one family's yearlong dare to live their dreams

Tips for a balanced life from Marc & Amy Vachon

I spoke with Amy and Marc Vachon, authors of the Equally Shared Parenting book and blog, about a way of life that has made my family’s year of living adventurously possible. Marc and Amy’s work is pitched to parents, but their ideas apply equally well to any life partners who want to bring more joy and balance into their lives. Call it equally shared living.

What is equally shared parenting?

Amy: Equally shared parenting is a term that clinical psychologist Francine Deutsch out of Mount Holyoke coined as the best way to describe this thing. The thing is a lifestyle for a couple with children that builds on an equal partnership [to give] both partners…a chance at a balanced life. And so that means that they share in the four different domains of their lives together. They share equally in their importance as breadwinners in the family. They also share in the housework. They share in raising their children to the equivalent depth and approximate time spent. And then they each have approximately the same amount of time to have fun, individual lives.

Why do it?

Marc: We both want to spend time with the kids. We’re not trying to avoid them and push them off on somebody else. We both want to maintain our careers. We don’t want to avoid having to go to work. We want to embrace that as a part of who we are, and just have it fit into our life as opposed to be an all-encompassing endeavor. And same with recreation and taking care of the home.

What are the challenges?

Marc: I think it takes a leap of faith. Society is set up in a way to reaffirm the male’s role as the primary or sole breadwinner. Yes, women have come into the workforce in much larger numbers. But to totally embrace this model may call into question some of the long-held beliefs that we all grew up with, which is the man is in charge of bringing in the paycheck. To risk that in any way, I think is scary for a lot of people. It takes some courage.

Amy: Same thing on the woman’s side. I think the depth to which a woman has to let go of her society’s definition of motherhood is under appreciated. We often say on the surface, “Oh, I love when my husband helps around the house. I don’t mind if he doesn’t quite fold the towels the way I do.” But that’s just the beginning of what you have to let go. You really have to believe in the depths of your heart that your husband or your spouse or your partner or whoever is as equally capable of coming up with the best way to do anything as you are. That’s hard stuff.

Tips from Amy & Marc on starting an equally shared life

  • Get on the same page with your partner; agree that you both want to do it.
  • Start slowly.
  • Ask yourself what you want more of in your life, and what you want less of.
  • Ask you and your partner what you want out of your relationship.

Tips for keeping it going

  • Enjoy each domain of your life equally (parenting, career, housework, and recreation).
  • Don’t save the good stuff for later; have it all now—time for fun, time to work, time with loved ones.
  • Pursue meaning for yourself both in and out of the home.
  • Accept imperfection as the nature of life.
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