I often get asked what I am going to do after I’ve done this whole “stay-at-home dad” thing. Leaving aside the insulting nature of the question, I actually do think about what’s next. Do I want to go back to work either part-time or full-time? Do I want to get more involved in my kids’ school? Maybe I should get involved in one or two community organizations. I also think a lot about the impact these decisions have on my family. What will happen to my wife’s career if I go back to work? How will my kids react? Is there a way to find a balance between a fulfilling career, being the Dad that I want to be, handling the minutiae of everyday family life, and having time for myself?
These questions and others have led me to look for different ways other parents are handling the same decisions. One model I have been thinking about is being championed by Marc and Amy Vachon, bloggers at Equally Shared Parenting and authors of a new book called Equally Shared Parenting, Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents. As you might guess, the book outlines a lifestyle the Vachons and others have called Equally Shared Parenting (ESP). The Vachons define Equally Shared Parenting (ESP) as the “purposeful practice of two parents sharing equally in the four domains of childraising, breadwinning, housework, and time for self” with a goal of creating an equal partnership and individually balanced life for each parent.
The book is a practical guide to how real families have found a way to find equality and balance by first arriving at the conclusion that both parents are “fully capable in all family roles” and “both parents deserve to be full partners and to have a full partner.” ESP is not about scorekeeping or getting your partner to do more work, but instead consciously recognizing that you want balance and equality in your life and you want balance and equality for your partner. The authors use real couples, including themselves, to illuminate the ESP lifestyle, identify some common mistakes, and suggest some rules to follow if you decide to pursue this model.
Obviously, this would be a hard pill for some couples to swallow. Can Dad really give up control of what goes in Junior’s lunch box every day? Can Mom cut back on hours at work to spend more time taking the kids to soccer practice? Yes, this means that career paths might get altered. Yes, this means that partners would need to do things they wouldn’t normally do. And yes, this means that tasks might be completed in a different way than usual. And yes, most certainly, couples would need to communicate a lot to make this work.
I actually think that this could be a terrific model for families with at-home dads and breadwinning moms. These dads are used to being active in the childraising and housework domains (and have most likely earned some bread at some point), and these Moms are certainly active in the breadwinning, housework, and childraising domains already. And all of us would like a little more time for ourselves.
Certainly, something to think about as we consider, what’s next. The book is a very practical guide to the ins and outs of this lifestyle and certainly something to add to your parenting bookshelf. Without a doubt, there is something for every couple to take away, even if they decide that the ESP model is not right for their family.