Until the late 20th century women were assumed to be the ones best able to perform the role of companion/nurturer – the glue that bound family and social relationships together. The authors like Daniel Golman published research that showed shifting reality – that men were (and have been) filling that role too. With the advent of the 21st century came the ‘permission’ to acknowledge these roles and contributions to family and social relationships.
The courts, however, move much slower than the research and societal change would reflect. The acknowledgment that fathers can be anything more than adequate babysitters has not taken a foothold in the judicial psyche. The phrase “the mother was the primary caregiver throughout the relationship” is cast as a trump card in parenting applications before the court.
Interpretation of terms such as ‘maximizing parenting time with each parent’ bear witness to a weak legislative movement to acknowledge the male nurturer role which buckles under the historic weight of the female ‘primary caregiver’ designation. It is as if a stay at home mother is seen as a long term hand maid, incapable by virtue of giving birth and having cared for the children of seeking or accomplishing a new identity as an independent self-sufficient adult. A new meaning for the term ‘glass ceiling’.
The infrequency of the courts asking for vocational plans is testament to this unconscious bias (or maybe it is a blindness) towards childbearing being a career path to continued dependency. A man who is displaced from a job or career is told to find a new financial path. Judicial decisions on spousal support reflect that a woman is assumed to not be able to do so.
A child who has been dependent upon his or her parents for 18 years is given four years of post-secondary education to attain self-sufficiency. A woman who has been married for 18 years is given the suit of life time dependence and in need of a financial umbilical cord – possibly for life – and taught they are not expected to become self-sufficient and independent.
Even when their children go to school and attain independence from needing the moment to moment attentions of their mother, the mother is allowed to stay at home because their children need to be met off the bus, taken to extra-curricular activities and fed. What is it in the genetic strand that makes men incapable of doing so, in the judicial eye, while the mother builds new skills so that she can be financially independent of her now ex-spouse?
Justice Marguerite Trussler may have opined that marriage is not an insurance policy. I wonder if she would agree with the present direction that takes away the independence and expectation for autonomy – or even the expectation that a women can be capable to strive to be so.