Rules for Ruling the Roost

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

The New York Times Magazine on Sunday ran a long piece on how household duties are divided. The article focuses on the idea of "equally shared parenting," a concept that is being lived to its logical extreme by On Balance regulars Amy and Marc Vachon. The story extensively profiles Amy and Marc, whose commitment to equality goes all the way to the folding of the socks (Amy gets the white socks, Marc the darks), as well as a handful of other couples, who have tried to live (with varying degrees of success) with similar arrangements.

Reading the piece, I was left with the impression that making equally shared parenting a reality meant instituting a set of fairly comprehensive rules about who does what and when. I understand why couples might want to swap child-care drop-off responsibilities based on work schedules, but I get nervous when smaller tasks start getting divided up.

I prefer to cook, and I hate to think that my time in the kitchen ought to be offset by my wife performing some other task to ensure we stay at 50-50. We do what we're good at, what we like to do and what we have the time to do. No hard-and-fast rules. No schedules taped to the refrigerator door.

This is not a flawless system, I have to admit. There's lots of room for stuff to fall through the cracks, which is not an uncommon event in my household, but it spares me from the tyranny of worrying that because today is Tuesday, the schedule dictates that I must (or must not) empty the dishwasher.

In my mind, the secret of Amy and Marc's success is not the rules themselves, but the conversations that lead to the rules. If you have a real commitment to equity (even if that means something other than a 50-50 division of household labor) and open lines of communication, do you really need to divide the laundry by color to have a relationship where everyone is contributing? How about those of you who are trying to have a balance within your relationship (kids or no kids): Do you formally divvy up tasks, and -- if so -- how is that working out?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  June 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Division of Labor
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No kids and no formal dividing of tasks. He tends to cook for me on the weekends and I do prep work and clean as "we" go so I don't end up in the kitchen too long after the meal. He's just as likely to divide up present getting for his parents with his brother, it doesn't default to SIL and I.

My favorite part of the NYTimes story is the anecdote about Marc ripping up the to-do list Amy handed him when she headed back to work after maternity leave.

Oh and first!

Posted by: Kate | June 17, 2008 7:34 AM

No rules, just 100% every day.
Works for us, since we are marking 27 years on Friday.

Posted by: chemguy | June 17, 2008 7:37 AM

While I applaud the intent behind Marc & Amy, their arrangement struck me as similar to those covenant marriages. Every single thing from frequency of sex to laundry is spelled out. How does that lead to open dialogue, or give rise to "I'm going to do something special for you" acts of kindness? If you perform your spouse's job one evening because he/she has a headache, does that obligate the spouse to pay you back? Or can you just be grateful and feel loved? What do you do if you find you have married a stickler?

Posted by: babsy1 | June 17, 2008 7:48 AM

This NYT article was one of writer Lisa Belkin's best, and it was great to see Marc and Amy's message get so much ink.

Here is my favorite quote, about why "Equally Shared Parenting" is such a radical concept that it needs its own name.

"Why do we have to call it anything?" Amy asks.

Marc adds, "Why isn't this just called parenting?"

Exactly. Isn't parenting MEANT to be shared? It is amazing to me that we need a new term, and long lists and rules, about how to divvy up something as natural as parenting. But given that it's true -- dividing parenting equally does not come naturally in our modern day culture -- bravo to Marc and Amy for making it work and spreading the word.

Posted by: Leslie | June 17, 2008 7:52 AM

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 7:59 AM

I read the article, thinking -- wait, isn't that, yes, it's OUR Vachons. Not that, you know, I've ever met them or anything, but still. :-)

Personally, I couldn't live with that much structure. But sometimes you do have to formalize things to make them stick, especially when inertia presses to keep things the way they are. Like, say, my sporadic efforts to go to the gym -- I want to go, I know it's good for me in 87 different ways, but then something comes up, and you think, ok, I'll just go tomorrow. But something always comes up tomorrow, too.

What I think is fabulous is the big-picture commitment -- that is, their clear commitment to take jobs that allowed them both similar amounts of time with their kids. It's still a hard thing for a man to do (as Marc's most recent job search shows). And their continuing commitment to face up to and work through actual/perceived inequalities that crop up (as in the laundry solution).

And hey, RebelDad, I saw you had a little writeup yourself recently. . . . :-)

Posted by: Laura | June 17, 2008 8:08 AM

Our division of labor has evolved over time as tasks have come up. Much of it is driven by our schedules - I am home at 4 so can take daughter to Hebrew school, Dad is home at 8am so help son brush teeth after breakfast. I think the key for couples is finding a split that works for you, whether it is 50/50, 70/30, 60/40, whatever. Like Brian, I like to cook and prefer it hands down over doing the dishes. My husband is not interested in cooking and doesn't mind washing dishes as long as he can do it at 11pm right before bed - fine with me, as long as they are out of the sink before I need it to prepare the next meal, I'm cool.

I agree that the conversations about the workload are important. When my husband and I have gotten into spats about housework it is because one of us is feeling overburdened and didn't talk to the other. Once we sat down and talked about who should do what we realized we're both overburdened, 2 jobs, 2 kids, old house, so we've just got to muddle through!! But, doing it as a team and not feeling like we are at cross-purposes is key.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | June 17, 2008 8:11 AM

It occured to me as I was reading that the real key to making any arrangement work is full-faith in the other person's abilities and letting go about how they get the task done.

