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

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

SAHMs vs. WAHMs

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!

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