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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Instant ESP

Take an 'involved dad' and a willing mom, give them all the worksheets in our Toolbox, and ask them to transform their lives into full-out ESP for one week. What do you think the result might be? Care to guess?

Marc and I are about busting our guts laughing at this article in The Independent (UK paper) about a journalist, Russ Litten, who was assigned to follow this website to a T and write about his experiences. A first, the poor guy is a bit horrified that the worksheets show he's not pulling his weight at home and with the kids. The recreation domain is a bit more equal, and the breadwinning domain comes out with less hours for his wife than for him (but approximately equal money earned, incidently).

Armed with this information, they flip roles - each taking on all the tasks on the worksheets that didn't have their own initials next to them. He attempts all of his domestic duties at once, appropriately not accepting advice or direction from his wife. And mostly, what results is a comical disaster in which no one dies but everyone is a bit frazzled and wants to return to life in their previous comfort zones.

But not quite. In the end, Russ' wife resolves to spend a bit more time on herself - in the recreation domain - and Russ himself decides to spend more time on family activities.

All in all, we love the article. Russ Litten has a gift for comedy, surely, and he has clearly read a great deal of our thoughts and ideas, and good-naturedly attempted to follow our philosophies. We suspect that the whole point of assigning him this writing topic was to find flaws in the idea of ESP and to poke fun at them. We're willing to roll with the usual punches Russ includes in his article about how we appear to be so polished and blissful (of course, we're not; of course we're going to appear decent when a newspaper photographer shows up at our house to take our picture). But all in all, we're honored that he took on the assignment and gave all our worksheets a whirl in public.

At the end of the article, Russ promises to write us a thank you note (a reference to the fact that the housework domain worksheet reveals he never writes them). We'll be waiting for that, Russ, but in the meantime, we've written you a short note ourselves:

Dear Russ,
Loved your experiment - really, we did. But we suspect you've realized that turning your life upside down for a few days is a general recipe for disaster. Throw anyone into a job he or she is not trained to do, and you'll get poor results - and unhappiness. ESP is not an instant fix. It is also so much less about equal task division than it is about equal involvement and connection in all four domains and a balanced life for both parents.

As you so aptly point out, ESP takes guts. It isn't easy. Our cultures are set up to honor the traditional division of labor at home, and gender roles are extremely difficult to bend. It also takes time to set up your life to accomodate ESP even in the best of circumstances. So, we know that you knew you were going to fail. Not because you couldn't accomplish it and love your balanced life, but because you can't just turn on a switch like that.

The thing, Russ, is that ESP does work. It works "brilliantly," in fact, for many couples. Some have made considerable sacrifices to create it, all work hard to maintain it, and none would give it up once they've tasted the balance and connectedness it allows. Yet, it is clearly not for everyone, and we would never pretend to lift it above other parenting lifestyles. We make no claims that ESP turns out brighter, more well-behaved, better looking children. It is simply a real option, alongside other choices, and we've appointed ourselves to speak up about it because very few others have yet done so.

We must comment on the byline of your article, that refers to the "strict new equally shared parenting scheme." Perhaps you didn't write that line, but you can guess we don't consider ESP to be either 'strict' or a 'scheme.' Our website if full of specifics because it meant to be practical - a smorgasbord of ideas from which to pick and choose what fits your family. But ESP couples come in all sorts - all focusing on specific bits of the philosophy and aiming for the same very general goals.

Say "hello" from us to your lovely wife, Ruth, and your two kids, Sonny and Josie (who are the same ages as our M and T). We'd love to hear more from you, so please stay in touch. And, really, you made our day!

Hugs and kisses,
Amy and Marc


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2:49 AM  

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