The Division of Labor at Home
Tips for sharing childcare and household chores
Amy and Marc Vachon think so. As cofounders of Equally Shared Parenting, the Vachons have been promoting—and practicing—equality in the home for years. Their definition of equally shared parenting is simple: The purposeful practice of two parents in an intact home sharing equally in the domains of childraising, housework, breadwinning, and recreation time. Likewise, Jessica DeGroot, founder and president of The ThirdPath Institute, a nonprofit, nationally based project that works to assist individuals and organizations in making more time for life, advocates for a more even distribution of the jobs—and joys—that parenthood brings.
Steps to Better Balance
Through their work, the Vachons and DeGroot have created serious tools and worksheets for couples who are ready to commit to a shared parenting style. They also offer these basic tips for any parent who wants to more effectively manage the household and parenting workload:
1. Have a values discussion. Just as companies create a value proposition, so should your family. First, you and your partner should talk about both the day-to-day routine and the big picture. Figure out how each of you spends your 24 hours. What’s important to you? Then, ask each other a job interview question: Where do you want to be in five years? What are your goals? Do you want to work part-time? Buy a house? Get promoted? Answer those questions, and talk about how you can get there together.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. And then talk some more. DeGroot suggests a monthly parenting date: Ask the grandparents to watch the kids so you and your partner can talk about your parenting system, which includes everything from daily schedules and finances to your long-term goals and dreams. Think of it as a performance review. How are things going? What needs to change? Plan for changes: As your baby grows and changes so do his—and your—needs. And look for the big stress points: Your child enters a new school; someone loses a job; a parent becomes ill. These are the times when you and your partner need to work together, and maybe take on new roles, to ensure that the family stays afloat.
3. Look for role models. Mentors are important at work; they’re helpful in parenting, too. Think about other couples you admire, as well as those you don’t. What do you like about their parenting styles or their relationship? What can you learn from them?
4. Take on a new role. At work, those who take on additional responsibilities often get promoted. Try it at home, too. If you’re the primary breadwinner, take a week off just to care for the baby. Marc Vachon swears that if more men spent time and invested energy in caring for their children, they’d see a “magical” thing happen: “It gets easier!”
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