Posted by: Kate | June 17, 2008 8:12 AM

"It occured to me as I was reading that the real key to making any arrangement work is full-faith in the other person's abilities and letting go about how they get the task done."
Posted by: Kate | June 17, 2008 8:12 AM

I was going to comment that our division of labor has a lot to do with personal priorities -- how important a particular chore is and how important to a spouse it is that it be done in a particular way.

My husband always offers to help with laundry, but I don't trust him to do it the way I prefer (the right way!). We've had discussion about it. He's willing to learn my way of doing laundry. Whenever he makes a mistake, he learns from it and never repeats it. However, he never ceases to amaze me in his ability to mess up the laundry in new ways! Bottom Line: I am happier doing the laundry.

I realize that the laundry is just not that important to my husband, which is why he goofs up. But I really appreciate his efforts. Meanwhile, I am training our children to do laundry "my way." They are already a huge help!

Posted by: 12SLP34 | June 17, 2008 8:30 AM

Why is it that when talking about dividing the household labor 50 - 50 between both parents, it always comes down to dumbing the man down to do the dishes, laundry, cooking, vacuuming, and diaper changing and rarely about the woman stepping up to take on the jobs of mowing, gutter cleaning, fixing the leaky faucet, repairing the gutters, and changing the oil in the cars?

Posted by: DandyLion | June 17, 2008 9:14 AM

Hi everyone!

Yes, Marc and I are 'your' Vachons - and we love On Balance! It has been a very interesting week for us with this news exposure, but since our passion is bringing equally shared parenting to the table as an option for those who wish to live this way, we're overall thrilled to play our part.

Now, Brian. This laundry thing has gotten W-A-Y overblown. You've even morphed it into a socks-only task, for heaven's sake. Yes, Marc and I divide the laundry (not just sock folding) into darks and lights (which I imagine is relatively common across America) and then each take on one of those baskets as our own responsibility. It is meant only as a little example of how a couple might literally divide a single common household task.

But I can't think of a single other task we divide this way. You are absolutely right that the discussions that lead to the division (or sharing) of tasks are the most important. These keep us from nagging, feeling guilty, becoming annoyed at each other - most of the time at least. We're far from perfect!

Posted by: equal | June 17, 2008 9:16 AM

When I read the article, it struck me that in all of the "equal parenting" couples, both parents had managed to negotiate flexible or reduced hour schedules at work. None of the parents seemed to have jobs with the hours that are typical for NYC (and probably other big metro areas). I saw a recent survey that found that a majority of working moms would prefer a reduced schedule at work but can't get one. How many families are lucky enough that BOTH parents can get such work schedules? I would think that is more of the key for success here at equal parenting, rather than the to-do lists.

I especially saw no mention of the standard solution used here when both parents have careers - the nanny who either lives in or has the kids from 7am to 6pm (or later).

Posted by: momto2inNY | June 17, 2008 9:23 AM

dandylion and 12SLP34 - I noticed the same thing myself. I'm the one who has done the mowing every time but maybe once/twice in 20 years...why? because it is what I care about. dottedman likes to do gutters as I'm terrified of heights. We each do what we care about. And those things we don't care about? well they either don't get done or we spend a Sunday and do them together.

Posted by: dotted | June 17, 2008 9:30 AM

My experience with men who feel like a schedule is just too restrictive or that it interferes with spontaneous acts of generosity is that they are generally trying to weasel out of doing their fair share. I also think DandyLion is correct that there are "household" tasks that women fail to include in the equation. So I applaud Marc and Amy for being willing to put it on paper because it doesn't sound to me like they are religiously bound by it -- they pinch hit for each other frequently.
But bitterness, conflict and resentment at an unfair distribution of household/yard/vehicle labor has undone many a marriage, including my own.

Posted by: anne | June 17, 2008 9:31 AM

I can attest to those nannies- I was one! If not for people like us, many families' juggling act would fall apart. At home, I am the one who does most of the chores. I can't imagine such an equal arrangement but it would probably drive me crazy because I am like 12SLP34 who wants things done "my way." My mom was the exact same but she and my dad did a good job sharing. They followed the "zone" pretty well and I like that model. That is what I aspire to and find is fairest.

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 17, 2008 9:32 AM

I think the "zone" concept pretty well defines how we do things. Mine: cleaning, laundry and kitchen; his: fixing things, garden, bills and cars. Frankly I think I have the good end of things. We pretty much just do what we like and what we care about most and that seems to cover everything. It helps that we agree on the basic definitions of "neat", "clean", "laundry" etc. I am guessing we will need to re-evaluate all that when we have kids but for now it works.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | June 17, 2008 9:44 AM

I owned a house long before I met DH, so I am very familiar with lawns and gutters and all the chores that keep a house in one piece. When we got together he'd been living with two roommates (both guys) and they tended to eat take out all the time. He had to learn both the inside and the outside chores, and frankly, I still do more of both of them.

Posted by: Hey Dandylion | June 17, 2008 9:51 AM

momto2inNY: My wife and I both work full-time 40-hour a week jobs, but we both have flexibility to come in early and leave early a couple days a week so we can pick up the kids after school. This was a choice we both made because it is important to us. Before our first child was born, I left a higher paying job with much greater advancement potential because it was more important to me that I have time to be involved in our kids' lives and not work 50 or 60 hours a week. My wife made a similar move as well.

So while I realze we are fortunate that we are in this position, it is not because we are "lucky". It's because we worked hard to put ourselves in this position.

