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, December 02, 2008

What Makes Parents Equally Share?

It is a joy to swap stories with another parenting couple who equally share their household, childraising and breadwinning. One of the things I like best about this exchange is that I get to find out why they are equally sharing. Every couple has a slightly different take on how they ended up where they are now.

There are those couples who vow not to become traditionalists. They enjoy bucking the status quo, and usually establish a unique way of life for themselves before they have children. When their first child comes along, they fashion a new unique life with their baby. In talking with this type of equally sharing couple, I get the sense that they want to see how far they can ride out their current lifestyle before they have to mix things up again. And that they will keep choosing something out of the ordinary.

Then there are those who say they just 'fell into it'. Often, a subconscious shift from the traditional happens for these couples when they make a specific decision about one of their jobs. For example, the father might have been laid off early in their baby's life; this crisis may have led to a prolonged paternity 'leave' in which Dad bonds so closely with his baby that he then seeks a position that allows him to stay home one day a week. These couples may have fallen into equal sharing, but most of them say they don't think they would ever want to return to their old ways. What started as a subtle unconscious shift becomes a purposeful and carefully guarded lifestyle.

And then we have the 'simple living' group. It is not uncommon for at least one of the parents in these couples to have dabbled in part-time work before having children or even before meeting. Living a balanced and serene life is highly important to these individuals, and they prioritize simplicity over the stressed-out juggling act that so many traditional couples do once they have children. It is not a big sacrifice for these couples to work less than full time, because money definitely doesn't buy their happiness.

I could go on and on. I haven't even mentioned the die-hard feminists who would be deeply unhappy in an unequal marriage. Or the made-to-be-a-father men who don't want to miss out on their children's upbringing. Or even the practical couple who realizes that it simply makes the most sense for them to equally share their family - financially as well as from a balance standpoint.

As for me and for Marc, we fit a few of the descriptions above. Marc definitely values simplicity and balance. He did not fall into equal sharing; he sought it out quite deliberately. My reasons include a bit of feminist 'fairness' mixed with a deep desire to literally share my family with my partner with everyday intimacy.

Lots of different couples practice equally shared parenting. What makes you equally share? Or if you don't do so today, what would make you want to move in this direction?

5 Comments:

Blogger Dorea said...

Hmmm. I think we fit many of your categories. There's a bit of simple living (see also our refusal to own a car), and for us, a lot comes from wanting to buck the assumption that biology should define motherhood, especially in a two-mom family.

But originally, we were going to buck that assumption by having me, who didn't birth our daughter, stay home. I'm also more drawn to working less. But when we actually gave that a go, we didn't like how the shift impacted our family dynamics, mostly the relationship between us parents, and decide ESP would be much better. And it is.

So we were definitely purposeful, but things didn't happen exactly the way we originally planned.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous dave said...

Thanks for your interesting blog.

It may be that I am older and crankier than you all, but one of the reasons for sharing, or taking over a particular task is competency. One person may simply be better at a particular task than the partner.

We are a few generations into this changing roles and expectations, and I know many men and women who have very strong competencies in what once might have been considered cross-gender roles.

So, for example, the ideas that a woman is competent at nurturing a baby or child, or that a man would prefer to work or can fix things are a bit stereotypical.

Sorry for being so long winded.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Medela said...

For me and my hubby we are completely transparent, he knows all the values that my parents have in my life and I take care of his values, so it's that simple for us!

12:44 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Dorea,
Yeah - life has plans for us if we pay attention, huh? You two are both purposeful and highly analytical - and that gets you far!

Dave,
Welcome! Yes, competency can be a common reason for having one partner or the other do a particular task. But I'd challenge you to avoid making it the only reason since it won't necessarily lead to equality if that is also one of your goals. Getting competent at a task is quite rewarding on its own, and each partner might surprise him/herself at how good he/she can get at doing something initially foreign.

Medela,
Transparency is great communication, and not always easy to achieve. It sounds like you and your husband know each other well.

-Amy

8:31 PM  
Anonymous dave said...

Amy (and Marc)


very nice job on the blog and the replies.


thanks

12:23 PM  

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