I confess I get a bad case of the adorables every time I see NBA All-Stars like 6’11 Chris Bosh on those #LeanInTogether ads lean allllllll the way down to play with his itty bitty knee-high kiddies. I’m a sucker for Must Do parents loving on their kids. 

So you know I really want to be a believer in the NBA’s recent endorsement of the #LeanInTogether campaign for gender equality. NBA and WNBA All Stars are shown cuddling their babies and reading to their kids and encouraging the efforts of the women in their lives at home and at work. Fifty-fifty parenting is the American ideal. 

Problem is that these pro-athletes have a Must Do profession.

Just like so many emergency personnel and military members and pilots and IT professionals, these folks must also cope with unpredictability at work, long hours, mega travel, and/or living apart from their families.

Research shows that professional athletes and their families, despite their wealth and access to unheard of privilege, also cope with physical exhaustion, predatory groupies, a culture of infidelity, and the constant presence of what can amount to an entourage. All of those factors have been cited in the estimated 60 to 80 percent divorce rate among professional athletes—significantly higher than the 50 percent divorce rate often cited for the rest of the country. One athlete's wife described it as trying to "create normal within an abnormal lifestyle."

#LeanInTogether Tips are good...

The #LeanInTogether campaign (part of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org) offers suggestions to bring about more gender equality in these families and in families across the country. Men are urged to come home and encourage the leadership efforts of their daughters, refrain from telling their sons to “man up,” and to encourage their spouses to apply for a stretch opportunity. They are reminded to commit to doing their share of daily chores without being asked (Yay!). These are all things that could benefit these athletes and our own Must Do partners.

If I were Sheryl Sandberg...

If I were Sheryl Sandberg, I would take it even farther with these folks-- just because, hey, Sheryl Sandberg!  Here is what I would add to bring gender equality to families coping with love, money, groupies and a Must Do profession.

 

1. Admit some jobs are harder on marriages than others—no matter who holds them.

Both men and women hold Must Do jobs that sometimes legitimately interfere with family life. Sometimes a talent or a gift or a calling or a demand of our society makes it OK for one family member to hold that job. At the same time, no job is an excuse to withdraw from the family. Commit to coming home as soon as you can and being fully present when you are there.

2. Endorse the So What? Rule

Research shows that marriages thrive on the consistency, routine, and ritual often shaped by steady jobs. Must Do professions don’t offer that kind of thing. So what? We can know the challenge and take it on anyway. So what if it is harder? So what if we have to learn to spend time apart? So what if we have to navigate a profession plagued by some kind of groupie? So what??? Figuring this out is better than the alternative. We can still commit to maxing out on the consistency, routine and ritual we can provide each other.

3. Maximum faithfulness.

Really? Do I need to say it? You can’t apply the So What? Rule to faithfulness. If you want to have a Must Do job and you want a family marked by trust and gender equality, go with maximum faithfulness. It’s easier. Sorry, groupies.

4. Declare two kinds of family time—away and at home.

Every family needs to establish standards for how to engage while the Must Do parent is away. Some folks hit the road and say they need to focus on the job. Others need to engage with the family at the right time of day, every day. When the Must Do parent is home, everyone needs routines and rituals that get them back in the swing of the family immediately. For these pro athletes it might mean declaring morning family time and not letting anyone outside the family in the house before 10 a.m. For your family it might mean the Must Do parent gives the last hug and kiss before bedtime. Figure out what brings the most security to your kids.

5. Praise everything you want to see again.

I don’t care how much money you make or how All-Star you really are. People repeat the things you notice and praise. So catch your Must Have or Must Do partner doing something you like and praise it again and again.

Gender equality is something we believe in at Must Have Parent.  We believe that whether you are a man or a woman, if you have a Must Do job and you are willing to do what it takes to be close to your family, you can make it all happen and you deserve a little buy-in from your family.

Maybe it is enough for these NBA and WNBA All Stars to endorse a good campaign like #LeanInTogether, but secretly I’m hoping they adopt the suggestions and get some of the peace that Must Have families can provide--because that is the kind of payout that really lasts for us all.