Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

 Subscribe in a reader

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.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Equality Blog

Monday, May 24, 2010

ManicMommies Tackle ESP

We had the pleasure of being on the ManicMommies podcast this past week, a terrific long-standing two-working-mom show.  It was so fun to speak with Erin, one of the dynamic duo, who came to hang out with us in our home after the kids had gone to bed.  Or so we thought.  Turns out our son T, who is now officially 5 years old, was quietly listening to us talk from his perch on the stairs.  When he heard us say "goodbye" into the microphone, he rushed out to make sure he could say goodbye to Erin too.


Sunday, May 23, 2010


This Thursday, as you may know, Amy and I will be in NYC to speak at the 92Y Tribeca at 7pm along with leading gender sociologist, Kathleen Gerson, and a dynamic Manhattan couple featured in our book, John and Annie Feighery (check out their Real Life Story here). We are thrilled to visit the home turf of our mentor and friends…and we are looking forward to spending an evening in the company of our two sponsors - The NYC Dads Group and HRP Mamas!

Dr. Gerson will be sharing findings from her new book, Finishing the Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America. She has compelling evidence that relationships built on equality and balance, not standard gender roles, are now desired by the majority of the parenting population.

And John and Annie will share their brave and inspirational path to equally shared parenting, which included moving their family across the country, changing careers, and building the kind of partnership that many of us dream about. They are teammates, friends and peers in their approach to parenting.

We will also share with you some of the keys to happy shared parenting, from our own experiences with this
website, from our book Equally Shared Parenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents, and from our own lives. In particular, we hope to debunk some stereotypes of ESP, such as the idea that it is primarily about dividing the chores, making our partners do their fair share, or even providing a prescription for equality. Instead, we would like to dream together about the possibility of adults remaining full partners even after children come along, reaching for the twin prizes of an equal partnership and a balanced life in which each parent gets full access to pursue a career, spend meaningful time with the kids, and enough time for fun and rejuvenation. Oh yeah, and if that means creating a plan to get the chores done together, so be it!

These dreams, and more, are yours for the taking. Come kick around the topic and share your thoughts! Both Dr. Gerson’s and our books will be available for sale/signing, and - a change in plans - we're excited to announce that the evening will be moderated by Hannah Seligson, journalist and author of A Little Bit Married: How to Know When It is Time to Walk Down the Aisle or Out the Door.

If you leave nearby, tickets are available here and we hope to see you on Thursday evening!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Paternal Postpartum Depression

Yes, that's right! A growing body of medical literature describes fathers as being at increased risk for depression after their partners give birth (and while they are pregnant), and an association between paternal postpartum depression and negative emotional, behavioral and developmental outcomes for the child. A new meta analysis in the veritable Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, May 19, 2010 issue) seeks to better quantify and describe this phenomenon.

It turns out, at least in this paper, that prenatal and postpartum depression happens to about 10% of men, and is most common about 3 to 6 months after the babies arrive. This compares to a rate of about 24% for maternal depression in the same study data, and a general national population rate for depression of about 5% for men in any given 12-month period.

The researchers warn that their findings suggest more questions than provide answers. But it seems that significantly more fathers experience depression before or shortly after their babies' birth. And the authors conclude with a nice ESP-like statement: "Future research in this area should focus on parents together to examine the onset and joint course of depression in new parents."

Just thought you might be interested.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Beauty of the Pinch Hit

Wall Street Journal's The Juggle blog covers a common maternal problem today.  It's the idea that sometimes we can take the 'easy' way out and do a childcare task ourselves rather than find a way to share in doing it.  Once one parent - typically Mom - gets adept at packing the diaper bag after a few tries, she often finds it simpler to continue doing so rather than risk a missed item if her spouse (who doesn't have any practice yet at the fine art of gathering baby things) does the packing.  And as time marches on, Mom finds she can pack a diaper bag in the dark with no flashlight and one hand tied to a screaming, hungry toddler.  Dad, on the other hand, has gotten enough clues to stay away from the process...and it is probably a pretty fair assumption that he might screw up if he does have to pack the bag.  Mom gets stuck doing all of something in the name of efficiency, and Dad misses out (and opts out and gets pushed out).

