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Separate but equal parenting

The blogosphere is buzzing about Lisa Belkin's story in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, "When Mom and Dad Share It All," about, you guessed it, equal parenting. The story is TEN pages long on the web, so if you haven't read it, I'll summarize. Belkin describes equal parents Marc and Amy Vachon as such,

..".they would create their own model, one in which they were parenting partners. Equals and peers. They would work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home. Neither would be the keeper of the mental to-do lists; neither of their careers would take precedence. Both would be equally likely to plan a birthday party or know that the car needs oil or miss work for a sick child or remember (without prompting) to stop at the store for diapers and milk. They understood that this would mean recalibrating their career ambitions, and probably their income, but what they gained, they believed, would be more valuable than what they lost."

The concept sounds great in theory, but around page six or so, it also started to sound like a lot of work. As one couple explained their schedule, my head began to spin. "I would get up extra early and head to work, and Jo would be home until later in the morning and then take him to day care. She would leave work again at lunch for an hour to nurse him. I would take half a lunch and leave work by 2:30 or 3, pick Seth up and take him home. Jo would stay at work until 6.”

I also balked a little bit when Belkin discussed Marc and Amy's bedtime rituals for their daughter Maia. "They also had to give the other the freedom to do things the “wrong” way — i.e., not “my” way, " Belkin wrote. "In the hours before bed, they decided, Maia would be the responsibility of the parent who would be tucking her in that night. If it was Marc’s turn and he wanted to roughhouse and “party in the tub,” Amy would bite her tongue and not object. She would not point out that this might not be the best way to ease a baby toward sleep. She would not point out that the books suggest evening calm. After all, if Maia was too worked up, that would be Marc’s problem, wouldn’t it?"

While again, that sounds good in theory, I have to ask, doesn't it also contribute to a more chaotic experience for the child? While I'm all for equal parenting to a certain degree, I do think some things, like bedtime rituals, should be as routine as possible.

In our May issue, we also ran a story about finding parity on the parenting front, specifically for city parents. It breaks down the equal parenting concept into digestible how-to tidbits that can actually work for your family, without giving your life an extreme makeover.

What's your take on the equal-parenting debate? Have you tried it with your family?

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