Shared Care: A Model Whose Time Has Come?
When both parents have flexible work arrangements, allowing them to share in the care of their children, there are benefits that go way beyond the importance of covering the daily hours of child-related responsibilities, according to Jessica DeGroot, founder and president of the ThirdPath Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps people redesign their worklife to create more time for family and community.

“Shared care means both parents flex their jobs so that they are the primary caretakers of children while remaining actively engaged with work,” says DeGroot. Shared-care arrangements can take a lot of different forms, but the key principle is that the parents’ work schedules are redesigned around the needs of the family.

Through thousands of interviews with shared-care families, DeGroot has confirmed that these arrangements have important practical advantages – such as the financial savings of not paying for full-time childcare – but she finds that the real gains come in other, less tangible forms.

“First, there’s the peace of mind that families get from knowing their children are being nurtured as only a parent can,” DeGroot says. “Plus, together, parents develop a larger, more flexible set of tools for what pleases, interests and works smoothly with their child.”

Shared-care benefits the adults as well, according to DeGroot. “Many couples feel that sharing the various aspects of parenting improves their communication and brings them closer as a couple.

DeGroot has seen a steady rise in interest in shared-care arrangements as parents – tired and stretched thin – increasingly question the amount of time and energy they give to their jobs. She describes shared-care parents as pioneers: “We see people saying, ‘If I am willing to try something new, there are some really great ways to flex my job so I still have time for my life.’”

Get more information about The ThirdPath Institute.

More on Work & Family Balance: 

  • How to Negotiate a Parent-Friendly Work Schedule
  • Finding a Flexible Employer
  • Non-standard Work Schedules: The Options

    Sarah Bennett-Astesano is national associate editor for United Parenting Publications and the mother of two boys, ages 6 and 4. She works three-quarter time.

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