Also, maybe it's a matter of geography or income level or whatever, but having a nanny is certainly not "the standard solution" of the people I know. Most of our friends are part of dual-career marriages/families and none of them have a nanny. It might be common for upper-income New Yorkers to have nannies, but it doesn't seem to be very common among the middle class.

Posted by: Dennis | June 17, 2008 10:03 AM

Once I stopped complaining about how I ALWAYS have to unload the dishwasher, and I just shut up and unloaded it, there was peace in the kitchen. Now wouldn't you know it, genius wife has taught (and motivatived) five-year-old daugher to unload the silverware. Give it time people!

Posted by: Arlington Dad | June 17, 2008 10:05 AM

this was already hashed out on 'ON PARENTING" just a few days ago. Brian needs to start earning his money

Posted by: zzzzzzzzzzzz X 2 | June 17, 2008 10:12 AM

Can zzzzzzzzzzzzz please go away? You make the same comment everyday. So, clearly there is nothing of interest to you here. Stop reading the blog or start your own since you obviously have better ides.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 10:15 AM

My husband and I just had a looooong conversation about what kind of parents we want to be... I came from a family where the parenting was decidedly unequal - my mom did everything. While it is easy to blame this on my dad's laziness/disinterest (which was probably 75% of the problem), my mom also made no effort to talk to him about it - she just complained and played the martyr.

My husband is quite the opposite (thank goodness). I always thought that even with the *best* husband, his parenting support would be in the form of "help" - but he doesn't see it that way at all: we'll both just be parenting; one person is not the lead and the other the helper, we are an equal team. I think having the perspective that you are equals is almost as important as equally sharing in the tasks themselves.

Disclaimer: I realize that since we don't have kids yet this is all wishful thinking and things can change quickly - but at least this is a good starting point!!

Posted by: mango | June 17, 2008 10:16 AM

@dandylion: the women in my family are the ones who do interior (and some exterior) painting, most gardening (my uncle does help my aunt with heavier brush clearing chores), and a fair amount of interior maintenance (minor plumbing and electrical). My grandmother taught us to be self-reliant.

I personally still don't do windows or lawn moving. ;-)

Posted by: Kate | June 17, 2008 10:17 AM

Dennis- not all nannies are created equally. Many families use au pairs from Europe or elsewhere and pay them very low rates. They are cheaper than daycare. I worked for middle-class families and one wealthy family. Using a nanny isn't common where I'm from, but fairly common in metropolitan areas. Just go to a nearby park one day during working hours, and you'll see a number of nannies/au pairs with their charges. It's not as uncommon as you think.

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 17, 2008 10:17 AM

When I read the article, my reaction was that two people are sacrificing, particularly professionally, and ultimately the family will pay the price, for the sake of everything being equal. Neither parent will achieve as much as they'd have been able to because they won't allow themselves, ostensibly for the sake of the family. It also seemed like a lot of score-keeping.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 17, 2008 10:26 AM

Marc sorry about your testicles, maybe they will find their way home some day.......

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 10:28 AM

FloridaChick, it must be a regional thing because out here (Colorado), it's pretty much unheard of to have live-in help, whether a nanny, au pair or whatever (unless it's extended family). When you go to parks here during the day, you see SAH parents (mostly moms) with their kids, and preschool/daycare groups.

Posted by: Dennis | June 17, 2008 10:29 AM

@ WorkingMomX:

you commented, "my reaction was that two people are sacrificing, particularly professionally, and ultimately the family will pay the price...". Why? It seemed to me that the couples interviewed all did have their own career ambitions; they had just chosen to moderate them a bit in order to pursue their chosen family commitments. It certainly wouldn't work for everyone, but to me they seemed quite happy. And everyone got by financially - living below their means; getting by on one car; etc. This didn't strike me as something that would backfire on the family later on...and I'm not entirely sure why you feel it would.

Posted by: sortofequal | June 17, 2008 10:43 AM

"When I read the article, my reaction was that two people are sacrificing, particularly professionally, and ultimately the family will pay the price, for the sake of everything being equal."

Wow, I didn't get that at all. It's only a "sacrifice" if you're giving up something you want. I thought it was clear from the article that they didn't want that "top" career achievement -- I was struck by the fact that Marc had chosen a part-time position even before marrying and having kids. Seemed to me the only "sacrifice" would have been if Marc had been forced to take a full-time job to pay the bills, because that would have made him give up time with his family that he valued more.

Maybe for you, their choices would be a sacrifice. But I didn't hear either of them talk about "sacrificing for the good of the family" or "sacrificing for the sake of equality." I heard them say "I want to spend time with my family," and "I want to be just as much of a parent to my kids as mom/dad is." I thought it was all about choosing to pursue what's most important to you, instead of giving up on something you love just to prove a point. And I'm not really sure how the kids are going to suffer from it -- they have two involved, loving parents, who make enough money to pay the bills and keep them fed, clothed, and housed. I consider that pretty damn lucky.

Posted by: Laura | June 17, 2008 10:51 AM

I'm going to second WorkingMomX - seems like a recipe for the "Two income trap" and simply set up for resentment. Sometimes its even, sometimes its not - life isn't fair, love each other and try to be decent to each other.

Posted by: Moxiemom | June 17, 2008 10:55 AM

I read about half the article and found it to be depressing.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 10:59 AM

Let's broaden the topic to include "The Virtues of a Nanny." In the DC area, nannies are pretty common for two-income families. (I know because as a black woman taking my "white" daughter out for walks, I have been approached with offers for jobs.) My husband and I both work from 7:30/8-5:15 each day and sometimes longer. We very much did not want to get a nanny although we could bring one cheaply from overseas. We thought a daycare with several adults interacting with many children would be safer than leaving one child with one adult all day long. My husband picks her up from the daycare because it's close to his office. But I have to pay the "gratitude tax" -- you're lucky to have a husband doing this, etc. I do most of the housework that our once-a-week cleaning lady doesn't do like washing clothes and dishes daily. He does everything with the cars. Sometimes I get angry at him but I should not.

