Friday, December 23, 2011

Another Self-Serving Comment from a Surrogate Mother

Well it's time for another re-post since I got a comment this morning telling me that another surrogate mother is very pleased with her decision...BUT what is so difficult for these women to understand that it's not about the best interest of the surrogate mothers, it's about the innocent children they are bringing into the world.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
More Issues Concerning Surrogate Mothers--Disturbing
The article below doesn’t really surprise me.

Basically it shows that the women who are being hired as surrogate mothers are pretty much from the most unstable and unfit population in every society, the most damaged group from the bottom rungs in each, all probably suffering from undiagnosed personality and other more serious disorders. Which, by the way, research has shown more and more of these traits to be hereditary such as depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, even more everyday personality traits such as shyness and aggression are being shown to have genetic components as well.

So not only are the persons hiring these women to bear children for them taking advantage of a vulnerable damaged population, but they are helping bring children into this world at risk of inheriting the same mental and personality disorders as their mothers: children who would not otherwise exist except for the money being paid to these surrogate mothers to have them. I mean look at most of these surrogate mothers' backgrounds (and I don’t just mean this woman as most of the rest have a similar unstable history from Mary Beth Whitehead, first US surrogate mother, right through to the woman featured in the story below) and contrast it to the candidate pool of their counterparts from the male side of the equation: anonymous sperm donors, for instance.

As anyone, who has studied this issue for any length of time, knows most male sperm donors are college students, some of the most privileged persons in western civilization (and that means in the world really). Who after graduation will go on to become the highest earners in our society: the cream of the crop, so to speak. Donating sperm is used by them as a means to make a little extra income while going to school; at most a 45 minute exercise with little investment for the student and no marked impact on his future emotional or mental state. Contrast this picture with the one painted below of a surrogate mother, and again, as I said not an unusual story at all, and you can see the vast differences between the two populations.

Probably a lot of the women who become surrogate mothers would never even have gone on to have their own children if not lured into being a surrogate mother by the promise of an unrealistically high income for the education and training they have. Or at the very least, would have had far fewer children then they have now; as only the most damaged woman is going to continue having one pregnancy after another, only to hand over her infant at the end of each one.

Actually a good number of these surrogates would have probably been weeded out of the ordinary candidate pool as wives and mothers long ago, maybe having one child and then disappearing from it’s life, since few men would marry and have families with the more obviously damaged amongst them. So their line would have eventually died out just as in nature a damaged mother will either abandon or even eat her own young, thus effectively killing off her own defective gene line. This surrogacy business however continues the damage for generations as again, you are severely damaged as a woman, if you continue having one baby after another and giving it away. There is something wrong with you. A woman who does this is mentally and emotionally unstable, no matter how many gender neutral proponents would like to compare these women to men who are anonymous sperm donors.

It’s not the same thing.

Women simply invest, contribute, and risk more in bringing children into this world. Those few mentally unstable women who can so easily turn and casually walk away from that investment are quite simply damaged goods. No matter how many people benefiting from the instability of these women try to tell us different.

AND they are probably passing along many of their disordered traits to their children.

Thus this practice should be stopped.

As not only is it damaging the woman themselves who are an unstable and mentally ill population, but the children are liable to be suffering from many of the disorders of the mothers as well. Not to mention that I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in surrogate mothers to have multiple children (such as twins or even triplets) since the payment is higher for this, then for just having one child. So now even physical risks can be added to the mental problems for these children as twins and triplets are more apt to have physical disorders.

Let’s face it a perverse incentive exists for these women in the common lump-sum payments of from $10,000 or $15,000 dollars per infant paid to someone with no marketable skills or education, plus all their expenses covered while pregnant (frequently paid for by either the family hiring them or even the taxpayers) as once pregnant no matter how you accomplished that (from either doing the entire football team to having an angel sneak into your bedroom window one night to inpregnate you) any which way you accomplish the deed, it entitles you to extra taxpayer funded benefits in most western countries.

So can someone tell me any good reason why the taxpayers should be funding this sort of incentive to spawn more vulnerable children from an already damaged population????

What purpose or higher good is served by this?

Absolutely none.

Daily Mail
24 hours a day

I've given away seven babies, but I'd like to keep the next one

Daily Mail Last updated at 00:28am on 25th August 2006

Of all her pregnancies, this - her seventh - is proving to be by far the most challenging for Jill Hawkins.

Plagued by crippling headaches, dizziness and nausea, she can barely drag herself out of bed some days and feels constantly tired.

So debilitating are her symptoms that the 42-year-old legal secretary has been signed off work by her GP from virtually the moment she fell pregnant in March and, 25 weeks into her pregnancy (emphasis mine: Probably living off publicly funded benefits for the duration of her pregnancy) she can't wait for the baby - a girl - to be born in December.

Of course, it will all be worth it when her baby finally arrives - only Jill won't be taking her home. Just like the other six babies she has borne, this one will go home with a childless couple who paid Jill £12,000 in expenses to be their surrogate (emphasis mine: Are they also paying her living expenses now I wonder or have they managed to shuffle this cost onto the taxpayers of their home country as well).

If her past experiences are anything to go by, Jill knows what is in store once her job is done (emphasis mine: $12,000, possibly tax free).

She will return to her two-bedroom flat in Brighton, where she lives alone with three rescue cats, and cry her eyes out, telling herself that she is simply feeling hormonal and it's not the baby she weeps for.

"This is definitely the last one," says Jill. "This pregnancy has been much harder than all the others. In the past the pregnancies have fitted around my life, but this one has completely dominated it. I'm also getting older now, so, no, there won't be any more surrogate babies."

Jill, however, has said this before. She said it after baby number four, baby number five and baby number six - born two years ago - but always explained away her change of mind by saying she was 'addicted' to being pregnant (emphasis mine: Or more likely addicted to the nine months paid leave of absences with benefits and $12,000 cash payment at the end of them. As I can’t imagine this woman is much of a star employee either).

This time, she insists, she really means it. She has apparently conquered her addiction.

"I feel very differently about this pregnancy. Before, I had such low self-esteem the only time I felt needed, special or loved was when I was carrying a baby inside me," says Jill, who admits she has never had a serious relationship and has been celibate since she became a surrogate 14 years ago (emphasis mine: no surprise there, few men would have married or planned a family with a woman with so many apparent personality and other mental disorders).

"These couples were so grateful for what I was doing for them, and knowing that I could transform their lives by giving them a baby gave me real purpose, confidence and self-esteem. It was the one thing I knew I was good at.

"But I don't feel like that any more. For the first time in my life I feel happy with who I am. I feel complete and don't need to do this to feel good about myself.

"With my other pregnancies I always became good friends with the couple I became a surrogate for. We'd go out for meals or to the theatre because it made me feel worthwhile and part of the family, but this time there is none of that.

"I very much like the couple whose baby I am carrying and they come to all the scans and ante-natal appointments, but there is no socialising.

"I feel more detached. My friends and family kept telling me to stop after the last two pregnancies, that I'd done enough. But I wanted to experience pregnancy one last time and help one final couple - and, if I am honest, I needed the money." (emphasis mine: Okay, at least she’s being honest.)

So what has happened to change Jill Hawkins's mind? So much so that - after years of firm insistence that she has never wanted children of her own - she is now talking about the possibility of falling in love, getting married and having a baby. Her own baby.

There is, as yet, no suitable candidate on the horizon - she is five months pregnant after all - but for the first time she feels good enough about herself to believe it could happen, even if it never actually does.

This dramatic shift in attitude came after a cataclysmic series of events. After the birth of her sixth surrogate baby, Alexandra, in August 2004, Jill plunged into the depths of depression - something she has suffered from, on and off, all her adult life (emphasis mine, many researchers are beginning to see genetic roots in depression).

Her weight - which she has battled to control since she was a teenager - ballooned to 19st 7lb and during a lonely Christmas at home alone she gradually became increasingly suicidal (emphasis mine: same as above, genetic roots in suicidal behavior as well).

Her beloved rescue cat Sindy, who she'd doted on for 16 years, died from cancer, and a surprise holiday to Gran Canaria she'd booked for her younger sister Susan, 39, and herself to cheer herself up had to be cancelled because her sibling couldn't make it.

