50-50 Parenting

Two weekends ago, I went to Las Vegas to attend my friend’s bachelorette party. It was my first one and it was definitely American, and was very interesting, to say the least. I fully enjoyed holding20handsthe experience; I even gambled a little and won some. My soon-to-be-bride friend was really happy that I could join the festivities. She told me that some of her friends said they couldn’t make it as they wouldn’t want to leave their kids with their husbands. I wondered how many mothers out there are fully comfortable with leaving their kids with their husbands’ care for a few days. Coincidentally, I found this article in the latest Parenting Magazine about “The 50-50 marriage”. It essentially talked about how you can get your husband more involved with the household chores as well as caring for your child(ren) in 5 easy steps, so you don’t get too angry towards him.

Here is the skinny of the article;
Step 1: Raise your expectations that “equality is an attainable goal”. Don’t take on everything onto you because you don’t think it’s doable and be resentful. I suppose this is true – like my favorite quote says, whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

Step 2: Get him on the same page – this is the step where they suggest going out of town for a few days by leaving the kids with him so he’d appreciate what you’re doing all day with the house and the kids. I suppose it is easier to do if both parents are working outside of the house. If a couple understood what each other has on his or her plate respectively, it is easier to be more supportive of each other in sharing all that needs to be done at the household.

Step 3: Divide and conquer; write down all the chores and tasks, and who’ll be doing them. Now, this is the part that I sometimes struggle because putting things down on a list like that  could appear as “score-keeping”. I don’t want to keep score all the time, as I don’t think it fosters a good teamwork. But yet, I still feel mad when I feel like I’m the only one doing all the work such as cooking, putting dishes and foods away, doing laundry etc. When I’m really tired, it’s easy for me to focus on what he’s not doing. This is one thing that my husband is really great at – he always looks at the bright side, i.e. what I’m doing, instead of what I’m not doing. One time I asked him, “Don’t you feel resentful when YOU feel like you’re the only one doing things around here?” when I asked him that, for some reason I wasn’t doing much and he really was the one pulling more weight. To that, he simply said “Well, I know that you help in other areas”.

Step 4: Lower your standards, i.e. stop being a control freak.  I suspect that in most cases when mothers don’t feel comfortable leaving their kids with their husbands, this part might be playing a big role. I have come to accept that when my husband is watching my kids, he is the authority and I should just trust him that he’ll make the best decision. The fact that we’ve taken Redirecting Children’s Behavior course together really helps in this regard, because we’re essentially on the same page when it comes to how to discipline them. Luckily, we generally agree with each other on what’s good and not good to feed them, how much TV to show them etc. As long as our kids stay safe and healthy and well taken care of, I have not much to say about how he spends his time with them.

These steps above seem simple enough, right? Looking at our own arrangements, I believe that my husband and I have a very close to fifty-fifty parenting split. We spend almost the same amount of time with our children, we take turns in daycare dropping off & picking up, and there is no one task that only one of us can do – there are some preferences, of course, but if one of us goes out of town, the other one is perfectly capable of taking care of them, and the one going away feels completely comfortable. This does not mean that we don’t sometimes argue or feel that one of us is doing more, but when we take one step back and put things into perspective, we both have a great deal of respect for what the other one does for our kids and for the entire family. The last step of this process is this;

Step 5: See what you can learn from your husband.

As for me, I love how much fun he has playing with our kids. He is great at supervising them while enjoying himself, whether it’s reading books, playing with building blocks and Legos©, drawing or playing with play-dough. How about you? What do you appreciate about your partner’s parenting style?

4 comments on “50-50 Parenting

  1. Great post Etsuko! Very informative for parents. I was guilty of being a control freak for a long time before I realized it wasn’t healthy for anyone. Also open communication without assumption is the KEY to a good functional marriage, and it is so wonderful to see that you seem to have it with your husband.

    One thing that I think is important to explore in the subject of 50-50 parenting, is the cultural expectation of what’s fair or what’s viewed as balanced, because it may alter the way one would feel about a situation. In some family, an idea that it’s unthinkable to consider the male members of the family to be capable of caring for young children, is passed along for generations. Sometimes it’s hard to break away from that and stays in the subconscious. It may be a reasonable point to bring up so that you may have your clients explore their family cultures, if it’s not included in your teaching already.

    This was another great read! Thank you.

  2. Yuko-san,

    Thank you for your comment! I agree with you – cultural background plays a big role on this. When my parents came to see our first son when he was just born, they were so surprised to see how much my husband does to take care of the baby. To me, I didn’t expect anything less from him because we have visited a few friends couple before we had the baby and saw how the husbands take care of the infants. But they are all Americans, and if I had been more exposed to Japanese families who have newborns, I might have formed different expectations. Interestingly, one of those friends who I consider as a “model husband/father” wrote to me, saying that he thinks that the original Parenting magazine article missed the target a bit by trying to restrict the example to husbands 🙂

    Thank you for reading my post & your kind comments as always!

  3. I think in the last few decades where it’s common for both couples to have careers there is a lot more sharing of responsibilities all around, and that mentality carries through when having children because the patterns of cross-sharing of responsibilities have been forged (in contrast with a system of delegated responsibilities).

    I was surprised when you mentioned that some mothers can have a hesitation in leaving their children in the care of the father. I hadn’t heard of or observed that issue before. Learn something new every day.

    I enjoy reading your posts Etsuko.
    See ya!

  4. Great post, Etsuko. Are you sure it wasn’t Dave that emailed you? LOL

    All I have to say is that when it’s a Dad watching his own kids, it’s not babysitting! 🙂