Posted by: Denkpaard | June 17, 2008 11:05 AM

I'm not saying they're not happy with their lives and the scorekeeping thing. It is wonderful that they are keeping to one car and making changes to stay on one salary. But neither one is earning what they could be earning, and on some level that does impact the family -- their ability to save for college and retirement, for example. I guess if they don't feel it's a sacrifice, it's not.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 17, 2008 11:11 AM

My reaction was similar to babsy1. As it was portrayed in the article (and perhaps given Amy's comment it wasn't quite accurate), the fixation to down the line equal division of everything struck me as putting the implementation above the principle. To me, the point of embracing equality is to ensure that both partners are giving and receiving the love, support, and respect that make a marriage. I think when day-to-day stuff of marriage and parenting is lopsided it can reflect (or perhaps cause) an inbalance in those fundamental aspects of the family relationships. But to require everything to be exactly split can too. Part of marriage is shoring each other up, sharing each other's burdens, extending compassion and kindness, spontanaity and affection. It seems like that's the part that can get lost if you fixate too much on who has done how many dishes.

Posted by: LizaBean | June 17, 2008 11:14 AM

Can zzzzzzzzzzzzz please go away?


That was a different Zzzzzzzzzzzz today!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 11:15 AM

Can zzzzzzzzzzzzz please go away?


That was a different Zzzzzzzzzzzz today! It wasn't me Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 11:16 AM

Can zzzzzzzzzzzzz please go away?


That was a different Zzzzzzzzzzzz today! It wasn't me Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by: | June 17, 2008 11:16 AM

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!

Posted by: evil zzzzzzzzzzzzz | June 17, 2008 11:19 AM

Perhaps this is just a stage as our society transitions to seeing family care in a different way. Certainly the same tasks had to be done in my grandmother's time, but the division of labor was gender-specific. I don't think the basis on which tasks are allotted is that important (and yes, I am a feminist). What I think is key is the attitude and the dialogue between the couple. People who see themselves as oppressed and victims will always keep score, regardless of how tasks are assigned. People who view themselves as partners will not. Of course, everyone will have an occasional screaming fit.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 17, 2008 11:28 AM

everyone will have an occasional screaming fit.

Esp. the young ensigns!

Posted by: to babsy1 | June 17, 2008 11:31 AM

WorkingMomX: It's a matter of priorities and we all personally would consider to be a sacrifice. Their priority is spending time with their kids, and they feel that if they worked longer hours to increase their income, it would be a sacrifice.

For me, I'd much rather make the tradeoff of a lower income and lesser career status in return for spending more time with my kids. Maybe I'll have to work 5 or 10 years longer before I can retire, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I don't know of anyone who lay on their deathbed wishing they spent more time at the office and less time with their kids.

Posted by: Dennis | June 17, 2008 11:33 AM

I brought my plate over to the sink last night after dinner. That counts as helping out with the dishes, right?

Posted by: DandyLion | June 17, 2008 11:36 AM

Dandylion: it counts in my household. One kid has to pick up everything and put it in the sink. The other has to put it away in the dish washer or handwash. A person can't do everything. I think you're *sharing*

Posted by: dotted | June 17, 2008 11:39 AM

And in the future, if zzzzzzzzzzzzzz wants to doze on the blog, please let him sleep.

Posted by: DandyLion | June 17, 2008 11:41 AM

"But neither one is earning what they could be earning, and on some level that does impact the family"

But doesn't it always? Where do you draw the line? When one parent stays home with the kids, that's a financial impact, too. So why would it be worse to split the paid work? Is it different because it's the dad scaling back? Do you really think that one of them, working full-time, could bring in double what they make with both working 75%? Or is the only option to have two full-time working parents (and then listen to 20 years of "why'd you have kids if you didn't want to raise them?")? And if 40 hrs x 2 is good, isn't 60 hrs better, because you'd have even more retirement and college savings? At what income level do you have to be for it to be "ok" NOT to have both parents going gung-ho on the career?

I'm not trying to be snarky; I just think it's interesting that you seem to have a fairly negative view of the shared parenting concept, and I'd like to understand what particular button that pushed. It seems to me that once you have kids, just about any option involves at least one partner either not reaching his or her career "potential" or spending practically no time with the family. This approach seems to me to be a reasonable way to let both partners balance those interests instead of having to choose one or the other, so just wondering why you see it differently.

Posted by: Laura | June 17, 2008 11:49 AM

DL : I agree....let sleeping dogs lie or maybe never wake a sleeping baby

Posted by: dotted | June 17, 2008 11:53 AM

No scorekeeping! No scheduling the dishes - who does them, load/unloads the dishwasher on which days. No energy spent on this stuff at all. Seriously! I'm sure the myth of nitpicky counting will live on no matter how many times I clarify, so I'll just have to get used to it. But I figure I owe you, my On Balance friends, one more explanation.

Both Marc and I are deeply committed to equality for the sake of our own happiness and balanced lives. Not so that tally sheets add up properly. We love the partership we've created - with plenty of room to shore each other up and share all the burdens. This lifestyle is what makes us both happiest, and clearly every couple must make their own decisions about which arrangement works best for them.

