It all started back in 2008, when Mrs. M. was surfing around on her computer and came across this website about Equally Shared Parenting (ESP for short). If you’ve never heard of the concept, it’s an old-yet-new idea where two parents raise their children together, spending an equal amount of time with them and splitting as many roles as possible evenly between both parents.
To sum it up, ESP is the opposite of the old 1950s “Executive Father” situation, where the Mum stays home with the children and does ALL of the work. She feeds and changes the babies, gets them to and from school, is the shoulder to cry on when they need help, and does all the housework and cooking. The father just comes home from work each night and says, “How are my little munchkins today!?”, gives them a goodnight kiss, and relaxes with his pipe and a Scotch and a newspaper or television for most of his evenings and weekends.
From a Manly perspective, I must admit this sounds pretty nice on the surface. The only problem is he’s not really raising his kids. The Dad in this example is just a household appliance, who brings home a paycheck and does some superficial bonding with them. The Mom is the parent, and the one who has the real emotional connection with her children.
For some couples, this still seems fine. There might be one person who has a naturally career-oriented mind and one who has an unstoppable nurturing instinct. And because of genetic or cultural conditioning, take your pick, these roles sometimes end up being played by the Dude and the Chick, respectively.
But for people with more curious minds and a taste for experiencing more out of life, Equally Shared Parenting is the exciting alternative. Now you are both Moms. And Dads. And as it turns out, that’s the way Mr. and Mrs. M had always assumed we would raise our kid(s), even before discovering this popular ESP website. Our own biggest reason for saving for an early retirement was that we knew we wanted to both be not just equally sharing parents, but equally sharing stay-at home parents. Even with no first-hand knowledge of child-raising, we knew it would be tough, and worth giving our best combined effort. And we looked forward to the privileged sneaky feeling of doing stuff together as a family for years to come while the rest of the world was at work. This triggered “The Talk“, as described in an earlier article.
So when Mrs. M. found the Equally Shared Parenting website a few years into our experiment, she was quite excited. An online conversation between Colorado and Massachusetts (where the authors live) ensued:
Mrs M: “Hey! I love your blog! We’re doing equally shared parenting too, and we love it!”
ESP: “Oh Hi! Glad to hear it. Would you like to share your own story with us?”
Mrs M: “Sure, (….typity typity type… ) here it is.”
ESP: “Wow, this is a really interesting one. Can we interview you for the book we’re writing right now?”
So the guy from this couple, named Marc, happened to be in the Boulder area a short time later, and he made a stop at our house. Having heard about our frugal early retirement in advance, he expected to be visiting some sort of shack on the edge of town and talking to a couple of people clad in clothing of cut-out potato sacks. But instead he found good ol’ Mr. and Mrs. Money Mustache, living a perfectly normal life, even a bit excessively nice compared to normal, made possible mainly by cutting waste. We talked about the joys of the combination of the ESP and MMM approaches late into the night, set him up in a guest room, and eventually appeared as example characters in the book called Equally Shared Parenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents.
This isn’t a parenting blog specifically, but I still thought it would be fun to share this little side story with you. Because becoming parents was the first catalyst for us realizing we wanted to be freed from mandatory work early on in our lives. Looking back, it was definitely the right choice, because the years of army-interrogation-level sleep deprivation that came with having a baby would have been hell on a person who wanted to be fully dedicated to their career, as we both did at the time. And even now, in the years of tree-climbing, creek-playing and messy-science-experiment-inventing, I am glad to be an Equal part of the action. It is more difficult than being an Executive Father, but I still highly recommend it!
Update: based on a wise reader’s comment below, I’d like to add this link, an anthem encouraging Wimpy Dads to realize what it means to become a Real One: