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

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What Makes Parents Share Equally?
It is a joy to swap stories with another parenting couple who equally share their household, childraising and breadwinning. One of the things I like best about this exchange is that I get to find out why they are equally sharing. Every couple has a slightly different take on how they ended up where they are now.

There are those couples who vow not to become traditionalists. They enjoy bucking the status quo, and usually establish a unique way of life for themselves before they have children. When their first child comes along, they fashion a new unique life with their baby. In talking with this type of equally sharing couple, I get the sense that they want to see how far they can ride out their current lifestyle before they have to mix things up again. And that they will keep choosing something out of the ordinary.

Then there are those who say they just 'fell into it'. Often, a subconscious shift from the traditional happens for these couples when they make a specific decision about one of their jobs. For example, the father might have been laid off early in their baby's life; this crisis may have led to a prolonged paternity 'leave' in which Dad bonds so closely with his baby that he then seeks a position that allows him to stay home one day a week. These couples may have fallen into equal sharing, but most of them say they don't think they would ever want to return to their old ways. What started as a subtle unconscious shift becomes a purposeful and carefully guarded lifestyle.

And then we have the 'simple living' group. It is not uncommon for at least one of the parents in these couples to have dabbled in part-time work before having children or even before meeting. Living a balanced and serene life is highly important to these individuals, and they prioritize simplicity over the stressed-out juggling act that so many traditional couples do once they have children. It is not a big sacrifice for these couples to work less than full time, because money definitely doesn't buy their happiness.

I could go on and on. I haven't even mentioned the die-hard feminists who would be deeply unhappy in an unequal marriage. Or the made-to-be-a-father men who don't want to miss out on their children's upbringing. Or even the practical couple who realizes that it simply makes the most sense for them to equally share their family - financially as well as from a balance standpoint.

As for me and for Marc, we fit a few of the descriptions above. Marc definitely values simplicity and balance. He did not fall into equal sharing; he sought it out quite deliberately. My reasons include a bit of feminist 'fairness' mixed with a deep desire to literally share my family with my partner with everyday intimacy.

Lots of different couples practice equally shared parenting. Marc and I would like to make EquallySharedParenting.com a forum for equal sharers of all types to tell their stories. What makes you equally share? Or if you don't do so today, what would make you want to move in this direction?


Anonymous rebekah said...

Ok, here's our story. I think we've come down a few of the paths toward our method of parenting. I have taken over the family business, which is a good one, flexible hours, enough pay, I've always contributed the bulk of our family support, solid clients. It would have been stupid to walk away. My husband, 6 years younger, was ready to leave his profession and thrilled to be able to stay at home. Neither one of us have ever felt comfortable with the idea of day care.

Our son is now 2 1/2. Since I am self employed, my husband works at Starbucks for health insurance, other benefits and a little additional money to our budget. He works three 8 hours shifts a week, primarily on weekends.

We keep our lives very simple and try to take a few vacations a year for family time.

Drawbacks: My husband has to work at Starbucks, although he likes it so I need to get over that. Also, we have very little time together as a family. Also, It's hard for me to take time off of work to have more children as I don't have maternity coverage. Also, other families with more traditional situations don't understand the logistics of our lives and sometimes there are bad feelings because we may prioritize thinigs differently.

Plusses: Many. We like our little family arrangement and are proud of being independent in many ways. Our son is being raised by the two of us, occasional family and occasional babysitters. We don't get every bug that goes around. We are a good team and take every day with that approach.

We wouldn't do it any other way.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...


Thank you for sharing your story. You and your husband have had to make some courageous moves away from tradition to create an almost-zero outside childcare situation. Perhaps your reasons for equal sharing are a bit of practicality, a willingness to live simply, and a priority to raise your son together as a team.

I like to read that your husband enjoys working at Starbucks; Marc often says that a meaningful life has nothing to do with what you do or where, but HOW you do it and what you bring to your choices.

My wish for you is more family together time, as you mention. And adequate health insurance to make the decision about another child without that being part of the equation. It sounds like you are both up for creative solutions, and the team approach. That's what counts in the long run.

All the best,

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Joel Johnston said...

This is a great site and I wish you well as you help other families work throught this for the betterment of the health of all members of the family.

I want to bring up a subject that you may either touch on in the future, or consider it as you write your stories.

I was part of a Equally Shared Parenting family for many years. To the extent possible, as I worked, my spouse was a stay at home mother, but I was fully engaged with the kids in the evenings, weekends, etc. I am a kid lover in all senses of the word - I live for kids.

Unfortunately, because of differences between the spouses, our marriage ended in divorce. The result was custody of the kids being given to one spouse, with the other no longer wanting to shared equally the custody of the children. In our State of Washington, in these situations one parent is given custody while the other looks from afar, hoping to make the best of it with visitations on the weekends every other week.

There is now a hope of new legislation that would force divorcing parents to work out a parenting plan that has a presumption that equal parenting time will be provided to each parent, in families that do not have domestic violence issues.

This is a tough subject, with many organizations that are committed to helping women against this, while men's rights groups are for it.

The issue here really is not about mom or dad, but what is best for the child. If two loving parents are committed to the health and well being of a child, it should be a simple answer. Both parents need to continue to be involved in the child substantially. Laws need to be passed to allow for this, and laws need to be passed to ensure one parent doesn't undermine the other with needless accusations and fights.

I hope you will consider and discuss this important issue in your blog. Surely, some young, nice family will follow your advice, creating a great situation for their family, but may ultimately find themselves divorcing. I hope arrangements have been considered for post divorce long before it comes to that.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

Thanks for writing and for your thoughtful idea. Equally Shared Parenting has a whole separate meaning in the custody and divorce arena, but the two meanings are not very far off from one another in reality.

We know that somewhere outside of our current lives, the battle for equal sharing after divorce rages on. And we are generally supporters of equal sharing there too, as painful as it is to contemplate the dissolution of any marriage with children. But it happens so often, and you are right that a percentage of equal sharers will find themselves facing divorce.

We need to learn more, and hope someday to discuss this issue in much more depth.

Thank you, again, for sharing and suggesting it.

8:36 PM  

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