By Robert Franklin, Esq.
Member National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I don’t know whether to be touched or outraged. This article is so naïve it’s almost sweet in a perverse sort of way (Brookings, 12/9/15). At the same time, it was written by a scholar at the Brookings Institute, one of the leading think tanks in this country, so I’d expect it to exhibit some basic knowledge about its subject. (I uniformly refuse to write in all caps because I consider that a poor substitute for principled argument. But I promise you, the linked-to piece tests my resolve.)
The writer is Richard Reeves. He’s billed as the Co-Director of the Center on Children and Families. His thesis is this: Problem — single mothers are disproportionately poor; they do the lion’s share of childcare; that prevents them from working and earning; many non-resident fathers aren’t employed. Solution — have fathers provide childcare so mothers can work!
Lots of non-resident fathers are not gainfully employed; single mothers are struggling with childcare cost; and children, especially boys, are suffering from the distance or absence of their father. Here’s an idea: have the fathers look after their children, allowing mothers to get into and stay in work. The savings for the mother would far outweigh child support payments, which could be suspended when the father is providing childcare. What if, rather than squeezing these men for every last nickel, we were to ask them to do childcare instead?
Someone might tell Reeves that countless people all over the English-speaking world and far beyond have been arguing for exactly that for decades now. It’s called shared parenting. (I really wanted to use all caps, but stayed my hand.) When Mom gives up part of her parenting time while Dad cares for the kids, that’s shared parenting. We’ve been fighting for this day after day, year after year. British men dress up in superhero outfits and scale Buckingham Palace and other prominent structures to bring attention to the problem. People write articles and books. Organizations large and small submit bills to state and national legislatures. Study after study is conducted.
But Reeves knows none of this. “Here’s an idea…” No, Mr. Reeves, the idea isn’t new and it isn’t yours. There’s a thing called Google. Use it. Type in s-h-a-r-e-d p-a-r-e-n-t-i-n-g. See what you get. Or “equal parenting” or “fathers’ rights” or any similar search term. See? People have already thought of your idea.
And it’s a great idea. But it turns out that simply having a good idea hasn’t fixed things. On the contrary, what’s become obvious is that, even though all the arguments are on the side of shared parenting — good for kids, good for mothers, good for fathers, good for society generally, good for the public purse — they haven’t yet carried the day.
Oh, we’ve had our victories and more are to come. But what everyone knows who’s toiled in these mines is that being right isn’t enough. If it were, shared parenting would have become the norm years ago.