Shared Parenting Benefits Working Moms

"While shared parenting is still a novel idea in the United States, reform is moving forward."

Viewing men as breadwinners and women as homemakers represents an antiquated way of thinking. 

Thankfully, The Wall Street Journal recently brought attention to this with the article, "How Can the U.S. Get More Women in the Workforce? Ask Canada." As the title suggests, Canada has a significantly higher percentage of women in the workforce compared to the U.S., and the article examines what the U.S. can do to follow in Canada's footsteps to increase its percentage.

However, the article omits a crucial answer to the question posed by the headline: make shared parenting the norm after divorce or separation. With Women's Equality Day having been this Saturday, Aug. 26, now is the time to act.

The reality is that our nation's family courts still award sole custody to mothers in more than 80 percent of child custody cases. While this feels like a custody battle "victory" at first, over the course of time, mothers realize that they have been trapped in the homemaker role – a place far, far away from the workforce. Our nation's antiquated family courts are standing in the way of women's advancement in the workplace. Treating mothers as homemakers (and fathers only as breadwinners who pay child support) keeps women in a position of dependency and is out of touch with modern society.

Thankfully, we have a solution in shared parenting – a flexible arrangement where children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce. The arrangement allows mothers significantly more time and opportunity to pursue careers than the status quo "sole-custody-to-the-mother" arrangement, plus, it's important to note that it treats mothers and fathers equally.

What's more, shared parenting is not only better for women who want career advancement, but it also has been convincingly shown to be better for children too. As evidence of this, research overwhelmingly shows children need and want both parents in their lives. Consider just one recent example: The American Psychological Association published research by William V. Fabricius of Arizona State University in the journal "Psychology, Public Policy and Law." His findings, entitled "Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data," showed strong support for equal parenting time of young children.

Let's not forget that shared parenting is better for fathers too, who find that having only every other weekend with their children often leads to heartache.

So shared parenting is a triple-win – for mothers who can have the time to pursue career goals, fathers who can maintain close and loving relationships with their children, and the children themselves, who are happier and more successful with shared parenting.

While shared parenting is still a novel idea in the United States, reform is moving forward. For instance, it has been the norm in some countries like Sweden for years, and research presented this spring at the 2017 International Conference on Shared Parenting in Boston overwhelmingly supported a two-parent model. States including Kentucky and Missouri have passed laws supportive of shared parenting within the past year, and, as the Fast Company article "Are Custody Laws Standing in the Way of Gender Equity?" reported, at least 25 states total have considered the legislative reform this year.

Please join me in helping to bring the overwhelming positives of shared parenting to the attention of lawmakers nationwide. Then, perhaps we'll start reading headlines along the lines of, "How did the U.S. Get More Women in the Workforce? Shared Parenting."

Kristen Paasch, a mother and wife, serves as co-chair of National Parents Organization of Virginia. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Cover photo: Shutterstock / bbernard

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