Question 12
Who will take care of the children?

Default answer:  Their mother.  The question of whether the relationship
will produce or adopt any children would logically come before
any discussion of who will take care of them,
but deciding who will take care of any children
might help in deciding whether or not to have any children.
(And if you decide to have children, how many and when?)

     The law and tradition assign full responsibility for child-care to their mother.
And since having children was the assumed purpose of marriage,
many laws are designed to protect women as mothers.
Many court decisions from the past began by explicitly stating
that the purpose of marriage is procreation.
The wife stays home and takes care of the children.
The husband works in the outside world and pays for everything.

Creative answers:  If you already have children in your household,
you know from experience how to handle child-care responsibilities.
If you want to change your current pattern of child-rearing
or if you want a different pattern for future children,
you should discuss it before adding more children to your family.

     If you decide to raise children together
—whether children you will biologically produce or whom you will adopt—
you should discuss how you are going to handle this deep responsibility.
It might be more important than any other Question in your contract.

     Parenthood is a decision that will have more comprehensive implications
than almost any other decision you can make.
No other commitment will be as long-lasting or time-consuming:
Your relationships and jobs might change several times
during the years in which your children are growing up.
You might move to new locations—either together or separately.
You might leave or join religious or other groups.
You might even change the fundamental purposes of your lives.
But during those two decades or more, your children will always be there.

     Child-rearing is a very demanding responsibility to undertake.
Once you start raising children together,
it is almost impossible to change that dimension of your lives.
You will be parents, whether you like it or not.
Parenthood is a 24-hour-per-day responsibility, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year,
for 18 or 20 years—or more if you have more than one child.

Question 12:         WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF THE CHILDREN?         by James Park         69

     Most contemporary marriages begin with vague notions of shared parenting,
but unless you set out specific principles for this sharing,
your family will probably look like most traditional families,
with the mother having full-time responsibility for your children,
sometimes helped by the father.
(If he helps her with the children, it is assumed to be her task.)

     But your relationship contract might assign
primary child-care responsibility to the father.
This might happen if the wife has a more time-consuming outside job,
which allows her less flexibility to be available for child-care.
Or perhaps the father is better prepared
psychologically and professionally to take care of the children.

     Such 'role-reversal' might also happen
when (as a practical matter) the mother can get a job and the father cannot.
When one of you is not employed as much as the other,
it seems reasonable for the less-employed partner
to spend more time and energy taking care of your children.

     Because of the presupposition that mothers are better at child-rearing,
if you do not begin with this assumption, you should write down in advance
(before any children are conceived or adopted)
just how you will divide your child-care responsibilities.

     You might also benefit from taking care of other people's children,
to see how the two of you work together with actual babies and other kids.
Even brief experiences might show that the man is better at child-care. 
How much patience does each of you have in dealing with children?

     If you cannot agree about child-care in the abstract,
perhaps you should postpone parenthood
until you can create an agreement you both find satisfactory.
If before you become parents, you put such agreements into writing,
you will be more careful about the number and spacing of your children.

     First you should ask how many hours each week each child requires.
If both of you plan to work outside the home,
you will have to find child-care for those days each week.
Who will stay home to care for the new baby?
How soon will it be practical to put the baby into day-care?
How will the additional expenses be handled?
Will having (additional) children require a change of housing?

Above you have the first two pages of Question 12 from Designer Marriage.
The next 2 pages explore other dimensions of caring for children.

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Designer Marriage: Write Your Own Relationship Contract

Created April 5, 2009; Revised

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