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 24, 2009

Our Growing RLS Family

Another ESP family has added their story to our Real Life Stories page - that's two new stories in one month!  We are happy to introduce you to our latest ESP friends - Juli and Russel and their 18-month old son, B.  They live in Los Angeles, where Juli is pursuing her PhD in Sociology and Russel works part-time as a web development consultant. 

We are so appreciative of Juli and Russel's story as an example of how ESP can work when one partner is a full-time student.  They know their current situation is temporary (really, this is true for all of us, right?), and are already planning ahead to tweak their sharing as Juli prepares to enter her first academic job and Russel rethinks his long-term career plans. 

One of Juli's realizations along their parenting journey thus far has been that different isn't wrong.  For them, sharing B's care with Russel taking the helm during the days and Juli taking over in the evenings works well - even if it isn't the 'normal' way families are structured.  Thumbs up, Juli and Russel!  And a warm welcome to the ESP Real Life Story family.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Join ESP on Facebook

Following in the footsteps of many of our fellow parenting authors and bloggers, we have set up a Facebook site for Equally Shared Parenting. Although we'll continue to consider our blog to be the main way we can dissect and discuss issues of gender equality and balanced lives, we find that there are many times we want to quickly mention an interesting piece of news that we're not quite ready to turn into a full blog post. Our Facebook page should work nicely for this.

Plus we'll be able to post our book publication news there without overwhelming the blog with this one (albeit very exciting) topic.

So, please consider this your very heartfelt invitation to become a 'fan' of the new ESP Facebook page. Click on the Facebook page badge on the lefthand side of this page to check it out in its newborn state, and then click on the 'Become a Fan' button to receive our updates to your own Facebook page.

And we hope you'll send us any suggestions you have for spiffing up the page. We're all ears!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Take It or Leave It

Babble has an informative article this week on why men don't tend to take paternity leave - especially in proportion to the leave that new mothers do. Of course the fact that only 13% of American workplaces offer paid paternity leave options has something to do with this discrepancy. But it is way more than that. Only 58% of the men who actually have such a juicy tidbit dangled in front of them even take it. Free time off to bond with their baby and a full 42% turn it down! And less than 10% of all American men take more than 2 weeks off when they become fathers.

The article features a few men who bucked the trend and loved it. We've found the same thing in our research for our forthcoming book - that men who screw up their courage to ask and then take extended paternity leave time don't regret it and feel grateful for having had the opportunity to do something so amazing, fleeting, and yet that lasts forever in the strength of their bond to their kids.

Why do most men not jump at such a chance? The answers are complex, including the pressure at work to climb higher without pause (why?), the fear that their absence will cause co-workers to do just fine without them (sounds like a mark of a well-planned leave to me!), the social stigma of caretaking as women's work (get over it!), the pressure to provide-provide-provide when there are now more mouths to feed (that's what your wife's job is for - half of that providing). Maybe even the feeling that our partners are better at the babycare than we are, so why bring in the second-string help (of course, this is self-prophecy - if we never get good at handling a crying baby, we'll never be good at handling a crying baby)?

These are crazy reasons to miss out on one of the top wonders of the modern world. Did I miss anything more valid?

Millions of American families - with our pathetic corporate parental leave policies - sacrifice good money to keep mothers home way past any paid leave so that they can be with their babies for 3, 6, 9, 12+ months. What would happen if we allocated some of this (even half!) to these babies' fathers instead? How would this change our marital landscape a year down the road - or 3 years, 6 years, 9 years, 12 years later?

Such possibilities!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A New Real Life Story!

We're so happy to announce that another couple's ESP experience has been added to our Real Life Stories page. For the past year, we've not focused on adding these stories since we've been collecting them for our upcoming book (which is loaded with terrific ESP couples). But we have only learned of this newest couple recently - too late to be included in our book, unfortunately. The great news is that they have written their story for the website instead. And it's a wonderful example of the power of equally shared parenting.

Please meet Darien and Darrin, an Hawaiian parenting team with three children. Both are writers who have published multiple acclaimed books - hers in fiction (under pen name Mia King) and his in mastering the mental game of golf. Darrin also runs his own award-winning golf academy. Together, they have taken some daring leaps to create a life they love. And they credit ESP to helping them live truthfully and honoring both of their dreams.

Welcome to Darien and Darrin!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Common Sense Collaboration

"Dads are the ones reporting growing concerns with work-life balance. Most men with a child under the age of one wish they could spend more time with them. And only one in four men now thinks that mothers should be the main carers of children."

This quote from the The Guardian (UK) caught my eye in an article posted this past Sunday called
Yes, It's Hard for Working Mums. But Dads Want to Be With Their Children Too. The piece does an excellent job pointing out inequities in the workplace through matter-of-fact statements like: "These dated attitudes towards fathers can't last. Most of the wives (or partners) of fathers with pre-school children are now in work. In the old days employers operated in a 'buy one, get one free' labour market: you employed the man, safe in the knowledge that his wife would be the one doing the night-feeds, running to school to collect sickly children and disappearing from the world of work altogether for a few years."

Then the article follows up with the resulting impact on women: "Mothers were still expected to be the main carer - hence the endurance of phrases such as 'working mother' or 'career woman', which make no apparent sense when applied to men. Small wonder that so many quit."

In conclusion, the author minces no words when proposing the solution: "For women to have more equality at work, we need more equality at home; in this struggle for equality, fathers and feminists are on the same side."

Of course, balanced lives for both parents with equal access to all the joys of adult life is an ideal both genders can embrace. Women may like the label of ESP initially more than men, but I have seen time and again that men get as much, if not more, from this lifestyle.

