Dilbert, the Vachons and My Next Idea

I had coffee with my friend Katie Malinski, a parenting coach and therapist, and she told me a story about Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. He said that he got emails all the time from people who said “Man, I had that idea! A cartoon about a nerd and the odd quirks of corporate life!” Scott Adams response was something like “Well, after you have the idea, you kind of have to do the work.”

Scott Adams is talking to me when he says that.

I have ideas all the time but mostly I just tell them to my friend Katie. I’m writing on this blog now, but I’ve only told six people about it, which is kind of like wearing a rain coat in the shower. I’ve been telling her for years that a family with Mom and Dad both working 40 hours a week doesn’t make sense. The whole family used to work 40 hours and now they work 80 hours? How do you spend time with the kids beyond meals and sleeping and how do you keep up with a house?

30 hours. That was my answer. It should be a common and accepted practice for people to choose between a 30 hour and 40 hour work week, with reduced pay for the 30 hours. Then, when a family has young kids, Mom and Dad can make it all work.

So, I am glad to see that Amy and Marc Vachon have done more than just tell their girlfriend about their idea. They have lived their idea for many years, with Amy and Marc working 32 hours a week. Then they wrote a book and started a blog. Now they are experts on Equally Shared Parenting. Their idea is more than the reduced work week for both Mom and Dad, it is also about equal sharing of the work at home.

I’m glad the Vachons have done the work. I’m glad they were written up in the New York Times and appeared on The Today Show. I think it is a powerful idea and it is something that would work for a lot of families. I’m working part-time now and I love it. I spend part of my day using my grown-up brain and have a lot of my day just for the kids. I like our trips to the park and the museum and I like that they aren’t in day care for nine hours every day.

It is harder for the Dads. I think it is harder for them to make the case to their boss for a part-time week and still be considered an A-player and committed to the company.

I think it is harder still for women to let go. To let the men really, really own the parenting just as much. To let them do it differently. To not assume, because their fathers didn’t do it or men don’t usually do it, that they can’t. The same that we want men to not assume we can’t be CEOs or Presidents.

With books like the Vachon’s and more people asking about it and trying it out, hopefully it will be more common in the future, for companies to support the option, for Dads being willing to take it on and for Moms being willing to letting it happen.

And about those ideas – I’m going to do the work for one of them, I just haven’t figured out which one yet. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.


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