Bereft over the loss of Sindy, disgusted at her obesity, lonely, and wrongly convinced in her depressed state that no one - not even her sister - liked her, let alone loved her, she decided that no one would even notice if she was gone and the world was better off without her.

She took an overdose of anti-depressants, but one hour later phoned for an ambulance when she suddenly became frightened, realising she didn't really want to die and that her actions were a cry for help.

Her family and friends' utter devastation at her actions and their reassurances of love made her realise just how wrong she had been, and it proved to be a critical turning point.

After she was treated in hospital (discovering that the overdose of anti-depressants wouldn't have killed her anyway) she underwent counselling and then, in April 2005, paid £7,500 to have a gastric bypass operation in a last-ditch effort to lose weight.

Jill, who has since lost 7st, insists that her depression was not caused by the emotional strain of giving away so many babies, but rather by underlying issues which have always been there - but one wonders if she is being entirely honest with herself. (emphasis mine: Yep. She is)…

For the two appear to be inextricably linked.

"The catalyst for me was that suicide attempt. I think I had to reach rock bottom before I really started to confront the issues which I'd tried to ignore for 25 years," says Jill, who decided to become a surrogate after reading a magazine article when she was 27.

"If anything I think the surrogacy actually kept me alive by giving me something to feel good about. But at the same time, perhaps if I hadn't become a surrogate I might have confronted my problems sooner.

"In a way, it's like running away from yourself. You can put your life on hold and leave your problems behind for nine months.

"I have been a yo-yo dieter for years and I loathed myself for being fat. I loved being pregnant because you are allowed to be fat when you are carrying a baby. My main motivation for becoming a surrogate was to help childless couples, (emphasis mine: Now she’s running away from the honesty observed above) but if I am honest I was doing it for selfish reasons, too."

And, bizarrely, I'd lose weight when I was pregnant as I would eat very carefully and exercise because I was responsible for someone else's baby. I never thought of it as mine. After each baby was born, after the inevitable tears and sense of loss, I would feel great about myself and what I'd done to help this couple and try and stay healthy by going to the gym.

"After the fourth baby was born I went right down to 11 stone and I felt fabulous, but the weight would always creep back on. I wasn't stuffing myself on chips or takeaways.

"I was just eating too much and eating between meals. I just couldn't stop and was so desperate I took appetite suppressants - which I never did when I was pregnant - but after a while they stopped working.

"When I went to see a counsellor after my suicide attempt, I said to her: 'There is nothing that you can say to make any difference until I lose weight.'

"That for me was the root of my self-loathing and until I did something about that the rest would be pointless.

"After the bypass operation the weight just dropped off and it is the best money I have ever spent. It has completely changed the way I feel about myself and how I relate to other people. I am still on antidepressants, but the self-loathing has gone.

"I didn't really need to go ahead with this seventh surrogate pregnancy and in some ways I didn't want to, but having lost so much weight I might need a nip and tuck in the future to tighten up my saggy tummy and lift my breasts, so I needed the money. (emphasis mine: back to the honesty).

"After this baby is born I am hoping to join an internet dating agency to meet new friends. I'm not saying I'll necessarily meet the love of my life, but if it happened before I was 45 then I wouldn't rule out having a baby of my own. I feel ready for that now." (emphasis mine: like what normal man is even going to think of her as a serious candidate as a wife and mother when he hears her history).

There is no doubt that Jill Hawkins is a complicated, curious woman. A warm, gentle and genuinely compassionate person, she gives the impression that she would make rather a good mum - only, as she admits herself, she prefers her cats.

The eldest of three children born to businessman Brian Hawkins, 65, and Brenda, 61 - now retired and living in Spain - she always thought her childhood was happy, but now after counselling she is trying to understand the root causes of her low self esteem and comfort eating.

Her mother, whom she still adores, was - she says - a rather domineering woman and Jill was impressionable. Because she loved her mother so much, her opinions became Jill's opinions and the only area where she felt she had any control was food.

Intensely shy as a child and suffering from partial deafness caused by a viral infection, she found it difficult to make friends and - desperate to be liked - turned to food for comfort when she felt rejected. The bigger she grew, the more she hated herself and the more she ate.

"Men never asked me out. I was 15 stone by the time I was 15 and my weight put them off. I never felt good enough for a relationship, and never even wanted children of my own, but I felt this intense yearning to become pregnant," she says.

At 26 she approached COTS (Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy), set up by Britain's first surrogate mother, Kim Cotton. At first they were reluctant to take her on, because they preferred women who'd completed their families, but when she convinced them she would not want to keep the baby they put her in touch with her first couple.

So began an odyssey, motivated not by money but an emptiness food could not fill. All the children she has given birth to are biologically hers - Jill self-inseminates with the husband's sperm, rather than being a 'host' surrogate where a fertilised embryo is implanted using IVF. (emphasis mine: meaningless distinction which the people profiteering from this sort of enterprise like to make. She would have been the childrens’ mother no matter, as bonding and other interaction take place between the mother carrying the child, no matter how the fetus was produced.)

Today, she regularly sees all her surrogate children Lucy, 14, Bertie, 12,

Jamie, eight, David, five, Sam, four, and Alexandra, two - whose pictures adorn her bedroom wall - and remains good friends with their parents.

She is fond of them all, but there is no maternal yearning. "They are all great kids, but when I see them I don't think 'That's my daughter' or 'That's my son'. (emphasis mine: like I said damaged goods as even adoptive mothers who never see their children generally have feelings of grief and sadness whenever confronted with the reality of their decision.)

"I think of them as my friends' children. Their real mothers are the women who are bringing them up, loving them, nurturing them and shaping their lives and personalities.

"All the boys look like their fathers but people say Lucy looks like me, though I can't see it. I only ever see the children on an invitation basis, and I feel very privileged that the parents want to keep seeing me as a friend, for who I am, rather than out of any sense of obligation.

"Over the years I have become better at dealing with handing these children over because initially you do feel very empty and upset. Your body has spent nine months nurturing this baby and suddenly it's not there anymore, so emotionally it can be quite traumatic.

"The first time, with Lucy, was the worst because I'd never had a child before. I experienced feelings I'd never had before, overwhelming emotions of wanting to protect this little baby. I didn't know if I would want to change my mind or how I might feel once Lucy was born, whether I would bond with her.

"I never thought of her as my own and I never wanted to keep her, but it was very hard to deal with once she was gone. I went to my parents, who've always been very supportive, and just cried for days.

"My way of dealing with it now is to spend half an hour of private time with the baby before I hand it over to mum. That way I will always have a memory that is mine alone, which I can relive if I need to."

She adds: "I like being pregnant, my body was built for pregnancy and I have the fertility of a rabbit, so it seemed to me a shame not to use that to help people who couldn't have children naturally."

Jill's remarkable story can't help but raise some disquieting questions about the morality of surrogacy; questions those involved appear reluctant to confront. In their desperate quest to become parents, do the childless couples who seek out women like Jill ever know just how emotionally needy or damaged they might be, or question their true motives? And if they do know, do they care enough to think twice about proceeding? (emphasis mine: Probably not. Anymore then people using a puppy mill will question whether they should purchase that cute puppy. So it’s up to the rest of us to stop them. Obviously).

Jill's latest couple are married professionals aged 50 and 45. (emphasis mine: old enough to know better). The woman suffered a miscarriage before discovering she had breast cancer.

Chemotherapy left her infertile. They are overjoyed at Jill's pregnancy.

But has Jill told them everything they might feel they have a right to know?

"I have told them about my depression and the suicide attempt. They know I am taking anti-depressants, which are safe to take during pregnancy, and they don't appear to be concerned about it," says Jill, before making a startling admission.

"I haven't told them about the gastric bypass operation, but they can see I have lost a lot of weight. (emphasis mine: I've noticed a lot of ads for surrogate mothers recently highlighting height and weight requirement as again, yes, these physical traits are genetic in origin as well. So obviously people don't want to pay $12,000 for a kid who is going to grow up to be fat. This could have disqualified Jill if the parents purchasing her child actually realized how overweight she had a tendency to be.)

"I don't know why. Perhaps I was worried that it might put them off, but doctors have assured me that the pregnancy will not be affected although I have to take extra vitamins and nutrients for the rest of my life."

