I’m so happy for my friends Amy and Marc Vachon whose book, Equally Shared Parenting, came out this past Tuesday. Already they’ve fit in a TV interview with Fox News and with New England Cable Channel. Plus a mention in a post on Lisa Belkin’s New York Times blog, The Motherlode, which was the genesis of the book as well. Belkin’s post asks the question “Can parenting be truly equal?” but I think a better question is “Why in the 21st century when so many couples go into parenthood expecting and wanting to share family work and family life do they find it so darn hard?” My own book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today provides answers to this and several other related questions by using the story of the journey my husband and I took from having fallen into unexpected traditional roles to the kind of family life and team approach we really wanted.
Subconscious assumptions, or mental maps, that mothers are best at caring for family and fathers are clueless create a double standard and set couples up to fall into a trap where mother still does most of the family work even if that’s not what we want or plan on. This is not genetics at work. So many things conspired to make it hard for us to have the family life we wanted – our own assumptions, the way everyone else talks about and treats mothers and fathers, rigid workplaces. It’s not easy. But while who does the laundry and who makes pediatrician appointments may seem petty on the surface, there is so much more at stake – our relationships with each other and with our children.
So I would say a resounding YES, sharing responsibility for family is possible, if you know why it’s so hard in the first place. And rewarding too. My husband has a richer relationship with our daughter and more balanced life than would have been possible if we’d stayed stuck in a traditional track neither of us wanted. Perhaps more importantly, our relationship is stronger than ever. In fact, as I share in my book, we renewed our wedding vows not long ago to celebrate how we’d recreated our marriage as parents and to make the new promises we wanted to make to each other and to our daughter about our shared family life.
Kudos to Amy and Marc Vachon for their Equally Shared Parenting book, a great tool for couples, and to Lisa Belkin for keeping this topic alive and well. Judging from my interactions with my readers, this is a challenge many couples wrestle with every day. So here’s a link to several of the Remodeling Tools I recommend in my book, and let’s keep the conversation going. What’s your biggest challenge in sharing family work, employment and “me-time” for each partner? What’s your biggest success?