I was recently reading a New York Times article from early November entitled “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family”, and couldn’t help but see the commonalities between today’s modern family and the ever-changing issues raised in divorce.
The author, Claire Cain Miller, citing from a new Pew Research Center Study, conveyed to readers what many of us may already believe/know, even without statistical support in our back pockets – namely, that children in today’s society are more likely than not to grow up in a household in which their parents work. The study also found the existence of households with both parents working full-time “in nearly half of all two-parent families” (46% of all two-parent households have both parents working full time – an increase of 31% from 1970; similarly, the percentage of households in which mom stays home has declined from 46% to 26%).
Parents’ ability to balance everything that comes with everyday life has only become more difficult, the study concludes, since there is only so much time that can be devoted to the kids, each other, friends, the house, the family dog, and, last but not least, the workplace. Miller also noted that how the data reveals that workplace policies (such as paid family leave and before/after child-care) are not yet up to speed, or current to truly help with the situation when dealing with what is described as a permanent and societal shift in the traditional family structure.
Pew found that 56% of all working parents say the “balancing act is difficult, and those who [found such difficulty] are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding.” It should be no surprise to anyone, as a result, why divorce rates are rising nationwide.
Interestingly, the article touched upon a changing shift in the mentality of parents that divorce lawyers find more common than ever in custody disputes – specifically, situations where mom still asserts that she has always handled primary caretaking responsibilities despite working full-time, and dad asserting that he does just as much as mom, if not more. In other words, the article notes:
In most cases . . . women still do the majority of the child care and housework – particularly managing the mental checklists of children’s schedules and needs – even when both parents work full time . . .Just don’t tell fathers that. They are much more likely than mothers to say they share responsibility equally.
Not surprisingly, more dads say they equally share in such tasks than moms think they do. Custody evaluators in our field are, more than ever, making recommendations about what is in the children’s best interests where both parents work full-time. For better or for worse, evaluators are seemingly more likely, under such circumstances, to recommend an equal residential parenting time arrangement.
Some other notable statistical findings from the Pew study:
- Of full-time working parents, 39% of moms and 50% of dads say they feel that they spend too little time with the kids.
- 59% of working moms, and more than 50% of working dads, say they don’t have enough down time.
- The difference between working parents with college degrees versus parents without such degrees (65% with and 49% without) found the work-life balance difficult, with Miller speculating that the reason may be that workers with degrees may be expected to log in hours even after they leave the office despite increased flexibility during the work day.
- White parents are more than 10% likely to express stress than nonwhite parents.
- 41% of working moms said being a parent made it harder to advance at work, compared with 20% of dads.
- Parents spend more time with the kids and less time maintaining the house due to less available time for both. As compared to past surveys, however, Dads spend less time working, double the time on housework, and tripe the time time on child care. Even still, the article noted how women still do much more, especially when it comes to raising kids, managing their schedules, caring for them when they are sick, and the like. In addition, “Fathers and mothers are much more likely to equally share in doing household chores, disciplining children and playing with them.”
The article highlights the changing, or permanently changed nature of today’s modern family, which, from an overarching perspective, will continue to shape the divorce landscape for decades to come. Litigants’ positions in divorce proceedings, as a result, will continue to evolve and, more likely than not, be less grounded in notions of the traditional family that is ever slowly, according to Pew, becoming a thing of the past.
*Photo courtesy of Google free images.