Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

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The Best Medicine
by Debi Gilboa

How did I find the motivation to find a guy who was awesome and willing to live an Equally Shared Parenting kind of lifestyle?  Little House on the Prairie.  For real!  That TV show, with the completely entrenched gender roles, mixed with the best legacy I got from my mom, led me to imagine a life of working and raising my kids without daycare.

First, let me explain about Little House.  I loved that show, and I identified completely with Laura Ingalls, the tomboy main character.  When I grew up, though, I didn’t want to be a teacher like Laura did.  I wanted to be Doc Baker!  House calls and practical advice and a connection to everyone in town.  I was also really affected by Mrs. Ingalls, the stay-at-home mom who created a home full of love and chores and moments, and who was always around when Laura came running home after school or at lunchtime with a problem.

My upbringing was solid, but very different.  My parents both worked full-time and I was a latch-key kid before I turned seven.  As an only child, I did have a lot of chores but was on my own outside of school time from 7am to 7pm.  However, my parents - my mom especially - forged the belief in me that I can be whatever I can imagine.

Flash way forward, and meet me at the beginning of medical school.  I meet a great guy and we get serious about the whole marriage-kids-forever idea.  He is also on the doctor path and we start talking about how to make it all work.

The Women in Medicine Group at my med school and my husband’s often sponsored lunch time lectures from physicians to talk about work-life balance.  I went to at least a dozen of these talks looking for inspiration.  The take home point at each was the same:  Career, marriage, kids.  Pick two.

When my husband, Noam, and I married, we were both in medical school.  We were determined to find a different path, but for the first six years of our marriage, one or the other of us was in residency.  Let me tell you, residency and balance?  Not so much!  However, we had a goal.  After we finished training, we were going to take back the reins of control and live our priorities. 

At first all went according to plan.  I finished first and found a job about 45 miles from home as a family doctor that allowed me to work 3 days a week, with call (being available by phone and seeing patients daily in the hospital) 2 days a week and every other weekend.  We moved closer (240 miles closer!) to my awesome mother-in-law, who watched our 15 mo old son one day a week, and he went to a long day of daycare but only 2 days each week.  So we were getting there.

Three years later my husband was a few months from finishing his own emergency medicine residency and looking for work.  That is when we ran into our first non-financial obstacle.  He had interview after interview and the interviewers all said the same thing.  "Any guy who wants to work part time must not be serious about being a physician."  His answer?  "Not true.  But my first priority is raising my sons." 

By this point I was also getting pressure from my boss (himself a father of 7 whose daughter once pointed at their local hospital from the car and said, "That’s where Daddy lives!") to work more hours, take my career more 'seriously," while I wanted to work even "less."

We stuck with the plan.  I got a great job closer to home, and a fixed schedule 50% time (though I’m still on call all week every other week).  And Noam got a job working 60% time and a provision in his contract that he never works the days that I have office hours.  We still count on my awesome mother-in-law once a week for help.  Now we have 4 sons, ages 9, 6 ½, 4 ½ and 2 ½, and no non-family day care.

Our kids are a big part of our motivation.  Our older two see one of us before and after school each day, know that one of us is always available if they are sick, or have a field trip.  The little ones have never known any different, and take our presence at home for granted in a way that warms my heart.  All of them are internalizing the message that all adults can work and  They learn that a 14-year-old car and hand-me-downs and stay-cations are worthwhile sacrifices. 

make their families their first priority.

The rest of our motivation is our own happiness.  As I have transitioned the focus of my work to spending more time as a parenting speaker, we have made sure to maintain the balance and I have eased off of my clinical work some.  When I get too wrapped up with patients or writing, my husband reminds me about our front porch.  I don’t want to rock there in 50 years with my patients, or even my kids. 

I want to be with him.


Deborah Gilboa is a wife, mom of 4, family physician and parenting expert and speaker.  Please visit her website www.deborahgilboamd.com to learn more about her work or drop off a behavior question about a child in your life.  She will be happy to answer!

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