Parent to Parent: How families make equally shared parenting work

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by MALIA JACOBSON / PARENTMAP

KING5.com

Posted on June 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 22 at 11:45 AM

There’s no way around the fact that parenting is a lot of work. But some local families have found a way to lighten the load. More partners are sharing parenting tasks in a trend known as "equally shared parenting," or ESP. Parentmap's Malia Jacobson explains.

WHAT IS EQUALLY SHARED PARENTING ALL ABOUT?

More parents are deciding that they don’t want to give up their careers or personal interests to have a family—they want to have it all. With Equally Shared Parenting, parents split the work of parenting equitably, if not equally. It’s not about sharing chores 50/50. It’s more about making sure that partners are true equals and peers in terms of household responsibilities, childcare, and decision making, and that both partners are able to pursue career goals and personal interests as well.

SO WHAT’S BEHIND THIS TREND TOWARD SHARED PARENTING? (VO OF PARENTS TAKING CARE OF BABY, CHILDREN??

Interestingly, we found that the traditional ideal of a stay-at-home mom and breadwinning dad isn’t so traditional after all. Americans didn’t develop this strong idea that women were the primary caregivers until the early 19th century. In Colonial America, women were productive providers who often delegated childcare. But in the last 200 years we’ve seen domestic duties a split along gender lines.

Today, we see more parents seeking better work-life balance, and that’s fueling the trend toward more equal sharing between parenting partners.

Between 1992 and 2008, the percentage of moms reporting that their partner did as much or more childcare as they did jumped by 10 percent.
Young parents seem to be leading the charge -- millennial fathers (in their 20s and early 30s) spend 4.3 hours per workday with their children, compared to 3 hours per day for all employed dads.

Fewer young people report intense career ambition: since 1992, the percentage of people under 30 seeking a higher-powered job has fallen 13 percent for men and 6 percent for women. 

SHARING PARENTING SOUNDS GOOD, BUT ARE THERE DOWNSIDES?

Shared parenting sounds great, but in practice, it can be challenging. Many couples enter parenthood with shared-parenting ideals but find that realizing that vision is a day-to-day struggle. Research has shown that over time, parents tend to slide back into traditional gender roles, no matter how much they may want to share parenting equally.

Shared parenting is something that needs to be constantly renegotiated between parenting partners, because kids’ needs are constantly changing.

Another challenge is “maternal gatekeeping.” This is a big one. Over 20 percent of mothers are gatekeepers—they don’t want to give up control over childcare or chores, even when asking for a partner’s help. So they nag and belittle their spouse, who eventually gives up trying to help at all.

HOW CAN PARENTS OVERCOME SOME OF THESE CHALLENGES?

Parents can work toward more equality, the key word being “work.” Changing the way a household works doesn’t happen overnight, but couples who’ve achieved greater equality say the benefits are well worth it. The first step is sitting down to talk.

  • Make A Date: Don’t ambush your partner. Arrange a time and date to discuss the division of household tasks.
  • Acknowledge Contributions: Start the discussion by acknowledging the valued contributions of both partners, and that no matter what, there’s never enough time or energy to go around.
  • Use “I” Language: Outline the problem in detail, with statements like “this is “how I’m feeling” and “this is what I would like.”
  • Brainstorm solutions: Work together to brainstorm solutions. Avoid slipping into “scarcity mode,” a counterproductive mindset concerned with protecting your own interests.

For more on this subject from ParentMap, click here.

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