On the job front: We do feel incredibly lucky to have reduced hours jobs (which provide adequate benefits, slightly reduced to fit our hours), although we've worked hard to get these schedules. BTW, equal sharing doesn't require reduced hours, even though it is true that the less you need to work, the more time you'll have for other parts of your life (family, house, self, fun, partner) and the better chance you'll have to create the balance you want. Reduced hours jobs are still hard to find in many fields, but we're hopeful this is changing and we think that these jobs are more possible than many people think (and many don't feel as if they can ask for them).

Yes, we're taking a career hit if we want to make it to CEO. We don't want this, however. We're banking on good enough pay for work well done in jobs we like, and we live below our means in order to pay for things like future college tuitions at about the same savings rate as perhaps others with more expenses.

Anyway, enough rebutting. This topic is a very personal one for everyone, and we truly want the best life for each couple - whether that is equal sharing, traditional labor division, or the myriads of options in between.

Thank you, thank you to all of you for a great discussion as always.

Posted by: equal | June 17, 2008 12:01 PM

"But neither one is earning what they could be earning, and on some level that does impact the family -- their ability to save for college and retirement, for example."

Most people are probably not earning what they "could" be earning - where do you draw the line? If it means more hours, less sleep, less vacation, less time watching your kids grow up, working a job you hate, etc. You shouldn't judge where other people draw that line. Personally, I don't think more money is worth that kind of lifestyle... if you are unhappy you are unhappy, regardless of whether you are sitting in an old Honda or a new Lexus.

Posted by: mango | June 17, 2008 12:05 PM

Interesting moral compass

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 12:15 PM

Mango -- go make a minimango with Mr. Mango. You two sound ready and more than capable of raising happy fruit!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 12:16 PM

My husband and I really enjoyed this article; it really opened up a great dialogue on our expectations of each other, if we have children. But I don't think it would work in NYC, the cost of living is way too high. Maybe it's denial, but we just hired someone to clean our apartment(fairly of course). It adds to our monthly expenses, but we don't have to bicker or feel unappreciated.

Posted by: deedeenyc | June 17, 2008 12:22 PM

Ensigns are never allowed to have screaming fits, even if they say "Ma'am" at the end!

Posted by: babsy1 | June 17, 2008 12:32 PM

I divide the tasks among me, myself and I...sometimes "I" and "myself" argue over who takes out the garbage...but "me" always helps the kid with her homework...

BTW: When one of you gets bogged down in scorekeeping, think about having to do this all by yourself. This past Sunday was my first Father's Day since my father died last November, and I shared it with my fatherless daughter (her father couldn't be bothered to call her from Australia, even on Father's Day).

Once again, don't sweat the little stuff and let your partner know he/she is loved and valued. DON'T take your partner for granted.

Posted by: pepperjade | June 17, 2008 12:34 PM

I personally am making more money than I ever dreamed of as a nurse, although it is obviously less than I am worth :)

Posted by: babsy1 | June 17, 2008 12:34 PM

We don't finish each other's sentences... we finish each other's tasks.

Posted by: liz | June 17, 2008 12:37 PM

Thanks, unknown poster at 12:16! I hope you are right... talking is always easier than doing!!

Posted by: mango | June 17, 2008 12:38 PM

"When I read the article, my reaction was that two people are sacrificing, particularly professionally, and ultimately the family will pay the price, for the sake of everything being equal."

It's possible to sacrifice professionally for a family, or to sacrifice family for a profession. Pick your priority.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 12:41 PM

pepperjade, isn't Father's day about children saying thanks Dad? You didn't call your daughter's father and let her say Happy Father's Day? By that logic, I should call everyone on my birthday to say Happy Birthday!

Posted by: Huh? | June 17, 2008 12:42 PM

Okay, you all already know that outside stuff / yard work / mowing the lawn is my territory, and DH is in charge of the inside, especially the kitchen.

I guess we're just the exception that proves the "rule" that women don't mow lawns or do other yard work (gardening), and the "rule" that men only *help* with housecleaning, cooking, etc.

I like to think the world has come so far in the 49 years I've been around it, but maybe it's just me - and the wonderful partner I found, of course!

Posted by: Sue | June 17, 2008 1:02 PM

"Why is it that when talking about dividing the household labor 50 - 50 between both parents, it always comes down to dumbing the man down to do the dishes, laundry, cooking, vacuuming, and diaper changing and rarely about the woman stepping up to take on the jobs of mowing, gutter cleaning, fixing the leaky faucet, repairing the gutters, and changing the oil in the cars?"

It could be because, living in an urban area, there are more apartments and fewer lawns, and cars get taken to the dealer for oil changes. Yet there's still laundry and dish-washing to do, even if you live in an apartment.

I'm not married, but I have two roommates, and I must have done something right, because we all click really well. We have a large place, but we also have a lot of stuff, so when it gets messy, it seems cramped. Someone--whoever's off work that day or doesn't have a lot of school work--will step up and scrub down the kitchen, vacuum the carpet, or whatnot. We all cook for ourselves and clean up after our own pets, but if I'm out of town, they feed my cats, and if they're at work, I take their dog out. It just...works. And as far as I know, no one feels slighted.

Posted by: Mona | June 17, 2008 1:04 PM

"When I read the article, my reaction was that two people are sacrificing, particularly professionally, and ultimately the family will pay the price, for the sake of everything being equal."

It's possible to sacrifice professionally for a family, or to sacrifice family for a profession. Pick your priority.

