Our society puts much of the burden of parenting on mothers. Father’s typically spend less time with children and are less involved with house chores. True equality in parenting is not widespread. That, however, is changing, with many fathers embracing what has become known as “co-parenting”. According to an article in The National News, co-parenting has become an increasingly popular way to parent children.
The article was written by Tristan Hills-Bos, who describes himself as a “working dad”. Hills-Bos and his wife decided that they wanted to raise their children in a more equal way, with responsibilities truly split 50-50. What makes this even more remarkable is that they do not have a nanny to help them. Hills-Bos was essentially agreeing to extend his role beyond the traditional confines of fatherhood.
When Hills-Bos and others describe such an arrangement as “co-parenting”, it can sound as if two distinct entities have come to a parenting agreement and that their relationship is purely transactional. The term has a whiff of diovorce about it. Yet, this arrangement is founded on love, not a desire for separation, and it is about introducing fairness into parenting, rather than leaving the mother with responsibilities that her partner would not think to do. This model has precedence in places like Finland, where fathers are expected to take an active part in rearing their children, and where the state grants fathers the same right of paternity leave so they can go and look after their children. To many people, this sounds incredibly radical: a father going on leave to look after his child, even though the child’s mother also parents that child. Yet, equality in parenting has enormous benefits, not only to mothers, but to the children who get to have their fathers more involved in their lives.
The term co-parenting exists because for many people, “parenting” is a largely maternal activity. Mothers are typically the primary caregivers in the home. Although there are things that women can do that men cannot, such as breastfeeding, and taking extended leave to parent the child. Millennia of social norms reinforce the tendency for the burden to fall largely on the shoulders of mothers.
In Hills-Bos’ case, his wife told him what her expectations were and he agreed. He admits that were it not for her frankness, he would not have drifted toward a co-parenting model, especially because hsi job is so demanding. To live up to his end of the deal, Hills-Bos left his job and now works from home as an independent advisor, columnist and entrepreneur. Of course, not everyone can take the route he took.
Hills Bos says it took him a year to truly become a co-parent to their child. He often did not know what he was doing, but persisted in offering to help and finding ways to get involved in their child’s upbringing. For fathers who want to embrace co-parenting, it isn’t easy, because millenia of social norms and instincts say that mothers must do most of the parenting. But if you preserve and keep at it, the rewards, as Hills-Bos shows, are immense. The sense of fulfillment and of being truly a part of bringing up your child, is just amazing. For more parenting tips, read more articles in the Atlanta Parent Magazine.