The chances are this baby, along with all the others, will be a beautiful, healthy child who will bring joy to its parents and whose picture will join those on Jill's bedroom wall. But will it really be the last?

"You know, I am really looking forward to the rest of my life. I am going to start doing things for me now because I don't feel bad about myself," says Jill. "I want to do more travelling and meet new friends. After this pregnancy I want to get down to my target weight of 11 stone. I really do feel very happy."

If that happiness proves to be short-lived, will there be surrogate baby number eight? (emphasis mine: Yikes…)
posted by NYMOM | Wednesday, September 06, 2006
silverside said...
Good points. Although it does seem on some psychological level this woman is addicted to pregnancy; it some how soothes her massive feelings of unworth. I really think the whole surrogacy thing should be banned. Even when these women come to their senses and develop normal feelings for the child they are carrying, and want to care for the baby like any mother would, they are harrassed. And frankly, evidence from the children who have come into the world via these situations is not good either. The social "mom" often has problems bonding with a child that is related to her husband, but not to her. She is really no different than a stepmother, and the kids feel this. The fathers don't really bond either, because father-bonding is totally influenced by how bonded they are to the mother who bore their child. If they love her, they love the kids. If they don't, they don't. Seldom do fathers really love their children when they are indifferent to and/or hate the mother. And besides, the father doesn't raise the kids. The "mother" does. So the kids grow up knowing something is missing, knowing they are rejected.
10:29 AM
bloggernoggin said...
I am sorry we fought. Please come back to Redstatefeminst's site so we can compare notes again. I really miss you!! Hope you are alright.
3:49 PM
Anonymous said...
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
3:55 PM
NYMOM said...
"Please come back to Redstatefeminist's site so we can compare notes again. I really miss you."

That's an interesting sentiment bloggernoggin, especially considering I rarely posted on redstatefeminist's site in the past...

I just came in that one time to make a few comments about Matt Dubay concernng his "Roe vs. Wade for Men" case...

I do this on many blogs, post for a while and then maybe not post again for weeks or even months.

Someday I will probably post again on redstatefeminist's site.

I can't say when however.
7:12 PM
NYMOM said...
Well that was a lot of stuff to digest silverside.

I'm not 100% sure I agree with all of it.

I think there could be something in what you said about the father's feelings for the children being impacted by indifference or even contempt for the surrogate mother at some point. I have a feeling the same could be said for both parents, especially as the children get older and start looking like or even acting like the women that are their biological mothers.

I also have to wonder how these surrogate families are feeling now that this woman went public with her medical history????

I mean I would be kind of embarrassed if I were them and had to own up to allowing her to be the parent of my kid...

Of course she probably wasn't so obviously damaged at 27 when she started this as she is now at 42...

Youth covers a lot of flaws, I actually heard even the royal family had said about Princess Diana that they never would have allowed that marriage to take place if they realized how seriously damaged she was from her own childhood...
7:22 PM
Sharon said...
I feel that you should not base your judgement regarding Surrogacy and Surrogate Mothers from reading this article. As a past Gestational Carrier (to TWO sets of twins) a married (23 years) mother of 2 and a business owner I resent the fact that only the lowest of the low are 'lured' into the surrogacy world because of financial gain. I would write more but perhaps I should have you read my blog and uncover the facts for yourself, not only from my experiences (of running a surrogacy agency) but from others who have written about their own surrogacy path.
7:57 PM
saguiar said...
I completely agree with Sharon. You must not judge every Surrogate based on this one bad example. I was also a Surrogate, a Traditional Surrogate at that. I did not become a Surrogate for financial reasons, but rather having watched a few close friends battle infertility, I was inclined to help someone on their journey to parenthood.

Since my Surrogacy, I am now running my own Agnecy. Having already given an amazing gift to a most deserving couple, I am honored to help couples create their families. To watch these parents hold their babies for the first watch the closeness with everyone priceless. I must say that I have the best job in the world! I wish you could find the bright side of this issue...
9:02 PM
NYMOM said...
How totally self-serving: you both have your own agencies now. I find it a little hard to believe you are claiming humanitarian motives but then run agencies where you can profit from this business. If you are only concerned with helping so-called 'deserving' couples, no one is stopping you from doing that.

It's the money that should be disallowed.

Many of you overlook that little caveat.

You want to do this for nothing, fine...

By the way, further back in my blog is a story of a mother who lost custody of her first two children because she tried to pay off her debts by becoming a so-called surrogate mother.
4:54 PM
Sharon said...
If running a surrogacy agency to insure that all parties are treated fairly, screened properly, are not taken advantage of, and are guided with a knowledge of Assisted Reproductive Technology experience is 'self serving' then so be it. But in stating this you would also have to throw in the Reproductive clinics, Drug companies, Psychologists, and Attorneys as well...and lets not forget the hospitals and their entire staff who make a living on delivering these Surro-babies...because all of these professions make money when a surrogate or egg donor is involved. The compensation to a surrogate is minimal when compared to what the clinic is asking. I think that this argument needs to be put into prospective. Saying that a woman who volunteers to be a surrogate mother shouldn't have her bills paid is ridiculous. Are we horses to be bred? I think not.
10:22 PM
NYMOM said...
By encouraging this behavior, Sharon, you put ALL WOMEN at risk of being viewed as cattle to be bred for the convenience of others. As you and your associates continue chipping away at the fundamental 'sacredness' of motherhood, we're left with women being viewed as brood mares for the convenience of others.

Think about it Sharon and wake up.
11:30 AM
Anonymous said...
I am a married mother of one, BA-degree (graduated number one in my class), worked in an international executive career that paid me ALOT more than 12,000 pounds... and I am still interested in becoming a surrogate mother.

While all surrogates may not come from my gene pool, they also do not all come from that of the woman posted in your article... A wise person looks at the world through a lens of many shades of gray, not just black and white.

What a truly disheartening and disturbing site. Good riddance.
12:39 AM
NYMOM said...
"Good riddance."

7:57 PM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Still Unsettled Issues Around Divorcing while Pregnant,

Here's another oldie but goodie that I was just reminded of when someone made a comment on it, even though the post was almost 6 years just goes to show how the same issues remain relevant over time.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Allowing Divorce for Pregnant Mothers

The recent ruling in Washington State will not prove to be a good thing for mothers.

Allowing women to divorce while pregnant (the classical Trojan horse strategy) will eventually allow men, always looking for an excuse to dodge their responsibilities anyway, to take advantage of this loophole to divorce pregnant women leaving them without provisions for housing, food, medical care and other necessities.

Women are vulnerable when pregnant. It is NOT the time to be hit with divorce papers and have to prepare to relocate into a friend's or relatives' house or apartment, worry about bills being paid or being able to have medical coverage for routine prenatal care.

As many people know, the FIRST thing an attorney will advise a husband to do is to immediately empty ALL joint checking/savings accounts while at the same time to STOP paying all bills for the upkeep of the marital household from the mortgage or rent to the electric and phone bill, cut off ALL joint credit cards, and begin transferring as many joint balances to spouse's card as possible; thus using up all of pregnant mothers' available credit.

This is standard operating procedure, standard. It is an attempt to force the lesser income party (which is still usually women, pregnant mother, a given) to settle as quickly as possible with as few marital assets as possible.

Well, of course, now many will say, well Judge will eventually straighten it all out making allowances for these discrepancies. Sure, I say MAYBE in a couple of weeks or months, maybe it will be straightened out. Sadly, however, a pregnant womens' needs are immediate: housing, food, vitamins, ongoing medical care, etc., and these needs cannot always wait for the pace of American justice.

Then, of course, along with the threat of winding up virtually penniless out in the street, will be the usual emotional blackmail of a 'custody war' ensuing if this is not settled by the time infant is born.

Again, standard operating procedure today, very standard.

Overall this is an extremely stressful time for a pregnant woman anyway, thus the last thing she needs is to have to deal with a divorce.

In spite of the fact that it is two women featured this week as being the initiators of divorces while pregnant, mothers do NOT be fooled. The two women featured in the articles below, both classical Trojan horses'(asses), if I may say so myself, are not representative of most pregnant women.

Most of us dwell in the vast middle of the standard bell-shaped curve, but BOTH of these examples of mothers divorcing while pregnant are more representative of the small group of pregnant women who exist at either end of the spectrum.

