By Chelsea Shields Strayer and Mike Strayer
Eric, I need you to change the baby’s diaper,” Heidi said, attempting to give her husband the baby and a clean diaper she had picked up on her way to the living room. It was already 8 p.m., and she needed to get the three oldest kids ready for bed.
“I already did it,” Eric replied without looking up from his newspaper. He had finally settled into the lounge chair to relax and read at the end of a long day.
Heidi paused, settling the baby onto her hip. “What?” she asked, hoping she had misheard.
“I already did my one today,” Eric clarified blandly.
“O-ONE?” Heidi yelled slowly, dragging the word out for emphasis. “ONE?” she repeated. “Do you have a diaper quota? Do you only change ONE diaper a day? Is that what’s been happening?” Eric knew there was a right answer, but he couldn’t come up with it in time. Heidi continued, “Do you think women just love the smell of poop? Do you think we are born with this deep desire to smell poop all day, that we just can’t wait to change the next dirty diaper?” She brought the clean diaper in her hand to her nose and inhaled deeply before tossing the diaper on Eric’s lap. “Do you think that dirty diapers somehow mysteriously smell like roses for us?” she asked.
The three older kids, including their second daughter, Chelsea, giggled. Eric still hadn’t said another word. Heidi stared at him, waiting for him to respond. “If this is your version of parenting,” she finally said, “I’m done. Four kids are enough.”
Eric changed the diaper that night and thousands more afterward. It was a pivotal moment in the Shields household, one they laugh about now. Chelsea’s parents had always dreamed of having eight kids, but her mom wasn’t willing to do the parenting alone. Her dad worked all day and had bishopric meetings on evenings and weekends. He wanted time occasionally to relax—but not more than he wanted to have a large family. The incident made explicit the fact that “roles” are what we decide we are willing and not willing to do and that, when it comes to parenting, everyone should pull their weight.
Mike had a different story. He was a surprise—an unexpected bundle of joy born to maturing parents who already had a child in college. It was a typical story at first: Mom cooked, Dad worked, kids did chores. But Mike’s mother became ill and died when he was eleven. Throughout the rest of his childhood and teens, the household consisted mainly of him and his dad, subsisting on TV dinners in front of a big screen television. But there was no gender-based division of labor. Men did all of the tasks. Men cooked, cleaned, did laundry, held grandchildren, helped with school projects, and planned play dates. Mike learned that dads are perfectly capable of raising children and that you don’t really take on the responsibilities of a “role” until you have stewardship over it.
Traditional gender roles were never going to work for us. We met, fell in love, and naturally did everything together equally. We both went to graduate school, both got into Ph.D. programs, and both worked to pay the rent. It was a great system, but we were informed that this could “never work with children.” One of us would have to shoulder the heavy burden of raising children, and the other the heavy burden of providing. We liked our jobs, we were pretty sure we would like our kids, and it seemed that there should be another way. When we first learned about Equally Shared Parenting (ESP), it seemed too good to be true. ESP is a parenting style where both spouses are equally yoked with the responsibilities of providing, parenting, and household duties. The ESP motto is, “Half the work . . . all the fun.” We envisioned a family where we didn’t have to choose between meaningful work and raising children, where we could spend a couple of days a week fully invested in the small moments of parenting and the other days fulfilling career expectations and personal goals. There were also a few things that we never imagined: 1) how fulfilling ESP could be, and 2) how much work it would take to get there.
The goal of ESP is to respect and utilize each parent’s unique assets and to negotiate a mutually beneficial division of labor where both parties feel like they are “fulfilling the measure of their creation” when it comes to parenting, providing, and personal enrichment. The ideal is to make mothers and fathers equal partners in their families.
The question we get most often comes from women who want to know, “How do I get my husband to help out more around the house or with the kids?” As Mike sees it, it’s not an issue of men helping out more around the woman’s domain of home, but rather men taking a more active role as partners and fathers in the home with ownership and responsibility over domestic and child-rearing tasks. For us, marriage is not an arrangement where one capable adult manages her haplessly “home-deaf” sidekick, but a partnership of two peers earnestly participating in the management and governance of the home.
At the outset, this requires men to relinquish certain privileges that they might otherwise never consider sacrificing in order to support the needs and desires of their wives and families. In a recent conversation with a future father, Mike asked, “Would you ever consider staying home?”
