Why 50/50 Matters Very, Very Much
We've spent countless hours typing out blog posts to counteract the myth that equally shared parenting means dividing the household chores right down the middle - and keeping score of which partner does more dishes, laundry, diaper changes, etc. And every time we think maybe - just maybe - this myth is finally dead, up it pops again in full regalia.
So, recently, when we were on a public radio show with a very nice host who nevertheless kept referring to us as the couple who divides everything down the middle, and when the author of recent Chicago Tribune piece on ESP very sweetly stated that, "I don't know if we want to spend the amount of time they [meaning Marc and I] do making sure everything tallies up to a perfect 50-50," I begin once again to try to think of other ways to explain this whole 50/50 thing.
And apart from saying, for the millionth time, that ESP has nothing to do with dividing any particular chore in half or with keeping score in anything - and apart from trying to point out that ESP is about far, far more than chore division and that the more a couple focuses on chores the farther they actually get from ESP, I also find I want to say that there is something deeply important about the balance that 50/50 conveys.
Not in chores, but in power.
In most relationships, there is a 'one-up' person and a 'one-down' person. The titles may be universal throughout a relationship, or different depending on domain. For example, there is usually a household manager who gets more say at home, a primary parent who directs the show with the kids, and a spouse with the more important career when push comes to shove. In ESP, however, we strive to live so that there is no such imbalance. Power is held, in each domain, by both partners and by neither more so than the other. Decisions, when push does come to shove, are made together (which, of course, is not to say that every tiny little decision requires consensus...if so, I doubt anyone in our house would ever make it out the door dressed and ready each day!).
You can easily see how anything other than 50/50 is simply unequal power. A corporate shareholder who owns 51% of the company's stock is in charge. A manager who entertains the opinions and ideas of his underlings but then makes the final decisions himself wields all the power (my old boss used to say he had 51% of the vote). It matters - a lot - if the scale is tipped even a tiny bit when it comes to power.
This is the 50/50 that we want to hold onto when we build and nurture an equally shared parenting relationship. And when the power is evenly shared, both parents have a chance at developing competency in all domains of their lives together and get equal access to the joys (and challenges) of each domain.
p.s. Nice article by Robert Franklin at Fathers & Families as a response to the Chicago Tribune piece (which we actually generally liked) here. He makes the very important point that you can't achieve equally shared parenting if one parent works significantly more hours than the other. You can have a good relationship without this balance, sure, but it just isn't called ESP. When Mom is home more hours than Dad, Mom will likely take charge at home and Dad will likely be the spouse with the primary job. And again, scorekeeping the hours isn't the goal...it's that equal power, dual competency and equal access to each domain that we're going for.