In an ideal world, Mommy and Daddy would love one another forever and together provide a warm, loving home for the children. But the real world is just that — real. Lives changes, relationships go awry, and the best of intentions sometimes fall through the floor. Mommy and Daddy split up. But who gets the kids?
In the past, this wouldn’t have been a question. Once upon a time, men owned everything, including the children. *Cough.* (I think we’ve moved past that, for the most part.) In our more recent past, the “tender years” doctrine held and kids went with their mothers, who were presumed to be the more nurturing parent. Now, things are flipping once again and more and more, fathers are getting custody of the kids, especially when Mom is a working mom and Dad has been taking care of the kids. Are working moms working themselves out of a relationship with their children?
In the state where I divorced, joint custody is the rule except in cases of obvious neglect or poor parenting. Neither gender is the presumptive parent, though I saw a lot of weight given to the parent making the most money (that’s another story). But in The New York Times’ Motherlode blog this week, another picture is painted. I am all for shifting social views on gender and parenting (after all, I am by choice one of the 2.2 million mothers nationwide who do not have primary custody of their children), but I don’t get it. Kids are being awarded to the parent who spent the most time with them? This seems as arbitrary as awarding custody by gender.
I’m especially troubled by the seeming penalty to women who work outside the home. In today’s shifting recessionary world, moms and dads do all sorts of things to make things work. I love that more and more dads are staying home with their children, and I love that more and more moms are able to work through the whole work-life balance problem and self-judgments in order to provide strong breadwinner models for their kids. Social views are changing, and they need to. But what I don’t like is this seeming backlash in the court systems around the country. How will women feel confident about being the breadwinner parent if there’s an ugly custody-battle specter hanging over their heads?
How about you? Have you experienced this? If your relationship were to go awry (knock on wood that it doesn’t), how would custody work for you?