Global shifts in the workforce are often brought on by major world events. Wars, pandemics and natural disasters disrupt habits and change the needs of companies and families. In turn, these phenomena often alter the way people operate in their domestic spheres as well. Family members who previously fulfilled certain roles must adjust as outside pressures take their toll.
Despite the fact that a large portion of the workforce has either been out of work or has shifted to working from home over the past couple of years, studies show that the inequitable division of childcare in American homes persists. Regardless of the strides feminism has made in other arenas, the home is still a place where one partner assumes the primary caregiver role, and in straight couples, this person is often a woman. You can commit to changing this dynamic in your own family, though.
Communicate Openly About Your Intentions
Even if you are making a change for the better, it is still an adjustment for everyone involved. The best way to ensure its success is to talk about it as a family. Schedule a family meeting to discuss what they should expect to happen. Your children may want to know why you have decided to shift responsibilities, and that is a good opportunity to review some of the benefits of equitable parenting:
- More chances for time with both parents
- Less stress on the family as a whole
- Clearer understanding of how equity should look
This conversation may be particularly illuminating for the girls in your family. It sends the message that, like the parent they are more likely to model after, they are more than their roles at home. Their dreams and aspirations matter, just like their mother’s goals do.
You and your partner should also talk about the specifics of childcare in your home. Try to come to an agreement on rules, schedules and other aspects that are pertinent to your children’s lives. It’s easier to make the transition to a new division of labor if you both have a clear understanding of the work that regularly needs to be done.
Divide the Labor
Next comes the actual division of labor. While the reality is that both parents should be ready to step in anywhere they are needed, work schedules may dictate part of the overall plan. Discuss how you are each going to adapt your own schedules to make room for a more equitable partnership. This is a good time to investigate each of your options for flexible work schedules that would allow you to be more available to provide for your family’s needs as they arise.
During this stage of planning, it is common for people to fall into patterns of only wanting to do the things at which they feel they excel. It’s important to note, however, that much of this lack of confidence usually comes from lack of experience, internalized stereotypes or both. When there is hesitation, identify the reasons behind it. For example, making sure everyone is dressed and fed before they leave in the morning may seem like a Herculean task for people who are used to only having to get themselves ready. As everyone in the family adjusts to the new way of doing things, however, it is likely to become easier. In fact, when parents work together to make sure the day starts off on the right foot, the struggle may ease for everyone.
Having an equitable division of labor between you and your partner may seem like an easy task at first. Changing habits often means dismantling the learned behaviors and attitudes that created the inequalities in the first place, though. Sticking to long-term changes requires commitment from the whole family.