04 August 2011
Keeping a balance between family needs and work-life demands, Amanda McAlister discusses
Having practiced family law for many years now, I’ve represented many female clients seeking to retain custody or access rights to their children. Over the years, fathers and their solicitors have often tried to weaken their estranged partner’s case by drawing on one aspect of her lifestyle. It’s not a particularly enlightened argument, in fact, it’s a complete anachronism but mums are still made to feel guilty for working during their children’s junior years.
Before we even start proceedings, in fact, most working mothers that brief me feel that they’ve already compromised their bid for child access by being on a payroll. It’s an anxiety carried over from an earlier time and an earlier generation.
As a working mum myself, I was delighted to see that, this week, Time magazine has reported on something I’ve believed for years and it’s an article I will share with both my friends and my clients.
With a recommendation that women do not rush back into work after child birth - for their own physical and emotional wellbeing - research conducted by the US National Bureau of Economic Research confirms that those working within four and a half years’ post-birth reduce their stress levels and ‘add to the overall wellbeing of the family.’ Provided the correct work-life balance is achieved, working women do not fulfil their working role to the detriment of their children. Fact.
In the context of legal access to your child, a judge is often looking for a similar balance between employment and time for the family - not necessarily a stay-at-home mum. After all, any single parent has to propose an overall strategy on how they will support their children, touching on both their availability and their ability to provide. In many cases, especially those where spousal support is not available, work is a vital dynamic.
Courts today are far more inclined to propose ‘shared care’ between both parents rather than sole custody. Hopefully, the slightly more old-fashioned or chauvinistic approaches put forward by determined fathers will phase out.
There’s now evidence that negative attitudes towards working mums are based on a misconception rather than fact. Hopefully this information liberates some women, especially those who work out of necessity.
For further information on this trend click through to this article featured on the Daily Mail online.