This blog post was guest written by Jessica Pratezina, MA, PhD Student at the University of Victoria. This article discusses the struggle to share housework and childcare equally and fairly and how there is a current lack of tools for family support practitioners to help heterosexual couples work towards a more equal relationship.
After my baby was born in the summer of 2021, my husband and I took him to the doctor for his 48-hour check-up. The doctor came in and introduced himself to me and to the baby. “And don’t forget the baby’s father,” I chimed in. “Oh right!” said the doctor with a laugh. Then turning to my husband, he jokingly said, “You’re the least important person in the room!”
This is just one small example of how dads are left out of important conversations about parenting. From community drop-ins to prenatal programs, the message that is often communicated is that the mother is the primary parent while dads jump in and “help out.” This leaves moms feeling overburdened with responsibilities, and dads struggling to know how to jump in and be the kind of parent they want to be.
More than ever before, Canadian mother-father couples are talking about wanting to share housework and childcare equally. Yet being equal partners is still a dream for most couples. Even though many fathers want to contribute more to direct care, mothers still end up doing much more. For most moms and dads, achieving an equal balance in family life is hard. This leads to moms feeling burnt-out and struggling to meet their own needs, while dads often feel disappointed that they have not found ways to be equal parents. Many of us find ourselves enacting the roles we saw our own parents fill, unsure how to make a change.
There aren’t a lot of supports for couples who want to do things differently and work towards a more equal relationship. Family support practitioners, too, don’t have many tools to recommend. I know from my own experience working with families that couples can have the same arguments about “who does what around the house” repeatedly and feel like they aren’t making progress.
That’s why I’m part of a team of researchers at the University of Victoria working on gender equality in mom-dad families. Along with Families Canada, we’ve created the podcast It’s About Time! This three-part mini-series features interviews with real couples who made a change towards equality. It offers practical, research-based advice to support parents and professionals working with families. We share practical insights from up-to-date research to guide parents and family support practitioners towards creating more gender equality. I also know how difficult it’s been for practitioners of all kinds to find effective and engaging ways to work with families online. I hope that a podcast like this can be an exciting new tool to incorporate into practice.
On November 14, 2022, at 1:00pm Eastern Time, I’ll be offering a one-hour workshop about gender equality that presents the most recent research on gender equality in the home and practical solutions to working with couples. The workshop will also present stories of real Canadian couples who improved equality in their relationship. You can sign up to the workshop here. I hope to see many of you there!
Contributor: Jessica Pratezina, MA, PhD Student, University of Victoria