The bottom line is that the people who overall have the most to gain from having the legal right to divorce while spouse is pregnant are husbands, not their pregnant wives. Allowing men to divorce while wife is pregnant will put them in the exact same legal position of a boyfriend, who after getting a woman pregnant, is responsible for NOTHING until after he is determined to be the father of child AFTER birth, so basically we will be allowing ALL men the potential to do the same thing.

Like I said, classical Trojan horses'(asses) strategy.

State House passes bills on DNA testing, divorce
OLYMPIA -- The state House on Monday passed a bill allowing convicted felons to request DNA testing that could exonerate them.

The House also passed a bill that would prevent judges from using a woman's pregnancy as the sole reason for denying a divorce.

The divorce bill was inspired by the real-life case of Shawnna Hughes. A Spokane County Superior Court judge ruled last year that because Hughes' ex-husband didn't know she was pregnant at the time the divorce was granted, the divorce was illegal and must be revoked.

Because Hughes was on public assistance, the state had objected to the divorce because it might leave the state unable to pursue a father for repayment of welfare money used to support the child.

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, said the Spokane ruling wasn't an isolated incident.

"There is no uniformity in the law nor in how judges view pregnancy in divorce proceedings," Dickerson said. "Similar rulings have been made on both sides of the Cascades."

The bill passed unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

Information courtesy of

Shawana Hughes is NOT representative of most pregnant women.

First of all she is already a self-contained economic unit (being supported on public assistance) depending upon nobody but the state to provide for all of her needs. Whether or not she divorces is immaterial, as her husband, as well as boyfriend of child she is carrying, are BOTH in prison 'BOTH' one a drug dealer, another a gang banger. Thus neither of these men are a factor in her life for providing any economic wherewithal whatsoever.

They simply are not relevant in this area.

Shawana Hughes has all of her economic needs taken care of from her rent to her medical care. Additionally she is assured of SOLE CUSTODY of this child, as well as the others, since BOTH of the fathers of her brood are in prison. Which is not a given for all mothers in a divorced while pregnant situation, as depending upon a number of variables a pregnant woman facing divorce could also shortly thereafter be face-to-face with losing her infant as well.

Shawna Hughes, divorcing while pregnant, will pretty much impact only her. She already has all of her financial and medical needs (as well as the needs of her children) cared for whether or not she's married. Thus, her decision to divorce while pregnant is not reflective of what is appropriate for the mainstream of pregnant mothers. Many of those mothers NEED their husbands to be married to them and legally responsible to provide all the material things that are required to maintain their lifestyle, while mother, herself, focuses on the most important job which should be bringing forth a normal, healthy, reasonably high-functioning infant.

Now we will examine the second case.


Model turned actress Denise Richards has filed for divorce from actor Charlie Sheen, her husband of 2 1/2 years, according to court papers made public on Thursday.

Richards, 34, who is six months pregnant, filed divorce papers in Los Angeles on Wednesday and asked for custody of the couple's year-old daughter as well as the baby she is expecting with Sheen.

Sheen, 39, whose film credits include "Wall Street" and "Platoon," is currently starring in the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men."

He met Richards in 2000 after a tumultuous decade that included convictions for drug abuse, an attack on his then girlfriend and an association with Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.

The court papers listed irreconcilable differences as the reason for seeking the divorce. There was no comment from spokesmen for the couple.

Information Courtesy of Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Once again mothers, let's not allow ourselves to be fooled by the surface disparities in the two situations between the pregnant women, Denise Richards, in this article and the pregnant woman in the previous one, Shawna Hughes.

Denise Richards, again, like Shawna Hughes, is really a self-contained economic unit. She was a model-actress BEFORE she met Charlie Sheen (and whether or not he gives her anything and I'm sure he'll give her something), nevertheless, she will be able to function financially quite well without him. Let's look at the example of Liz Hurley, for instance. Steven Bing, her child's father, gives her nothing, nada, zip (he's only a freakin billionaire after all) but he puts all the child support he's supposed to be giving her into a 'college fund' for their son. Which if you believe either Hurley or her kid is going to see a dime of that money, by the way, I have a lovely large bridge to sell you in Brooklyn, but that's another story.

Anyway, careers such as acting and modeling revolve around very independent schedules (not like most of us who need to be at a job from 9:00 to 5:00, five days a week) and if you are important enough, many of these studio heads will provide separate dressing rooms for you, which can be luxurious enough to function as a small luxury apartment on the set. Most women like this, make much MORE money then the average person. So Denise Richards is not just making more money, but has a place to bring her infants (with their nurse/caretaker), which is probably just steps away from where she will be working.

Actually it's the situation MOST mothers would LOVE to have, but except for the rare exceptions, never will.

Thus, Denise Richards, like Shawna Hughes, is really a self-contained economic unit independent of her husband, and yet still able to spend more time with her children then MOST OF THE REST OF US MOTHERS ever will (again, just like Shawna Hughes).

Now regarding custody issues, ironically enough both Denise Richards and Shawna Hughes are in very similar situations vis-à-vis custody.

Charlie Sheen has been one of those Hollywood 'badboys' now since he was in his mid-20s, I think, and is probably the legal equivalent of Shawna Hughes's husband and boyfriend. The only difference between the three being that Charlie Sheen is not in prison for his offenses. But he, like them, has a record as long as your arm involving drug offenses, drunken brawls, beating up his girlfriend, carrying on with his 'posse' of Hollywood idiots, in and out of trouble for the last decade or so.

Anyway, I think looking at the moral, legal and character issues here, Denise Richards is a shoo-in for custody as well.

I think even Charlie Sheen might agree with that one.

Thus I think it is fair to say that while Shawna Hughes exists at one end of the bell-shaped curve, Denise Richards exists at the other; neither of these women, however, very representative of the vast middle of the curve where many pregnant women reside.

To sum up, the idea of divorce while pregnant, although currently being painted as a good for women, is one of those ideas (like communism) that will hopefully enter the 'dustbin of history' sooner, rather then later.

It is not something the average pregnant mother should be made to deal with while in a vulnerable state emotionally, physically and often financially. Being in this state could result in homelessness for her while pregnant and might even eventually cost her custody of child at birth. Since no court will award custody to a homeless woman or someone doubling up with friends or relatives, or very few will anyway.

Stability is the key word here that pregnant women need to be focusing on and divorce is the polar opposite of stability for pregnant women and their children.

The people hawking this as a new 'right' for women are misguided (as per the example of the two women in the articles above) as both of these women are in unusual situations, which many pregnant women are not in. Many pregnant women work until either just before or after delivery and then wish to take the 3/6 months in maternity leave that is provided by most jobs today. Mother uses that time to recover from her ordeal, as well as to bond with her infant before having to return to the 'hurley-burley' of work.

Taking advantage of this leave, requires a stable home with a husband who is willing to provide the lion's share of income to maintain that stable home, until mother is back at work again.

I think it is fair to say that most pregnant women are not self-contained economic units who can just afford to divorce (or be divorced) while pregnant. Most pregnant women are not on public assistance where everything from rent money to medical coverage will be provided for them via a benevolent state; or a model-actress who is going to be given the equivalent of a luxury apartment on set to have someone watching the children within, while making millions of dollars just a few steps away.

I wish it could happen that way for most mothers, I really do, but planning the future on either of those two things happening is going to be a long shot for most pregnant women.

Thus, let's just say no right now and make it clear that we are against allowing divorce of a woman while pregnant.
posted by NYMOM | Saturday, March 05, 2005
Anonymous said...
Actually, the woman invovled in the case that this law - to allow women the right to divorce when pregnant - was the one seeking the divorce. BECAUSE HER HUSBAND WAS HITTING HER. By your logic, a divorce is more dangerous than spousal abuse. WOMEN ARE NOT PROPERTY AND SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEAVE THEIR HUSBANDS. The woman in this case won her divorce and then a judge intervened to dissolve it - because they wanted to determine the "legitimacy" of the child first! If this isn't the most backward, feudal logic, I don't know what is. And defending this - especially in today's political climate when those in the highest offices of the land would gladly make divorce IMPOSSIBLE since it is a "sin" - is AT BEST misguided. Supporting the government to say a woman doesn't have the right to leave her husband IS DANGEROUS. Open your eyes. This is not about protecting the stereotypical vulnerable pregnant woman. Quite the contrary. It's about TO WHOM does she belong - herself or her husband (who, in this case, was abusive)? THIS SHOULD NOT BE DIFFICULT TO ANSWER.
11:00 AM
NYMOM said...
This woman's husband was in jail as was the this was NOT about abuse...but about allowing a pregnant woman to GET a divorce...and now, of course, since it's okay pregnant women can BE divorced as well...
11:02 AM
Anonymous said...
So pregnant women should universally be completely cared for by the husband (whether or not he's the father?)

