In my ideal world, mothers, rich and poor, will be able to take at least the first year of their child's life off of work. Affluent mothers will have their professional jobs held for them. Lower income mothers will receive state support.
At the end of the first year, it will be dad's turn. The transition will be marked with a rite of passage. There will be a party at the office; that night, the dad's buddies will throw him a celebration that very much resembles a bachelor's party. Beer and liquor will flow, joints will be smoked, and ribald jokes will be told.
The next morning, Dad will wake up to a new life. His partner will go back to work and he will be alone with the baby. His life will be hard at first; no utopia can ease the passage to full-time parenthood. He'll struggle with juggling a hundred tasks and losing time for himself. He'll start out as an incompetent slob, like most new parents, but he will learn.
In this utopia, he won't be lonely. The playgrounds will have at least as many dads as moms. Their will be playgroups, support groups, and places for him to go if he really needs help. Relatives will provide what support they can, and no one will give him a hard time: In fact, the stage of his caregiving will be validated and valorized.
In this egalitarian utopia, parents might still sort themselves according to gender. Some moms will prefer to hang with moms, some dads will want male company, but there will also be mixed-gender groups of parents who aren't that hung up on sexual differences--groups that will almost certainly include many gay and lesbian parents. There will be flirting: sex and sexual difference will not disappear, only inequality based on differences. People will just have to deal with it.
At the same time, Mom will also get the support she needs as new breadwinner. She'll be welcomed back to the office with a reverse rite of passage, and there will be procedures in place to help her get up to speed. Just as her partner is struggling with his new role, she will probably struggle with feelings of guilt and separation. Her need for flexibility will be informally understood by colleagues and formally supported by a combination of workplace and government policy. Violations will occur, but in this utopia, the state will be on the side of parents, not employers.
This will be equally true for men: policies will be gender neutral and defined by an understanding that both parents will serve as caregivers at some point, and the working parent ought to make time for children and provide support to partners who are currently caregiving. Of course, many couples will prefer to split paid work and childcare fifty-fifty from the beginning. Others will prefer more traditional and reverse-traditional arrangements where one parent specializes, especially when they have more than one child. Choice and negotiation will define a world where the division of labor is not gendered.
No utopia can guarantee a happy partnership. Some relationships will decline and dissolve. But in this world, fathers will rarely abandon their children, because they will have developed a deep attachment during the year or two in which they served as primary caregivers. Mothers will not be condemned to poverty by divorce. In a context of gender equality, the post-divorce couple will be able to build new, cooperative relationship as co-parents. New families will form, and be understood as a kind of extended family.
Girls will be raised to one day serve as breadwinners as well as caregivers. Boys will be psychologically and practically prepared to one day take care of children. Even so, individual preferences and proclivities will emerge. As these girls and boys grow up and start dating and contemplate parenthood, the division of labor will be negotiated, not imposed.
What do you think? Would you want to live in this world?