Posted by: | June 17, 2008 12:41 PM

geez, lewwweeez. Your panties are in a wad over what you think is a slam at prioritizing family.

How about thinking of it like this - if both parents marginalize their income, what happens if one of them becomes permanently disabled and can no longer work? What happens if, as they age, they develop health issues that eat up their meager savings. It's a cop-out to say, we save as much as two-income families in which both parents work full-time. Given the average, anemic savings rate in the U.S. that statement is no different than saying, we save as little as other families. Whoopie! This plan works as long as all goes well. If there's a bump in the road, this couple might not have put themselves into a position that enables them to recover. That doesn't mean they shouldn't make the choices they are making - it simply means that no choice is without a downside. Nor does making X choice prepare one for future sainthood.

Posted by: MN | June 17, 2008 1:12 PM

Pepperjade: father's day in Australia is in September, not in June as it is in the US. and I agree with Huh? too.

Posted by: dotted | June 17, 2008 1:13 PM

"People who see themselves as oppressed and victims will always keep score, regardless of how tasks are assigned. People who view themselves as partners will not."

And, once again, babys1 nails it. Slam dunk!

Posted by: tsp 2007 | June 17, 2008 1:51 PM

And, I also agree with MN: any choice you make will have a downside. If one parent stays home, what happens if parent 2 loses their job, etc. etc. I think it comes down to owning the choices you make, preparing for the what-ifs by having appropriate savings plans and being realistic about what you really can do vs. what you might like to do.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | June 17, 2008 1:54 PM

Re: the discussion of why women do or do not step up to the tasks of mowing the lawn, painting, changing the oil, etc. In my household my lovely boyfriend only has one good arm/leg after a stroke left his right side partially disabled at the age of 23. Our idea of balance is that I am his second arm- it works for us. So we balance differently than others - he likes to cook, but it is easier for me to scrub dishes. We trade off, and somehow it all works. Of course, no kids yet, so we'll see how that goes since he is hesitant to hold a newborn with an arm that can give out sometimes. Just my way of saying that the way we balance things is finding a way to get everything done pending our respective disabilities (mine being the fact that when I cook even healthy veggies shrivel up in horror!)

Posted by: canary28 | June 17, 2008 1:57 PM

I guess everyone has an opinion about whether it is best for both parties to work reduced hours and do the equality thing, or for one parent to work and the other to stay home, or for both parents to work full time, or some other mix of these choices. (Too bad that one of the choices is not that both parents can stay home and raise the kids together!!)

And yes, there are pros and cons to each situation. When both parents work full time jobs, there is probably more money. But with that, the downside is that there might also be more expenses (second car, bigger house in some cases, need to outsource housekeeping and gardening, etc). And if one parent works and the other stays home, then what happens if the working parent dies or becomes disabled,, or if there is a divorce, or if s/he loses the job? And of course, some people have said that both parents working reduced hours basically reduces both their earning potentials. And I am sure of other issues that I'm not thinking of right now.

But my sense is that people who are responsible with money act responsibly whatever the circumstances may be. It is not so much how much you make, but more how you allocate it. I really do think that a one income couple, or a couple that lives by both people working part time, can be as secure as a high earning two income couple, if they are wise. If they live within their means, are frugal and pragmatic, and know how to save. And I think some big earners are sometimes more tempted to push the boundaries of living within their means because of their big incomes and the expectations that come with the.

So if equal parenting works for the Vachons, I am not going to knock it (although I don't think that my husband or I are sufficiently structured that it could work for us). I imagine that the money aspect is at least as good as that of one parent that works full time, and one upside to it is that if disaster strikes and one parent is no longer able to work (or in the case of divorce), the other parent is already in the workforce and can probably find a gig with full time hours more easily than a stay at home parent could.

Posted by: Emily | June 17, 2008 2:00 PM

MN, using your reasoning, then every household should have both parents working full time. Anything short of that, and you're putting the family at risk.

Having both parents working part time is much better than having one parent work full time one staying home full time from a financial security perspective. If something happens to the full-time worker, it's much harder for the SAH parent to return to work than it would be for a part-time worker to shift to full-time.

Posted by: Dennis | June 17, 2008 2:18 PM

"I really do think that a one income couple, or a couple that lives by both people working part time, can be as secure as a high earning two income couple, if they are wise. If they live within their means, are frugal and pragmatic, and know how to save."

This will only work if they have healthcare benefits!

Posted by: babsy1 | June 17, 2008 2:37 PM

MN: Of course every choice has a downside - if there was no downside it would be what we refer to as a "no-brainer". You can't plan for every possible contingency - you can only do what you see as best for your family and there is no life manual that says one way is better/safer than another -- you can find fault in every plan.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 2:42 PM

In my household, tasks are tidily divided as follows:

My husband performs the taks he enjoys
I perform the tasks I enjoy.
Everything else falls to me.
If ever I perform one of his tasks thereby demonstrating that I am capable of said task, it then falls to me forever after.

Posted by: csherr | June 17, 2008 3:02 PM

Regarding grass cutting: I don't cut the grass because it's a chore that my husband does without requiring any input from me. By that, I don't mean that I'm micromanaging other chores for my sake. For instance, he will cook but requires me to tell him specifically what to cook. Fortunately, he's getting better with this. And I do know how to cut the grass and have done it many, many times... just not recently.

Posted by: one mom | June 17, 2008 3:28 PM

"MN, using your reasoning, then every household should have both parents working full time. Anything short of that, and you're putting the family at risk."

