Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

Equal Sharing of Breadwinning:
Benefits and

The Mommy Wars, which pit working mothers against stay-at-home mothers, rage around us in the media.  Everywhere we look there are articles debating which of these two lifestyles is best.  Guilt is a major weapon.  Most of these articles barely mention fathers. 

To choose equal sharing in the breadwinning domain is to shun both camps in the Mommy Wars, although the end result is a working mother nonetheless. 

Equal breadwinning is not about two parents making the same amount of money.  Rather, it means that both parents put in about the same amount of time per week at their jobs.  Of course, life is easier if they do, for there is less temptation to look upon one spouse’s job as more important when the paychecks are similar.

In equally shared breadwinning, the burden of procuring the family’s money is divided.  Neither parent is responsible alone for the family’s financial situation.  Both careers are equally important and one falls behind because of resume gaps.  This means that the family still has a significant percentage of its income should one parent be laid off. 

Equal breadwinning is probably the gutsiest of the four Domains of equality (the others being housework, childraising and recreation). 
In deciding to equally share all aspects of your lives, you or your spouse now can’t accept the classic top dog position if it comes your way.  At least not until those jobs are recognized as possible with the flexibility needed to practice equally shared parenting - options such as reduced hours and minimal travel.  Many of us who choose equal sharing will watch our co-workers climb past us to fancier positions with better paychecks and nicer offices.  We may also be choosing to forego the possibility of a larger lifetime paycheck in favor of downsizing our lifestyles to match our actual earnings. 

For fathers, equal breadwinning can mean another challenge.  Men face more pressure from peers and superiors if they so much as take their allotted paternity leave.  Never mind the father who leaves work every other time his child is sick (with his wife doing the same), who eats lunch with his toddler every day at the onsite daycare facility, or who turns down a promotion because he doesn’t want the responsibility that comes with it?  What a wimp, a loser, an idiot?  Equally sharing parents must face these situations all the time. 

The Third Path
One of our favorite organizations, The ThirdPath Institute, promotes work-life balance by equal sharing.  We love this group's name because it suggests a path not often taken and a new alternative to the traditional family model (one parent works, the other stays at home) and the classic dual career model (both parents work full time and children are in outside care full time).  Equally shared parenting is truly a third path.  Forgers of this barely trodden trail must be prepared for some rough going on the job front and must make sacrifices along the way.

©Copyright 2008 Marc and Amy Vachon

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