There’s a detailed article on shared parenting from NYTimes Magazine that I’m reading, and I’m so happy just to see it. It describes people, most older than myself, who are living lives in the way that I’ve been planning and hoping to live mine. This includes both equal parenting and the voluntary cutback of work hours, work responsibilities, and of course income in order to spend more time living your life and enjoying your family or whatever is most important to you.
Some stats on how the numbers still stack up on average:
The most recent figures from the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households show that the average wife does 31 hours of housework a week while the average husband does 14 — a ratio of slightly more than two to one. If you break out couples in which wives stay home and husbands are the sole earners, the number of hours goes up for women, to 38 hours of housework a week, and down a bit for men, to 12, a ratio of more than three to one. That makes sense, because the couple have defined home as one partner’s work.
But then break out the couples in which both husband and wife have full-time paying jobs. There, the wife does 28 hours of housework and the husband, 16. Just shy of two to one, which makes no sense at all.
The lopsided ratio holds true however you construct and deconstruct a family. “Working class, middle class, upper class, it stays at two to one,” says Sampson Lee Blair, an associate professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo who studies the division of labor in families.
As disappointing as these numbers are, particularly for families where both partners work full-time, the families described in the article so far are encouraging. I do find it interesting, though, that the author chose to talk about these parent’s own backgrounds – where they grew up and what their parents did – because it signals to me that the author felt these people’s choices needed to be explained. I guess it should be natural when talking about how one manages their family, to ask how their family was managed when they were children, so maybe I’m just being paranoid about the “otherness” of couples who choose to share parenting equally.
I can’t read the rest of the article, and I entreat my readers to go and read it and then tell me what they think. How do you plan or hope to share parenting duties? If you have children already, is reality living up to the plan?
p.s. here’s a great and amusing excerpt for my academic and medical friends:
She goes on to suggest that the perception of flexibility is itself a matter of perception. In her study, she was struck by how often the wife’s job was seen by both spouses as being more flexible than the husband’s. By way of example she describes two actual couples, one in which he is a college professor and she is a physician and one in which she is a college professor and he is a physician. In either case, Deutsch says “both the husband and wife claimed the man’s job was less flexible.”