What could make more sense, and contain more hope, than both genders teaming up to solve this puzzle together?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Dr. Phil Time Warp

Now I know that Marc just posted an blog entry on the great trend of including both mothers and fathers in media pieces about parenting. Well, I agree. But some people haven't quite gotten the news. Here's a perfectly awful example of what can happen when we leave fathers out of the discussion: The Dr. Phil Show. In a recent show, this supposedly enlightened advice guru somehow traveled back in time, and dupped a whole studio audience worth of people to do so with him. And he left me so dumbfounded by his choice of show topic and omissions that it has taken me a few weeks to write this blog post - mostly because I needed to find a way to address his behavior in a civil manner.

On Wednesday October 14th, the Dr. Phil Show featured a reprise of a trick he's done before - an audience of stay-at-home mothers on one side of the aisle facing off with an audience of working moms on the other. The first time he tried this ratings gimmick several years ago, he was loudly admonished by mothers everywhere for trying to pit us against each other and create the Mommy Wars that the media so desperately want to make real. And worse yet, whenever this kind of mom-against-mom battle is encouraged, all parents lose - the very real issues that all of us face about the lack of flexible, well-paid and interesting work that would allow everyone to make good family choices, the lack of high quality and affordable childcare, etc.

So here he goes again. "Gee whiz, golly," I can hear the good doctor saying. "I'm only trying to help the two sides see each other's point of view." No...he knows it makes for good ratings. Period.

The part that frosted me the most as I forced myself to watch the judgments fly from his guests was that not once did he (or any guest) mention the Other Parent. Not once in a full 60 minute show did he suggest that a child's father could take part in caring for his own children. Is this 1960 all over again????

We heard from stay at home moms who claimed that their choice, although many days very hard, was the most selfless - all for the good of the kids who should be nurtured and loved 24/7 by their mothers (fathers, apparently, are figureheads). We had working moms who provided stories and statistics about how children flourish when their moms are happy, when they are in good quality childcare, etc. (but the moms juggled it all, apparently). And we saw an emotionally tortured new mom about to return to work from her maternity leave - unable to fathom leaving her baby. The last woman's husband even came to the show (he didn't merit a chair on stage, however), but there wasn't one mention of how he might care for the baby.

All the angst and burden (and joy!) of juggling childraising and work was assumed to be a mothers only issue. All the choices - work, work part-time, work from home, don't work at all - all Mom's.

Gag me with a shovel.

Yes, there are plenty of families (I came from one) with only one parent - be that a mother or a father. These single parents have a hard road to support their children financially, mentally, emotionally, physically. But for families with two parents, well, there are two parents to shoulder the duties - of childraising, of breadwinning, of housework. Mathematically, dear Dr. Phil, the options go far beyond 'mom works and puts the kids in 60+ hours of outside care' or 'mom quits and stays home.'

Until we stop thinking of childraising as a woman's sole responsibility, we're stuck. Until we start to showcase alternatives that free both women and men from culturally imposed roles, we think things are black and white - all or none. And we saddle our husbands with second parent status (proportional to our level of control at home).

The new mom at the end of the show who was bereft at leaving her child to return to work all but admitted that the reason for her anxiety was because she wanted to remain the number one person in her son's life...and because she would just plain miss his little face when she was at work. Understandable. But it was sure ironic that, as she was telling her story, the background flashed to a picture of her son wearing a onsie that said 'It's All About Me.' Her desire to be the center of the child's world is about her - not what is best for her son. If her motives for avoiding outside childcare were child-based instead, she could resolve her anxieties by selecting a loving outside provider - or (gasp) sharing the childcare time with her husband as equals. What a gift to her son this could be!

I'm more than disgusted by Dr. Phil's mom-fight show. Has he not heard that fathers are waking up across the world to the joy of full-on parenting for themselves? Is he not interested in making the world a better, easier place for all parents to lovingly raise children? Whatever choice each family makes, it should be made for the good of everyone - moms, dads, kids. Let's fight for that, not against each other.

Get real, Dr. Phil.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Great to See You, Dad

As I absorb various news articles and other media pieces on parenting these days, I'm encouraged that the trend is towards including both parents - finally. I'm seeing fewer and fewer articles that leave out fathers, and more and more like this one that focus on the beauty of both parents teaming up for the greater good. It seems increasingly presumed that more dad involvement in childcare is good for both the kids and the marriage.

One such voice of teamwork recently surfaced with the release of a new book called Partnership Parenting by Marsha and Kyle Pruett - a professor of social work and child psychiatrist team, and parenting couple. I haven't read the book yet, but I like what I've heard about it so far. The Pruetts claim that sharing the parenting duties is good for the kids and the parents. They are clear that artificially, or actually, dividing the chores to achieve some arbitrary 50/50 goal of equal tasks completed is silly. And they also speak of the importance of deciding as a team how the parenting "show" should be run.

I couldn't agree more. Just about all of the ESP couples we have interviewed refer to their relationship as a team of equals regardless of how evenly they divide any particular chore. Very few ever claim their primary goal is equal task division (in fact, they aren't focused on chore division much at all) even as they are also clear that the more they can share any domain the closer they come to their ideals.

Much of the discussion so far about the Pruetts' new book seems to focus on the benefits of accepting each parent as he or she is - not expecting fathers to act like mothers or vice versa. Amen to that! The Pruetts are also experts on the research supporting the benefits of shared parenting on the well being of children. Amy and I have intentionally avoided focusing on the facts about ESP's benefits to children since we are
not academic researchers, but we firmly believe, as I'm sure is true for most parents, that our choices work for our family. It's great to have a resource for these facts now.

I am looking forward to diving into
Partnership Parenting.

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