I am asked with astounding regularity, “How do you do it all, Michelle?”
I have two replies: 1. “I don't do it all myself.” and 2. “How do I not?”
The thing is, we all do so much, don't we? Some things are more high-profile, like competing in the Olympics and putting on horse camps across the nation. Or, on a lower profile scale, owning two businesses and having three kids in a 4-year timespan. If you identify as a Brazen Soul (I'm assuming that's the case for most of you reading), you are very likely pushing the edges to fit in the things you feel passionately about. So, how do you do it all?
Enter – Equally Shared Parenting
For me, I absolutely don't do it all. There is no way I could or would want to do it all. That's why I have partnered with a brilliant, smart, loving, funny, handsome (okay, I'm getting off track here…) guy to share the “all”. Jim and I equally share the responsibilities in our married-with-kids life and that's how we do it all.
In June of 2008, I wrote this article in True North Parenting magazine titled Equally Shared Parenting. When I started writing the article, I didn't know about this concept of Equally Shared Parenting, I just knew that I wanted to write an article with ideas for ways to share parenting more equally because I was really pleased with the benefits this approach brought to my own family life. I came across this fabulous website by Marc and Amy Vachon all about Equally Shared Parenting and I finally had a name for this parenting approach – and a community of like-minded parents with whom to converse! It was a very exciting discovery.
The Equally Shared Parenting Movement
Two weeks after my article was published in True North Parenting, The New York Times published this article hi-lighting Marc and Amy and their Equally Shared Parenting (ESP) approach, along with stories of other families who practice ESP. The movement took a leap in profile. People were fascinated by this alternative approach to parenting and marriage. Read the comments on that New York Times article and you will see some serious debate and intense feelings expressed (both for and against perceptions of ESP) in the 190 comments on Lisa Belkin's (the article author) related blog post on her Motherlode blog.
The Equally Shared Parenting Book
Marc and Amy are really cool people. They aren't nit-picky, “frequent parenting miles” tracking, you-got-to-workout-yesterday type people. They simply knew, even before they had kids, that they wanted the best, biggest, most-inclusive life possible – with kids – for themselves, for one another and for their kids. For them, that meant not shouldering the entire responsibility/gifts of any of the main domains of family life on their own: childrearing, household chores, personal/recreation time, and work/career (they use other terms for these.) It's working great for them. And it turns out, they (and we) are not alone.
Their book (due out tomorrow!!) titled Equally Shared Parenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents, tells the stories of how they make this family lifestyle work. They also tell the stories of dozens of other parents who are happily living the ESP life. The examples are beautifully varied: doctors and lawyers, small business owners, employees of large and small companies… our story is in there, too – we are one of the feature couples of chapter 2 (titled Equality, which makes me feel especially happy.)
I love this book. The stories are about real people and the perspective is balanced. Family life is not easy – and ESP does not gloss over that fact. There is complexity in orchestrating the needs and desires of multiple people – and this is true for ESP as well. You'll hear that fact in this book, as well as very real ideas for how to make ESP work in your own life, if you wish for it.
Why I love Equally Shared Parenting
I never try to convince people to choose ESP who don't have a visceral desire for the sharing part. It simply won't work. If one person wants it and the other does not, I can see it becoming a nagging, tallying, competitive mess. That's not what anyone wants for their marriage and family. But if you and your partner both don't want to miss out on the little moments with your kids beyond the few hours at night and weekends, you both want to pursue your outside interests beyond family life, you both want to contribute to your family income and you both want to be involved in caring for your home (even just to ease the burden on any one partner), this approach (and the Vachon's book) will get you there. It is so possible – I promise!
A Secret to Brazen Soul Living with Kids
I love it that I don't have to do it all to have it all. And I do have it all – as best as is possible considering all that I want to have in my life. Since what I want is a meaningful piece of all aspects of family life (career, home care, kid time/care, personal time), ESP works brilliantly for me. Living brazenly – courageously, pushing the edges of my strengths and passions and taking risks – can be exhausting. It's so awesome having an EQUAL partner on this journey – Equally Shared Parenting is the secret for this Brazen Soul.
If you have any remote inclination to explore this family-life approach, get this book.