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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Go to Battle, Dude!

Amy ran across this article at DadsClub.com (Australia) last week, and read it out loud to me. I have to say, I agree with her enthusiasm for it - it's one of the best pieces I've heard for capturing a father's desire for a balanced life. It is common for women to write about their frustrations trying to balance it all, or having to give up work in order to carve out time to spend with the kids. But this article gives us the plight of the other gender, and I agree wholeheartedly.

According to the article, Australia is experiencing a 'renaissance in family values', with The Sunday Telegraph February 2010 reporting that "98.8% of [Dads] can't wait to get home to our families every day, ranking them ahead of wealth, possession and career in the important things of life." A DadsClub survey revealed that "When it came to the responsibility of work, many men felt trapped by work and wanted to spend more time with the family/friends, even if that meant downsizing or re-locating. As husbands get older many become more cynical about work. And whilst it serves to provide us money, we become increasingly jaded by the sheer fact of our dependency on it, often at the expense of time with our loved ones."

That last quote was precisely what I was most worried about when I thought about marrying and having children - before I met Amy and we solved the problem with ESP. I'd already decided I would rather downsize than consider my work to be my identity and sole purpose, and I'd done it as a single guy so that I could spend more time with friends, with my own parents/brother/sisters, and just having fun. My balance was well worth the price! I think there are more men out there who feel similarly. It just isn't particularly fashionable (yet) to say so. Which makes me all the more enthusiastic about this Australian DadsClub article.

The rest of the article focuses on how fathers could do well to bone up on their negotiation skills - both so that they can approach their bosses successfully when they want to downsize or flex their schedules to get those balanced lives, and so that they can harmoniously step up to their share of the responsibilities (and fun) at home and with the kids.

This last point is a good one. As men, we can't expect to enjoy more time at home without picking up our share of the chores and not-so-fun stuff. We need to earn our partners' trust in this area and work to help our partners make space for us to become true equals in decision-making and responsibility by becoming fully competent at everything it takes to run a home and raise our kids. Simply being home more isn't going to cut it. If we want to have a chance at lasting, happy balance, we need to step in as full partners - and learn to love doing our part without expecting (or wanting) direction.

The article concludes with a few thoughts that made me smile extra wide:

"Because truly equally shared parenting is a relatively new concept in today's families, Dads lack role models. When fatherless-ness costs the Australian economy $13 billion per annum it is not surprising that society is championing for more balance in the parenting equation. To truly optimize the balance of both worlds, work and home, dads need to posses heightened negotiation skills. Go to battle, dude!"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, thanks for your great posts.

I'd love to know what cost fatherlessness has in the US economy. Having had a provider, but not a bonded, parenting-type father, I know has cost me personally a lot in professional success.

Also, I was curious if you or Amy had read or reviewed Partnership Parenting, by Kyle and Marsha Pruett? I was especially interested in whether you found the gender differences they see to be valid. I imagine some of these differences are acculturated and some innate, so some may go away in future years?

4:03 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

The Pruett’s book, Partnership Parenting, is a thoughtful look at sharing the childraising domain specifically. It is primarily concerned with describing how involved fatherhood is a good thing for children’s development, with lots of tips for how men and women can get along to the greater good. Their book is much more of a judgment of what makes “good” parenting than we feel qualified or justified in doing; and, happily, their conclusion fits well with the choice of ESP!

While the Pruetts speak of innate differences between men and women in how they parent, we feel this is generally beside the point when considering ESP. There may, statistically, be measurable differences between the average man and the average woman in terms of nurturing tendencies or the amount of time spent on fun vs task accomplishment with the kids. But we think the more important principle is that any two individuals differ in their abilities, tendencies and knowledge of childraising – regardless of gender. We’ve met couples in which the man is more nurturing, without a doubt. And we’ve met couples in which the man is far neater and more organized than his female partner. In our hearts, it isn’t so much involved fatherhood that benefits children as the intimate involvement of both their parents – be they heterosexual or same-sex.

One of the gifts of ESP to children, we believe, is an up-close, intimate bond with both of their parents. This enables children to learn two unique ways of approaching life – both in times of crisis and in everyday fun or just mundane activities. To this end, we don’t believe in structuring our lives (or the lives of our children) to fit exactly with what we think is one gender’s superiority in a given task. To do so is to miss the chance to show our children that both of us are capable and that both of us love them even if we aren’t perfect at something. And it allows balanced lives for both partners and a chance at sharing in all four domains of our lives together. In the long run, we think this makes for a happy, stable home for our kids and ourselves.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. Glad to know your thoughts.

9:09 PM  

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