June 17, 2008 — Lisa Belkin is back, just in time for Father’s Day. True to the provocative style we have come to expect, her article does not stay safely confined to the 10 pages it occupies within the June 15 Sunday New York Times Magazine. She ambushes the reader on the cover, so there is no chance for anyone to escape the question she throws down like a gauntlet: “Will Dad Ever Do His Share?”
The article itself is entitled When Mom and Dad Share It All, a slightly kinder and gentler essay than you might anticipate, but, nonetheless, I am finding it hard to shake loose from her taunting question as the overarching topic.
Belkin introduces an old friend of ours, Jessica DeGroot, founder and president of the ThirdPath Institute, who coaches, speaks and writes about families that choose a third, more equitable alternative to the traditional forced-choice “work-first” or “family-first” options. Jessica calls this third path “shared care”, while Belkin prefers the phrase “equally shared parenting,” but they are both talking about spouses who vigorously attempt to split the tasks of parenting (and housekeeping) precisely down the middle. Each partner doing exactly half of everything. Equal partners.
Well, if it hasn’t occurred to you already, there are major potholes on the way to parenting paradise, which Belkin elaborates in statistical detail. No matter how you define “equal” or how many ways you slice and dice the sociological data, gender does seem to exert an inequitable tug on the division of labor at home, and the ratios between how much women and men do around the house haven’t changed much from 90 years ago. You’ll have to read this compelling article for yourself to find out why, from Belkin’s perspective, at least.
Leaving no stone unturned, the author takes a fascinating turn when she guides the reader through the terrain where the mind has inevitably meandered — the family interactions within same-sex couples. If gender differences cause inexorable inequity, then what happens when you remove them? Suppose the two parents are women? You guessed it: lesbian couples experience a more equal division of parenting and housework than their heterosexual counterparts. Does that prove that gender is the culprit?
For those of you who read the article, let me know what you think the answer is.
Mon. June 23, 2008 07:10 AM (edited 6/23/2008)
My "third path" is this: I do the best I can, in everything. My responsibilities and priorities dictate my actions based on my beliefs and values. Which for me means the kids can only have two activities at a time, plus the house is not always guest-clean. I use flex-time at work, so, I start at 6 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. (with a 1/2 hour lunch), daily during the week. My work schedule requires both my 4th and 6th grade children to get up, showered, dressed, with breakfast, and off to school by themselves. I arrive home just before they do from school and I am with them for the remainder of the evening and all weekend. If I need to travel for work, I leave everything to my husband and I do not leave any directions or worry about how or if things will get done. If my husband wants something done more or differently than I do, he is welcome to do it but there is no requirement for him to do anything other than what he finds as necessary.
We have agreed on a budget and we attempt to stick to it in a flexible manner. Flexibility is my watchword. It has taken many years to get to this point of acceptance and equality. Typically the cars and the yard are his deal, and cooking and shopping are mine. Also, He does the dishes and I do the laundry. The kids do the garbage, help with assorted other things, and clean their own rooms. Most of everything else gets done by a housekeeper once a week, or by me when I have the time.
Are things perfect? No. But I have learned a set of 10 fundamental truths of which you need to be aware. They Are:
No one is perfect.
The only one you can change is you.
Children will be, how you teach them to be
Sometimes clean is defined as no mildew in the bathrooms, no dishes in the sink, the floors were cleaned sometime in the past week, and everyone is wearing clean underwear.
There is only 24 hours in a day.
You will not always have what you need, let alone what you want.
You and your family will not always be happy.
Credit card debt is bad. And budgets are good.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
The quality of your mental state, exercise, diet, and sleep will determine your overall health, and sleep is not optional.
Sun. June 22, 2008 10:41 AM (edited 6/23/2008)
President and Founder
Thanks for making note of this wonderful article. Of course, ThirdPath Institute doesn’t actually believe every couple should adopt a 50-50 solution to work life balance – as Lisa Belkin implies – instead our goal is to support couples to find the “right balance” for them. Sometimes this means the man doing more, sometimes the woman, and sometimes the answer is an equal split of working and caring for children. No matter the option our hope is for couples to become more intentional in their choices.
Just as importantly, it is our hope that by supporting couples to jointly navigate their work-family balance choices, and create a world where we’ve reduced the barriers men face to becoming equal partners at home, we will have also made significant headway in creating a more equitable workplace for men, women and future generations.
As is the case with the work we’ve been doing with pioneering leaders to help them live and model more balanced lives at their workplaces (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to hear more about this), our work has always been about helping individuals “redesign” their work - no matter their income level, no matter the reason – in such a way that it’s good for them AND good for their employer (Lotte Bailyn’s dual agenda).
Not only do families and communities gain from these changes, so do the organizations these individuals work for as well – whether it’s the leader who has more time for their highest priority work, or the employee who has been supported to craft and implement a more efficient way to get their work done.
There’s so much more I could say … but instead I’ll stop and encourage those who would like to hear more about any of this to get in touch with me. As you can see, I’m just a little bit passionate about what we do.