The future father raised his eyebrows and looked at Mike in mild surprise. “I like work,” he said, then added good-naturedly, “and I’d be bored.” Mike sympathized greatly with both those sentiments. For most men, including Mike, the prospect of helping your 18-month-old slop down apple sauce or wiping endless snotty noses all day every day while simultaneously missing out on the collegiality and sense of concrete accomplishment that a salaried job often provides can seem like a recipe not just for boredom but profound deprivation. Accomplishment in the home is hard to measure and rarely praised publically. For a lot of men, it’s a no-brainer: stay in the home and you might as well resign yourself to a life of male marginality devoid of public praise or concrete achievements.
Men, welcome to the way the world has always looked to a great many women.
Even men actively interested in equitable balances of power and obligation with their wives may still avoid a responsibility if they feel little control or ownership of it. If diapers or dishes are things that you wait for somebody to ask you to do, you will most likely never do them until asked. Each spouse must claim an active role in major family decisions, such as how to potty train, how to divide up chores, which after-school activities to invest in, and how to discipline. If a couple is striving for ESP, that means the husband has already professed a willingness to do more around the house than typically expected. That professed willingness must be accompanied, on his part, by action, and must be met, on his wife’s part, by a relinquishing of control over household decisions.
Frustrated and legitimately resentful moms have often complained to Chelsea about the unequal parenting balance, but after a long discussion about how to go about sharing the load, many of these same women find themselves unwilling to let their husbands take over the reins in any meaningful ways. Chelsea often uses the maxim, “You cannot expect equality if you are unwilling to give up control.” Ceding control over how the house is run in order to negotiate a mutual plan is one of the most difficult aspects of ESP for women—particularly since ceding control to a neglectful partner can result in genuine harm to people, possessions, and relationships.
But even in benign situations, relinquishing control can be difficult. It is enormously difficult for Chelsea to watch Mike parent Eden his way, not hers. It is painful to see Eden dressed in clothes Chelsea would not have chosen or eating food she would not have cooked. Chelsea felt a loss of autonomy and order when she had to start incorporating Mike’s opinions. At first, it seemed easier just to do everything on her own. And it was. Except that whenever she did, resentment inevitably followed: Chelsea resented that Mike didn’t seem to have any idea about all of the planning and errands that went into each day, that he didn’t know how important it was to check to see if the diaper was wet or soiled before leaving the house, or how imperative a good nap was. Precisely because some of these tasks were so easy—and the consequences disproportionately severe if they were skipped—Chelsea resented Mike for not doing them, too.
Finally, after realizing that control was less important to her than an equal share of both responsibility and freedom, Chelsea slowly started to give up her version of their life in order to create their version. It also took Mike asserting his role and opinions in the home for Chelsea to relinquish some control.
However, over an admittedly long time, Mike’s increased role in the parenting and home decisions has been an extraordinary blessing. It has increased our empathy, respect, and generosity toward each other. Now it is difficult to remember a time when Mike wasn’t a capable parent or homemaker, and when we do remember it, it’s to admit that neither of us would ever want to go back to that time. Giving up control in the home was the hardest part of ESP for Chelsea, but eventually it was the most rewarding and freeing, since there is nothing that is now her sole responsibility.
At one point, we would have said that “part of the difficulty in equal parenting is that the primary caregiver must relinquish his or her position as expert.” But that misses the crucial point that a strict definition of equal parenting does not allow for such a thing as a primary caregiver: the moment there is a primary—and therefore a secondary—caregiver, parenting automatically ceases to be equally shared. It must be acknowledged: an absolutely equitable division of labor, responsibility, and leisure is almost impossible to attain—and even harder to maintain. Perhaps the best that can be achieved is for parents to trade off on the primary caregiver’s role, so that parenting is shared equally over time, rather than at any given moment. In any event, no matter who plays what role when, each spouse must relinquish any firm hold on the role of “expert”—regardless of how much society and life experiences have done to bestow that expertise.
If you are uncertain of whether you are the resident “expert” in the home, ask yourself if you have ever: created a list for your spouse of what to buy at the supermarket or hardware store, dispensed the limited number of checks your spouse is allowed to write each month and made him/her come to you when more are needed, written down the daily schedule and asked him/her to learn it, scheduled without consultation and then reminded your spouse that s/he must accommodate doctors’ appointments or music classes or playdates or meetings with church leaders or maintenance on vehicles, pre-planned what clothes to dress your child in, or nagged your spouse to remember the names of your children’s teachers and friends. Micromanaging your spouse in any area, whether finances or childrearing, is a sign that one of you has authority and the other is either uninterested in or incapable of figuring out relevant details by him or herself. Of course, all of these things must be communicated, and each parent will be invested in different parts of parenting and home duties, but in ESP, both parents should be able to manage the day-to-day tasks on their own—their own way.
