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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thumbs Up for Co-Ed Showers

No, this is not an R-rated post.  I'm talking about baby showers (and, for that matter, "bridal" showers).  Astri von Arbin Ahlander, one of a dynamic duo of Gen-Y writers for True/Slant's thought-provoking Work.Life blog, rants this week about why in the world we still insist on throwing these events for women only...and including only women on the guest list. 

Why indeed?

I love Astri's argument, so I'll just paste it in here as she tells it:

"If we're all going to at least play along with the contemporary idea of equal parenting (whether this actually happens or not is another question), then a man's life is going to change a great deal with the coming of baby too. If we expect men these days to change diapers and give baths, why do we arrange a party where the mother is the sole recipient of the diapers and the rubber duckies?"

She goes on to conclude:

"Why do I insist so on ruining the pink party? For two reasons. First of all, a baby shower thrown for a mother-to-be and attended almost exclusively by women sets the tone for who is really going to be changing those diapers and giving those baths: the mother. Hmm…so much for equal parenting. Secondly, isn't it kind of unfair to start a new-dad-to-be's parenthood path by suggesting his role in the matter isn't worth celebrating? You devoted dads are worth sticking up for."

I'm right with ya, Astri.  If we aim to create an equal partnership in parenting, we should begin that way whenever possible.  In our case, the guest list for our own baby shower was traditionally female, but Marc and I attended together and opened the gifts and thanked the givers together.  And I've loved throwing baby showers for my male colleagues as they await their first children. 

Let's take this one more step while we're at it...let's think of our baby's birth (the actual birth itself) as the moment both partners become parents.  Sure, we women are doing the work and experiencing - in the first person - something extraordinary.  But that isn't the only thing going on.  The minute we hear that first amazing wail, two parents have crossed a threshold - together.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Evening the Score

I think Amy is slacking off on her laundry duties. I mean, I've washed two loads this week to her one, and her batch is still sitting in the dryer with permanent wrinkles by now. It looks like I'll have to make M's lunch tonight too - even though it's Amy's turn...after all, it's almost 10p.m. and she hasn't done it yet. And another thing: I gassed up the car the last 3 times. Is it too much to ask that she swing by the pump sometime? Jeez.

Sound familiar? I sure hope not! But yet this horrid scorekeeping mentality is the Number 1 complaint we get from commenters on articles written about equally shared parenting. That, and its close cousin, the accusation of ESP being possible only between two highly neurotic people devoted against all else to exactly splitting every (that's every) household chore down the middle.

Well, we finally got to face these myths down yesterday in our guest post on Lisa Belkin's Motherlode blog in the New York Times. And boy does it feel good! Huge thanks go to Lisa for giving us this powerful platform to do so.

Now, back at the ESP ranch, we know there really isn't much need to address the issue. If you're an equal parenting afficionado or practitioner yourself, you already know the truth - that ESP is probably the opposite of scorekeeping and rigidity. It's about breaking out of the rigid molds that society would have us fit, and teaming up with our best friends (that's our partners) to come up with a new way of sharing both the burdens and the joys of life together. It's about wanting the best for our partners, not micromanaging them or keeping track of their contributions. It's about trust, and puzzle-solving...together.

But now that I'm here in ESP-friendly company, I do have one more beef with the 50/50-scorekeeping myths. And that is that splitting a task exactly down the middle, and even checking on how well one might be doing with that math over time, is totally fine. Laudable. Smart. See, it's all in the motivation.

As ESP couples, we want an equal partnership. We know this brings us both our best chance at lives we can honestly say we love. And yet thousands of niggling societal pressures push us into inequality every day. The boss that expects a man to stay late because his wife can pick up the kids (right?). The school that always calls Mom about the kids' progress or when they become ill - even if Dad's name is first on the call list. The neighbor who shares housekeeping tips with Mom and makes fun of how men can't cook to save their lives. To stay the course of equality, ESP couples have to be aware - consciously choosing it over and over in a culture that expects otherwise. And doing that often means either continually noticing and correcting course by talking, talking, talking together...or putting autopilot equality in place whenever possible.

