Shared Parenting: A Coaching Conversation

I was honoured to be included as one of the lead names on a consultation peper in a series of Coaching Conversations normally focused on organisation development or business coaching topics.

This edition was about the benefits of shared parenting and touched upon issues like gender equality, smart working and the power of positive parenting to deliver balance at home and at work.

My co-collaborators included business coaches, psychologists, social services experts and leading thinkers in the social sciences. The involvement of such an eclectic mix reveals, for me, how work and home lives are so often interwoven and how there are many crossover skills that therapists, counselors and, indded, parents transfer between those realms.

The converstaion was published as an article on the business social networking platform Linkedin and was curated by author, brand and change expert Ian Buckingham.

Here’s an exclusive preview of the piece:

Shared Parenting

A leadership coach should approach every client relationship on its merits; as a unique set of circumstances. Yet patterns in the collective conversations become apparent over time.

One trend I’ve observed is that leaders, regardless of gender, are becoming increasingly time poor yet conscious of the need to share the parenting of their children and demands of home.

It is causing a great deal of unnecessary stress, energy that could be more constructively deployed.

The ratio of senior men to women seems to be gradually equalising, as it should and awareness of the importance of inclusion is becoming the norm. That does mean that the work/life balance discussion is more prevalent. Yet this still doesn’t appear to be translating into widespread consideration for parenting, a conversation still strewn with sharp and painful stones of stereotypes at home and at work.

This, the latest coaching conversation, explores the relationship between work and home life, especially family life and the ways in which people are being forced to adapt to maintain some form of equilibrium.*

It was clearly important that I was joined in this “chat” by a diverse group of professionals who are also fathers, mothers and grandparents in intact and unnecessarily broken families. Along with business coaches we were delighted to be accompanied by child welfare specialists, psychologists and paralegals in my network who brought very different and challenging perspectives.

Once again, the format remained the same:

–         Each participant chose a killer question for their peers to answer

–         Every participant then answered the group questions without consultation

The answers are hard-hitting, sometimes posing perspectives from polar extremes. But they clearly reflect the often unspoken trouble individuals are experiencing adapting to the pressures and contradictions of modern life.

Question1: What is the one attitude change that would most positively impact men taking parental leave at the same rates as women?

It will come from the top. We need more thoughtful leaders who really do care about the next generations.

We need people to lead by example: seeing fathers as equal caregivers They patently aren’t respected in the same way in marriage or relationship breakdown.

End the misogyny. The idea that child rearing is a “woman’s job” and men assuming tasks and responsibilities that have been traditionally assigned, solely by gender. to women.

I think the same attitude shift as with women. Mothers and fathers can be more productive and effective as employees when they are more fulfilled in the whole of their life – when they are able to combine being the parent they want to be with the career they want. This shift is needed in society, by employers and parents themselves.

Shifts in attitudes can be difficult. Sometimes a lead in evidence backed policy change can promote an attitudinal shift.

Lose the sexism at home and at work. Mothers need to recognise fathers as equal parents and not cash machines. Dads need to step up and do even more in the house as it seems that still not enough are doing so (although I do wonder about whether this isn’t a lot of moaning/victimhood and doesn’t take the full picture into account). We are not the stereotypes we inherited from our grandparents. The world has changed whatever some Baby Boomers may claim.

Combat the blatant misandry that is masquerading as feminism right now and afford the same parental leave rights to men as women at work. Also enshrine shared parenting rights and caring and financial responsibilities in law and take strong action against those who don’t comply. Something like 90% of so-called single parent families are female in the UK. Almost the entire population equivalent of Wales and Scotland are deliberately estranged from at least one child in their family by a malicious parent. Few people realise this. How can that be right or ethical?

Seems children are a means to family assets for the unscrupulous and it’s now become a norm. Most of my work colleagues, especially the educated, so-called “empowered” ones have deiberately pushed the fathers from their children’s lives after milking their assets and this is silently accepted. It’s become a “career” choice for some.

Celebrating shared parenting as the sign of a well-rounded and valuable employee, with an enlightened line manager – rather than treating it as an inconvenience or privilege and the act of someone not serious about their career.

Question 2: Intact families share parenting and many parents manage to have successful and fulfilling careers across demographics. Yet in family breakdown (more than 30% now) this appears to falter with mothers in the UK and US especially usually assuming control over the children and family assets. What can be done to remediate this in law and in our culture to make this work and what changes would you like to see to support this?

I agree it has gone the way of Mums in the past. It was hard for me bringing up a child on my own with no monetary or physical support from my ex. Despite this I remain friends with him today, for the sake of my now, grown up, son. I made sure my son realised that both parents must be involved and he’s a really wonderful Dad. I’m not sure if you legislate for the cultural change that is required in the UK – but I think it is naturally happening, sowly.

Equal division of assets 50/50 and shared care as a legal responsibility not some sort of privilege for a few who try their best, only to see their love used as a weapon to hurt them by some spiteful piece of work.

All the evidence indicates the active involvement of two good-enough, loving parents is best for children – whether they live together or apart. A rebuttable presumption of shared parenting post separation would be a good starting point to support this active involvement.

The active inclusion, consultation and involvement of those with parental responsibility should be encouraged at all times, with policies for this required of all education, health, social care and family service providers.

This has been going on since the 80s when “single parenting” was re-invented by left wing ideology as “heroic” and men lambasted as deadbeat deserters etc. The truth is very different. It’s become a career and an industry and most people ignore it until it comes to their family as it does in 1 in 3 marriages. The people who alienate the other parent and abuse their children as a result must be outed and shamed.

Seek help that will actively develop emotional intelligence in children and teach them how to give and receive feedback with sensitivity so that, if they are involved in family breakdown as an adult, they are able to separate the emotion of a relationship trauma from the functional responsibilities of shared parenting.

Why do you think our kids are so unhappy in the UK and US. Something like 90% of school “shooters” in the US come from fatherless homes. Yet in Scandinavia where parents share, kids go to school later and there are fewer “targets”, especially in Finland where men do slightly more child care…..they’re happiest. There has to be a correlation.

It’s blatant and horrible sexism and it allows certain “parents” to have children and use them to leverage family assets and avoid work, like it’s a career in its own right. The law has to have teeth. Parents face more punitive measures for late library books or kids skipping school than parental alienation and abuse attracts.

I think there is an inherent bias that one gender is/would be the better parent. Didn’t we have this same issue about leadership at work? It’s stereotypical nonsense. Objective evaluation, education, support and an affordable legal system are key. This is not an either/or debate, equality at work and at home must be a legal obligation.

………to read the rest of this article follow the link to the professional social media site Linkedin.

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