on 50/50 parenting

Last night I went to an LSE lecture “Excel at Your Job, Be Home for Dinner” by Sharon Meers, co-author of Getting to 50/50: How working parents can have it all (oh, the irony, as the event was at 6.30pm and I missed not only dinner but bedtime as well).

It was actually a rather fascinating insight into the person and background to one of the authors of a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while. They were selling books but I bought the kindle version this morning to read on the tube.

Well before I’d heard of Getting to 50/50, Marto and I set out the ways we wanted to parent and comfortingly, our goals are pretty similar to those of Meers and Strober. I’ve written before about choosing the things that are important to me and refusing to feel guilty about the rest (like choosing to go to work). Marto and I also divy up all of the household tasks, chores and so on equally (i.e. equally over say a year’s period, rather than week to week) and employ a cleaner, childcare, babysitter etc so that we can continue with the things that are important to us both. Work and socialising, mainly.

We also both try and have better habits at work (i.e. concentrating on delivering on important things, utilising our time in the office effectively, prioritising, and keeping in touch with the office on a BlackBerry in the evening if  necessary) but there are always room for improvement.

So, it seems that the 4 important tenets of getting to 50/50 are things we have already considered:

  • get rid of guilt
  • better habits at work (results, not time spent present at office)
  • welcome men to the home team
  • clear space to connect

Meers also had some interesting things to share, which I thought were worthy of comment:

  • Mums and dads are both equally flummoxed by a new born baby. Research shows that a mother is not naturally any better at stopping a baby crying or giving milk to an infant from a bottle. We therefore need to keep mums and dads equalTrust that dad will do at least as good a job as you would have. Do not allow mum to become an expert and dad to just do things on instructions if you want to have a chance at being on equal footing as parents in the future. Basically, stop maternal ‘gatekeeping’. Mums do not know everything.
            • We even extend this to friends who take care of Pip. We give some instructions and information about things we have found that work, and we tell her caregivers of routines and our non-negotiable rules (such as sit down when you eat) but beyond that, we say, we knew nothing about parenting and all we know is by trial and error. Use your judgement. 
  • Commit family agreements to writing, such as dinner time, or agreed nights off for social or travel or whatever (balanced over an annual period, say, rather than each week perhaps) but whatever works for you.
  • Ask for what you need from each other.
    • We haven’t managed to write anything down, but we do spend some time on Sunday evening discussing who has what commitments that week. We are working on planning food ahead of time to make it even easier. We also have a broad idea of what seems reasonable in terms of nights off and number of work trips, although we are both still in the career building stage, so not really in a position to say no to things.

Meers also had a lot more to say about corporate culture and so on, but I am writing a post on that for my work blog. I will post the link to that when it’s up.

Does this resonate with anyone? Would you like to hear more?

Lastly, sharing stories is really important, so I am trying to find time to continue my working mums series. I’ve a couple still left in my inbox which people have already kindly shared, so apologies for the delay, and stand by for those. In the meantime, please If you would like to join the conversation and share your story as a working mum, please email me for more details.

Did you know LSE run hundreds of free public lectures every year? They also upload lots of them as podcasts so you can listen after the event if you couldn’t make it.

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12 Comments

  1. Emma White March 18, 2014 / 1:46 pm

    I could so do with this book when I was working full time and had the shop I had to put the children into child care and I felt so guilty that I ended up having a nervous breakdown thanks to trying to juggle everything and be the perfect mother x

  2. Alice Megan March 18, 2014 / 1:47 pm

    I’m not big on self help books but this does sound interesting. I’m currently on a childhood degree so always love to read what people say about bringing them up etc.

  3. Bex Smith March 18, 2014 / 2:14 pm

    This sounds really interesting and definitely something I’d want to read – I struggle sometimes as I work from home and my partner works long shifts so we definitely struggle to get the balance right

  4. Lia March 18, 2014 / 2:30 pm

    Looks like an interesting read, worth a pop on my kindle!

  5. fritha March 18, 2014 / 4:00 pm

    sounds like a really interesting read! Getting rid of the guilt is always a good one! x

  6. laura redburn March 18, 2014 / 4:48 pm

    i agree with alice, not big on self help books, but it’s still interesting to see other peoples insights, and if they help the person that’s reading them, that’s all that matters really.

  7. Jess @ Along Came Cherry March 18, 2014 / 8:20 pm

    There is so much to feel guilty about when you are a parent! I work from home but even that makes me feel guilty as sometimes I have to do things and I have my little girl begging me for attention. Trying to stop the guilt is definitely a good thing to do! x

  8. Circus Queen March 18, 2014 / 9:14 pm

    Maternal gatekeeping – that definitely resonates with me. I found myself micromanaging a nappy change last night and realised afterwards just how stupid it was. Especially as we’re on our second child so the man definitely knows what he’s doing with nappies! Great points for a happier family, whether both at work or not.

  9. Laura March 19, 2014 / 12:55 am

    I need this book – sounds like it has some really practical and useful tips – going to have to look it up now – thanks for sharing

    Laura x

  10. Globalmouse March 19, 2014 / 1:13 pm

    This looks great. Juggling work and looking after children is a constant battle…and the guilt is regularly there so this looks perfect for me!

  11. abigail oliver March 20, 2014 / 2:11 pm

    I’ve just started back at work, not full time, but it’s still a bit of a shock. I’ve definitely been feeling the guilt! I know once we have a proper routine set it won’t be so bad, but at the moment its all a bit over the place! But these are some really good tips thanks!

  12. Jenni March 23, 2014 / 9:38 am

    Very interesting analyais, I was interested to see what you said about mothers being no better at calming babies etc. Its just so easy to slip into those roles.

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