This was hard for Mike and Chelsea to adjust to. What one partner does impacts the other—and the child(ren). It was easier for Chelsea to let go of the small things, i.e. coming home to her daughter wearing boys’ swim trunks and a chimpanzee T-shirt two sizes too large (true story), but difficult for her to hear Mike’s vague account of the baby’s latest doctor’s appointment.
In the end, giving each spouse prerogative and responsibility over parenting and household duties made it so that they were both experts. It alleviated so many of the little duties and responsibilities that Chelsea “naturally” took on. She had seen families where a mom who went out of town had to first stock the freezer with heat-and-serve meals, plan schedules, and prepare to-do lists and sets of emergency phone numbers—so that was what she expected. Mike’s becoming an equal expert in all these areas was one of the most liberating events of Chelsea’s entire life. She realized it in one short moment when she was invited to a last-minute conference three states away. She looked up from the computer and said, “I think I want to go to that conference. Is that okay?”
“Sure,” Mike replied.
Chelsea clarified, “That means I’ll be gone for four days and you’ll have Eden alone and have to figure out babysitting while you’re working.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Mike said, “Yep. No problem. I do it all the time.” Chelsea made no lists, froze no meals, laid out no clothes. She didn’t call friends for help or sign her husband up on the compassionate service list.
It was a profoundly freeing moment for both of us. Chelsea felt completely and gloriously liberated from her duties to her child for just as long as she needed—something most new moms rarely feel. Mike felt free from the burden of someone else’s to-do lists and the indignity of being checked up on all the time.
Unfortunately, society as a whole has little interest in equality. In a world dominated by men eager to retain control over governments, religions, and industry, there is still enormous pressure for women to handle the majority of the little family tasks that so many men would prefer not to deal with (and sometimes are completely unaware of). Any man willing to take on traditionally feminine tasks is often praised for doing something outside his sphere of obligation. For instance, if Mike is holding or caring for his daughter, people praise him and say what a good father he is. Think about that: people shower a man with praise simply for holding his child. Whereas, a mom who holds a child all day rarely gets a second look, because that is her duty.
Furthermore, unless something seems obviously amiss, people generally assume that mothers know what they are doing. When Chelsea left the hospital as a new mom knowing just as much about parenting as Mike, everyone trusted that she was perfectly capable of caring for all the needs of a tiny, helpless infant, whereas each time Mike cared for their child alone, he was bombarded with parenting advice and offers of help. It is definitely difficult to take on radical equality within a religion, culture, and nation so entrenched in traditional gender roles. If Mike forgets to make a meal for the ward potluck or put clean sheets on the guest bed or brush his daughter’s hair, people do not blame him; they automatically assume it was Chelsea’s responsibility. However, we believe that people judging Chelsea’s homemaking skills and Mike’s parenting abilities is a small price to pay for the freedom and lighter load of ESP.
For the most part, Mike and Chelsea agree that the ESP motto is accurate: “half the work . . . all the fun.” However, it does fail to describe how much work and negotiation are involved in becoming equal and sharing family responsibilities. This goes back to one of our previous statements about the virtual impossibility of a consistent 50/50 split of parental and household labor.
Our first big reality check came days after Eden was born. Chelsea was trying to nurse and asked Mike to help position the baby. Eden was screaming so vociferously that it was almost impossible to maneuver her. All parties were becoming more and more distressed by the second. Eventually Mike threw up his hands and quit, saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Neither did Chelsea. But she did not have the luxury of quitting. The child needed to eat, and someone had to figure out how to do it. Chelsea suffered through the screaming, until, at long last, their baby was content, fed, and asleep. Breastfeeding inevitably skews the ESP balance. Chelsea and Mike both fell into the pattern of Chelsea automatically caring for the baby when she cried. Through necessity and experience, Chelsea learned the skills of soothing and of withstanding the immediate panic brought on by infant screams. Despite our best intentions, our baby was not even four months old and we had already created specific gender-based divisions of labor.
