Equity + Home x Balance = Half the Work, All the Fun

June 18, 2010

The expression “hands-off dad” is not a term in my husband’s vocabulary. Since the birth of our son, Noah, three years ago, my husband has served as the primary breadwinner, yet he requires no prompting when Noah needs a playmate, the house needs to be cleaned, or groceries need to be shopped for. Equal parenting gurus Amy and Marc Vachon would be quite proud.

The married couple and parents have coined the term “ESP,” otherwise known as equally shared parenting. They strive for clarity and an equitable division of labor among couples raising families. Beyond the division of domestic tasks, Amy and Marc also work equal hours, spend equal time with the children, and take equal responsibility for the home. Although I was a stay-at-home mom until our son turned two, when I went back to school and work, my husband and I divided duties equally without ever having a discussion; it was instinctual.

We began practicing ESP techniques long before I knew of the Vachons, but they are capitalizing off what should be widespread behaviors. However, what should be a common practice is not, because our society does not reflect equality when it comes to division of labor within families. Although women make up 50 percent of the workforce, we are still expected to not only work hard but also run the households and the PTA. Within The Shriver Report, a recent study of working women in America, Heather Boushey stated, “Most women today are providing for their families by working outside the home — and still earning less than men — while providing more than their fair share of care giving responsibilities at home.”

According to a recent article in the New York Times titled “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All,” 85 percent of Swedish men take parental leave to care for their families versus only 23 percent of American men. I cannot even imagine the plight of single custodial fathers left to make up the responsibility of two parents. Here in America we tout our progressive culture yet, if our culture serves as a mirror to society, what is our mirror reflecting?

Even with legislation such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, America is one of the lowest-ranking developed nations in terms of parental leave. Knowing that my husband’s multi-week vacation proposal to stay home with our son was met with raised eyebrows from his employer is a prime example of why our culture is stagnant in areas of paternal involvement. My friends and co-workers have echoed that sentiment. Why is a work-life balance and active paternal involvement still not the cultural norm? Equally shared parenting is tough in any aspects, but especially within American culture.

In my husband’s own words, “The best gift for father’s day is time well spent with family.” It would be nice if the gift could keep on giving throughout the year.

This post is by AAUW fellow Maureen Evans Arthurs.

Avatar By:   |   June 18, 2010


  1. Avatar Maureen Evans Arthurs says:

    Hi Amy,

    I am so honored that you read and commented on my blog! Let me start off by saying that you and your husband do amazing work! In no way did I mean for ‘capitalizing’ to take on a negative connotation. I was simply stating that you and your husband, through books, talks and the like are exemplifying as well as profiting from something that really should be a widespread paradigm within our country. I am delighted that both of you are not only passionate about balance within your own lives but helping other couples achieve the same. Essentially, what I meant is that in 2010, ESP shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion. Yet, it still is due to a myriad of issues such as cultural bias, corporate restrictions and women (and men) failing to see that they have options to have a balance in which everyone wins. Keep up the great work and I’ll be sure to keep spreading it!


  2. Avatar Amy Vachon says:

    Thanks for a great post! It makes us smile to know you and your husband have found yourselves in an ESP relationship, and we hope it is bringing you both joy. We ARE proud!

    Marc and I may have coined the term ‘ESP’ (although we’ll give the true credit to Francine Deutsch at Mt Holyoke College), but I will good-naturedly object to the idea that we’re “capitalizing” from the concept. We decided to speak up about how a couple might create a life of equal partnership and balance for both partners simply because no one else was doing so amidst continuous complaints in the media about the miseries of motherhood. It is time for solutions, not complaints or blaming men, and after much internal debate and handwringing we finally felt we had to put our voices out there.

    Our goal is to help others create ESP lives if they wish to do so, with the secondary goal of connecting couples who already live this way; opportunistic fame or fortune is not part of our equation (and rather contrary to the ESP way of life, I might add). This stuff was just too important for us to stay silent!

    And lest you think we doth protest too much (:-)), I’ll close by saying thank you, again, for spreading the word!

    Amy (and Marc) Vachon

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