers who are jealous of their children's deep love for their dads. This mentality speaks of parenting for yourself rather than for the child - parenting so that someone loves and adores you rather than so that you can create a loving and warm home in which to bring up a child. Moms who want equality cannot operate from this perspective.
  • Tying a SAHM's value to her superior parenting skills. One such mom says, ""When you've made this decision to stay home, you've given up this side of you where you can shine as your own person. Instead, you feel pressure to shine as a parent." Which can make it frustrating when your husband is as much fun with the kids as you are." Gee - how horrible - a fun dad! Again, parenting should be about giving our children the best lives, not a contest in which you secretly hope your spouse fails to live up to your excellence.

Hat tip to WorkingDad for covering the first article in his Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog today.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always struggle with things like, "When you've made this decision to stay home, you've given up this side of you where you can shine as your own person. Instead, you feel pressure to shine as a parent." - as though parenting is NOT being your own person. I am distinctly my very self all the while I parent my girls! I dance when our 2.5 year old goes potty on the potty. I sing incessantly (to regular responses of, "NO singing, Mama!") and I forget ten things every time we load up into the car to go somewhere. Those are ME qualities and, like it or not, I take them with me wherever I go, working or parenting. Losing yourself is NOT an uncontrollable byproduct of parenting.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Nicole D. Johns said...

I have always been annoyed by the idea that when a father parents he is dong something "extra" or providing help. I am happy to have a partner that takes as much responsibility for our son as I do, and works hard to do a large share of the work of parenting.

We aren't always equal in the amount of time or work, but it all seems to balance over the long term.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

Michelle, I agree on your take about NOT losing yourself as a parent. You also sound like a fun Mom to be around. Keep having fun.

Nicole, I agree that Dad's should not be just helpers and don't worry, none of us are EQUAL! I definitely believe equality is a worthwhile goal however.

7:02 PM  

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