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!