Nah. Only if you want to twist my reasoning to create a strawman. I have no dog in that fight and don't agree with the conclusion to which you attribute my statements.

"If something happens to the full-time worker, it's much harder for the SAH parent to return to work than it would be for a part-time worker to shift to full-time."

So says you. If someone has negotiated a part-time position at Employer A, Employer A views him / her as a contributor of limited product. When he /she wants to shift to full-time because his /her family needs the money, he/she may well be seen by the decision-maker as a constant Keeper of the Boundaries or Whiner If There Is Task Creep. The out-of-work partner who returns to the work force need not even explain the family issues driving that return. If he she has a track-record of prior full-time work ethic, a hiring manager can convince herself that the applicant knows how to be a team player and get the job done.

2:42 - Putting "of course" in front of an idea that earlier posters apparently found difficult to grasp strikes me as rather snide. YMMV.

Posted by: MN | June 17, 2008 3:33 PM

If someone has negotiated a part-time position at Employer A, Employer A views him / her as a contributor of limited product. ..... If he she (the previously unemployed spouse) has a track-record of prior full-time work ethic, a hiring manager can convince herself that the applicant knows how to be a team player and get the job done.

MN - I gotta disagree with you here. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding you. It seems like you are characterizing part-time workers as having a lesser work ethic, less of a team player, more of a whiner. I don't necessarily think this is has to be true. It really depends on the particular person involved. I know full time employees who are clock watchers, won't do anything outside of their designated duties, and complain all the time about anything and everything. And I know part-time workers who can do in 6 hours what those other full time workers that I had mentioned before don't get done in 8 hours. I don't think that part-time necessarily translates into slackers and complainers who won't contribute to the team. Although they might, based on their particular work ethic and their boss' own prejudices. But I think the same can be said for SAH parents trying to return to the workforce. They might be facing prejudices themselves, and people often think that people with children who took some years off from work are less committed to their work, less willing to put in long hours, and generally less available than people who don't have kids.

Posted by: Emily | June 17, 2008 3:50 PM

I was being snide - towards you. Other posters seemed to grasp the point perfectly well - your post, on the other hand, suggests that you feel the Vachon's (and others) haven't considered there may be downsides to their choices and needed you to illuminate them with your infinite wisdom that (gasp!) something in life might go wrong!

Posted by: 2:42 | June 17, 2008 4:23 PM

I think it's easier to divide evenly when both partners are the same gender. You've got a) tasks thst you both know need to be done and b) no set pattern of who is going to do the dishes or mow the grass. So you have to think it out in terms of your circumstances, not according to how anyone's parents divided tasks or how it works on TV.

In our family, it often comes down to who dislikes a task less. My partner does a lot of grass-mowing while I weed, and I unload the dishwasher because she doesn't like to and I don't mind.

Posted by: Maybe not equal, but balanced | June 17, 2008 4:24 PM

In my staff, the part-timers are usually concerned with working as hard as they can while they're here, so they can be see as expert enough to be assigned to the really sick patients (the interesting ones). I also have my share of "refrigerator nurses," both full and part-time; you know, the ones just here to pay for that new side-by-side model. Since clinical nursing is by definition a time-limited job, your performance during your shift is what defines you as dedicated or not.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 17, 2008 4:29 PM

On part time workers, I didn't read MN's post as saying they will always be perceived as not committed, I thought she was just giving an example - in response to another poster - of how it's not necessarily going to be easier to change to FT work. Forgive me, MN, if I am misrepresenting though, LOL.

I think it absolutely will depend on the person involved and the industry in which they work, and it's just one of the many factors people have to consider in deciding how they do things.

Posted by: LizaBean | June 17, 2008 4:50 PM

Coming back late...

to Huh? and the others: When her father decides to pay his first dime in child support, I will spend the money to call Australia. I've been the sole support for our daughter since 2002.

Posted by: pepperjade | June 17, 2008 5:45 PM

"Having both parents working part time is much better than having one parent work full time one staying home full time from a financial security perspective. If something happens to the full-time worker, it's much harder for the SAH parent to return to work than it would be for a part-time worker to shift to full-time."

Actually, not true, Dennis. Read "The Two Income Trap". Families in which there is a SAH parent are better able to recover financially if the breadwinner is laid off. I would explain it all but I'm not very succinct and I'm wiped after my coming-up-on a 13 hour day. Maybe someone else will check the blog, or you can get the book from the library and see for yourself. (Two Harvard Economics professors wrote it, it's not by some crackpot.)

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 17, 2008 6:05 PM

so pepperjade withholds contact in order to 'get' the dad? what does money have to do with contact? Pepperjade is definitely not doing the right thing by their daughter. money cannot buy love except in the mind of pepperjade.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 6:17 PM

Hey workingmom - you channeling me today. You've been saying everything for me. Wow, I think I've made it now - I've outsourced my OB posts! haha have a good evening.

Posted by: Moxiemom | June 17, 2008 6:25 PM

"It seems like you are characterizing part-time workers as having a lesser work ethic, less of a team player, more of a whiner. I don't necessarily think this is has to be true. It really depends on the particular person involved."

No, I'm not, Emily. It's not necessarily true and I also have seen and have the pleasure of working with a number of key persons working on a part-time status basis. I am commenting on the reaction I see around the way from hiring managers, who do tend to operate according to the law of averages based on what they've experienced, and are not known to take risks, even those that are good risks.

LizaBean, Thanks - that is what I meant.

