Each night, we eagerly await Papa Bear’s return. In between giggles and singing with her mouth full, Clementine, sitting in her high chair, asks, “Papa at work? Papa coming?”
Then treasured noises – the soft creak signaling the opening of our front door and the shuffle of footsteps headed our way – yield immeasurable joy. Soon, the word we’ve all learned to anticipate comes from around the corner, “BOO!” And there he stands, tall and handsome, Papa Bear. Darla coos, Clementine squeals, Papa kisses each of his girls, and all is well at our dinner table.
Charming, really, but I sometimes wonder what life would look like if everything was different; if the girls didn’t have to rise early in the morning in order to bid their father farewell, or if they were able to share more than the mere minutes they get together before bed. I think about both of their smiles when they wake up on weekends and realize he isn’t going anywhere without them.
ENTER: EQUALLY SHARED PARENTING
Recently I read about a parenting style, Equally Shared Parenting, that encourages parents to equally divide housework, childcare, bread-winning, and personal time between them. This divvying up of duties is not to be judged by income levels or difficulty of specific tasks, but rather by time. The goal is that both parents spend the same amount of hours as their spouse with their children, at work, and within each of the categories mentioned.
Many equally shared parents work either from home or reduced hours, and have been scheduled opposite shifts to enable one of them to be with their children as much as possible, greatly minimizing the need for outside care.
In our home, the hours my husband and I each devote to career and child rearing are anything but distributed equally. This doesn’t ring unfair to us at all; in fact, I have always dreamed of staying home with my children. Still, in other ways we have already adopted some equally shared concepts.
Papa Bear is certainly what you would call a “hands-on” husband and father. From the moment he steps into our home he is in “on” mode, ready to bathe the girls, do dishes, or fold laundry. On the weekends he often cooks, and he & Clementine do much of our grocery shopping.
IMAGINE WITH ME…
I’d like to imagine, though, what life would be like if we really embraced a fifty-fifty style. Would it be beneficial for either of us parents? For our children?
Our Pretend Schedule: Let’s assume that Papa Bear will keep his current office job, but now only work Mondays-Wednesdays. During those days, I will primarily care for our daughters and prepare dinner. When he returns, he takes over by bathing and putting the children to bed, as well as cleaning the kitchen. This gives me a few hours to myself – something I haven’t had in a while!
I, let’s say, return to a career in skin care, working Thursdays-Saturdays. Those days, Papa Bear cares for the girls and makes dinner, I take over bath and bedtime routines as well as kitchen clean up.
My absence throughout the day will create a necessity for pumping milk on-the-job (and potentially extra outside of that setting) to have enough to leave behind for both girls. This surely will take extra “time” of mine, but we’ll agree that Papa tally extra hours of his own by taking full responsibility for washing all cloth diapers throughout the week.
Sundays are family worship day for us, which involves traveling to a different county, so though we spend time together, it won’t exactly be “free time.”
The Pros: Immediately I see benefit in the girls getting more time to connect with their dad. I think it would be refreshing for all of us to get to change things up a bit throughout the week, as well as be helpful for us as parents to understand and experience similar pressures and challenges that the other does. I could probably stand to have more conversations with adults throughout the week. Assigning tasks evenly would surely provide a bit more focus, consequently resulting in time for self; time to relax, think, run a quick errand or do a chore without interruption…
The Challenges: From a practical perspective, I believe it would be hard for us to find jobs that meet our skill sets and scheduled us so conveniently. I also think it’d be difficult to make ends meets on two part-time jobs, as they often don’t provide benefits or equivalent hourly wages. But let’s just pretend that the practical side all works out and look from a more subjective point of view.
To me, the biggest costs of the equal share model would be the drastic reduction of family time, as well as a decrease in Mama/Papa together time, which I imagine could eventually have its own set of consequences. The four of us really like being with one other and prioritize togetherness the bulk of the time Papa Bear isn’t at work. Currently we put the girls to bed together, run most errands as a family unit, eat all possible meals together, and enjoy all types of cultural activities and exploring as a family.
I can’t imagine not having our Saturday “family day” anymore. Washing dinner dishes would no longer be as fun if they weren’t tag-teamed. It might be nice to have a couple of hours of “me” time in the evening, but not at the expense of missing tuck-ins. I also have to wonder how the lack of family time would affect the girls; don’t they learn and benefit from seeing their parents interact lovingly towards each other and practicing healthy communication habits?
Sharing is important to us, but the numbers are not. There may well be families that truly excel when drawing clear dividers on their to-do lists. There certainly is much to learn and gain from talking the details through with our spouses and establishing clear lines. Both working reduced hours also seems like it could be a great solution for many families.
That being said, the numbers and tallies mean little to us. Perhaps this is because my husband and I naturally commit 100% of our together time to working as a team and to pursuing the embetterment of our family. Perhaps it’s because we can’t get enough of each other or our girls.
Fifty-fifty? I’m not sure where we would fall on the scale, but I know for sure that we both give our all, and what could measure greater than that?
What do YOU think about splitting parenting down the middle?
I’d love for you to check out the rest of our Parenting Styles Series! Where else we’ve been: Why you Need Parenting Values, Attachment Parenting vs. the Continuum Concept, and Consensual Living. Our final post on Unschooling is coming soon!