All of this changed when Chelsea went back to work. As Ph.D. students and adjunct professors, Mike and Chelsea trade days earning a paycheck and maintaining our home. Mike’s first few days of being a stay-at-home dad were rough. One day Eden started crying uncontrollably. Mike tried everything that he knew to help her, but the screaming continued. He was distressed, anxious, and uncertain of his parenting ability. It was terrible. Had Chelsea been there, Mike would have quit in frustration and Chelsea would have taken over in frustration. But Chelsea was not there, so Mike he had to figure it out. And he did. Mike has been grateful for that experience ever since. He needed that moment to realize that he was in control, that he could handle things when they got bad. He needed to feel confident in his ability to problem-solve, and to trust his paternal instinct.
What started out feeling like a breaking point—there was talk about “not being able to do this”—ended up strengthening our commitment to ESP. Mike’s confidence and parenting authority strengthened and increased each time he figured something out on his own, exactly as Chelsea’s had developed in those first few months. Chelsea’s going back to work allowed Mike the time to develop these skills.
Similar situations have happened in the arena of housework. Mike still laughs about the time he asked Chelsea, “Would you like to do the dishes?”
Chelsea leaned back from the table and replied, “Who likes to do the dishes? No one likes to do the dishes. I think what you’re trying to say is that you’d like me to do the dishes.”
Neither Mike nor Chelsea are great at day-to-day housework, and they do not always have a spotless home, but they both find it less onerous when both parties participate in the how, when, and what of housework. Many couples try (and fail) to divide up the household chores into a perfect 50/50 division of labor. Inevitably, life happens and that balance is thrown off by a sick kid, holidays, guests, new school year schedules, and exhaustion. For Mike and Chelsea, there is no perfect balance or harmonious division of labor (i.e. who does laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, etc.). Instead, the most consistent aspect of ESP is constant and continual communication and negotiation.
Practically speaking, we each pick a few tasks that we A) like, B) don’t mind, or C) care about a lot. Chelsea, for example, likes grocery shopping, doesn’t mind cooking (mostly), and cares a lot about having a very clean toilet—so much so that she’s willing to scrub it herself rather than wait for Mike to do it. Mike likes vacuuming, doesn’t mind cooking, and cares a lot about picking up and sorting the mail mostly because he knows that Chelsea will never do it. We constantly negotiate the things we both hate: dishes, daily pick-up, putting clothes away. Mostly, we try to stick with what we are good at: Chelsea is good at making and checking purchases online but terrible at paying bills, which Mike just happens to be good at. For the most part, everything gets done in the team effort, although there is constant communication about who is preparing the bottle, unloading the groceries, doing the laundry, going shopping, or running errands.
This is the same way that we figure out parenting duties. Mike, for example, knows more about language acquisition because he is a language instructor whereas Chelsea knows more about children’s sleeping habits because she’s read a number of parenting books on the subject. When we have stumbled upon issues that we haven’t anticipated, we go do research (which both of us know how to do). Chelsea, for example, read about what foods to feed Eden at what ages while Mike read about how to decrease our eighteen-month-old’s propensity to scream. Things don’t always work out perfectly, but they almost always work out.
One of the main problems that has arisen in this area is who has more knowledge. It is important to value and respect each partner’s experience, but in most cases, an educated opinion counts more than a gut instinct. This is not based on gender; it is based on learning. For the most part, unequal divisions of labor are correlated with unequal divisions of knowledge, i.e. in order to become an expert in something, you have to acquire tacit or explicit knowledge, which takes time and effort.
Nonetheless, it is impossible to be equal in everything. One of the tricks that Mike and Chelsea learned at first about ESP is to try to deliberately divide up parenting duties based on where your interests lie so that your expertise is utilized and so that you can lean on each other’s authority. This helped equalize the responsibilities. It’s important, however, to be careful because while it often seems easier in the moment for the person with the most knowledge in an area just to complete the task him or herself, it inevitably sets up a scenario where that load cannot be shared. Over time, equality for Mike and Chelsea has come to mean that they are commensurate in the home and as a parent. It means that there is someone else who can answer that question, attend that meeting, do the taxes, or fix the car. It is extraordinarily liberating.
The liberation, however, is borne of constant negotiation, which can be fatiguing. It’s worth the fatigue, for many reasons. First, we enjoy approaching everything—from parenting to rent—as a team. There is also a sense of accomplishment we get from that approach. No one feels that they are doing more around the house; and if/when they do, we talk about it and quickly make the needed changes. It is also a huge relief in moments of sickness, grief, and upheaval to have someone get your back and pick up your slack. For instance, Chelsea was so incapacitated by hyperemesis gravidarum while pregnant with Eden that Mike had to run the household entirely; later, Mike’s life became occupied with caring for his dying father. In each case, the equality shifted as one partner inevitably did more. In both cases, it was a relief that we could rely on each other to maintain our home and family life.
