In a growing trend across the country, one in every four wives earn a larger income than their husbands. The recession of the last several years has greatly changed the landscape of working families. By mid-2009, men had lost 74% of the 6.4 million joibs that have disappeared since the start of the recession. As a result, there has been a large influx of women who have full-time jobs and fathers who are taking on the role as the stay-at-home parent.
A "dark side" of women's increasing professional accomplishments is that these same women are getting a raw deal in custody cases, as their husbands argue that their successful careers are so demanding that they neglect the kids. The "tender years doctrine," the prior court presumption that mothers are more suitable parents for children under 7, was abolished in most states in 1994. As a result, it is not uncommon for fathers seeking sole custody in contested custody cases to prevail at least 50 percent of the time. Gender no longer dictates who changes a diaper or takes the children to the doctor. Rather, dads are playing more of a caregive role, which is translating to them getting joint, and even sole custody, in growing numbers. Women are having to prove their "nurturing abilities," which were once automatically assumed, simply by virute of their secondary role as breadwinners.
This brings up questions about fairness. Has the pendulum simply swung in the fathers' favor the way it used to favor the mother? Many mothers would dispute the fairness of these custody disputes. Working women still face the pressure to function in the traditional mother role before work, after work, and on weekends. Many working moms are working all day outside the home, after getting up hours earlier to make breakfast, pack lunches, and do laundry. At the end of day, these same moms are helping with homework, giving children baths, and putting their children to bed, but often all of this parenting is done out of "view" of those who weigh in on who should have primary custody. As a result, many women contemplating divorce are forced to make the impossible choice of keeping their careers to pay the bills, or spending more time with their chidlren to ensure that they can get custody. At a minimum, these women are faced with rethinking their priorities and making sure they are spending visible, document time with their kids to survive the battle of who shall end up as "Mom" at the end of the day.