What Difference Does Difference Make? An Appreciation and Review of “Equally Shared Parenting”

What Difference Does Difference Make? An Appreciation and Review of “Equally Shared Parenting”

Twenty-one years ago, my life was very focused on equally shared parenting.

I was a new doctoral student interviewing British couples who were trying to share housework and childcare (although such couples were notoriously difficult to find back then). And I was a new mother sharing parenting and housework with my husband. While we did not know it at the time, we were in fact practicing what Marc and Amy Vachon describe in their book as “Equally Shared Parenting” (ESP):

“Equally shared parenting is the purposeful practice of two parents sharing equally in the four domains of childrearing, breadwinning, housework and time for self.”

We were both students living in a small student apartment at Cambridge University. With our families back in Canada, we had no family support in England; with my scholarship as our only income, we had little money for extra childcare help. We had no car, no TV, no Internet access. We just split our days between work and childcare, housework (not much), and leisure. While breastfeeding introduced some differences in our days, my husband took on other routine domestic tasks. When our daughter started half-time daycare at the age of two, we alternated the dropping off and picking up, and we had mommy days and daddy days.

That was a long time ago.

In the last twenty one years, I have continued to research and write about the lives of couples who challenge traditional gender norms in paid work and care work (e.g. stay-at-home dads, single fathers, breadwinning mothers, fathers who take parental leave, and gay fathers). And my husband and I have raised three daughters (now 21 and 17-year-old twins) and have gone from equal breadwinners to me being the primary breadwinner. I would describe our journey as shared parenting but not equally shared parenting.

To learn more about my thoughts on the book Equally Shared Parenting by Marc and Amy Vachon, click here to read my recent guest post at PhDinparenting

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