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, August 05, 2009

Guest Blog: Don't Let Old Gendered Power Trip You Up

In the wide, wide blogosphere, there's something for everyone. Countless parenting blogs are now entertaining us and giving us a glimpse into the private family life of so many. But it is a special treat when you run across a blog that fits so perfectly with your own - matching thoughts, same concerns, similar ideas. With respect to this Equality Blog, we haven't run into such an animal (although we follow a growing list of wonderful blogs)...until very recently. Anne Mahoney, Professor Emerita of Sociology at the University of Denver, has started writing together with Carmen Knudson-Martin, Professor and Director of the PhD program in Marital and Family Therapy at Loma Linda University, at Equal Couples, and we are so happy to welcome them to the world of blogging. We've recently reviewed their new book, Couples, Gender, and Power, and now welcome Anne to ESP.com as a guest blogger. Anne...the microphone is all yours!


Don't Let Old Gendered Power Trip You Up
by Anne Rankin Mahoney, PhD
In the 21st century when most women, including mothers, work beside men in the labor force, it seems obvious that men should also be working beside women in the family. Nevertheless, this part of the change has not really happened on a large scale. Research shows that men do more family work than their fathers did, but still way less than their wives. Why hasn't the shift to equally shared families happened with the same speed as other 21st century changes like Internet shopping or textmessaging?

A big reason is that family equality involves a major power shift. For generations, families have been organized around gender. Women took care of the home and this "women's work" (in spite of all the nice things everyone said on Mother's Day) was considered lower status. As long as men just "help" women with housework or kids, they can keep a distance from women's work. When they "share parenting," they're doing it. Men who have overcome this old-fashioned attitude about family work have discovered that the shift positively affects them in a variety of ways. Marc regularly regales us here about the joys of equally shared parenting.

If we want an equal relationship and equally shared parenting, the first thing we need to do is become aware of the ways old gendered power can trip us up, despite our best intentions. For generations, men have been and felt entitled and women have served. If we want equality, we can't just say we are equal. We have to understand how the system has been, and still is, stacked against equality. And we have to do a lot of talking together to search out the ways in which those old gender roles are still stuck in our heads.

Then, we have to throw them out.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Dennis said...

I've said this before and I'll say it again: the biggest reason for the inequality in the home is that too many women don't want to give up control. Women (as a generalization, obviously not all women feel this way) want to be in control of the household. They want things done their way and they aren't willing to cede that control.

If women want men to do more around the house, then they need to accept that men doing things differently isn't wrong. That's the point that Marc and Amy have tried to make, but unfortunately not enough women are getting it. If you spend any amount of time reading parenting blogs and discussions, that is made very clear.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anne Mahoney said...

Dennis, you make a very good point. Women have to be willing to let go of total control of the home if they want to share family work equally. For a long time the home was the only place where women had any control and a woman's status was determined by how well she cared for home and family. This is a good example of how old gender roles and expectations get in the way of equal sharing. Times have changed, but some of these old ideas still hang around. Probably a couple who wants to share family equally should sit down and talk about tasks and agree about what minimum standards are necessary. This probably will involve a lot of give and take. The woman may discover that nobody in the family cares about some of the perfections that she has unconsciously brought from her childhood and considers essential. Anne www.equalcouples.com

5:09 PM  
Blogger Carmen Knudson-Martin said...

I agree. In our study of collaborative parenting one of the keys is mothers backing off. But the men also need to step up to parenting. Most women have been socialized to automatically respond to children--even when they don't know how, they feel the responsibility. Many men say they don't know what to do. So the mother jumps in. This is a good example of how both parents can unintentionally play out old gender patterns. It takes consciousness on the part of both women and men to create new, more equal parenting models. Otherwise, despite ideals of involved fathers, most couples end up replicating the old patterns. Carmen equalcouples.com

6:05 PM  
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3:21 AM  

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