HALVING IT ALL by Francine M. Deutsch


How Equally Shared Parenting Works
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The cheerful pun of the title is one of the liveliest moments in a tangled scrutiny of mothers and fathers who share parenting equally. This study of dual-earner couples with children was funded by the National Science Foundation in order to explore if, in fact, it was possible for working women to split equally with their partners the notorious “second shift”—the responsibility for childcare and household chores that comes after a full day at work. Deutsch (Psychology/Mt. Holyoke Coll.) and her team initially interviewed 429 couples and ended up with 44 who met the criteria for parents who shared equally (50—50) or nearly equally (60—40), plus a group of couples who worked alternating shifts and a third group whose division of labor was unequal (75—25) with the burden usually falling on the mother. Most of the couples were white, educated, and middle class; the alternating shift group fell into the blue-collar category. The emphasis was not on who did the dishes or even on equal time with the children, but on whether the responsibility was truly divided. That includes the “mental work” of managing the routine, like keeping track of children’s schedules or noticing that baby needs new shoes. It will come as no surprise that Deutsch found breaking out of traditional gender roles was extremely difficult for her subjects. She tries to tease out the issues involved, including the demands of biology (breast feeding, for instance), men’s reluctance to take on a “feminine” role, women’s reluctance to give up the status of mother, the lack of role models. Jobs are a stumbling block. “Careers are [still] designed for men” who have wives at home to support them, says Deutsch. Equal parenting demands “family careers,” with shorter hours, more flexibility for family emergencies and plenty of compromise by both parents regarding ambition and direction. A motley profusion of anecdotes and quotes offers little support for the author’s lame if hopeful conclusion: “Why not equality?”

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-674-36800-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999


NonfictionCAPTAIN DAD by Pat Byrnes
by Pat Byrnes