The Equalizer

The Equalizer describes the working mother who is very career involved and has a partner who shares equally in childcare to enable flexibility. Of women responding to the PRIMARY DILEMMA™ research, 21% were Equalizers.  This person has the opportunity to be a primary career and a primary parent, just not at the same time. Careful coordination with a highly involved and accountable partner is required to support this profile.  The following stories of Carolyn and Sofia demonstrate the strategies of two Equalizer moms in managing career and family.

Carolyn (Human Resources): “When our daughter was born I was surprised by the level of involvement that my husband wanted to have in raising her. He wanted to participate in feeding, bathing, daycare drop-off and pick-up. So we share in caring for her.  Pretty much 50/50.  He has enabled me to maintain my work with the peace of mind that our daughter is always in good care.  If my husband weren’t an equal parenting partner, I don’t know if I would work because we wouldn’t be able to have the childcare situation that we have now.

Sofia (Brand Manager): “My husband and I met in school. We waited to have kids, so our careers were both in progress when our son was born. I always expected that we would share parenting duty – even before we had kids. We each work relatively close to home, so sharing in childcare works pretty well. I do most of the daycare drop-off and pick-up because daycare is on-site at my office. But my husband does it when I travel. If I have to work late, he can usually be on duty. His parents are also really involved which helps. Neither of us cooks during the week. It is almost always take-out…which is kind of bad. We now have 3 kids. It is a little crazy. But we work through it.”

Carolyn and Sofia are both Equalizers but their initial expectations of their partners were very different. Carolyn had assumed that her husband would have limited involvement in daily parenting. Sofia had expected her husband to be involved from the very beginning. This highlights the importance of communication in any relationship but especially for the Equalizer.

Each woman is comfortable sharing responsibility for childcare and housework.  Know your core identity and let go of non-essential responsibilities.  In her book, Halving It All, Francine Deutsch does a wonderful job of advising on equally shared parenting.  She outlines a variety of approaches that can be used by the Equalizer.  Whatever formula works for you is a good one.

Work: Figure out what enables you to balance work and family, and try to maintain it. Have open communication with your partner about what would happen if the balance shifted. What would happen if he or YOU “got the big promotion”. Would you be able to maintain your current plan?  How would you handle longer hours, a longer commute or a move?  What would happen if you had another child?  Would things change?  As an Equalizer, you can be very devoted to work.  If you are investing actively in building your career, make sure that you are not mommy-tracked.  Mommy-track labeling happens quietly, especially to women with young children, and can derail careers.  Declare your career intentions.  Click here for more information on work in the resource section.

Childcare: As an Equalizer, you have to have reliable and predictable childcare so that you can coordinate with your partner. Your childcare does not have to be as bulletproof as the Workable. Daycare or after-school care is a more feasible option for the Equalizer.  You or your partner will typically be available for morning drop-off, evening pick-up or the care of a sick child. Click here for more specific information on childcare in the resource section.

Relationship: Communicate! You and your partner have a good thing going!  Pay attention to fairness.  Say “thank you”.  Use process to help you with logistics.  Click here for a planning tool.  Take care of each other. The risk in an equal partnership is that logistics could eat you both alive and there would be no energy left for your relationship.  Because you are in the mode of divide and conquer, you may not spend a lot of time together. Make time!  Click here for more specific information on managing your relationship in the resource section.

You: Build time for yourself into the logistics! Your brain is processing work and family at full speed. Make time for downtime like exercise or an after work date with friends (a huge luxury), etc.  And give this same gift of downtime to your partner. When was the last time that you sat still to read a book for pleasure?  Downtime is helpful for managing stress.  And as we all know, stress comes with the territory for working moms. 

Ask yourself the following key questions on a regular basis:

  • What are my goals and am I on track to achieve them in some form?

  • Do I feel empowered with choices to achieve my goals?

The answers to these questions should be “yes”.  But “getting to yes” is not always easy.  Think about your answers based on the contentment map.  The PRIMARY DILEMMA™ is about minimizing discontent and finding greater satisfaction in your situation.  Recognize that you have choices to change your world.  Click here for resources on caring for you.

Method Facts:

“In 2008, men who say their wives or partners take the most responsibility for child care are no longer the majority (48% in 2008 compared with 58% in 1992). The nearly half of employed men (49%) who now say they take most or an equal share of child care responsibilities is up from 41% in 1992” Galinsky, E., Aumann, K., & Bond, J. (2008).