Accomplishing all this is a very, very tall order. Partners who are on the cutting edge of this big evolutionary and cultural change will find that there isn’t a whole lot of guidance out there for doing it. Worse, they may find that they don’t get support or credit for trying from family and friends who see it as a threat to the natural order of things or who have an investment in more traditional roles.
Partners who are trying to redefine gender roles and distribute tasks more equally do have some things in common:
1. They have taken the time to really talk out their mutual goals.
They agree they want a family and that it’s important for both of them to be actively involved in the care of the children and the maintenance of the home. They support each other’s career goals. When fate happens and there is an unexpected opportunity for a promotion or an unexpected pregnancy or a change in one or the other person’s career goals, they take the time to rethink everything and come to new agreements.
2. Once they’ve established the overarching goals, they get specific.
They outline what each will do in each of three areas: work, family, self. They do everything they can to keep all three in balance – for both of them.
3. When dividing tasks, they acknowledge that equality doesn’t have to mean sameness.
Sometimes it makes more sense to follow individual talents and preferences. If someone loves to cook and the other person really hates it, let the foodie do the cooking. The partner can do the cleanup. They divide the tasks in a way that both people feel is fair.
4. They have a back-up plan for taking care of the kids when school is called off or someone is sick.
Instead of assuming that mom or dad will be the one to stay home, they have a fair system — set out in advance – for who stays home on what days and in what circumstances. This avoids the stress of the “whose calendar is more important today” debate.
5. They set aside time to have a regular “staff meeting.”
A weekly meeting to manage calendars, budget, and responsibilities and to make sure both are in the loop about important family information prevents a whole lot of problems.
Sometimes we can lose sight of the fact that we’re still on the cutting edge of redefining how to best manage a household in a way that supports parenting, careers, and the need for each partner to have at least a little time for themselves. Talking it out and putting some structures in place that ensure that all three areas get time and attention can prevent an unequal load and the resentment that comes with it.