American Family Values: Trapping Women and Children in Poverty

It’s no secret that there is still a big wage gap for working women in this country. But did you know that gap is even larger for working mothers? An article from the National Women’s Law Center recently caught my attention.
~Stereotypes about mothers and fathers contribute to this disparity: one study found that mothers are recommended for significantly lower starting salaries, perceived as less competent, and less likely to be recommended for hire than non-mothers whereas fathers are actually recommended for significantly higher pay and were perceived as more committed to their jobs than non-fathers.~1561_A4_Email_Poster.indd

My ex-husband’s annual income is approximately 3.5 times higher than mine.  Yet the family court system thinks FAIR means we split all of our children’s expenses (medical, education, clothes, etc.) equally. I structure my work schedule to be home with our children after school. During his parenting time, he sends them to after school care & gets to deduct the expense from the child support he pays me (even though I am willing to provide this same care myself, at no charge to him).

Our boys qualify for the free school lunch program, reduced public school fees, and scholarships for Kidsports & the like due to MY low-income status. My ex-husband pays only his half of the REDUCED fees. (I wonder how many more children could be helped by reduced fees if dads like my ex weren’t taking advantage of this loophole?)

I take our boys to the doctor when they are sick (their father seems to have no time for such trivial matters), pay all upfront costs for co-pays and such, & then wait around for him to decide if he wants to reimburse me. If he doesn’t (and sometimes he doesn’t) my only recourse is to take him to court– which would cost me more than what he owes me in the first place. I’m still waiting for him to pay his $180 share of medical expenses from last month– which is about half my monthly food budget.rev_infographic3_1024x512_source_0

THIS is why so many single mothers are living in poverty. It isn’t because we’re lazy or stupid– it’s because we are all trying to find some magic (and likely non-existent) balance between work and family within a political and cultural system that does not value us, our children, or the contributions we make to our communities.

News flash: Children do not raise themselves. Well, I guess sometimes they do– but those are generally the kids EVERYONE ends up paying for in the form of more tax $$ for prisons and “welfare” programs. Errr, scratch that last one; our cultural choice seems strongly in favor of funding prisons over stuff like food and education. 

What is it going to take to reform the divorce and child support laws in this country? What is it going to take to for us, as a nation, to value children’s lives beyond the womb?? What is it going to take for us to value women’s contributions in equal measure to men’s? What is it going to take for us to stop pretending that we are all given an even playing field?! Anyone?

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One response to “American Family Values: Trapping Women and Children in Poverty

  1. I use my ex-husband and our situation as an example. But what I really want to stress is that my situation is NOT some freaky exception. My ex isn’t breaking any laws– he’s just taking full advantage of how outrageously unfair the laws are regarding parenting time and child support. These laws vary from state to state and county to county. Most states have a “first right of refusal” law around childcare, meaning that one parent must first refuse to provide childcare for the other parent before childcare expenses can be deducted from child support payments. There is no “first right of refusal” law in Lane County. My personal belief is that children are usually better off with a parent than in a childcare facility. Additionally, I believe a parent who provides childcare to the other parent should be financially compensated. Parenting time and the child support $$ associated with it are currently calculated by where the child sleeps (overnights). I believe they should be calculated by actual time spent PARENTING that child– feeding them, helping them with homework, driving them to after school activities and caring for all of their other waking needs.

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