By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
4:15 p.m. and my phone rings. It's my husband calling to tell me that he had a meeting suddenly come up at work and now he won't be home until late. The wrench, naturally, is that while I am a stay-at-home mom I do also work part-time from home and tonight I have to go to a meeting for my job. A meeting that starts in an hour and a half and I have four young kids currently hanging off me. "Sorry for the late notice," he says a little too glibly for my taste. "Can you find someone to watch them?" Can I find a babysitter on an hour's notice? My blood pressure skyrockets and I hang up abruptly.
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This scenario happens with some frequency and despite both of us being employed, like many women I'm always the one scrambling to adjust the schedule, make arrangements. Resentment: It's what's for dinner! Is it even worth trying to equally split the parenting duties or should I just accept that this is the way things are? A new study from the University of Ohio earlier this week says I might actually be happier not striving to be even-steven in my marriage. The study caused sensational headlines about how both men and women are happier in more "traditional" roles - i.e. mom stays home and dad goes to work - than more equally yoked families.
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Like real life however, the study conclusions are a little more nuanced. And thank heavens because I'm not ready to trade my laptop for an apron (even though I do really love Donna Reid's). Lead researcher Dr. Sarah Schoppe Sullivan says rather than saying that there is a one-size-fits all solution to marital bliss, the study shows "that childcare task sharing alone does not necessarily correlate with a harmonious co-parenting partnership." What this means is that childcare task sharing is merely one small part of the complex spousal relationship.
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The researchers point out that it doesn't matter as much if the parenting duties aren't split 50/50 "But [that] a couple can come together as a team to share the responsibility and decision-making too, they can get closer to a peer relationship…not necessarily agreeing on everything and certainly not calmly deferring to one parent without discussion [...] but thriving in a relationship that makes them both happy and supportive of each other, and allows them to share the load and the joys just about equally."
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In the end, I found a babysitter and barring unforeseen vomit or missed buses, I will make my meeting on time. Now that I've cooled down a bit, I think that maybe what my husband and I have does work. Yes the childcare (and cooking and shopping) rests predominantly on my shoulders, but in other aspects he does more than half the work. So maybe I should stop keeping score and focus more on the big picture: that my kids have two parents who love them, can provide for them and are doing their best for them. Even if the way we do it is less Donna Reid and more Modern Family.
How are the parenting duties split in your house? Do you wish they were different?
How are the parenting duties split in your household?
- We both work and try to split everything evenly, but I end up doing more.
- My husband works and I take care of the kids and household.
- My husband and I are pretty good about splitting things evenly.
- My husband takes care of most of the childcare and household chores.
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything
photo credit: Chip Simons
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.