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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guest Blog: The Years Ahead, by Sharon Teitelbaum

We have the pleasure of posting another guest blog today. This one comes from a long time mentor, friend and amazing work/life coach, Sharon Teitelbaum. In many ways, our public ESP road started with Sharon, who was the featured speaker at my local working moms' group way back when M was a tiny baby and I had just returned to work from my first maternity leave. Sharon came to talk to us moms about balancing our lives and taking time for ourselves, but she mentioned something even more interesting that night. She told us that she and her husband had each worked part-time and raised their two daughters together for over 20 years. Outside of my own marriage to Marc, Sharon was the first ESP parent I had ever met! It felt so wonderful to connect with her (Sharon is also an extremely warm and comforting person - just what I needed as a brand new mother). And so, without further introduction, here is Sharon's post - a look ahead at how ESP feels to her and to her husband, Jon (a lawyer) now that their children are off on their own....

The Years Ahead
by Sharon Teitelbaum

My husband and I were equally sharing parents with our 2 daughters, who are now 27 and 31. Our older daughter is married, so we now also have a son-in-law, which is like getting a bonus son. His parents did all the hard work, and we just get to have this extraordinary guy in our family.

I'd like to offer a glimpse of how ESP looks at this stage in our family's life. Our kids live out of state, and Jon and I each run a business from a home office; he's a real estate attorney and I'm a life coach. There are some very central and wonderful ESP threads that continue, such as each of us parents continuing to be a primary parent even as the roles and rules change over time.

So for example, when I'm in a work crunch and Jon is not, and I see a call come in from one of the kids, and he takes the call, I know that whatever is going on, he can handle it at least as well as I can. Not that we're interchangeable - we're not - but either one can be First (or Today's) Responder. That continues to be a huge support to all of us in having a sane and connected life.

It's not that the kids have crises we have to rescue them from - that's not at all the case. But like any healthy adult relationship, the more you can be there for someone, through the ups and the downs, the stronger the bond and the more the relationship grows. There are very, very interesting, challenging, and age-appropriate developmental things our kids are going thru these years - relationship stuff, career and work stuff, and even wedding planning, just for starters - and it's been really quite wonderful to be part of their inner circle as they navigate all of this. When Jon has an important conversation with one of them (or our son-in-law), he'll catch me up on it later, and vice versa.

The closeness continues. One daughter recently had a huge professional success that culminated in a presentation and announcement she made at her profession's annual annual conference on the other side of the country. She emailed photos and links to the video of her session. Later she said, "I wish you guys could have been there, like you were for my soccer goals. I really wanted to do a high five with you afterwards." The other daughter also had a huge success recently (that I'm not at liberty to disclose) and called from the airport to share the news and tell all.

Of course there are some conversations that are best had with Mom, and others best had with Dad. But either one of us can be "on" at any given moment, and we all continue to have confidence in this arrangement.

There's another core way that our ESP "training" continues to serve us. While our kids were growing up, I think Jon and I lived every possible configuration of work and home schedules and responsibilities, through the changing needs of our children, through career changes, firm closings, the decline and deaths of our parents, etc. We learned to navigate these changes by talking it all through (usually at the kitchen table): what the situation called for, each individual person's needs and wants, each person's sense of what felt fair and right, and to negotiate what we needed to negotiate. These are the very communication and relational skills we are using to navigate this year's big challenge: the economy. The recession has affected us much like everyone else we know. (Neither of us has to fear being laid off because we're self-employed, but then again we have the insecurity of both of us being self-employed.) How are we going to respond to this? Who needs to do what? And when? We are back at the kitchen table, using those same skills, figuring it all out yet again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just read an article in the guardian about this site and how it works. My husband and I have two boys aged 2 and 3. The only thing we disagree on is housework. He thinks he does as much as me and I disagree! He works full time, I work from home so my hours "at work" can vary from zero to 40 depending on what I am working on. I would like to give this a go, I think we're fairly balanced on the child care front but I resent being the one who has to do all the household stuff just because I work from home.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for writing! Your question is a great one, and we could write a whole blog post (or several) on the topic of finding housework balance when one of you works at home and the other commutes. We'll try to tackle that in the near future - so check in again.

In the meantime, a few thoughts:

Creating equality in one domain (e.g., housework) is dependent on creating equality in each of the other domains (e.g., childraising, breadwinning and recreation time). So, if you are working only a few hours one week with no commuting time, but your husband routinely works 40+ hours plus commutes each way, it will be very hard to equalize the time you both spend doing the household chores. At least without seriously unbalancing the amount of time each of you spend with the kids or for yourselves.

However, don't despair. If you're currently doing 'all' the household stuff, you can at least work toward sharing this a bit more evenly. But it is useful to recognize that you will likely end up with a much greater share of the chores (quite fairly) if he is working a much greater share of hours (including his commuting time). The great news is that despite the variation in your breadwinning equality, you've both managed to hit childraising equality - that's terrific! Now, you might get together as a team and think about how you might tweak your arrangement slightly to benefit both of you.

9:00 PM  

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