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

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Challenging Dads

The premise of an NPR column this past week was that men will take on more caretaking responsibilities when society both expects it and demands it. Namely, when the pediatrician, teacher, and other touchpoints in a parent's world start treating men as fully capable and involved fathers. Men will then feel society's stare of judgment and will be shamed, or at least lulled, into changing their ways.

I enjoyed the author's perspective and would love to embrace this "new" society but I'm not sure I can agree with the conclusion. Yes, I believe parenting roles are shifting and people are noticing but I don't think it's because president Obama is asking dads to do their fair share or because a nurse looked at Dad, not Mom, when sending instructions home. Instead, I suspect that society is changing "one individual decision at a time." Despite the lack of cultural support to do so, men (and women) are choosing differently from previous generations. Neither want to be pigeon-holed into roles that rob them of their ability to experience the bounty of parenthood whether it's pursuing a career, bonding with their children, caring for their home, or simply enjoying life.

The author challenges men to "step up" but I prefer to think a "step back" is in order. Let's engage our partners to structure our lives in a way that offers a sustainable chance at happiness for both. Imploring men to do more seems a little short-sighted given the complexity of the roles we have all assumed in recent decades.


Anonymous Caela said...

Thanks for bringing this article to my attention. We are about to become parents for the first time and were glad to discover your blog. My husband gets really upset at how men are portrayed as incompetent idiots (or just plain left out) in commercials, parenting mags, etc. It's really awful when you're trying to prepare to be a dad and EVERYTHING in terms of marketing is aimed at moms - like dads don't even exist.

So....I'm glad to see NPR taking on the issue. I tend to think it's got to be a both/and solution. Individual men have to WANT to parent. Individual women have to want that, too. And society (the president, teachers, health care workers, marketers, other parents, etc.) have to want it, too.c

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I see this happen often - the doctor talking directly to me, or the teacher turning toward me when she gets to the part where committee sign up is requested. My husband and I are committed ESP parents and, frankly, I am less likely to want to join the committee than my husband. So, I simply look to my husband as the person looks at me and wait for him to respond. In part I do it because he is actually the right person to direct the question to - and in part because I want to send the message that eye contact should be shared between us at these important "action" parts in the conversation. Often, the person picks up on it quickly and the inequity in the conversation dissipates.

I definitely agree that we need to have the genesis of ESP in our relationship - and we can also help shift the thinking of others with whom we interact. As gracefully and thoughtfully as possible, I try to correct misconceptions about how our family works. I don't "blame" people who assume traditional roles - they are pervasive. But I feel strongly about sharing that we do things differently than they are assuming. In a meeting the other day, a woman said something about men simply not being capable of cleaning as well as a woman. I said smiling,"I'm not very good at cleaning. In fact, my husband is way better at it than I am." Just a little window into the idea that traditional roles are not at play everywhere.

It does bum me out sometimes when I realize that we aren't as far along in gender equality as I'd like. Recently I was on a personal retreat at a hot springs lodge. Sitting in the springs, having a conversation about kids with two other couples, a man asked me where my kids were. I said they were at home with Dad. They all ooh'd and aah'd and praised me for "taking time for myself" and "figuring out how to get away". As I listened to them, I wondered - "Would they say this to my husband?" If he was in this hot spring and they had asked him, "Where are your kids?" (would they ask him that?), would they praise him for "getting away."?
I simply said, "Oh, well - frankly I get away more than my husband (which is true). He probably needs this even more than I do." Smile.

12:37 PM  

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