Men Who Parent vs. Women Who Parent

July 9, 2013

Even though the majority of children end up in their mother’s care after a divorce, some do end up in the care of their father. As Susan Chira says, “It is important to remember that most mothers still get custody of children…yet reviews of custody cases have shown that when fathers fight for custody, they often win” (173). The court system, and society at large, still have negative feelings towards single mothers. 

Even with child support and alimony payments, most women find that they must work to support their families. There are two double standards at play here. The first is the fact that if a woman works while married, she is boosting the family’s standard of living alongside her husband, but after divorce she is now a terrible mother who does not put her children before her job. The second is that single fathers who perform a balancing act between work and family people see as heroic, while his female mirror image is demonized.

In A Mother’s Place, Chira recounts the story of a woman who had to work two evening shifts a week to make ends meet. She left her young son with her former in-laws those two nights. Her ex-husband worked third shift every night, and also left their son with his parents. He sued for custody and won, because “it was in [the child’s] best interest…because his mother is now working nights” (174). She recounts another story in a similar vein, where the ex-husband won custody because his new wife would be able to provide appropriate child care (176). He would not actually be taking care of the children, mind you, but his new domestic servant wife.

And so, women continue to be placed in a position where they are force to choose between their children or being able to provide for their children. These fathers are not necessarily being selfish, one would hope they want custody because they want to spend more time with their children. Yet they cannot see that their position as traditional bread winners provides the privilege to be able to work and be parents, all at the same time. If only they could see that women also need this privilege.

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