Autopilot equality is a great thing. But the crazy part is that, to an outsider, it can look like the most petty of 50/50 division or scorekeeping. Mom cooks on M/W/F, Dad cooks on T/Th/S and Sunday is pizza night. Dad wakes up if the baby cries before 2 a.m., Mom handles cries after this cutoff. Mom drives to the party, Dad drives home. Silly? Or a really easy way to keep things - a few things - nice and equal. Which is just what both of you want anyway.

So here's to the beauty of the 50/50 split...when executed ESP-style!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review Round-Up

Yes, it's more book news... We seem to live and breathe it right now, and of course we'd love to share a bit of this crazy experience with you. Today, we did a 15-station 'radio media tour,' which is what publishers set up for authors instead of sending them out on expensive physical book tours (at least those of us who aren't celebrities). It was fun, although we felt that we kept saying the same thing over and over every 10 minutes!

But even more fun is discovering reviews of Equally Shared Parenting in cyberspace - by old friends, new friends, colleagues, and complete strangers.  Here's a sampling:
  • Review in Minnesota Parent magazine:  This one had us laughing out loud at author Beth Hawkins' assumptions about us from heresay, and smiling from ear-to-ear at her realizations after she read the book.  But it does make us more determined than ever to squash those horrid scorekeeping and 50/50-exact-chore-split myths about ESP!
  • Review by Laura Vanderkam:  Laura wrote a great quote about us that we included on our book jacket, and has since become a work/life balance colleague and friend.  She writes about our book now in her blog 168 Hours, which is also the title of her next book - due out this Spring - on taking control of your own time (we all have 168 hours to call our own every week). She includes spot-on examples of bath frequency and playroom clean-up routines to illustrate how two parents need to come up with family standards to create harmonious equal sharing.  Laura's only beef with our book is our portrayal of dual reduced-hours work as a great way to make time for everything that matters most; she believes that full-time work (or more) is fully compatible with a balanced life. I think there is no right answer here - for us, meaningful and productive work fits very well into 32 hours weekly, while for others this best-life balance point may be different.  Thanks, Laura, for a lovely review!
  • Review at First Time Second Time: ESP couple extraordinaire (and featured couple in our book), Gail and Lyn, review our book from a lesbian family perspective. It definitely makes us smile to read their take on how the book is welcoming to same-sex partners, and is the first parenting book they have read that doesn't talk down to dads. Hooray!
  • Review at Two Hot Mamas: Very sweet, heartfelt review by one half of this lesbian couple as they eagerly await their first baby. I'm so thankful to know that our book has helped them think about how they will approach parenthood, making room for sharing all the burdens and the joys. This is a perfect example of why we wrote this book!  Best wishes, Mamas, for the months ahead (their baby girl was born just yesterday).
And, finally, while not a book review, we had the pleasure of contributing to the wonderful new web resource for everything shared, Shareable.net. Check out our piece on how a couple might hold tight to their equal partnership and balanced lives as they take that plunge into parenthood.

Have you written a review of our book? Let us know - we'd love to share it here!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Busy Radio Day

We had a wonderful, official send-off for our book yesterday at the Watertown Public Library.  Our book launch party felt just right, with a whole gaggle of kids sitting at our feet as we gave a short presentation to those in attendance.  It was heartwarming to see our friends and family, some of our featured ESP couples and some who absolutely qualify for the sequel to our book (although somehow talking about a second book seems a bit like bringing up the idea of a second child to a mother who has just finished labor with her first), and some new faces we're glad to meet.

Today, it was Radio Day for us!  Things started at 6:00am when we snuck out of the house to the WGBH studios (our local NPR affiliate station) to do a short 6:45 a.m. spot with Lisa Belkin on The Takeaway.  You can listen here (about 6 minutes).  A big "thank you" hug to Marc's wonderful mother for sleeping over so that she could be with M and T.  And, of course, an equal "thank you" to Lisa for sharing her weekly radio spot with us.

