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

Monday, March 28, 2011

New UK Book on Shared Parenting

UK author Rebecca Asher takes on the equally shared parenting cause with a soon-to-be-released book entitled Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the Illusion of Equality. The book is not available in the US, unfortunately, but we'll be trying to get our hands on a copy. Rebecca published an excerpt in The Guardian this past Saturday, and judging from this snippet, I worry that the book will linger way too long on the usual woes and misery and deep unfairness of motherhood. I hope I'm wrong. We have plenty of these whiney books already - not to discount the truth in them - and I'd like to think we're getting past this phase and on to actual solutions. And I know that Marc would say here that women need to work on their sales pitch...complaining about how hard it is to be a mother is not exactly the best hook to get men to step up to a similar role as fathers!

The Guardian excerpt of Shattered does hint at solutions - but, like a lot of other rants on gender injustice in parenting, the solutions suggested remain external. I hope that the excerpt is just that - a taste of much more content within - and that the book gets around to a solutions discussion that goes deeper than what the British government ought to be doing (or not doing) to make it easy to be an ESP family. Again, governmental way-paving is great - I'm all for it. But we can't sit around waiting for just the right law to come our way. The UK awards a huge paid maternity leave to moms and a measly couple of weeks to dads? That stinks (although of course it's a whole lot better than what we can count on over here in the US). It can cause so many couples to start out unequal and then stay that way. But it doesn't have to; individual couples can decide differently and then act on their dreams. Until the laws change, we have to take full ownership and sometimes we have to look for solutions that don't bring in the most money.

I look forward to reading Shattered and hope to happen upon a copy (anyone know where, or how we might contact the author?). I hope it is the British ESP manifesto - I really do. The more all of us can add to the discussion of equal parenting, the sooner the dream can become a reality for many.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Apparently, there is a trend towards SAHMs turning into WAHMs (work-at-home moms) thanks to the technological advances we've seen in these recent decades. No real surprises here given the difficulty many of us face keeping our work life and home life separated. I am not immune to these challenges and often need to intentionally "step away from the computer" in order to preserve some coveted family time.

Through an equally shared parenting lens, a SAHM who strives to embrace her involvement in the career domain would seem like a step in the right direction toward equality in breadwinning participation and then full-out ESP. However, a recent Parenting.com piece on this trend rubbed me the wrong way.

See if you can spot what bothered me about how some of the stats were reported in this article:

"A 2007 Pew Research Center survey shows that more at-home moms today (48 percent) consider being home full time the ideal situation than they did 10 years ago (39 percent). Inversely, just 21 percent of working moms say working full time is ideal, down from 32 percent in 1997. "

I haven't seen anything similar to this in quite some time. Do nearly 50% of mothers really believe their ideal lifestyle is to be a full-time SAHM? Maybe this is true IF their partners are mostly absorbed in their careers AND it is assumed that "this is how it should be." However, there are more options today than even a few short years ago. The same technology that is allowing some moms to work from home is - believe it or not, Parenting - available for men to work from home too.
I've long said that the persistent barrier to ESP is a primarily personal one, and I'm sticking with my story here. Do we want to share the joys and challenges across all the domains of parenthood? The alternative is to own separate spheres of responsibility and power - albeit with, hopefully, a helpful spouse. However, you can divide the chores until the cows come home but the beauty of ESP will be elusive until we embrace the dream of full partnership.
Herein lies the second problem I had with the Parenting.com piece. Yes, it looked at a recent trend toward moms working more from home. But it oozed the same old story of "Mom is in charge and responsible for the home." I'm all for creating a way for Mom to be able to spend more time with the children, but I will continue to suggest that this option can be just as viable for men. Just to make the point that this is a cultural construct, let's look at a quote from early in the article: "In my pre-kid life, I never imagined that someday I'd be a stay-at-home mom -- hey, I didn't go to grad school to spend my days changing diapers. But when I held my first baby, Mathilda, I had a complete change of heart. As soon as we locked eyes, all those career and financial worries faded. They didn't disappear, but they certainly became secondary."

What if her husband had this same reaction when he first held their new baby daughter? Does he have the right to opt-out of the career domain just because he's in love? Does he have the perogative that society hands to women to saddle his spouse with 100% of the family paycheck responsibilities because he's smitten?

I think a reasonable approach is to optimize the best part of all parenting domains for each parent - breadwinning, childraising, housework and recreation. Since we are all adults, this will of course also include sharing the responsibilities for each domain as well. In other words, let's use that all-important work-from-home technology to help us get to equally shared parenting rather than to further entrench stereotyped gender roles!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Saving Men

An interesting new book has just been released, entitled Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys by Kay Hymowitz. The book examines much of the same territory as Hanna Rosin's article, The End of Men, published in the The Atlantic last July. Both describe a seismic change in our global outlook on gender - in which women can do almost anything that men can do and often so much more. What's the point of men? Hymowitz says that men are retreating from this question into a prolonged pre-adulthood in which they stay childlike in their responsibilities. As women gain ever more ground with more advanced education and higher paying jobs, at least until they become mothers.

While we haven't had a chance to read Manning Up yet, we were struck by a review of the book and this topic in The Guardian this week. The piece in the The Guardian gets down to what we feel is the point: it is our culture's narrow definition of masculinity that is the real problem. Men, stuck trying to adhere to the tough guy, breadwinner, non-nurturer, top-dog persona that our culture says is the only way to live if you want to be a real man, are increasingly simply giving up. Rather than rewrite this silly definition of manhood, they opt for video games on their mother's couch well into their twenties and thirties (to use an example from The Guardian article).

What's the alternative? It seems pretty obvious to me. With fewer and fewer men-only arenas left in the world, the answer is to claim it all - just as women are doing. Don't parent 'her' way - parent your own way, with pride and confidence and a deep sense that this is what you are born to do! Do the same with tackling the chores, earning your share of the family paycheck, and simply having fun. We don't need anyone sitting on the couch playing video games (at least not as a way to hide from gender equality). But we do need partnership - equal and intimate partnership. That's the stuff of a great life!

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