I'm not saying I disagree, but both feminists (women do not "need" men) and men (why should I pay when it isn't my baby, even though we're married) might disagree.

How do you dismiss both feminists' and men's concerns there? And why should some gal who decided to screw every delivery man merit the same rights as a woman who got preggers by her own true husband, by the way?

I'm a woman, but I'm not getting the logic here. It seems not only tilted (which I can understand due to the vulnerability of pregnancy) but utterly unbalanced.
3:30 AM
NYMOM said...
"So pregnant women should universally be completely cared for by the husband (whether or not he's the father?)

I'm not saying I disagree, but both feminists (women do not "need" men) and men (why should I pay when it isn't my baby, even though we're married) might disagree."

Sadly when you marry someone, by law you accept the full responsibility for that person until you are divorced or they pass on as they accept the same for you.

Just as a wife would be responsible for the debts of a husband who was irresponsible and ran up a credit card he (they) couldn't afford or didn't pay his income tax or even had a child while married to another woman (as yes, Virginia, there are states where step persons CAN be forced to assume financial responsibility for stepchildren), so too husbands are and should be responsible for wife's bills while pregnant...

Once she has child, husband can always get a paternity test and at that time divorce and not be responsible for her or child going forward...

Until that time however you are and should be responsible...just as wife would be responsible for the debts of an irresponsible husband...

Judges don't prorate marital debt according to good behavior...

"And why should some gal who decided to screw every delivery man merit the same rights as a woman who got preggers by her own true husband, by the way?"

Because one thing has nothing to do with the other...

For instance, if you found out your husband was screwing all your neighbors' wives everytime they left for work, would that mean a Judge would say okay you're not responsible for his share of the marital debt then????

I don't think so...

People need to understand that you assume a financial obligation to each other when you marry...and if you made a bad choice, do NOT think that everyone else is going to absolve you of your responsibility because of your husband or wife's irresponsible behavior...nor should they...
3:20 PM
Anonymous said...
Well it sounds like that really gives women full license to behave irresponsibly and immorally. It's pure favoritism and special treatment for women over men.

Your example doesn't hold because men aren't generally the ones incurring marital debt.

Sounds like a free ride and high times for immoral women.

As a decent human being I would NEVER marry someone just to do that to him. Any woman who would isn't worthy of ANY man marrying her. Encouraging it in law is reprehensible.

As a woman yourself, I don't see why you have to denigrate us all so horribly. Decent women would not do such things to anyone, much less their husbands. This is why women get a bad name.
6:31 PM
NYMOM said...
"Your example doesn't hold because men aren't generally the ones incurring marital debt.

Sounds like a free ride and high times for immoral women."

That isn't true...Men make more, have higher limits on their credit cards because of it...of course, they probably generate more debt...just as higher income households generate more debt then lower income ones.

Plus I believe it is safe to say that men cheat more...but no one takes that into consideration during a divorce today and saids well you know she was such a good woman married to such a lowlife. Let's just give her a little extra money/property here because of any Judges do that??? No...

"As a decent human being I would NEVER marry someone just to do that to him. Any woman who would isn't worthy of ANY man marrying her. Encouraging it in law is reprehensible."

Encourage what? What are you talking about? You get your wife pregnant, you stay married until after she delivers the baby... PERIOD...

"I'm a woman, but I'm not getting the logic here."

Well maybe you should go back to school then and get some more education as the logic is pretty simple...When you are married to someone and they get pregnant, you STAY married to them until they either abort or deliver child...


It's not brain surgery but simple common sense I think...
3:06 PM
Anonymous said...
"That isn't true...Men make more, have higher limits on their credit cards because of it...of course, they probably generate more debt...just as higher income households generate more debt then lower income ones."

And 75% of the marriage income is spent by the wife.

"You get your wife pregnant, you stay married until after she delivers the baby... PERIOD..."

What she's talking about is when he WASN'T who got his wife pregnant. Take your blinds off.

"When you are married to someone and they get pregnant, you STAY married to them until they either abort or deliver child..."
When you are married to someone, you get pregnant only of him, and stay faithful until death sets you apart.
12:27 PM
NYMOM said...
"When you are married to someone and they get pregnant, you STAY married to them until they either abort or deliver child..."

This is the LEGAL situation as it is and should be vis-a-vis marriage and pregnancy.

"When you are married to someone, you get pregnant only of him, and stay faithful until death sets you apart."

This is the MORAL situation and as you know our courts CANNOT rule on morality...
1:06 PM
Anonymous said...
"This is the LEGAL situation as it is and should be vis-a-vis marriage and pregnancy."

"Should" isn't "is".

"This is the MORAL situation and as you know our courts CANNOT rule on morality..."
But they can rule on legality, and it is legal to divorce a cheating wife, even if she's pregnant, when you're not the father. After all, she can go to the real father to ask for help.
11:54 AM
NYMOM said...
"But they can rule on legality, and it is legal to divorce a cheating wife, even if she's pregnant, when you're not the father. After all, she can go to the real father to ask for help."

AND as I said before the law does NOT distinguish between a cheating wife and a good church-going one on the issue of divorce...can you understand that...

This law applies to EVERY WOMAN NOW...ALL OF US..

NOW it is legal for a pregnant woman to be's that simple...this was another law passed with the support of women who just weren't thinking very clearly when they supported it...

But it's a moot issue now, it's passed...

...a decade or so from now women will be once again kicking themselves in the a@@ over this one and wondering who were the dumbells who supported give me your name so I can let them know one of the main ones...
2:22 PM
Anonymous said...
"AND as I said before the law does NOT distinguish between a cheating wife and a good church-going one on the issue of divorce...can you understand that..."

Yes, I can understand it. Can you understand that law indeed do distinguish between both, when child support is the issue?

"NOW it is legal for a pregnant woman to be's that simple..."
Yes, as you said in your other thread, now women can have a fulfilling life without men. What? That they didn't want men's presence but they wanted men's support? Oops... perhaps they indeed screwed it up :D:D:D

"and wondering who were the dumbells who supported it..."
What about the National Organization of Women?

"so give me your name so I can let them know one of the main ones..."
Ok, my name is MAN.
3:31 PM
NYMOM said...
"AND as I said before the law does NOT distinguish between a cheating wife and a good church-going one on the issue of divorce...can you understand that..."
Yes, I can understand it. Can you understand that law indeed do distinguish between both, when child support is the issue?" are wrong...child support is for the's not awarded according to how GOOD a mother is...and child support is an issue AFTER the child is is a pregnant woman supposed to exist up to that time...

"NOW it is legal for a pregnant woman to be's that simple..."
Yes, as you said in your other thread, now women can have a fulfilling life without men. What? That they didn't want men's presence but they wanted men's support? Oops... perhaps they indeed screwed it up :D:D:D"

Fine...what are women who are divorced while pregnant supposed to do until they deliver their children...move into a cave in the hills somewhere or maybe a homeless shelter as I have heard of men dumping pregnant girlfriends off in those...

The point of marriage while pregnant is that a husband is still responsible for a wife until they are divorced...NOW since women can be divorced while pregnant it means EVERY man can now be like a single father, who is responsible for NOTHING until AFTER the birth and paternity is established...he doesn't have to worry about providing a pregnant women with so much as meal or a vitamin...

"and wondering who were the dumbells who supported it..."
What about the National Organization of Women?"

This means nothing to me as they have supported much legislation that I've disageed with...

"so give me your name so I can let them know one of the main ones..."
Ok, my name is MAN."

It always looking for ways to dodge's just another example...
4:59 PM
Anonymous said...
" are wrong...child support is for the's not awarded according to how GOOD a mother is...and child support is an issue AFTER the child is is a pregnant woman supposed to exist up to that time..."