Then, it was on to the studios of WBNW, a local AM radio station, in the afternoon to do a longer spot with Rob Mitchell on his Pages to People book review show.  This will air this coming Saturday at 6 p.m.  We will post a link to the show once it airs - check our Events and Appearances page.  It was a pleasure to talk with Rob because he was able to give us plenty of time to delve into the book's details.

Then, we were back on the phone as guests for the second half of fatherhood expert Armin Brott's Positive Parenting show.  The air date for this show is not set yet, but we'll post the link on our Events and Appearances page when it becomes available.

And, finally, we had the pleasure of speaking with Diego Mulligan, host of The Journey Home, on KSFR-FM, Santa Fe Public Radio.  This was a live show so we should have a link to share with you soon - again on our Events and Appearances page.

Phew!  Okay, we're officially ready to sleep soundly now!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Back on TV and in the NY Times

Just a quick note to say we're popping up all over the place - this is kinda fun! We were featured by Lisa Belkin in her NY Times Motherlode blog yesterday, along with several other authors. It was great to have our book introduced as Lisa's first grandchild (grandbook?). We were sad to see so much of the conversation in the comments once again focused on equal task sharing (never mind exact 50/50 division of every task), but frankly we're a bit too busy right now to fire up the ol' rebuttal machine (perhaps more on that in a later post). Hopefully all of you wonderful readers know this is hardly the case.

Then, this morning we got to hang out with New England Cable Network and do a 5-minute live segment on ESP, which you can watch here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hip, Hip, Hooray!

We promise - we will return to our regularly scheduled programming at some point in the near future.  But please allow us to celebrate today just for today.  We are so happy to share our book with the world, and to get out the empowering - and very true - message that equally shared parenting is accessible, practical, sustainable and real.  It makes us feel terrific to read and hear from so many sources that our book is full of varied examples of ESP, so that almost any couple can connect with someone who is featured in its pages.  So much as been written about egalitarian marriage as an impossible ideal.  But it's not!

Here are a few highlights of the book's recent coverage:
  • Our live TV debut!  We were on FOX News here in Boston yesterday morning.  Click here if you would like to watch this 5 minute segment.
  • Great reviews from some of our amazing, fantastic, esteemed colleagues:  sociologist Carmen Knudson-Martin at Equal Couples, author Kristin Maschka at Remodeling Motherhood, and communications consultant (and featured ESP mom in Chapter 2 of our book) Michelle Barry Franco at The Brazen Soul.  Your support feels wonderful!
It sure was great to walk into a bookstore today and see our book.  Hooray!

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Eve of Publication

Tomorrow is the big day. The book we've given (almost) all of our personal time to in the past year is finally entering the bookstores. Equally Shared Parenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents will be real.

So on this quiet and rather peaceful evening, we just want to say one thing:

Thank you.

- to all of the wonderful ESP couples who have shared their lives and philosophies with us during interviews. We are deeply grateful to be entrusted to shape your stories into blueprints for the next generation of parents.
- to our dear mentors and colleagues in the fight to bring gender equal partnerships to the table of lifestyle choices. We are honored to learn from you and partner with you in this mission.
- to our friends and family for helping us through in so many ways. We could not be more fortunate.

Oh, and let's all go check out the bookstores tomorrow!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

In the News

Tick, tick, tick...two days until our book release date! We are definitely gearing up around here - with our main missions being to: 1) get the word out to all of the parents who want equal partnerships and balanced lives that there is now a practical handbook to help them achieve these dreams, and 2) have a lot of fun along the way.

The fun has already begun, I'm happy to share. We were guests on The Jefferson Exchange, an NPR show originating from Oregon, last Wednesday (you can listen by downloading the podcast here; warning - it does take a few minutes to load). And we were featured in two different articles on the terrific new website, Shareable.net:

Also, in today's Boston Globe, you can find us in this sweet article about how to handle missing your child's big milestones when they happen on your partner's watch instead of when you are home to see them firsthand.

We hope you plan to join us for the fun of the next few weeks and months. We will post our book events on our new Events and Appearances page as we schedule them. And if you are in the Boston area, we hope you're free to join us for the official book launch party next Sunday (1/10) at 2pm at the Watertown Public Library - see you there!

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