Finally, there is arguably the biggest benefit of ESP: all our negotiations have improved our communication skills significantly. We can cover more topics and discuss them more precisely than we could at the beginning of our marriage, and we do it with greater respect for ourselves and each other. We express ourselves with greater clarity; we hear and understand each other better. Being able to communicate well in the little things has helped us communicate better about large things: sex, grief, disappointment, dreams, and goals, for example.
That is not to say that we always agree. In fact, we have many of the same fights as do our friends and colleagues in more traditional arrangements. The difference is that we’ve had a lot more practice in how to communicate about contentious issues. We share an enormous amount of empathy because we know each other’s lives—we live them every other day. Instead of wondering why the house isn’t clean or dinner isn’t made, we can completely empathize with “having a hard day” and needing some space after being at home all day or wanting to zone out in front of the TV after getting home from a hard day on the job. It is that familiarity with each other’s lives that acts as ESP’s glue. Expectations are replaced with understanding.
This became very clear during a conversation early in our marriage. Discussing ESP and budgeting, we agreed that it would be wise to try to live off of one income for the essential expenses so that, if needed, it would be financially possible for one spouse to stay at home full time. Chelsea assumed that the stay-at-home parent would be her until Mike said that he might like to be a stay-at-home dad at some point.
His comment threw Chelsea for a loop. In all their discussions of ESP, in all her graduate school, and throughout her exploration of feminism, she had never thought about being the family breadwinner. The thought actually made her a little sick to her stomach. On some level, she was still the young LDS girl who viewed providing as an inherently male task. Logically, it made sense that if she wanted Mike to contribute equally to the parenting and household duties, she should also contribute financially, but providing for a family had never been the focus of her professional or life choices. What if she did not make enough money? What if she missed the kids? What if she stopped liking her job?
For the first time in her life, Chelsea felt the heavy burden of providing for a family, and it was terrifying. Of course Mike had just as much right as she did to be a stay-at-home parent or follow his heart rather than his wallet, but she had never embraced this idea on a practical level. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but one that taught Chelsea how important it was to contribute financially to the family. She went from viewing her job as a hobby to regarding it as a career. She took it more seriously, negotiated for more pay, and turned down distracting side projects. Moreover, she was able to provide for her family to live and travel internationally for a year. While many people talk about the joy of parenting, this was the first time in her whole life that she felt the joy of providing. She felt proud and capable, secure and stable. ESP gave her the confidence to know that she was not only able to provide for a family but that she could also enjoy it.
It is difficult enough to get one partner through higher education and training, let alone two. Taking both spouses’ careers seriously enough to make them each financially viable requires a huge commitment. Just as you can’t expect someone to be a great parent overnight, you can’t expect someone to step perfectly into the role of happy, successful provider the first moment he or she attempts it. Planning for your family’s financial future requires a large investment of thought, time, and experience.
For us, what has worked is a series of trade-offs. We have followed each other to different graduate schools and research opportunities. ESP is meant to adapt to the circumstances of your particular family. The balance of all of these aspects will look different in each partnership. The key is remembering that no one is inherently better, more suited, or more capable for a particular task than anybody else. They’ve just had more experience.
Obviously, parenting is not something that you excel at (or even enjoy) overnight. It takes a lot of experience, and we admittedly don’t yet have that much. Still, we’ve found that the more time we invest in raising our child, the more we thrive at and enjoy it. Chelsea always had a hard time with Church leaders saying things like “Motherhood is the greatest calling anyone can fulfill” because she would inevitably think, “If it’s so great, then why aren’t you men doing it?” If being a parent truly is the best possible thing that anyone can do—the highest calling—then why are we putting men—who spend so much time away from their families—on a spiritual pedestal as our leaders and examples? After having a child and watching Mike parent, Chelsea’s entire perspective has shifted. She now thinks, given that parenting really is so great, why aren’t you men fighting to do it?
