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

Equal Sharing of Breadwinning:
Tips and Tricks

Equal breadwinning is possible with imagination and courage.  Each parent, and then the couple together, should brainstorm ways in which to create the work-life he/she wants.  Some ideas to consider for physical work arrangements are staggered schedules that minimize overlap between the two parents, working opposite shifts ('tag-team parenting'), compressed work hours, reduced hours, and working from home to reduce commuting time.

You may want to visit the Financial Calculator section of EquallySharedParenting.com to try out various options for work hours and shifts to see what the resulting cash picture would be for each option. 

How to ask for a schedule change
How do you approach your boss with a request for your idea of a flexible schedule and increase your chances of getting a ‘yes’?  Not all organizations or companies have set up rules for job-sharing, reduced hours or flex time.  Not all employers will embrace your request, and not all will be able to honor it.  Assuming you have at least a modicum of hope for a positive outcome, here are some basics to improve that chance:

  • Take responsibility for the plan.  Create a thoughtful plan for how your ideal schedule might work in your current position and why it can be a ‘win’ for your company. 
  • Think positive.  Don’t avoid approaching your employer with your ideas because they have not been done before.  Think positive and be cognizant of the company’s needs.  Then, ask.  If you are rejected, retool your proposal and ask again.  And again. 
  • Build up seniority.  If you stick with a job, or at least a company, for many years, you are a known entity when it comes time to ask for reduced hours or a non-standard arrangement. 
  • Be a good worker.  Hand-in-hand with seniority is the idea that you are known to be competent, helpful and productive at the workplace.  Win awards for your creativity, high quality work, and service to others.  Take responsibility for new projects or programs.  Prove yourself worthy.  Meet deadlines.  Be cheerful.  Then, when you ask for a different schedule, your company will know that losing you would be a bad thing. 

Making it work each day
Once you are entrenched in a work schedule that allows for equal sharing, you’ll need to make your workdays run smoothly with your spouse and with your children’s schedules.  Here are some ideas to try:

  • Review each upcoming week with your spouse.  At some point, perhaps each Sunday evening, sit down together to go over the coming week’s schedule. 
  • Trim away wasted time.  Take a look at your commute to see if you can reduce it or turn it into something more fun (giving you some recreation at the same time).  Maybe you could bike or walk to work?  Maybe you have a hellish commute and you want to consider moving closer to work or switching to a job closer to home.  This change is, of course, much bigger than getting out a bike, but it merits consideration.
  • Know where your money goes.  Equal breadwinners have equal decision making power over purchases.  Unless you maintain separate bank accounts, you will both need to weigh in on buying decisions, big and sometimes small.  We highly recommend creating a budget to track family expenses.  This budget does not have to be onerous, time-consuming, or terribly restrictive.  But, by tracking receipts and paychecks, you can get a good idea over time of where your money is spent in various categories. 
  • Trade off staying home with sick children.  Typically, the mother is the employee who stays home when the kids are not feeling well enough to go to school.  Not so in equally sharing families. 
  • Expect to use vacation time when childcare is unavailable.  Equally sharing parents also trade off taking vacation days to cover weeks when school is out, early dismissal days, or parent/teacher conference time.  There is usually plenty of warning for these events.  Splitting the responsibility between parents reduces the impact on either spouse’s employer.

Equality trendsetters
We don’t have any statistics for the percent of couples who practice our definition of equal sharing, but we suspect it is still extremely small.  Our workplaces need brave souls to pave the way for meaningful reduced-hour and flex-time careers for both women and men.  We need to make this option far more accessible to the average worker, whether he or she considers work to be a career or simply a job.  We need to show employers that equal sharing brings benefits to the workplace as well.

Only those who believe fervently in balancing work and family will take the leaps necessary to achieve this arrangement.  These people are our spokesmen and spokeswomen, and our mentors. 

©Copyright 2008 Marc and Amy Vachon

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