You are wrong here, dear. It's not "for the child". It's "for HIS child". If the child isn't his, he has no obligation whatsoever to him.

"Fine...what are women who are divorced while pregnant supposed to do until they deliver their children..."

Who cares? After all, it's their child, their pregnancy, their freedom. Why should we care about her? After all, you said we contribute NOTHING.

"men always looking for ways to dodge responsibility..."
If we have NOTHING to do with it, then what responsibility are you talking about?

Dear, why don't you say what you really want: Men should give women their income and slave themselves supporting them, so women can be free. You know what? Women can be as free as they want. And freedom also means she earns her own money, cleans her own house and cooks her own money. Pregnant or not, it is irrelevant. After all, why can't other free women take care of her sister?
7:07 PM
NYMOM said...
Once again playing stupid and refusing to discuss the serious issues that I post about here...

Allowing men to divorce their wives while pregnant will result in MANY men chosing to divorce their wives when they are pregnant in order to absolve themselves of any financial responsibility until AFTER the birth of the child...

AND men will continue becoming more and more useless in this you're all just condemning yourselves by your own actions.
7:49 PM
Anonymous said...
"Allowing men to divorce their wives while pregnant will result in MANY men chosing to divorce their wives when they are pregnant in order to absolve themselves of any financial responsibility until AFTER the birth of the child..."

If a man divorces his wife when she's pregnant of HIS child, he's scum. If she's pregnant NOT with HIS child, she's scum and he's right in giving her the boot. So, she should be sure to have children only from her husband.

"AND men will continue becoming more and more useless in this society"

Who is the judge to decide who is useless or not? You?

" you're all just condemning yourselves by your own actions."

In what way we are condemning ourselves? You said yourself, we are living the life we want to live. So, we're ok. It's you who is not having the life you want, because we oh-so-evil men are refusing giving you happiness in a silver platter.
7:55 PM
NYMOM said...
"If a man divorces his wife when she's pregnant of HIS child, he's scum. If she's pregnant NOT with HIS child, she's scum and he's right in giving her the boot. So, she should be sure to have children only from her husband."

But how is he to know that until after she delivers the child and is DNA tested...we can't have men divorcing their wives all over the place under this pretext can we????

I mean this could rapidly turn into a game of Russian Roulette...

"In what way we are condemning ourselves? You said yourself, we are living the life we want to live. So, we're ok. It's you who is not having the life you want, because we oh-so-evil men are refusing giving you happiness in a silver platter."

You're condemning yourselves through your selfishness...
9:37 PM
Anonymous said...
"But how is he to know that until after she delivers the child and is DNA tested...we can't have men divorcing their wives all over the place under this pretext can we????"

AFAIK, DNA can be tested even in the womb. And if a guy uses this reason as grounds of divorce, he should be ready to pay all the costs related to the test (which, if the kid isn't his, should be repaid by the mother).

"You're condemning yourselves through your selfishness..."
And you're condemning yourselves through your man-bashing and excessive demands. What is the difference?
9:59 PM
NYMOM said...
"AFAIK, DNA can be tested even in the womb. And if a guy uses this reason as grounds of divorce, he should be ready to pay all the costs related to the test (which, if the kid isn't his, should be repaid by the mother)."

Any test performed on a fetus inutero has the possibility to endangering the fetus...

You mean to tell me that you would endanger the life of a child JUST to ensure that you were the father...that couldn't wait until AFTER the birth...

So yes, I repeat, you are selfish...

AND remember what I have said before about the use of acronyms...I don't know what that one you used meant but if you post anything vulgar, it will be deleted...

I know you all use that filthy language on the other blogs you post on but I'm not allowing it here...
5:57 PM
Anonymous said...
"Any test performed on a fetus inutero has the possibility to endangering the fetus..."

That small detail has never prevented mothers from aborting their children, hasn't it? I'd say that's a lot more endangering to the fetus than a simple DNA test.

and AFAIK = As Far As I Know. You can find it everywhere in the web.

And I see you didn't say a thing about women's selfishness and the way it drives men away.
8:49 PM
NYMOM said...
"Any test performed on a fetus inutero has the possibility to endangering the fetus..."

That small detail has never prevented mothers from aborting their children, hasn't it? I'd say that's a lot more endangering to the fetus than a simple DNA test."

So I guess it's okay with you then to perform a test in utero that might destroy or deform your own child...just to assure yourself that your are the child's father BEFORE it's born...because people you don't even know have abortions...

That's your reason...

Well it doesn't even make any sense.
11:33 PM
Anonymous said...
So I guess it's okay with you then to perform a test in utero that might destroy or deform your own child...just to assure yourself that your are the child's father BEFORE it's born...because people you don't even know have abortions...

If the guy has some reason to believe that the child may not be his, it's a good reason.

Besides, what difference it does, if he divorces her during or after pregnancy? If the kid is not his, and he divorces after the delivery, he still has no obligation whatsoever to support the slut and her bastard.
12:01 PM
Callum said...
NYMOM Said:"Sadly when you marry someone, by law you accept the full responsibility for that person until you are divorced or they pass on as they accept the same for you. "

Callum says: Exactly what "responsibilities" do women legally have towards their husbands then?
12:27 PM
Anonymous said...
"Callum says: Exactly what "responsibilities" do women legally have towards their husbands then?"

Absolutely none. What are you thinking, that only because they marry they have to lose their freedom and independence? :P

At least, NYMOM says it clearly: Women have all the rights and none of the responsibilities. Anything different is unbearably oppressive (for women, that is. Men shouldn't be so selfish and accept their bromide without a complain).

I wonder were is her husband.
12:51 PM
NYMOM said...
"Besides, what difference it does, if he divorces her during or after pregnancy? If the kid is not his, and he divorces after the delivery, he still has no obligation whatsoever to support the slut and her bastard."

That's right...but it makes a difference to the rest of us in society as to how the woman get supported until she delivers her child, whoever the father is...
4:30 PM
NYMOM said...
"Callum says: Exactly what "responsibilities" do women legally have towards their husbands then?"

Husbands and wives are BOTH responsible for each other's debts including credit cards, loans and medical bills...

Same for both...
5:01 PM
NYMOM said...
"Absolutely none. What are you thinking, that only because they marry they have to lose their freedom and independence?

At least, NYMOM says it clearly: Women have all the rights and none of the responsibilities. Anything different is unbearably oppressive (for women, that is. Men shouldn't be so selfish and accept their bromide without a complain).

I wonder were is her husband."

Both husbands and wives have exactly the same rights and responsibilities, one to the other...

Most of my proposals if you notice are geared towards changing the situation vis-a-vis never-married men having rights to children, as they should have none...

AND regarding my ex-husband, like many other things, that is none of your business.
5:04 PM
Anonymous said...
"Most of my proposals if you notice are geared towards changing the situation vis-a-vis never-married men having rights to children, as they should have none..."

No rights, no responsibilities. If those men have no rights to children, they they shouldn't have responsibilities, either.

