An interesting experiment is going on over at Slate. Named Freaky Fortnight, it involves a husband and wife swapping roles for 2 weeks. Husband Michael Agger works full-time at Slate itself, and his wife Susan Burton stays at home and does part-time freelance writing in between caring for their two sons, ages 1 and 4.
The experiment involves Susan literally stepping into Michael's job - commuting to his office, attending his meetings, and doing the writing and editing he would normally do. And Michael taking care of the kids and home. At first, I was worried that this was a gimmick a bit like those wacky ESP reality switches that were commissioned awhile back for The Guardian and The Independent. But, thankfully, it isn't.
Both Susan and Michael are wonderful writers, so the writing is thoughtful and wry. Neither is bent on playing out any bumbling stereotype - the dumb wife who can't handle the work world or the stupid husband who can't manage to feed the kids and get them dressed. Both have moments throughout their days when they realize little poignancies. Susan lovingly steps inside her husband's head as she sits in his office chair and tries not to rearrange his desk. Michael gets in-the-moment with his kids - able to be there for the tiniest discoveries such as a new word one of them learns on a particular day. They appreciate the difficulties of each other's usual roles, and each finds out new strengths of his/her partner.
I'm really enjoying Freaky Fortnight (entries are posted for the first week so far). Unlike those other swaps, this one both fully acknowledges, and also manages to get past, the unfair expectations that anyone can plop themselves into a new role and instantly excel. That's not what Freaky Fortnight is about. It's about sharing and intimacy and partnership. Walking in each other's shoes.
Just one of the perks that ESP offers every day.