The Juggle accurately talks about the downfall of such a practice.  When expertise is not shared (even a little), one parent can feel stuck and the other can feel left out and secretly inept.  But when both parents claim enough experience doing any one task - and hold onto this claim by at least dabbling in it once in a while to relieve their partner - we can circumvent the majority of the problem.

Taking this one step farther than The Juggle gets into in today's post, we can work to eliminate the feeling of superiority that the 'more expert' parent can lord over the 'less expert' parent.  This takes a purposeful, conscious effort.  I know, because even with my own deep commitment to equally shared parenting, I can find myself thinking (and sometimes even saying out loud to Marc) that I know how to do something better than he does.  Luckily, he (and I) have gotten pretty good at recognizing any 'stupid husband' attitude quickly and we can often correct it before a full sentence of wifely 'instruction' leaves my mouth.  I'm grateful for the reminder that I can lapse, since having an equal partner is so, so, so much sweeter than proving myself the better at anything.

No, we don't have to strive for a 50/50 split of any specific chore.  No, we don't have to refrain from constructively teaching each other what we know - that only makes sense.  Yes, sometimes one person is just naturally gifted at packing a diaper bag like nobody's business - hooray, think of this as a bonus...a little bit of special talent in your very own family!  But the more we can share every chore enough to pinch hit for each other without basic instruction, and the more we make room for the fact that our partner is inherently perfectly capable of any chore, the freer we'll be.  And the more our partners will be able to truly take a hands-on role in what it takes to raise our kids and care for our home.

Finally, we have to consider that our partners might even have a better way of doing something than we do.  Take that diaper bag.  The Juggle's writer sighs about how her husband didn't even put a second spare diaper in it.  Or a snack.  Or a mat to lay the baby on for changing the diaper.  Or a toy to amuse the baby during a diaper change.  Or a change of clothes for poops gone wrong.  Or even wipes.  Oh, my God!  Marc used to pack the diaper bag like that all the time.  In fact, the 'diaper bag' quickly morphed into a diaper in his back pocket and a package of wipes in a compartment in the car trunk or his bike bag.  A toy was a leaf or some grass at the park.  A change of clothes was what he procured once he quickly beat a path for home with a soggy, messy kid on the very few times that this actually happened.  Not necessarily my way, but I have to admit it did simplify his outings with a baby!  I could learn a thing or two.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sharing by Phone

On Tuesday May 25th, Marc and I will be the featured guests on a telephone discussion hosted by Jessica DeGroot - founder and president of the ThirdPath Institute.  We'll be chatting for about an hour with interested participants who have pre-registered for the free phone call.  Our call is one in a series of conversations that Jessica has arranged with authors of recent shared parenting books - some of our favorite colleagues in the good fight for gender equal parenting: Sharon Meers (Getting to 50 50),  Kristin Maschka (This Is Not How I Thought It Would Be), Jeremy Adam Smith (The Daddy Shift) and Dottie Lamm (Daddy On Board).

We are really looking forward to this hour, since we've known Jessica and her work for many years.  In fact, we met her way before our book or even this website were twinkles in our eyes.  The story goes that when we first had M, I was an active member of a local working moms group that met monthly.  At one meeting, a guest speaker came to talk with us about work/life balance.  The speaker turned out to be a local personal coach and who revealed something that day that perked up my ears.  She told the group of moms that she had shared equally with her husband in raising her two daughters - both working about the same number of reduced hours to do so.  Wow!  This speaker was my first ESP mom-colleague and I wanted to talk with her all night!  Alas, she did eventually have to leave, but she told me about a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia that was working on helping couples achieve this sort of arrangement - what they termed Shared Care.  This was my introduction to the ThirdPath Institute.  I ran home that evening, woke up Marc, and announced to his bleary face that I had finally found "my people."  It was a great feeling! 

