One year ago, my wife and I became parents, and decided to share the responsibility of raising our daughter equally. We each work half time, so one of us is always home with our girl.
We found out that it’s not so easy to make equally-shared parenting work, even in a progressive place like the Bay Area. It’s hard to find a part-time job that pays well. Part-time workers lose benefits like insurance and sick days, and they lose status. People think if you aren’t putting in sixty hours a week, you aren’t really working.
Then there’s the perception that dads are just amateur parents. Even though I’m with my daughter every afternoon, I still get patronizing comments like “I see Dad’s babysitting today.”
No wonder so many parents take a traditional path, with a fulltime mom and a wage-earning dad — or else just park their kids in day care. It’s just easier that way.
That’s too bad, because shared parenting has a lot of benefits for children and their parents. For instance, I’ve spent more time with my daughter in her first year than most dads do in five.
According to child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan, babies need lots of one-on-one time with grownups in order to develop intellectually and emotionally. Kids get more of this attention from their parents than they do at day care centers.
To make equally-shared parenting work, you’ll probably have to accept a lower standard of living. On the plus side, that can lead to more quality family time. How about going for a hike, instead of a movie? The park instead of the mall? Yosemite instead of Disneyland?
Without the traditional roles, you have to make a lot more choices — like who’s going to take Junior to the doctor today? Everything is up for grabs, so you need to spend time talking with your partner — about schedules, responsibilities, and expectations.
It shouldn’t be so hard, of course. Employers can support shared parenting by making it easier to work flex time or part time, without losing benefits. We can encourage fathers to get more involved in the care of their children, by honoring child care as much as having a brilliant career. And everyone needs to get used to the idea of dads pushing strollers.
With a perspective, this is Dylan Tweney.
Link: Equally Shared Parenting
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