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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Equality and Overparenting

WSJ's 'The Juggle' covered a recent article in The New Yorker on overparenting this week. I clicked over to read the actual article because it sounded intriguing, and because I generally believe that there is pressure to become too involved in running our children's lives out of fear. It was an interesting and eye-opening review of several experts' opinions on the topic - all extremely anti-"death-grip parenting" as you might guess.

The expert theories on why parents are so much more involved, and in such a detrimental way, with their kids include the fact that former power career moms who now stay at home apply their managerial skills to parenting with a vengence. Hmmm...perhaps. I've seen some evidence of the latter, at least, in the occasional acquaintance.

But then I got to a little paragraph on page 4 of this long article. Here, the experts tackle the influence of feminism, and gender equality, on helicopter parenting trends. I'll quote here:

"Another discomforting matter in these books is the role of feminism in today's child-rearing follies. According to Gary Cross [author of Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity], one reason that young men are refusing to grow up is that the women's movement has eliminated the rewards for doing so. In return for putting on a suit every morning and going to work, men used to be the boss both in the office and at home. No more. So why grow up? Cross acknowledges that patriarchy and slackerhood are not the only available choices. As he notes, some people are saying that our society, by discarding sexism, can produce a new kind of man, one who is "nurturing and emotionally expressive," and who "abandons his old patriarchal privileges and embraces equality in private and public roles." Cross is not looking forward to such a development, however: "How many men (or women) can distinguish this approach from the stereotypical wimp?""

Huh? Please help me understand...so, overparenting is in part caused by men who refuse to grow up because they can't be macho men any longer, and therefore they settle for being wimps? Maybe global warming is caused by eating bananas because people like watching movies too. Yikes.

Here's my theory, in case you're wondering: Overparenting is probably a bad thing in general, and is caused by a host of cultural factors that have led parents, primarily women, to forget that they can't control everything and that they shouldn't anyway. And gender equal parenting, when both parents are equally, intimately involved in raising their kids, can act as a check against such overparenting by either parent.

I know this is true in my own home. If left to my own devices, I'd probably fall into trap after trap of cultural overparenting. I'd overprotect and smother and even push 'for their own good.' Marc is much more immune to the outside pressures to enroll M or T in kiddy classes or keep them away from any moving car ever. He prefers to teach them to have fun at home too, and to know the difference between a car 3 blocks away and one 3 feet away. Because of ESP, he's got equal say in how we raise them, and I have benefited from his wisdom more than once.

How do you think ESP might influence overparenting?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a recovering "overparent-er" ;), ESP has been the greatest life change for us. We are still pretty new at this whole thing as we are only 6 months in but it has been incredibly rewarding. In retrospect of my overparenting days, I not only overparented but I overspoused. I was not an empowering partner who shared the joy of parenting but a partner (if you could have even called me that) who left detailed lists and schedules of how it all "should" be done. We are now a true team. We strategize and plan together over the "whats" and both have the freedom to play out the "hows" of our said responsibilities. As we continue to flex and build on this new "team" we're building, the overparenting in me has greatly subsided. I have other outlets to pour my energy into now- work, leisure and family balance. Before, there wasn't any balance and as a result, all of my energy went into calling the shots around how things were going to work with the parenting and family schedule. My dh is now more of an integral part of this, and way more laid back than me, and has added a great wealth of wisdom over all parenting decisions, including thoughts on which activities are necessary and which are going to just add more to a busy schedule.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Spoken like an expert ESP parent who's been doing it for decades! Your story of transitioning to sharing the decisions is fantastic, and we'd love to capture it for our book. Can we chat?

If you are interested, send me an email at amy@equallysharedparenting.com.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have mail.....

9:43 AM  
Blogger Tamar Chansky said...

This debate can get really out there can't it? Thank you for mentioning the whole host of cultural factors, I do think that the service and product industries that benefit from parents feeling that they aren't doing enough to help their child get ahead is no small part of the problem!

In my work as a child psychologist I am trying to switch gears to looking at how parents can be part of the solution, instead of reinforcing how they are part of the problem. I agree that parents need to learn that it is safe to let their children learn through their mistakes rather than trying to swoop down and prevent them. Putting that into practice is another matter. This is the subject of my new book, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility and Happiness. In addition to general strategies for helping kids manage their negative feed when things go wrong, I devote an entire chapter to the subject of "losing, failure, disappointment and jealousy" -- teaching children to overcome (it is a two-for-one, parents get the refresher course themselves!) these normal struggles.

I think that part of where things go off the track is when a parent's anxiety is left unchecked. ESP not only can reduce a parent's anxiety because they don't have all the responsibility themselves, but by sharing the parenting, that provides two perspectives (a reality check) on what is best for the child. Plus, let's face it, when you practice ESP you understand that success doesn't happen magically, it comes from hard work, and working together.

If you're interested in reading an excerpt of my book, please go to www.freeingyourchild.com.
All best,
Tamar Chansky

10:14 AM  
Blogger Michelle Barry Franco said...

This Men to Boys author sadly assumes that having a hierarchical power role (boss at work, boss at home) is the only "reward" for growing up. Um, what about loving, intimate grown up relationships as a reward for growing up? What about knowing you aren't solely responsible for the welfare of your family because you are in a true partnership? What about the thrill of having a partner that is equally powerful in your shared life? I'm thinking those are all very real and very enticing reasons for a boy to grow into a man.
Wow - just when I think we have come so far in the whole feminism thing...
Thanks for the post. I'm all fired up now :-)
And you are so right about ESP helping with overparenting. My husb and I check each other regularly, as well as check in with each other, to keep balance. It's excellent to have a total partner in such an important and emotion-filled job.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Yes, commercialism sure lends pressure to overparent (and kids to feel crummy about themselves)! Your book sounds like it covers important territory, and I'm impressed by a visit to your site. I'd love to read more....

Hey there! Yeah, this made me mad too. I hope this guy's book isn't really an ode to continued stereotyping of masculinity. Very much the wrong direction for everyone!

Love to all,

10:19 PM  
Blogger Dorea said...

I thought it was kind of impressive that that article actually blamed women for overparenting, both if they decide to stay home AND if they have a successful career, and then, as you note, ALSO blamed for men not stepping up to the plate. Really, you can't win. The author seemed to appreciate some of the contradiction, but it runs very deep. I also like that now if you worry about your kids, you have to ALSO worry that you are overparenting...nice...

10:04 AM  

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