Going Dutch On The Parenting Front

The New York Times’ parenting blog, Motherload, continually raises interesting questions about the state of parenting in the 21st century.  Today’s column centers around the topic of “equal” parenting, and the concern of many wives and mothers that they shoulder a disproportionate share of the household and child-related tasks.  Motherload author, Lisa Belkin asks, “Can parenting truly be equal?”

The impetus for the column is the new book, Equally Shared Parenting:  Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parenting, in which authors Marc and Amy Vashon envision a world where both parents work equal hours, spend equal time with the children, and take equal responsibility for the home. No one is the keeper of the to-do lists; neither of their careers takes precedence.

While I’ll admit upfront that I have not read this particular book (and don’t have any real intention of doing so), I’m going to go out on a limb and state, that, no, like any relationship, parenting is unlikely to be completely equal.    I’m much more concerned about whether our children are well-taken care of and each of us has the opportunity to pursue some of our own interests and accomplish our professional goals than about whether there’s a dead equal division of labor.

And, let’s be realistic.  Is there any way to run a household where no one maintains the family calendar either mentally, electronically, or on paper?  Or even worse in my opinion, where two people try to do so?

Yes, I am the official keeper of the family schedule here in Suburbia.  That’s not to say that Adventure Guy doesn’t keep his own calendar, often with family events marked on it. He also manages several of the ongoing family commitments almost entirely on his own–Boy Scouts and soccer are his domain–and shares the load of carpooling, doctors appointments, and event attendance.  But I’m the one who has the mental map of how all the various pieces fit together. 

And that’s okay.  It’s also okay that we tend to divide household chores along fairly stereotypical gender roles.  In fact, I’m probably much more okay with that division of labor than is Adventure Guy.  I’m happy to do the laundry, the grocery shopping and meal planning, and most of the cooking in exchange for his taking care of lawn and car maintenance.  And, let’s face it.  neither of us enjoys housecleaning and we’ll pay to have it done for us as long as that’s an option that’s financially possible.

With all that said, I’ll put our division of labor up against any couple I know as to its degree of fairness and basis of mutual respect.  During our marriage, each of our careers has taken precedence at times.  I moved to the middle of nowhere and postponed starting my teaching career when we first married; later Adventure Guy turned down an opportunity to move for a job so that I could gain more experience at my current employment level.  Since DD1 arrived on the scene almost sixteen years ago, Adventure Guy has been as likely as I have to be the one who stays home to care for a sick child or who takes one of the kids to a birthday party or an orthodontist appointment. And speaking of birthday parties, he’s made arrangements for them as often as I have.  Even more unusual from my informal research is his handling of portions of the Christmas shopping, including all of gift buying for his side of the family.

In the best relationships, parents work together as partners and the responsibilities ebb and flow according to each person’s abilities and circumstances.  And, focusing on achieving that balance is a much more relevant pursuit for me than is spending my time tallying the exact percentages of effort each of us is putting in to piloting the family ship.



Filed under Kids, Marriage

4 responses to “Going Dutch On The Parenting Front

  1. Virginia

    Actually, in our family we use a shared Google calendar which both adults can and do use. When we have a scheduling problem, it’s usually because one of us (more often than not, me) forgot to put something on the Google calendar.

  2. Rachel

    This is an area where I’m envious… DH has many wonderful qualities, but in many ways he’s a less involved parent than my father was.

  3. Marcia

    I agree. This is one of those issues that used to be very important to me/us as a couple but within the past 10+ years has totally dropped off the radar. We just do what we do. As you know, my DH is more involved with the kids’ day to day life than I am……for instance, I have yet to meet DD4’s Dr here, and he sees her teachers regularly. As I write this, he’s at the store, with a grocery list I made. I do all the financial stuff, he does all the yardwork and is responsible for all the cars. I knew a couple who had one child (they were both over 40 when they had her…I think that made a difference), and literally divided the days when each was totally responsible for her. If she was sick on a Monday, whoever had “Monday” had to stay home, no matter what else was on the agenda. If Dr’s appt was on Thurs, the “Thursday” parent had to take her. They were totally inflexible. It was really weird.

  4. Thank you for this Article. Fathers’ right to be a meaningful part of their childrens’ lives, have been eroded to the point of non-existence. My research suggests that this is a phenomenon consistent throughout the industrialized nations. Children who are alienated from their fathers are more likely later in life to have emotional/behavioral problems, suffer from depression, drop out of school, fail in their jobs, and suffer from other social problems. I invite you to visit my site devoted to raising awareness on this growing problem: http://fathersprivilege.blogspot.com/

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