Book Review: Men Can Do It!
Hello, world! It has been so long since we've posted a blog entry here that I've almost forgotten how to do so. That's pretty sad. But I'm back in the saddle, if even for a brief moment, to give you an update on the world of equally shared parenting. Marc and I continue to live this lifestyle every day, happier by the year that we've made this choice. Our kids are older now (11 and 8) so the challenges are different than when we had to figure out how to share diaper changing, feedings and midnight awakenings, but in a way our equal sharing seems more important than ever - at least to our kids themselves, who really understand now what it means to have two involved parents who can provide them with the same, yet different, things. We each have our own equivalently special and important relationship with both of them, and continue to try at every opportunity to break gendered expectations.
Why haven't we been blogging and speaking and writing about ESP in the media? Mostly because we feel we've got a book and the archives of this website out there to offer as wisdom to anyone who would like to pursue this wonderful life. And because we want to spend our own lives living ESP rather than putting our Time for Self domain on hold to write about it. But we're right here, cheering all of you on, happy to speak up if anyone wants to ask!
And someone did recently. We were contacted by the author of a new book on equal sharing - Men Can Do It! by Gideon Burrows. Mr. Burrows' book is available only in the UK, unfortunately, but is a loving, forceful, funny, and tell-it-like-it-is ode to equal childraising, breadwinning and housework. He's an ESP dad himself, and makes a compelling argument that all this talk in the media about the new 'involved father' is mostly baloney - and why men aren't really jumping to share much about raising kids at all. The basic premise of Men Can Do It! is that men have 1000 excuses about why ESP is for everyone else but them - excuses that boil down to cultural expectations and nothing more. He argues that all the governmental and corporate father-friendly policies in the world will make no difference if men don't want ESP in the first place (we agree!). Men, he says, need to first step up and just do their share, then realize how wonderful it is to be an equal partner at home, and then demand workplace change. Not the other way around, as some countries are trying to do by plying men with increasingly generous paternity benefits.
Men Can Do It! initially argues that fathers should do ESP because it's the right thing to do. That old argument is as flawed and its fruits as short-lived as my own promise to cut down on chocolate. But Mr. Burrows changes his tune near the end of the book, stating that men should embrace ESP because it is the bomb. Now that's more like it!
In general, I really enjoyed reading this book. My favorite parts were those in which the author skewered social expectations, revealing them for the artifacts they really are. My least favorite part was the section in which he argued over and over that no books have been written to guide couples to create ESP (ahem, we have a great book for you!); we happily welcome you, Mr. Burrows, as a fellow author and activist for equal sharing, but hope you'll abandon this tact that you've cornered the market on helping couples get there. We're mentioned once early in the book, in a slightly pejorative description of us as a couple of parents who run a website with a "comprehensive checklist" of childraising tasks. Really? That's all you can say about us? Again, please read our book, Mr. Burrows, as I've carefully read yours, and you'll see that we both very, very much want and believe in the same thing. Let's be friends!