50-50 Parenting: How One Dad Divvies Up the Duties (and the Dooties)
I was raised in a single-parent household which, unfortunately, wasn’t that uncommon for many kids growing up in the early 1980s.
I saw my mom take on way too much for one person and sometimes—strong and fearless as she was—stagger under the weight. It taught me two things: No. 1, I didn’t want to raise my child alone and, No. 2, guys need to step up their parenting game.
My wife and I have dedicated ourselves to 50-50 parenting, or co-parenting—a term someone with a fancy doctorate coined to describe folks like us.
With 50-50 parenting, there’s enough joy and frustration to go around for both of us. If I’m on daddy detail for the day, my wife bats cleanup when she gets home from work with the bath and sleep rituals while I come up for air. And vice versa.
On days when we’re both around, we tag-team better than most WWF duos. While she’s cooking breakfast, I’m brushing teeth and hair, washing faces, and laying out clothes. (We’re still usually late for school, but hey…EQUALITY!)
It’s a delicate dance, though. We’ve worked out our own system of parental currency and we do our best to keep the scales fairly even. Holding down the fort while she goes on a childless weekend with her friend earns me a similar adventure with my buddy down in L.A. Conversely, I can divvy up my good fortune with various afternoons at my favorite record shops.
The evolution toward a truly even parenting split is still very much a work-in-progress among the sexes, though.
We’re still only one generation removed from a time when men were largely given a pass when it came to the nitty-gritty of childhood. Our roles were predestined: The wife would stay home and do battle in the trenches, while the man ventured out as the Dockers-clad hunter-gatherer, free from drool, diapers, and drama.
We men have made positive strides towards sharing the load in the last 20 years, but we still have our stragglers. Guys who disappear into the crowd at family-friendly get-togethers, leaving their wife to wrangle the kids. Or the drips who use shopping lists and errands as a way to be MIA on the home front.
Sharing responsibilities and respecting both parents’ need to have a life outside of the home—without children—is crucial.
The one misnomer of my upbringing that’s stuck in my craw was the belief that moms and dads were meant to suffer at the hands of their children. Every waking moment must be spent at their beck and call. The husband-wife relationship is secondary. Self-care is a myth. Sanity a luxury.
Oddly enough, my family tree is worm-ridden with divorce.
Lucky for me I’ve got one heckuva partner: the Hall to my Oates. And when the family is clicking on all cylinders—toenails clipped, books read, “thank yous” and “pleases” in the right place—parenting feels a bit like a sweet, smooth soul song on the FM radio. Just with, you know, a little less mustache.