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Couple Alternate Roles : A Husband, Wife Who Share and Share Alike

February 07, 1986|GARY LIBMAN

His back hurt from bending over to wash dishes and change diapers.

The telephone solicitor didn't understand when he said he was the woman of the house.

He had to remind the teacher at the parent-child observation class, who kept telling the children to take their mother's hand, that a father was present.

He explained regularly when he took his sons to the bank that he wasn't baby-sitting for a day--that he was rearing them for a year.

There have been many frustrating moments for Domingo Torres-Rangel, 34, since he agreed to the request of his wife, Evelyn, that they teach alternate years at Wilson High School in El Sereno.

Saying yes meant that he stayed home in San Gabriel to care for Jason, 4, and Daniel, 2, while Evelyn taught computer science during the 1982 and 1984 academic years. The wavy-haired, 5-foot-7-inch educator taught the same subject while Evelyn tended the children in 1981, 1983 and the current academic year.

Sitting next to his wife on the couch and holding their dark-haired boys, Domingo Torres-Rangel explained what made the situation difficult.

"I hate for people to think that I'm a bum. And that I don't have a job," he said beneath a large wall hanging of an Aztec runner that dominates the living room.

" . . . I want them to know that I'm a college-educated person who has elected to do what I'm doing. . . . ," he said as Daniel, wearing diapers and a polo shirt, turned somersaults on the couch.

"I had to get over all this tradition that had been built up in me and finally say to myself, 'It's OK to be home.' I just felt like a lot of people were looking at me and snickering and saying, 'Oh boy, I'm glad my wife doesn't make me do that.' "

Domingo Torres-Rangel decided that staying with his children was important enough to sacrifice his salary, now $29,000, every other year until both children start school. In the alternate years Evelyn forfeits her $27,000 wage. He also postponed his 30-year retirement, which would have come at age 51, by several years.

New Ways to Work, a nonprofit San Francisco organization that promotes job sharing, and Catalyst, a nonprofit New York organization that seeks to increase women's career options, said that no reliable figures exist on the number of people sharing jobs nationally.

Job-Sharing Levels Off

Phyllis Silverman, a Ph.D. and senior program adviser for Catalyst, said it is her impression that the number of shared jobs in the corporate world has stabilized in recent years. She said Catalyst's 1984 survey of 384 corporations revealed almost the same number, 62, with shared jobs as a 1980 survey.

The latest New Ways to Work survey of job sharing among California teachers, conducted in 1982, showed that 37% of 1,042 districts used some form of job sharing. More than 1,500 teachers shared jobs, but most worked in small districts, unlike Los Angeles.

An associate personnel superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District said the Torres-Rangels are the only couple in the city dividing a full-time teaching job. The couple plan to continue the arrangement 3 1/2 more years, until Daniel reaches first grade.

They have survived by living in a house purchased in 1978 for $55,000 and by keeping their 1978 camper and 1976 station wagon.

"We could both be working and pulling in a pretty good salary," Domingo Torres-Rangel said. "And hiring a baby-sitter and making a tremendous profit.

" . . . But your kids learn 50% of what they learn from the ages of zero to 5. Our objective . . . is to try to have as much influence on them as possible."

Domingo Torres-Rangel might have anticipated his wife's request in 1978. Shortly before they married, Evelyn Torres asked if they could use both their last names.

"I couldn't talk for about an hour," he said. "It wasn't that I was angry. I was fearful about what my father would think.

"It attacked years and decades and centuries of culture. . . . I felt that if I did it, my dad would never speak to me and what would other people think?"

Nevertheless he agreed, partly because each family member would have the same last name. His 58-year-old father, also named Domingo, said nothing.

"We never went to any court," he said. "Like when a woman gets married, she just changes her name. That's what happened. We changed our name the day we got married."

Same Surname

Evelyn Torres-Rangel, 31, a 5-foot-4-inch woman with shoulder-length black hair, said she asked her husband to change his name so that the entire family would have the same surname.

"I didn't want to keep my maiden name and then when we had children, what do we name the kids?" said Evelyn, who, like her husband, wore blue jeans and a sweat shirt. "I didn't want us to have all different names. It just gets a little awkward.

"And I definitely didn't want to take on my husband's name. My sister once argued with me about that. She said when you get married, you're supposed to become one. I said 'Yes, but you're not supposed to become him.'

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