Are the kids in bed yet? Then it’s time to pop the champagne corks! The government’s finally doing something to support shared parenting responsibilities! Way-hey! The rights of divorced mothers and fathers to see their children is to be enshrined in law. The men in Batman costumes are finally having their day, and it’s about ruddy time (must get nippy up those monuments when you’re just wearing lycra).
Before we all get carried away, though, it’s worth expressing the odd misgiving. The proposed legislation goes against the findings of an independent official review into family justice, and against the advice of the NSPCC (generally in favour of good stuff for kids). Yet ministers seem hellbent on countering what they see as a “bias” resulting from mothers being the ones most likely to have custody of children following a divorce. It’s a position not even supported by Resolution, who represent 6,000 of the country’s family lawyers. According to their spokesman, Mike Bryant, quoted in the Guardian, “the government runs the risks of placing the demands of parents over those of children”. Moreover, this proposal sits uncomfortably alongside another one to charge parents (mostly women) for accessing the replacement of the Child Support Agency. Looked at this way you might almost think this government didn’t like women at all. But that can’t be right. After all, women are alright, really (that’s my new rad fem slogan).
This is the thing really that gets to me, though, is this: if it’s about equal parenting, why aren’t any of these fuckers concerned about this before divorce? Is that a bit hardcore for them? A bit too full-on liberal? Could it be that it’s seen as unnecessary? We all seem to accept that the woman is usually the main carer in this context – it’s the standard excuse for why the pay gap isn’t a pay gap – and no one seems to give a shit. What’s the deal with that? Is it because if you’re living with the mother of your child, you get to pick and choose what jobs you take on? As my dad would quip (and in this actual context, sad to say), why have a dog and bark yourself?
Because it’s not fair, would be my response. Because you can have injustice even between partners sharing lives together. Because we’re not even letting men and women choose the roles they play. But seeing as we’re all going legislation crazy in the name of equal parenting, here are a few of my suggestions for dealing with this state of affairs.
Proposals for Gender-Neutral Parenting
- Proctor & Gamble to be barred from calling selves “proud sponsor of mums”. And KFC no longer permitted to offer “mum’s night off”. All parties to agree a motion telling these companies to fuck off.
- Requirement for publishers to suddenly release a million new parenting books, with a million trillion pages on what dads need to do, plus two pages at the end entitled “Mum can help out too!” This should go 0.01% of the way to evening the balance.
- Obligatory remake of the shit film Mars Needs Moms as Venus Needs Dads. Nobody saw it anyhow, but it’s a matter of principle.
- Thorough overhaul of National Parenting Attainment Targets, with a revision of standards required to achieve top marks (currently set at dads: wheel baby round Tesco’s once a week, mums: carefully negotiate path between being neglectful career bitch and brainless mumsy bore, all the while with a smile on your face and the perfect assessment on Gina Ford on the tip of your tongue). Introduction of new targets to be phased (Year 1: dads must go to Tesco’s AND watch one episode of Ballamory per week; mums still required to negotiate same old shitty path, but, as with GCSE French, at least we’re acknowledging that there’s an issue with “severe grading”).
- Dads doing stuff in free time – reading, watching TV, just generally chillaxing – to be officially renamed “having some me-time“, just to emphasise how fucking selfish this is. Mums to carry on having “me-time” as before, although with the removal of obligation to pretend that having beauty treatments counts as “chillaxing”.
- Equal pay for equal work, support for female-dominated occupations and pay transparency, meaning parents can divide labour according to aptitude, not necessity and prejudice (sorry. Don’t know why I added that one. Gotta experiment with this crazy “blue-sky thinking”).
I’m sending this out for consultation. Depending on what the feedback is, I will either do what everyone says or totally ignore them. Any further proposals will be most welcome, but, again, totally ignored if I feel like it. Access to government website-type thingies hasn’t yet been arranged for me, so it’ll have to be Survey Monkey.
I look forward to (not) listening to your views.
Amendments to the draft proposal
Following comments from constituents the following clauses shall be added:
- Henceforth, and for the next decade, all dads shall be sent to Iceland to buy the chicken korma lasagne.
- Whenever Mummy is left alone with the kids, she too is “babysitting”. We may no longer be a nation of shopkeepers (whatever that meant), but we are indeed a nation of babysitters.
(With thanks to @yrosered, Jax and Grace Fletcher-Hackwood)