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

4 icons

A Natural Equality
by Marci

Before our daughter, F (two years old), was born, we shared everything equally – household chores, breadwinning, money, laughs and dreams.  It was natural to share parenting responsibility as well.  Here’s our story (with lots of specifics so you can see how one family makes it work).

I am an architect and David is a web designer.  We each have our own business, and we share a little office downtown (2.5 miles from our house – a very short commute), but until F is in preschool, we won’t be working there at the same time.  We invited another friend to share the office with us so we wouldn’t have to be there alone.  So... three businesses in one space.  I work Monday and Tuesday afternoons (David works mornings) and Wednesday and Thursday mornings (David works afternoons) and we alternate on Fridays.  The reason for that sort of complex schedule is that I couldn’t tell my clients that I was never available on, say, Tuesdays, or never available in the afternoon.  We each work 20 hours, but sometimes have to work at night after F goes to bed in order to finish our projects.  I work half the time, but take on half as many projects as I did before F was born.  I make slightly more money than David, which made the decision to each work half time easier (most of my women friends who stay home full time with their children made significantly less than their husbands, although if we used this logic, David would be staying home full time).  Sometimes we have to be flexible, and we work out schedule changes with each other as needed. 

Every day at lunchtime we do what we call the switcheroo!  We have lunch together (either at home or downtown – current favorite is an outdoor picnic) and then whichever parent is going to be with F takes the “good” car, which is the one with the carseat in it.  F has never had a childminder, nanny or daycare; this was a conscious choice we made.

When the parent who has worked the afternoon shift gets home, the parent who has been with F all afternoon gets 15 minutes or so to do whatever they want!  That’s been really great because after working intensely for the morning, and then being with F intensely for the afternoon, it’s nice to have some down time.  It’s definitely harder, though, to be at work in the afternoon, after a full morning of activities with F.

One of us cooks the evening meal (depending on what we’re eating, because we each cook different things). It’s not on a set schedule, but probably works out to each of us cooking about half the time.  The other parent plays with F, but lately she’s been wanting to help with dinner, and she has her own little play kitchen, so we can do a little bit of cooking together now.

We both give F her bath, and then one of us reads her books and gets her to bed, while the other one does dishes (alternating every other night).  F keeps track of this, and will say randomly throughout the day, “It’s Mommy tonight!” or “It’s Daddy tonight!”  And during book time, she’ll remind Daddy that “Mommy’s doing dishes” and vice versa.

After dinner, we have time to spend together.  There’s a weird myth that equally shared parenting means we never see each other, but we see each other a lot more than other parents!  Besides hanging out and talking after our daughter is in bed, we have date nights (we’re currently working on a babysitting exchange with another family). 

The thing that probably gets the least attention in our house is the housework.  It isn’t strictly divided up, but usually divides along the lines of things we love or hate to do (I hate sweeping, so David sweeps) or things that annoy one of us more if they aren’t done (he doesn’t care so much about things being tidy, but I do, so I tend to tidy up more).  We only clean up toys once – at the end of the day, and F is learning to help with that.  Our house is not as clean as it was before F was born, but this is something we’ve mutually decided is not as important to us.   There are lots of little projects around the house (painting, etc.) that are on hold until F is old enough to join us and help out! 

We have struggled to make time for our own individual pursuits.  David is a keen photographer, so he took a course last year in the early evenings.  I get a massage once a month.  David goes cycling on Saturday mornings, right before my weightlifting class.  We support each other, and encourage each other, to do the things we love.

Equally shared parenting is something we practiced naturally before we had a name for it.  It’s working for us; we really value the time with our daughter, the time as a family and the fact that she’ll have an example of a very involved father.  It seems that our greatest fans are women of my mother’s generation; they tell us all the time that they’d have done it this way if they could have, but it wasn’t even considered 30 years ago.  The only thing that we miss is a support network of similar families – we’d love to see more people embrace this arrangement. 

©Copyright 2007 Marc and Amy Vachon

 Home · What is Equally Shared Parenting? · How It Works · ESP: The Book · Equality Blog · In the News · Toolbox · Real Life Stories · Resources · Contact Marc and Amy

All Contents ©2006-11 Marc and Amy Vachon