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

Equal Sharing of Childraising:
Benefits and Challenges

At the crux of equally shared parenting is a couple’s equal responsibility for raising their children.  Unfortunately, however, it is the arrival of the first child that throws many previously equal partners into inequality.  Children, those living-breathing-amazing- complete-individual people, are hard to share down the middle.  The rewards for arriving at equality in the childraising domain may be hard-won, but they are great. 

Equally shared parenting offers a way for both parents to forge equivalent and deep bonds with their children.  Parents collaborate on childcare issues, great and small, and each spend about the same amount of time alone with their children.  As a result, both become experts and both get to know their children emotionally and practically.  When one parent leaves, the other is not an understudy who needs instruction or reminding. 

Equal childraising also means that your children will be exposed at length to basic social differences between two parents, such as different ways of playing or preparing dinner or running an errand.  Kids get to experience full days with just Dad or just Mom, and learn both Mom’s and Dad’s way of navigating through fun, crises and chores.

Furthermore, two parents on equal footing are forced to iron out differences in parenting styles and arrive at a best-odds solution when necessary. 

Equally shared parenting absolutely requires a mother to let go of needing to be everything to her child, and to release control of her child’s life to the partnership of two parents instead.  She must not only abdicate her dictatorship, but she must stop evaluating her peer husband on his parenting skills as if she were the teacher and he the student.  She must get out of the way. 

More so than the other three domains, equally shared childraising requires so much communication between two parents that it can seem onerous at times.  Frequently, the detailed plans of each day must be known by both parents.  Both must know exactly when they are ‘on’ with the kids and who has pooped, bathed, eaten, and napped.  Then, on a continual basis, both parents must communicate the status of child-centered ‘to-do’ tasks such as scheduling doctor appointments, buying presents and responding ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for upcoming birthday party invitations, or making cookies for preschool snack time. 

Finally, when you share childraising, standard jokes and complaints about bumbling fathers are not fair play any longer.  They should not be used as ammunition by women nor should they be used as hiding places by men.  There are no more excuses for not knowing how to change a diaper, schedule a playdate, act out a jungle play in the living room, or handle a case of the flu.

It’s all worth the trouble
Overall, we believe that being an equal parent is taking your rightful place in the family.  You both earn it by learning alongside each other, communicating openly and constantly, and developing a rhythm together.  You are both happy because neither of you is burdened with the starring role and neither of you is the understudy.  Your kids get full involvement from both of you, and grow up learning that moms and dads are equals in the home.  Maybe they will choose this lifestyle for their own someday, and look for a mate who is similarly minded.

©Copyright 2008 Marc and Amy Vachon

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