Yo, troll at 2:42 and 4:23. If you were following the conversation at all, you'd see the initial quote to which I responded. I was supporting a comment WorkingMomX made and which garnered her a bunch of simple-minded grief. I make no comment on the Vachon's choices. They are right for them, of course, LOL. Some of those slamming WorkingMomX, though, see virtue only in making the same choice the Vachons make and only vice in making a different one. Anytime someone sees a complex life choice through such a moralistic lens, she reveals a simple mind. Go right on ahead then, and jump on the simple-minded bandwagon. Oops -- I see you're already under the wheels in the dirt where you belong.

Posted by: MN | June 17, 2008 6:26 PM

oh god, 6:17, talk about clueless. The dad runs off to Australia, pays nothing to support his child, does nothing for her, and Pepperjade is the one not doing right by her child? WTF?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 6:30 PM

Oh come on. It is a huge leap to say that Pepperjade is withholding contact. I would bet she would let the dad talk to or see the kid if the dad made any effort. He is the dad, he has some responsibility for making contact with his child. And he is the one who moved away. Shouldn't he be the one who tries to maintain contact?

Posted by: Emily | June 17, 2008 6:37 PM

Thanks for the clarification, MN. I think, then that we agree after all. :)

Posted by: Emily | June 17, 2008 6:40 PM

On another note, I just can't imagine moving away from my kids (or not having custody of them, for that matter). This is not to say that in the event of divorce, I would be against shared custody. But I just can't imagine how a parent willingly disengages from his/her child(ren), moves away, and basically neglects his/her duties.

I can see why Pepperjade is so angry at her ex. I would be too.

Posted by: Emily | June 17, 2008 6:44 PM

"money cannot buy love except in the mind of pepperjade."

I can't let this go. Money can't buy love, but you know what? It buys food, clothing, healthcare, and necessary incidentals. It pays the rent/mortgage. Anyone who doesn't think money is important is a fool. And supporting a child, through thick and thin, is a demonstration of love. Actions speak louder than words.

Posted by: Emily | June 17, 2008 6:47 PM

Moxie, pretty funny to think about outsourcing your OB posts! Maybe you need an intern!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 17, 2008 7:18 PM

Amen Sister Emily! Isn't it true that most money disputes in divorces aren't directed at the children, but at the other party? It seems to me that Pepperjade's daughter will know that her mother loved her enough to keep her warm, safe, and fed. That's pretty darn wonderful. The father should be hunted down like the dog he is.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 17, 2008 7:21 PM

Hey, Pepperjade is my friend. Don't be dissing her!

I may have to write a song in her honor!

Posted by: Songster | June 17, 2008 7:25 PM

I need an intern. I'm supposed to be editing a really boring document, and I just can't focus. On Balance is a terrible temptation.

Posted by: Emily | June 17, 2008 7:31 PM

I'm back. I can not support any parent who whines about the father not supporting their child and then complains about how the father did not call the child on father's day. Hello? Anybody there. Pepperjade is just as bad as the absent father. They both are committing errors, but Pepperjade is the one complaining here so she is the one who gets the grief. If she really cared about their child and their child's relationship with her father, she would put the child first. all Pepperjade wants is the muuuuulaaaaa

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 9:10 PM

Further Pepperjade's daughter will know whatever Pepperjade tells her. We do not know if the father 'ran off'. We do not know any facts other than Pepperjade's spin. Complaints about father's day are very misplaced and illustrate Pepperjade's extreme bias. there is nothing this guy could do to make Pepperjade happy. No wonder they divorced.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 9:15 PM

I need a name if I am going to post. The last 2 anonymous posts are from me: andnowfortherestofthestory

and emily, I do not know your story, but there are plenty of men whose children are taken away by vindictive exes. just because you can not imagine it does not mean there is no pain.

Posted by: andnowfortherestofthestory | June 17, 2008 9:19 PM

dude, you're insane. and remarkably stupid. take your name and bugger off.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 9:51 PM

Actually, not true, Dennis. Read "The Two Income Trap". Families in which there is a SAH parent are better able to recover financially if the breadwinner is laid off. I would explain it all but I'm not very succinct and I'm wiped after my coming-up-on a 13 hour day. Maybe someone else will check the blog, or you can get the book from the library and see for yourself. (Two Harvard Economics professors wrote it, it's not by some crackpot.)

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 17, 2008 6:05 PM

So then why have their been all these on balance blogs about how hard it is for a SAH parent to re-enter the workforce?

And what if the breadwinner is unable to work? Does this study conclude that it's easier for a person to find a job after being out of the workforce completely for say 5 years than it is for someone who has been working parttime for 5 years?

Posted by: Dennis | June 18, 2008 9:28 AM

Assuming the anonymous at 9:51 was writing to me, just because you only see one side of an argument, does not mean you should claim to understand and know all. and now for my morning coffee, the early morning commute was awful here and it is still very early.

Posted by: andnowfortherestofthestory | June 18, 2008 9:29 AM

No wonder they divorced.

Posted by: | June 17, 2008 9:15 PM

Pot, meet kettle.

When you post things like the above dimitted, insulting, judgmental comment, you show no indication of being someone who can see more than one side of any argument. Part of being an adult is understanding complexity and nuance. Good luck with that whole growing up thing.

Posted by: to andnowfortherestofthestory | June 18, 2008 11:30 AM

to to: you raise the ante for no real reason. have you considered therapy for your anger issues?

Posted by: andnowfortherestofthestory | June 18, 2008 11:57 AM

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