Tag Archives: shared parenting

What is privilege?

Different parenting styles call attention to the vast differences in lifestyles between people of different socioeconomic classes. The historical precedent of women serving a “childbearing and childrearing role” (Firestone 233) has persisted to the modern day, as mothers are more involved than fathers with the childrearing process in the majority of families. While it is simple to acknowledge the need for mothers and fathers to share in the responsibilities of childrearing, this is simply not possible for all families. Equally shared parenting, in which both partners “spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home” (Belkin 1), is a privilege that most parents do not have.

Equally shared parenting requires a high amount of resources and stability. For example, the Taussig parents described in the New York Times article was only able to make the arrangements necessary to spend time at home because they had stable jobs that permitted them to take time off. Additionally, time spent at home displaces time spent at work, resulting in a loss of income. Even though “equality in parenting should be every couple’s goal” (Belkin 6), it may simply be impossible for lower SES families to practice equally shared parenting, due to time and money constraints.

While I agree that we should be wary of stereotypical gender roles within families, I also think that equally shared parenting is an ideal that most parents do not have the means to actualize. We should not be too critical of families that do not practice equally shared parenting, since it is a privilege based on socioeconomic status. How can we create conditions that are more conducive to equally shared parenting? It may be necessary to restructure the economic system, as Sweden began to do through implementing and normalizing paternity leave (Bennhold).

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Firestone, Shulamith. “Conclusion: The Ultimate Revolution.” The Dialectic of Sex ; the Case for Feminist Revolution. New York: Morrow, 1970. 233. Print.

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WHAT IS EQUALITY: IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO SHARE IT ALL?

In 1961, Kurt Vonnegut published a satirical dystopian short story, “Harrison Bergeron”. In this futuristic short story, every American is finally equal. No one person is smarter, stronger, more skilled, or more beautiful than the other. People who are born smarter or stronger are fitted with handicaps (bags filled with birdshot, heavy weights, disruptive radios, etc.) to bring them down to average. Through government regulated handicaps and Diana Moon Glampers, Handicapper General, this absurd standard of perfect equality is enforced on the population.

The basic premise of Vonnegut’s story is that perfect equality, down to having equally shared preferences and intelligence, isn’t possible. Reading through Lisa Belkin’s When Mom and Dad Share It All, I can’t help but be reminded of Vonnegut’s story and wonder if such an equal 50/50 split of housework is possible. Belkin provides a lot of examples of equally shared parenting, and the potential problems that arise. In one case, it’s a matter of preference; the wife enjoys doing the shopping for her child’s clothing while the husband doesn’t. Another is feasibility – what if one spouse/partner would prefer to work at home rather than work outside? How does one deal with the question of money and finance? If one partner earns a higher salary, is he or she required to contribute more to the house financially? The questions that arise are endless.

Personally, I prefer Marc and Amy’s (of the Equally Shared Parenting blog) response to shared parenting. On their blog, they start off with the codicil that 50/50 split of housework and childcare isn’t for everybody. What they emphasize more is the equality of choice, that both parents have equal say and responsibility in both housework and childcare. For example, when they discuss “breadwinning” they write that both spouses’ careers, regardless of what kind of career, are equally important and both partners are required to make equal sacrifices in order to balance the house with their careers, such as leaving work to take care of a child or passing by promotions. It is less about both father and mother making the same amount of money, or spending an equal amount of time at home, but rather assuming and equal amount of responsibility at home and receiving an equal amount of respect and consideration for their chosen career. Marc and Amy emphasize the importance of equality of choice in other aspects of shared parenting as well. For example in “childraising”, they write about how both parents, including the father, have a right to decide what is best for their children. While Marc’s parenting decisions are not necessarily the same as Amy’s, she still respects the decisions that he makes regarding their daughter, just as he does hers. With the removal of “mother knows best”, the arguments of men not knowing how to handle children or that women should know how no longer apply. While their daughter’s clothes may not always match perfectly and the house may not be ordered the way Amy wants it to be, they manage an amiable 50/50 split of responsibility, with neither Amy’s nor Marc’s contributions being deemed more valuable than the other. Marc and Amy may not have a perfectly equal 50/50 split of housework and childcare, but their equal split of responsibility for the house and their child appears to me like a more feasible and workable model of keeping house.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All”” NYTimes. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 29    Nov. 2013.

“Equally Shared Parenting” Amy and Marc Vachon (2011)             http://equallysharedparenting.com/index.html

Vonnegut, Kurt. “Harrison Bergeron”. 1961.

What is equality in the household?

I believe equality in the household is a sentiment and not a number. Two parents may divide up hours of housework and childcare exactly even and still not be equals. A true sense of equality in the household begins with a simple acknowledgement – that you are my partner – and a fundamental, mutual drive towards an agreed-upon goal. Certainly, this is easier said than done; in fact, reaching an absolute equilibrium may be extremely difficult. A vast amount of implicit respect for one’s partner is essential for a “shared” system to work. Lisa Belkin writes about a couple who uses a computer chart to help them adhere to their “shared parenting” plan (Belkin 7). While concrete measures like this are undoubtedly helpful in sticking to any goal, in no way is it a guarantee of equal dedication to tasks or respect for the other. Factors that affect this sense of respect do not just exist within the household or the relationship; they are largely societal. Katrin Bennhold points to increasing cases of “daddy leave” in Sweden as proof of greater equality in the household. However, I think the bigger force at play here is the tacit, growing acceptance of men’s doing domestic work – a growing legitimization of parenting as real labor and as both a man and a woman’s duty. While societal biases and stereotypes are a huge hindrance in the quest for domestic equality, it can certainly be achieved. True equality, though, cannot be measured.

 

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web.

Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web.

Free Choice

“Do you think that humans have free choice?” I asked a friend last night after stewing over this topic for a while.

“No,” he replied assuredly. “Did you get to choose what race you were born into? Who your parents are? Who your first friends were? I don’t think so.”

To discuss whether humans have free choice or not, we must first start from the fundamental question: what is an individual? To me, an individual consists of one’s values based on his or her past, experiences, and surroundings. And thus, according to my friend, since a majority of our values are built during our childhood years in which we had no control over, all of our future actions are culturally and societally impacted, indicating a lack of free choice.

But I disagree. I was born into a conservative Chinese family that values tradition—without choice. The concept of “shared parenting,” in their view, is simply absurd. The historically developed gender roles are so finely deep-rooted in their minds that any alternative path is deemed preposterous. Does that mean I naturally have the same views as well?

I actually did, but only for the first few years of my life. As I grew up, I always knew that dad brought home the money and mom took care of the family. But our personal value systems are not set in stone after a certain age. After exposing myself to people outside my family friend circle and going through formal education, the way I viewed the world most certainly changed—giving me the power to make my own informed choices.

Belkin writes, “the single-most-predicative factor of how equal a couple will be…is how equal their friends are,” and despite the lack of choice regarding our birth, we are free to decide how we spend the rest of lives and who those moments will be spent with.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” NY Times. 15 June 2008. Web. 01 Dec 2013.