And since I'm not married to any single mom, I'm not responsible of providing a cent to support them or her offspring, whether directly or through my taxes.
5:18 PM
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5:18 PM
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5:18 PM
Anonymous said...
To the above... I am pregnant and he did cheat and wants to marry the other woman who he currently lives with. Can we say felony adultery? Yes, i'm in Oklahoma. I left him, of course he forced me by saying he was not going to pay rent. I am not my own economic unit. I am below 150% the poverty level. I'm on TANF and live in section 8 for free. Which automatically kicks me into the child support bracket...and so forth. You guys should not be aruging about whether you can or can't get divorced. you should be arguing why there isnt a legal support system in place for either way. Another point.. whats going to happen to my newborn if i have no money for a lawyer and he does and legal aid wont take me? Why does it take an average of 3 yrs to establish child support in my situation if you don't have a divorce? Thats some things that should be taken into consideration... One more... I am a displaced homemaker and cannot file taxes and he gets to claim the kids.... tanf might take it back but that still leaves me with absolutely nothing! how bout them apples.....thank you
1:11 PM
Anonymous said...
In Norway, if a man has sex 1x with a woman and she gets pregnant, she goes to the court and puts his name in a book and the country/ state sends the man a letter at his last known address notifying him, if the man does not contest within 2 weeks, life long paternity is automatically assigned to him and for 18 years his checks are garnished. If the man does not wish to pay for his child he must leave the country.
Judges in Norway do not care if the man had sex with the mother behind a hotel in a one night stand or was married to her for 10 years, the fact is, a baby is here and it needs to be fed for 18 years minimum and the man is responsible for keeping his address current and being responsible for where he puts his penis.
the lowlife model tries to evade child support by calling the woman a slut and the child a basterd, that does not work anywhere in the world. Men must wisen up as to where they put thier sperm deposits and women must keep thier legs crossed until a man proves he can provide and support a wife and child.
5:36 AM
Anonymous said...
move to Norway then
9:57 PM
Anonymous said...
I am terribly saddened by the posts on the thread. I am a married mother-to-be just looking for some guidance. My husband is emotionally and physically abusive. I want a divorce, but since I am a housewife, I have no way of leaving my situation without having to deal with the hardships of homelessness and poverty. I cannot find an employer williing to employ a woman 5 months pregnant. I am not trying to take advantage of my husband's finances, but what am I to do when I can't secure a way to take care of myself and my unborn child? I am totally at my wit's end on this. I hurt too much to continue with this marriage, but if I can't even take care of myself and baby in utero without him, is it really worth anything?
1:32 AM
Anonymous said...
This is just another way of the government controlling the situation. If a person wants a divorce it does not matter which party, they should be granted it at any time.

If women are working they should be able to handle the situation. The government should stay out of it. They were not in it when they first got married or when they started having problems in their marriage, so they should not be in it if they are getting a divorce during pregancy.
10:48 AM
NYMOM said...
Didn't you read the previous comment?

Common sense tells us we cannot be allowing men to walk away from pregnant women when they have a built-in obligation which the government (meaning you and me)will be obligated to assume...
2:13 PM
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mothers on Trial - A tour-de-force by Phyllis Chesler

I am only going to give a brief intro to this post because it is such a long one.

First, I do want to say that I positively love this woman. I contacted Phyllis Chesler a few years back because I wanted to do a joint project with her. I was turned down due to issues of time and limited resources, but I would have loved to work on something with her...

She both talks the talk and walks the walk...

For instance I love the way she acknowledges that feminists are actually the mothers of the fathers' rights movement and how a majority of fathers win custody when they take their cases to court. Which is why I always advise mothers to avoid litigation, if at all possible, as the courts are not a friend to mothers.

Phyllis Chesler acknowledges things that no one else in her position would dare to and I'm sure it has cost her in public appearances and scheduled lectures as she's on the far side of political correctness with this situation.

Anyway read it and weep as here is an excerpt from her book: "Mothers on Trial".

I had tears in my eyes after reading some of the passages she highlighted from the mothers she interviewed.

Read an Excerpt From Phyllis Chesler's Book -- 'Mothers On Trial'
By Phyllis Chesler
Published August 05, 2011

Courtesy Lawrence Hill Books

Editor’s note: Fox News Opinion presents the introduction and an excerpt from the completely revised second edition of Phyllis Chesler's book "Mothers on Trial":

This is a book that cried out to be written. I first heard that cry in the mid-1970s and, after years of research, published the first edition of “Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody” in 1986. At the time, the book created a firestorm and was widely, if controversially, received.

In the last twenty-five years, there have been some improvements, but matters have decidedly worsened. The book you are holding has been revised and updated and brought into the twenty-first century.

Myths about custody still abound. Most people still believe that the courts favor mothers over fathers—who are discriminated against because they are men—and that this is how it’s always been.

This is not true.

For more than five thousand years, men—fathers—were legally *entitled* to sole custody of their children. Women—mothers—were *obliged* to bear, rear, and economically support their children. No mother was ever legally entitled to custody of her own child.

During the nineteenth century, pro-child crusaders gradually convinced the state that young children required maternal “tenderness”—but only if their mothers were white, married, Christian, and moral. The children of American slaves, of Native American Indians, of immigrant, impoverished, sick, or “immoral” parents—all were untenderly appropriated by slave owners and by the state. They were clapped into orphanages, workhouses, and reformatories or farmed out into apprenticeships for “their own good.”

By the turn of the century, a custodially challenged American mother enjoyed an equal right to custody in only nine states and the District of Columbia—and only if a state judge found her morally and economically worthy of motherhood. Until the 1920s, no American mother was entitled to any child support. Since then, few have received any.

The maternal presumption was never interpreted as a maternal right. The maternal presumption has always been viewed as secondary to the child’s “best interests”—as determined by a judge. This “best interest” was always seen as synonymous with “paternal rights.”

The contemporary fathers’ rights (or fathers’ supremacist) movement, which has been wildly successful in instituting joint custody and false concepts such as “parental alienation syndrome,” is also a throwback to the darkest days of patriarchy. It is not the modern, feminist, progressive movement it claims to be. Individual men may indeed be good fathers, and, like good mothers, they too may encounter discrimination and injustice in the court system. What I am talking about here is an organized political, educational, and legal movement against motherhood that has turned the clock back.

This book is about what it means to be a “good enough” mother and about the trials such mothers endure when they are custodially challenged. This book is not about happy marriages or happy divorces—it is about marriages and divorces that erupt into wild and bitter custody battles.

By now, many books have been written about the role of caring and responsible fathers, about male longings for a child, and about a child’s need for fathering. This book clarifies the difference between how a “good enough” mother mothers and a “good enough” father fathers. It clarifies the difference between male custodial rights and female custodial obligations.

Since Mothers on Trial was first published in 1986, thousands of mothers have called or written. “I’m in your book,” they say. “It’s as if you knew my story personally.” “You showed me that it’s not just happening to me, that it’s not my fault.” And, “Can you help me save my children?”

In the first edition of Mothers on Trial, I challenged the myth that fit mothers always win custody—indeed, I found that when fathers fight, they win custody 70 percent of the time, whether or not they have been absent or violent. Since then, other studies, including ten state supreme court reports on gender bias in the courts, have appeared that support most of what I say. (The Massachusetts report actually confirms my statistic of 70 percent.)

Although the majority of custodial parents are usually mothers, this doesn’t mean that mothers have won their children in a battle. Rather, mothers often retain custody when fathers choose not to fight for it. Those fathers who fight tend to win custody, not because mothers are unfit or because fathers have been the primary caretakers of their children but because mothers are women and are held to a much higher standard of parenting.

Many judges also assume that the father who fights for custody is rare and therefore should be rewarded for loving his children, or they assume that something is wrong with the mother. What may be wrong with the mother is that she and her children are being systemically impoverished, psychologically and legally harassed, and physically battered by the very father who is fighting for custody.

Today more and more mothers, as well as the leadership of the shelter movement for battered women, have realized that battered women risk losing custody if they seek child support or attempt to limit visitation. Incredibly, mothers also risk losing custody if they accuse fathers or physically or sexually abusing them or their children—even or especially if these allegations are supported by experts.

An ideal father is expected to legally acknowledge and economically support his children. Fathers who do anything more for their children are often seen as “better” than mothers, who are, after all, supposed to do everything.

The ideal of fatherhood is sacred. As such, it protects each father from the consequences of his actions. The ideal of motherhood is sacred, too. It exposes all mothers as imperfect. No human mother can embody the maternal ideal perfectly enough.

Given so many double standards for fit mothering and fathering and so many anti-mother biases, I wanted to know: Could a “good enough” mother lose custody of a child to a relatively uninvolved or abusive father? How often could this happen?
I first interviewed sixty mothers who had been their children’s primary caregivers, were demographically similar to the majority of divorced white mothers in America, and had been custodially challenged in each geographical region of the United States and Canada.

On the basis of these interviews I was able to study how often “good enough” mothers can lose custody when their ex-husbands challenge them. I was able to study why “good enough” mothers lose custody battles and how having to battle for custody affects them.

On the basis of these interviews and on the basis of additional interviews with fifty-five custodially embattled fathers, I was able to study the kinds of husbands and fathers who battled for custody, their motives for battling, and how and why they won or lost.

I was also able to study the extent to which the custodially triumphant father encouraged or allowed the losing mother access to her children afterward.

To repeat: Seventy percent of my “good enough” mothers lost custody of their children.