Likewise, one of the things preventing many families from practicing ESP is that so much of our identities as Church members are wrapped up into our role as caretaker or provider. When we cede control over one of these areas, we can feel like our space—even our identity—is being encroached upon or challenged as our spouse becomes more of an expert in our role. It also goes without saying that ESP has yet to make an appearance in any Church-sanctioned material, which can also lead to uncomfortable moments in church settings, such as when mothers are idealized as the ultimate nurturers and fathers are cast as incompetent oafs around the home who nonetheless have a God-given right to exercise authority, make judgments, and preside over decisions in the home.
Chelsea has often had a difficult time during Mother’s Day because of this. She felt uncomfortable with all the praise and gratitude and thought, “If Mike does all of this stuff, too, what makes me or mothers special?” Many men feel something similar when their wives start providing financially. “If my wife can take care of the kids and the finances, what good am I?” With ESP, you are both experts at parenting in your own way. It is good to acknowledge when one’s identity is being challenged and to see that as a very real and difficult problem, but it is something that can be overcome. For us, the most helpful thing was to look at the problem of diverse parenting styles and strengths from the perspective of our child. Chelsea, for example, is very good at making up new games to play with Eden and very strict on safety while Mike is good at taking her on walks to the park and giving her unstructured play time. All of these things are equally valuable to Eden’s development and to building parent-child relationships, and she always looks forward to different experiences with each parent. Our daughter gains invaluable things from quality time with each of us—in part because we have each worked so hard to identify our strengths as parents and to figure out what we are able to do—happily and well—that delights, challenges, and encourages her.
But what about seasons in life when ESP doesn’t work? As we’ve stated previously, ESP is rarely a perfect 50/50 split. Partners usually experience undulations of greater involvement in the home, so it’s important to have long-term goals for implementing ESP. Mike’s brother, for example, just completed a two-year stint as the primary caregiver of his small son. Now his wife will be the primary caregiver for a couple of years while he returns to the work force and they both adjust to rearing another beautiful newborn. Typically during the school year, Chelsea has spent more time in the home while this past summer Mike cared for Eden four days a week compared to Chelsea’s one day. (We don’t count weekends because we’re usually both home.) Right now we’re evenly split, with two days each at home and three days at work because of a cooperative babysitting arrangement with a family in our ward. Finding these cooperative arrangements are a great resource as part of the joy of ESP is not only sharing family, housework, and financial duties equally, but also getting time off to participate in hobbies, exercise, and much needed relaxation alone or as a couple. Cooperative arrangements, babysitting trades, and hiring outside help (if you can afford it) are all ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Not only has ESP been good for Eden and our marriage but we have both had the freedom to do more things for ourselves than we had in a more traditional arrangement. On our days “off” (not parenting), we have more time to meet with friends, exercise, and work on a hobby.
Ultimately, both partners must be 100% committed to ESP, but, without exception, many adjustments must be made along the way. Flexibility is always necessary in any marriage, but, as we’ve tried to stress, flexibility is much easier with ESP than without it.
In our experience, we both feel fulfilled at home and, for the most part, professionally. However, we both have the tendency to feel that our careers come second and sometimes feel behind in our work. The trade-off is that at home we both enjoy immensely our one-on-one time with Eden and are grateful to spend plenty of quality time with her on a regular basis. We also both thoroughly enjoy our time away from the home. It is nice to devote an entire day to being a workaholic or to attend that late-night lecture.
Chelsea often remarks how her parenting skills are highly correlated with her “time-off” from parenting. She has found that when she has regular days to work and takes time for herself, she is a much more involved, attentive, exciting, and fun mother. However, during those time periods where she is mostly home, she can slide into a depressing “wearing-sweat-pants-every-day-checking-Facebook-and-ignoring-the-kid” funk. We both feel we are better parents because we get time to develop professionally and personally outside of the home. It’s also nice on those occasions where one partner has to travel that a support system of caregivers is already in place and either partner is capable of all of the necessary tasks.
During our parental odyssey, we have both encountered countless new moms who are filled with resentment towards their husbands for the enormous work parenting involves and the profoundly unequal way it is typically divided—in part because men frequently don’t want to take on the tedious role of staying home all day, caring for their children. We also encounter (though less often) men who resent their wives for getting to stay home all day while they work long hours to provide for their families. Resentment is extremely destructive for a marriage. It’s incompatible with empathy, an essential ingredient of healthy communication, dual-parenting, a mutually fulfilling sex-life, and a good marriage. For our family, ESP has been the path that has allowed us to both become complete, satisfied, well-rounded people. It’s also the best method we’ve found for replacing resentment with understanding, gratitude, and respect.