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Sharing Responsibilities with Partners: Why it is the way it is

Seems that Father's Day 2008 might go down in history as one that generated one ton of discussion about what exactly dads do these days, how they fit into the parenting scheme.  A few places worth checking out, in our opinion:

  1. Local dad Eric Miller wondered over on Activistas if the paternal can be political, too, or if we mamas have a lock on that. Like, why is it a mothers movement?
  2. OPB's Think Out Loud talk show on 6.13.08 celebrated the 100th year of father's day by asking fathers about their parenting roles (some fascinating comments - go ahead, add yours). 
  3. And the Sunday NY Times 6.15.08 features a story by none other than Lisa Belkin (think Opting-Out) called "When Mom & Dad Share It All."  A feat, by the by, that is apparently not at all the norm.  She leads with this situation - sure drew me in:

On her first day back to work after a four-month maternity leave, Amy Vachon woke at dawn to nurse her daughter, Maia. Then she fixed herself a healthful breakfast, pumped a bottle of breast milk for the baby to drink later in the day, kissed the little girl goodbye and headed for the door.

But before she left, there was one more thing. She reached over to her husband, Marc, who would not be going to work that day in order to be home with Maia, and handed him the List. That’s what they call it now, when they revisit this moment, which they do fairly often. The List. It was nothing extraordinary — in fact it would be familiar to many new moms. A large yellow Post-it on which she had scribbled the “how much,” “how long” and “when” of Maia’s napping and eating.

“I knew her routines and was sharing that with Marc,” Amy recalls. She also remembers what he did next. Gently but deliberately, he ripped the paper square in half and crumbled the pieces into a ball.

Wow.  He ripped it in half.  Her list, ripped. in. half.  Good move - or bad?  It depends, of course, on the couple.  But what intrigues me isn't so much who does what (we've covered that before, right here and surely at home many times over!), but WHY we do what we do.  Who works the reduced schedule?  Why?   Was it by choice or created by employment constraints (like access to health benefits, higher pay, more flexible environment)?  Do you wish you could change it, but feel like you can't?   Or maybe it's all good.  And if so, we're all ears about how it came to be.



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Ripped it up? Can you say DRAMA?? How about a conversation about it? Jeesh, that's just looking for trouble...

here's why WE do what we do. i (mommy) work the reduced schedule because i was breast feeding, my husband has much much much better health benefits, my work schedule can be more flexible. we earn about the same hourly rate (although i am very underpaid). we like it this way. when he is home more, he gets stir crazy and nothing gets done. when i am home more, the house is more organized and we all seem happier. i work 2 days a week now as a vet and teach a stroller fitness class one day a week. once we have a 2nd baby in august, our plan is that i'll work 1 day a week as a vet (but can earn almost the same amount of money by changing jobs) and teach 2-3 stroller fitness classes (i can keep the kids with me for that). the fitness classes are mostly for fun, not so much income there.

For us, it boils down to money. I've got a better opportunity for part-time work than my husband does, so there's the split. We need that extra .5 salary to make it. I also work evenings/weekends, so work less for more money since I'm not paying for childcare. If he did find something part-time, to meet the dollars I can bring in, he'd be working during the day and we would need care, which is our priority to avoid. As they begin school, I think we'll have more options for him to work creatively and me to work a little more. I'd love to see him work less, as I know he would too.

But, one thing that article did mention that I really appreciated was the idea that some of the work choices people make long before children limit their options after kids are here. In conversations like this before, lots of moms mention they work because they like the children to see them working out of the home. Are people talking with their kids about this idea, that their work choice might want to consider how they will balance family when the time comes? I know no one ever talked to me about it.

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