It just so happened that ThirdPath was experimenting with creating a group of interested parents in the Boston area shortly after I learned of them.  What luck!  Marc and I enrolled in the group, hoping to meet more of "our people."  It turned out that the other participants weren't quite doing Shared Care yet - they were there to learn how it could work for them.  But Jessica was, and she had come to run the group.  It was wonderful to meet her, and we have stayed in touch ever since.  ThirdPath does great work - with businesses, individuals, couples, and special sectors/populations.  Check them out!

And the inspiring life coach?  That's Sharon, who is featured together with her husband, Jonathan, in our book.  She and Jonathan continue to be an inspiration, sharing with us how it feels to parent as equals through the teenage years and beyond.  They have just become ESP grandparents!

Our phone call is at 12:30-1:30p.m. EST.  If you are free at this time, and interested in calling in, just email ThirdPath at time4life@thirdpath.org to receive phone-in instructions.  Love to hear you on the line.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Balance is Impossible?

"A balanced life is often ridiculed as impossible--a goal that many have abandoned because it makes us mere mortals feel bad when we can't achieve it."

This is the opening line from chapter 3 in our book, Equally Shared Parenting. It is an acknowlegement to the common media perspective that the pursuit of balance is a joke. With all the job pressures, kids activities, and otherwise hectic pace of life these days who can afford the luxury of pursuing balance?

Well, Beth Teitell at Boston.com concludes in a recent piece that, "...the best advice comes from the unbalanced moms themselves. Asked if they had work-life balance, many let out a long 'ha ha ha ha.' In other words, when all else fails, laugh." In one sense, I agree that laughter can go a long way to make anyone's existence more enjoyable but I expect that many of these same women may be secretly crying if they have truly abandoned one of their main dreams, according to plenty of sociological data, so early in life.

What other ideals should we toss aside; equality, peace, love? I'm not ready to give up just yet! Yes, I agree with the author of the piece to ignore the perky tips to find balance but hopefully, we are ready to take a more serious approach. Nothing worth having comes easy. You want equality? Try sharing each of the main areas of a parent's life with your partner. Not to achieve some arbitrary division of responsibilities but because you believe in the value of walking in each others shoes everyday. You want peace? Try existing amicably with that unreasonable neighbor or ornery coworker. You want love? Try treating your spouse as the most important person in your life. If any of this sounds easy, you are a better person than I.

When it comes to balance, we have heard from numerous ESP couples that the first step is to hold onto the dream. The dream can help shape reality through a myriad of decisions. How much money do I need to be happy? Do I need more training to obtain more job flexibility? Do I believe that our children need to attend the best schools to be successful? How big does my house need to be to make my family comfortable?

I honestly don't believe there is a right answer to any of these questions but I also don't believe that balance will just happen regardless of the answers. We must own our dreams and walk confidently towards them. The goal here is a worthy endeavor summarized in the last lines of that same chapter 3 from our book: "By balancing your life, in concert with your equal partner's balanced life, you both get breaks from the occasional crazy days in any role. You share the load, the joys, and a full life in which--by your own definition-- you each have it all."

Again, if you think this is easy I salute you. Otherwise, I recommend persisting with the effort.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Isis Paternity

In the wake of the Babble waffle about the importance of dads, a bastion of mommy-dom has officially made room for men. Isis Maternity - a Boston area chain with stores and classes for moms - has officially changed its name from Isis Maternity: The Place for Expecting and New Moms to the new Isis: Parenting Starts Here. The Boston Globe describes the change as reflecting the wider range of services and products that Isis provides beyond those for maternity, but I view it as a small step in degendering that whole holy madonna-and-child first few months and years.

Maybe Isis will always be a mostly-moms kind of place...with a focus on New Moms Groups (no dads allowed). But they now have New Dads Groups too (no moms allowed?), and a name that matches better with the concept that there are two gender possibilities for both the babies and their parents.

Thumbs up, Isis!

Powered by Blogger

  Home · What is Equally Shared Parenting? · How It Works · ESP The Book · Equality Blog · In the News · Toolbox · Real Life Stories · Contact Marc and Amy · Resources
All Contents ©2006-2010 Marc and Amy Vachon