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May 9, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Having discussed Emma Johnson’s blog yesterday, I now turn to another one dealing with roughly the same topic (NY Mag, 5/4/16). Johnson looked at the earnings gap between men and women and drew some perfectly rational conclusions. She noted that, if divorced or separated fathers and mothers shared parenting time equally, mothers would have more time in which to work, earn and save. They’d also have more time in which to do anything else they might like.

So Johnson called for 50/50 parenting time arrangements where possible. Along with that, she recommended abolishing child support in 50/50 cases and alimony altogether. Why? Because when parents share kid-time equally, each is supporting the child, so there’s no reason to transfer money from one to the other. As to alimony, Johnson rightly points out that it’s a product of times gone by and wholly unnecessary to today’s world in which women are fully capable of supporting themselves. The very idea of alimony tells women that they’re second-class citizens, unable to function independently of a man.

Those are all sensible suggestions – not workable in every situation - but reasonable and constructive generally. They compare very well with today’s linked-to piece.

In it, Dayna Evans relies on snark and the assumption that recycling old canards about the wage gap is a suitable substitute for facts and logic. To the extent that readers can make out her actual topic, it seems to be that, since mothers – particularly single mothers – earn less than other adults in the workforce, something must be terribly wrong and something must be done about it. Needless to say, Evans never gets around to explaining what she believes to be wrong and barely hints at what should be done. No, hers is another screed that simply takes for granted that, if the topic is mothers, injustice of some sort must be rampant.

[B]eing a mother in America is still a disrespected and thankless task — and it's even worse if you're the kind of mother who, you know, actually has to work to support her kids.

A disrespected and thankless task? Really? Who knew? Of course Evans wouldn’t dream of backing up such a patently dubious remark, but the rest of us have to wonder about numerous things. For example, if motherhood is so brutal for moms, why do so many of them do it? After all, society provides women the opportunity to avoid motherhood at every turn, from contraceptives, to the morning after pill, to abortion, to Baby Moses laws, to adoption. And yet something like 4 million women give birth every year in this country. According to Evans, they’re all opting for “a disrespected and thankless task,” when opting out of it would be perfectly easy. Are all those women crazy, or do they have a different take on motherhood than does Evans?

How might Evans explain the fact that 70% of divorces are filed by women who do so because, in the words of researchers Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen, “they know they’ll get the kids?” Again, in her understanding, that makes no sense. This society so disrespects mothers that virtually every mother in every divorce case makes a claim for sole or primary custody of the children.

And of course I don’t have to mention pop culture that misses few opportunities to hymn the virtues of mothers and motherhood. When was the last time you saw a mother abuse a child in a movie or television drama? Ever? Mothers acting alone commit about 40% of the abuse and neglect of children, but somehow that never seems to make it into the popular fiction on family life. Gee, it’s almost as if we place mothers on a pedestal, but naturally, Evans isn’t watching.

Still, with that entirely fatuous notion, we get an idea of the level of intellectual rigor we’re in for as we read Evans’ piece.

New research from the National Women's Law Center shows that the motherhood penalty — the one where women's salaries are docked when they return to work after having a kid — is more real than ever.  

No, actually, mothers who return to work after giving birth don’t have their salaries “docked.” Of course they don’t. That would violate numerous federal and state laws and there’s absolutely no evidence that such a thing happens at all, much less as a general rule.

What does happen is that anyone who takes significant time off work for any reason sees a long-term decline in his/her earnings. And why not? The person who takes long stretches of time off work has fewer hours worked, less experience, less seniority than the person who doesn’t. All things being equal, that make perfect sense and is fair. After all, what would it say to the person who kept his/her nose to the grindstone to pay the one who took time off the same, to promote him/her the same, to offer the same seniority? Would such a regime encourage employees to work or would it encourage them to take time off?

That’s right. No employer would dream of treating the two types of employees the same and thereby discourage the type of full-time work that’s the life blood of every business. And of course it would probably be illegal to pay the two the same, promote them the same, etc. The entrepreneur would get sued for doing so.

So Evans second point is, like the first, not only wrong, but obviously so.

Why do mothers typically earn less than fathers? A number of reasons, none of them sinister, none of them indicating the type of antipathy for mothers on the part of society that Evans takes for granted. Like other women, mothers earn less than fathers because they work at lower-paying jobs and work fewer hours. That’s even true of women who work full-time. The usual definition of “full-time” in this country is 35 hours per week or more. Therefore someone who works 35 hours per week is placed in the same statistical category as someone who works 60 hours per week. There’s a lot of room for differing earnings within full-time workers, an obvious fact Evans either doesn’t know or hopes her readers don’t.

Naturally, where there’s a non-problem, there must be a non-solution, and Evans provides it.

How to combat this disparity? It's the job of hiring managers to see that they are promoting and paying women fairly, but especially when women step away from work to have children. And when women decide to take a more extended break to be with their young kids, their experiences must be treated with dignity.

As a general rule, women and mothers are promoted and paid fairly. At least there’s precious little evidence to the contrary. But wait. Did you notice that Evans provided a link suggesting that there’s some support for her claim that employers don’t pay and promote women fairly? You did, but you’re smarter than to believe a writer like Evans would actually link to something that did that, aren’t you?

And sure enough, you were right. Her link is to another NY Mag article that makes the same claim that Evans does but makes the mistake of actually quoting the relevant study, to wit:

“Surprisingly,” reads the report, “young women identified finding a higher paying job, a lack of learning and development, and a shortage of interesting and meaningful work as the primary reasons why they may leave.”

Yes, the whole “women aren’t paid or promoted fairly” claim is actually something altogether different. Women leave jobs when they get better jobs. They also leave jobs when the work they’re doing doesn’t interest them enough. When the cashier at the supermarket finds a job as a school teacher, she takes it. The supermarket paid her the going rate for a cashier, but as a teacher, she makes more and has greater job satisfaction. Only Evans believes this constitutes discrimination… or something.

Emma Johnson pointed out that our current system of child support and particularly alimony infantilizes women. It assumes they’re incapable of caring for themselves. That’s just the way Dayna Evans likes it. Her misrepresentations and false complaints are all aimed at one thing – society solving a non-problem women can solve for themselves by doing different work and working more hours. To do that, they could start sharing parenting time equally with fathers.

Emma Johnson’s article had its problems, but by comparison to this one, it’s Cicero on a good day.

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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