Trying to have a great career, marriage, and family? I selected Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober to see if I could get some insights into all three. These authors believe everyone benefits when both women and men have full careers. Using a good balance of research and anecdotes to support their argument, the authors devote at least half the book to explaining what children gain when both parents work. According to Meers and Strober, “Independence, self-confidence, cognitive and social skills, and strong connections with two parents – not just one.”
Apparently, in 2006, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development concluded, after 15 years of research, that “child care is not the thing to worry about.” Meers and Strober explain, “How you parent is.” Having previously been a part-time stay-at-home mom, I knew exactly what they meant. Just because someone is “home” with their children that doesn’t mean they are actually meaningfully interacting with them. In fact, Meers and Strober explain research indicates that “working moms spend only 20 percent less time than their at-home peers in ‘social interaction’ with kids – playing games or reading books versus making dinner while the kids run around outside.”
It seems “while the majority of kids felt they got enough time with Mom (whether or not she worked),” Meers and Strober report research from the Families and Work Institute which showed, “40 percent said they had too little time with their other parent: Dad.” Therefore, if you want your children to do well, it’s in their best interest to spend time with both parents. I’ve been teaching in the evenings and working online for years, so while I didn’t need any more convincing about how valuable time with dad is, the authors continued building their argument.
Meers and Strober looked specifically at how kids performed after kindergarten and found “having an at-home parent was not a factor, but Mom’s and Dad’s approach to parenting – what they believe and how they behave – was quite significant. It turns out that children with the greatest academic and social competence have mothers (and dads) who let go. That does not mean a parent should be detached, but letting a child do for himself builds self-confidence and problem-solving skills. The only other factor with equal strength: having a good marriage.”
I’m not sure I really thought about it before, but according to Meers and Strober, the research indicates that sharing roles lowers divorce risk a lot. This probably won’t surprise you, but Meers and Strober explain, “When women start arguments at home, it’s about division of household tasks 80 percent of the time.” As a result, two-thirds of all divorces after age forty are initiated by women, the authors report. This makes finding a way to 50/50 even more important.
How can you get to fairness without a fight? Meers and Strober recommend the following:
- Create a master plan.
- Give notice.
- Change expectations.
- Do what comes easy (which may mean skip it).
- Telepathy is overrated: Ask for what you need (and be specific)
- Be direct – not directive
- Barter, accrue credits, and cash them in (meaning cover for each other when you can)
- If you can’t agree, call an expert
- Sneak off with a special someone – your spouse
Expanding on strategies such as these, Getting to 50/50 offers advice on tapping into your best resource – your spouse. This morning, my husband spearheaded the taking down of the Christmas decorations, and in less than two hours, everything was packed up. It might be the best gift my family gave me this holiday season.
Meers and Strober explain, “The happiest working couples are those who build a community around themselves – one made up of friends, family, colleagues, and other working parents who support what they do.” So start the New Year off by resolving to make choices that will move yourself into a better, more equal world. Then, check out Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober.