What a concept!
I consider myself very blessed. My husband is truly committed to sharing parenting and housework – he’s changed the poopiest diapers, gotten up with cranky babies (if they were still cranky after feeding), taken children to doctors, stayed home with them when they were sick, the works. I also haven’t washed a dish in years (conversely, he hasn’t done the laundry in the same amount of time). When I work evenings, he gets home early to switch off with me (NOT ‘babysit’!) and if necessary, continues working from home, after making the kids dinner and going out to kick a soccer ball with them. This is probably a good thing, as they prefer his cooking to mine any day of the week 😉 . I give him even more credit for this as he is A) a confirmed misogynist* and B) the product of the perfect Ozzie and Harriet childhood.
OK, I still am the one who knows all the kids’ clothing and shoe sizes, and do most of the shopping (I’m a part-timer by choice, after all) and while paternity leave has been available in this country since at least 2000, I still was the one taking off the whole 12 weeks (hubby breastfeeding being, unfortunately, out of the question), but compared to lots of other women, I acknowledge that I have it pretty good on that score. It’s not exactly 50/50 nor is it Utopia, but it’s a far sight more equitable – in practice as well as in theory – than our parents’ generation. We’re hoping that by modelling this type of life for our children, they will also grow up to seek out the same type of partnership with their future spouses.
Which is why I gave a huge “you go, guys!!” at the article which appeared earlier this week in the New York Times: When Mom and Dad Share It All:
On her first day back to work after a four-month maternity leave, Amy Vachon woke at dawn to nurse her daughter, Maia. Then she fixed herself a healthful breakfast, pumped a bottle of breast milk for the baby to drink later in the day, kissed the little girl goodbye and headed for the door.
But before she left, there was one more thing. She reached over to her husband, Marc, who would not be going to work that day in order to be home with Maia, and handed him the List. That’s what they call it now, when they revisit this moment, which they do fairly often. The List. It was nothing extraordinary — in fact it would be familiar to many new moms. A large yellow Post-it on which she had scribbled the “how much,” “how long” and “when” of Maia’s napping and eating.
“I knew her routines and was sharing that with Marc,” Amy recalls.
She also remembers what he did next. Gently but deliberately, he ripped the paper square in half and crumbled the pieces into a ball.
“I got the message,” Amy says.
That message was one the Vachons had agreed on from the evening they met, though they were clearly still tinkering with the details. They would not be the kind of parents their parents had been — the mother-knows-best mold. Nor the kind their friends were — the “involved” dad married to the stressed-out working mom. Nor even, as Marc put it, “the stay-at-home dad, who is cooed at for his sensitivity but who is as isolated and financially vulnerable as the stay-at-home-mom.”
Instead, they would create their own model, one in which they were parenting partners. Equals and peers. They would work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home. Neither would be the keeper of the mental to-do lists; neither of their careers would take precedence. Both would be equally likely to plan a birthday party or know that the car needs oil or miss work for a sick child or remember (without prompting) to stop at the store for diapers and milk. They understood that this would mean recalibrating their career ambitions, and probably their income, but what they gained, they believed, would be more valuable than what they lost.
There are Marcs and Amys scattered throughout the country, and the most interesting thing about them is that they are so very interesting. What they suggest, after all, is simple. Gender should not determine the division of labor at home. It’s a message consistent with nearly every major social trend of the past three decades — women entering the work force, equality between the sexes, the need for two incomes to pay the bills, even courts that favor shared custody after divorce. And it is what many would agree is fair, even ideal. Yet it is anything but the norm.
It’s a long article, but don’t pass it up. It’s worth it. 🙂
Marc and Amy Vachon’s website, Equally Shared Parenting, is definitely worth a peek. As is another website mentioned in the article, The Third Path Institute, whose mission is to enable both parents to cooperate at home and regarding work – leaving both time to enjoy life, both at work and outside it.
*Meaning he’s not enamored of the female gender in general. That song from My Fair Lady, A Hymn to Him, pretty much sums up his view of things. Not to be confused in any way, shape or form with “Male Chauvinist Pig”, however.
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