My partner and I have been practicing our own brand of equally shared parenting since we became parents. We don’t feel like it is important to split everything down the middle. However, we do think that it is important for us to both contribute daily to the management of our household and raising our children. Each family needs to find an approach to this that works for them. This is ours…
Focusing on our relative strengths
We each have things that we like to do, things we are good at, things we hate doing, and things we are not good at. Knowing what those are has helped us to create dividing lines in the household chores that work for us. I understand the argument that a good independent feminist should learn how to do everything herself in case she ends up on her own one day, but honestly, I prefer to focus on earning enough money to pay someone to do the things I can’t or don’t want to do if I was ever in that situation (which I hopefully will not be). And really, if I need to learn how to clean a toilet one day, I will. I don’t need years of practice.
So our division of labour, focusing on our relative strengths, goes something like this:
- Managing finances (banking, investments, bill payments, taxes, etc.)
- Shopping (groceries, kids’ clothes, etc.)
- Cooking (meals at home, kids school lunches)
- Vegetable garden (new this year!)
- Cleaning (dishes, vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, etc.)
- Snow removal
- Landscaping and home repair
- Laundry (whoever notices that a load needs to go in, but arguably more often him than me since he is home more often than I am)
- Car maintenance (usually he takes his car, I take my car, but sometimes it depends on who has time and is in the right place)
I am generally the primary income earner in our family, which is part design and part circumstance (he has been a student and a stay-at-home dad, while I was getting ahead in my career). However, now that both kids are in school full-time and he is working on finishing his PhD, the roles may reverse again and I may head back to school at some point or choose to work part-time for a while once he has a job with sufficient income. I have also taken several breaks from my work to be a stay-at-home parent, during each child’s newborn stage and also this past spring and summer while we were living in Berlin.
Sharing what is important
We split a lot of things, but we also share what is important: being parents to two wonderful, yet challenging kids. We have both taken turns being the stay-at-home parent, even though he spent more time in that role than I did. We both think about the best approaches to parenting, even though I do more research and reading on it than he does. We both love our children, laugh with them, play with them, cry with them, and cuddle with them, but we each do it in our own way.
Why squabble over things that aren’t important?
Even when things are split down the middle and both partners have equal experience and expertise with a task or responsibility, they will still have disagreements about how to do it best. The one thing we do split most evenly is parenting and we don’t always agree on the best approach to everything. When we aren’t on the same page, we hopefully discuss it and resolve it more often than we undermine each other. But in stressful moments, that isn’t necessarily always the case.
If we were both the experts on everything in the house, however, I think that there would be a constant case of too many cooks in the kitchen. I don’t want someone adding spices to the sauce as I cook. He doesn’t need anyone pointing out the spot he missed when wiping the counter. We each have our own tasks and it is just easier when the other person keeps their nose out of it altogether. It keeps the fights to a minimum.
Parenting, however, is the exception. It is difficult enough, important enough, and rewarding enough that it is worth sharing, even if that is challenging sometimes. While difficult situations may strain a relationship, I think that surviving important struggles together makes it stronger.