Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Halving It All: How Equally Shared Parenting Works

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Halving It All: How Equally Shared Parenting Works

Article excerpt

DEUTSCH, Francine M., HALVING IT ALL: How Equally Shared Parenting Works. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999, 317 pp., $14.95 softcover.

Reviewed by: ANN M. MEIER

Having it All provides unique insight into the lives of families in which parenting is shared equally between husbands and wives. After documenting the evidence that wives do the lion's share of childcare even when they work outside of the home, Deutsch introduces family after family who are exceptions to this phenomenon.

The aim of this book is to help us understand how equally shared parenting works in a culture where it is not the norm. To achieve this goal, Deutsch uses in-depth interviews to examine three groups: equal sharers, unequal sharers and alternating shift couples. The book focuses on the distribution of parenting, apart from other household tasks such as cleaning or home repair. In each group, parenting is worked out within the constraints of work, ideology, social context and identity and, in turn, parenting affects each of these domains.

The book focuses on the equal sharing group and discovers much heterogeneity among these families. For example, some couples share equally because of parenting principles held long before having children. Others become equal sharers because of job circumstances and have no strongly held values regarding the equal division of parenting. Another way that equal sharers differ from one another is in their commitment to maintaining equality in parenting. Some families have a strong commitment to sharing this responsibility, while others have future plans for one spouse to assume a greater parenting role while the other becomes the primary breadwinner. Similarly, some couples that currently share equally have always done so, while others assumed traditional gender roles for the first few years of their child's life and only later came to split parenting evenly. Finally, equal sharers differ in how they divide the work of parenting. Some equal sharers divide tasks so that each parent is always responsible for certain tasks (e.g. mom always picks the kids up from school and dad always makes breakfast). Other equal sharers trade off at all tasks (e.g. mom picks up the kids from school half of the time and fixes breakfast half of the time while dad is responsible for the other half of each of these tasks). …

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