A recent article in Working Mother Magazine has unearthed a disturbing trend: Stay-at-Home Dads winning custody and child-support in divorce cases. According to the article, things are going badly for working moms because times are so good. Our culture, as expressed by the economy, is valuing women’s work more highly than ever. Recent layoffs have hit men in a disproportionate way. Women are now 50% of the workforce, poised to become the majority for the first time in history. To my mind this represents progress. It is also a sign of progress that men are taking greater part in household tasks and the raising of children.
The WMM author, however, wrings her hands over an increasing number of “heartbreaking stories of moms who have lost primary physical custody” on the web. Perhaps, but the agony of divorce is a zero sum game, we’re just distributing the suffering in a more equitable fashion. For every heartbroken mom, there is one less heartbroken dad.
We’ve all seen the recent coverage of returning service women suffering through divorce and loss of custody. It’s tragic, but so common among male soldiers that the “Dear John” letter has become a cliché of men serving in war. My heart goes out to soldier moms, or anyone locked in a custody battle, but the bottom line here is that primary caretakers are primary caretakers regardless of gender. Choice, as it pertains to breadwinning, is irrelevant. More women provide than ever. Congrats on that. More men caretake than ever. Sign of progress. Why is there surprise or anxiety over dads being awarded custody? Did we not see this coming? New opportunities have costs.
I’m particularly disturbed by some of the cultural stereotypes directed at the caregiving dads. “I begged him to get a job,” one of the article’s moms claims in court, as evidence for her fitness to be the custodial parent. Huh? So she can have an advantage in divorce court? What exactly, does that mean? Primary caretaking man, throw whatever emasculating stereotype you like at him, gets primary custody.
To their credit, WMM does attempt to see the situation from a father’s point of view with a side bar from Philip Lerman, but, perhaps understandably, the clear message is that the news for working mothers is very bad.
This is not bad news, nor a “code red” situation as the article suggests. It’s a sign of progress. For women it is very literally the price of doing business.
Welcome to the sexual revolution, Part Deux.