Today the same experts who once tyrannized women with their advice about the importance of the mother-child bond appear, in the context of custody battles, ready to ignore it or refer to it, if it all, as of only temporary importance. They view the mother-child bond as expendable if it is less than ideal or another woman is available. Perfectly fit mothers are viewed as interchangeable with a paternal grandmother or a second wife.

In 1975 New York judge Guy Ribaudo awarded sole custody of two children to their father, Dr. Lee Salk. Their mother, Kersten Salk, was not accused of being an “unfit” mother. It was clear that Kersten, not Lee, had reared their children from birth “without aid of a governess” and that Lee would probably require the aid of a “third party” housekeeper-governess were he to gain sole custody. The judge used an “affirmative standard” to decide which parent was “better fit” to guide the “development of the children and their future.” Kersten Salk’s full-time housekeeping and mothering were discounted in favor of Lee Salk’s psychological expertise and “intellectually exciting” lifestyle. Lee was widely quoted as saying the following: “Fathers should have equal rights with mothers in custody cases and more and more fathers are getting custody…The decision in Salk v. Salk will touch every child in America in some way. It will also give more fathers the ‘incentive’ to seek custody of their children”

This case swept through public consciousness; it was an ominous warning, a reminder that children are only on loan to “good enough” mothers. They could be recalled by their more intellectually and economically solvent fathers.

Although mothers still received no wages for their work at home and far less than equal pay for equal work outside the home, and although most fathers had yet to assume an equal share of home and child care, divorced fathers began to campaign for equal rights to sole custody, alimony, and child support and for mandatory joint custody.

Fathers’ rights activists—both men and women—picketed my lectures, threatened lawsuits, and shouted at me on television. “Admit it. Ex-wives destroy men economically. They deprive fathers of visitation and brainwash the children against them.

Fathers should have rights to alimony and child support. Joint custody should be mandatory. We’ve already convinced legislators and lawyers, judges and social workers, psychiatrists and journalists to see it our way.”

Indeed, as we shall see, they have.

By 1991, more than forty states had shared-parenting statutes in which joint custody was either an option or preference, and most other states had recognized the concept of joint custody in case law.

The mothers began to find me. Would I testify on their behalf? Marta consulted me as a therapist. She said she was “depressed” and “wanted to kill herself.” Weeping, she told me, “For fifteen years my children were my whole life. I did everything for them myself. Six moths ago a judge gave my husband exclusive custody of our children. How could this nightmare ever happen? At first, I thought they’d come back to me on their own. But they haven’t. Why should they? I have a small one-bedroom apartment. Their father was allowed to keep our five-bedroom house. He gives them complete freedom and the use of their own credit cards. I work as a salesgirl for very little money. Is this a reason to go on living?”

Carol, a complete stranger, asked me for money. “My husband kidnapped our six-year-old son two months ago. It’s what they call ‘legal’ kidnapping. We’re only separated, not divorced. I need money to hire a detective to find them. I need money to hire a lawyer once they’re found. I only have six hundred dollars in the bank. And I’m four months pregnant.”

Rachel, also a stranger, mailed me a description of her custody battle. She entitled it “A Case of Matricide in an American Courtroom.” Rachel had a “nervous breakdown” after she lost her battle for child support, custody, and maternal visitation.

In 1977, when I myself was six months pregnant, I decided to study women and custody of children. The theme had claimed me.

Over the next eight years, I formally interviewed more than three hundred mothers, fathers, children, and custody experts in the United States and Canada and in sixty-five countries around the world. On the basis of these interviews, I conducted three original studies and six original surveys for the 1986 edition of this book. I wanted to understand why we take custodial mothers for granted but heroize custodial fathers, why we sympathize with noncustodial fathers but condemn noncustodial mothers, and why we grant noncustodial fathers the right to feel angry or sad but deny noncustodial mothers similar emotional “rights.” I also wanted to compare what noncustodial mothers and fathers actually do and contrast it with how they perceive themselves and are perceived.

Must custodially embattled mothers be viewed only as victims? Can such mothers also be viewed as philosophical and spiritual warriors and heroes? Gradually I came to view them as such. Under siege, “good enough” mothers remained connected to their children in nuturant and nonviolent ways. They resisted the temptation to use violent means to obtain custody of their children. This is one of the reasons they lost custody. But they never disconnected—not even from children whom they never saw again.

The 2011 Update

What’s changed since I first started researching and writing about custody battles?
Documented domestic violence does get factored in somewhat more than before. Where real assets exist, judges have the power to award more of them to mothers and children. Fewer mothers and fathers automatically lose custody or visitation because they are gay or because they have high-powered careers. However, certain injustices (crimes, really) that I first began tracking in the late 1970s have now gotten much worse. For example, battered women are losing custody to their batterers in record numbers.

Children are being successfully brainwashed by fathers, but many mothers are being falsely accused of brainwashing. Worse: Children who mandated reporters—physicians, nurses, or teachers—report as having been sexually abused by their fathers are usually given to those very fathers. The mothers of these children are almost always viewed as having “coached” or “alienated” the children and, on this basis alone, are seen as “unfit” mothers.

I understand that this sounds unbelievable. But it is still true. The mothers of raped children, who are also described as “protective” mothers, are seen as guilty of “parental alienation syndrome.” The fact that this concept, first pioneered by Dr. Richard Gardner and widely endorsed by fathers’ rights groups, has been dismissed as junk science does not seem to matter. Most guardians ad litem, parenting counselors, mediators, lawyers, mental health professionals, and judges still act as if this syndrome were real and mainly find mothers, not fathers, guilty in this regard. In 2010 the American Psychiatric Association was still fighting to include a new disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: the parental alienation disorder, to replace the debunked parental alienation syndrome.

In 2009 and 2010 more than fifty mothers from twenty-one U.S. states and a number of foreign countries all shared their stories with me. Their cases took place between the late 1980s and 2010. Some cases are still ongoing.

In some instances, I spoke with the mothers in person or at length on the phone. Some mothers filled out questionnaires, but many also sent additional narratives and documentation. Some mothers sent me eloquent, beautifully written, full-length memoirs. Some write pithy but equally heartbreaking accounts of their marriages and custody battles.

Custody battles can take a very long time. They range from only several years to more than fifteen or twenty. They may have profound legal, economic, social, psychological, and even medical consequences for years afterward, perhaps forever.
Going through a custody battle is like going through a war. One does not emerge unscathed. Yes, one may learn important lessons, but one may also be left broken and incapable of trusting others, including our so-called justice system, ever again.

With a few exceptions, most of my 2010 mother-interviewees said that the system was “corrupt” and that lawyers and judges don’t care about “justice,” are “very biased,” or can be “bought and sold.” These mothers said that social workers, mental health professionals, guardians ad litem, and parent coordinators—especially if they were women—actively “disliked” and were” cruel and hostile” to them as women. (Perhaps they expected women to be more compassionate toward other women. In this, they were sadly mistaken.)

Also, many mothers found that female professionals were often completely taken in by charming, sociopathic men (“parasites,” “smother-fathers”), dangerously violent men, and men who sexually abused their children.

Perhaps the mothers who sent me their stories were married to uniquely terrible men who used the court system to make their lives a living hell; perhaps mothers who did not write to me had the good fortune to have been married to and divorced from far nicer men.

Good fathers definitely exist. Some fathers move heaven and earth to rescue their children from a genuinely mentally ill mother but do not try to alienate the children from her. If the mother has been the primary caretaker, some fathers give up custody, pay a decent amount of child support (and continue to do so), and work out a relationship with their children based on what’s good for both the children and their mother. These men exist. They do not launch custody battles from hell.

And good fathers are also discriminated against in a variety of ways in the courtroom. For example, mothers who are independently wealthy or who come from powerful families can and do custodially persecute good-enough fathers. That is the subject of another book. And, when fathers do assume primary-caretaker obligations, traditional judges may view them unfairly as “sissies” or “losers.” Liberal judges will award them custody in a heartbeat.

For this 2011 edition, I also reviewed hundreds of legal decision, which I obtained through LexisNexis and which all commenced and/or were resolved in the last quarter century. I interviewed lawyers and judges. I clipped articles about custody battles that appeared in the media from 1990 to 2010. Some were celebrity cases; others concerned high profile international kidnapping cases; some were about one spouse’s murder of the other during the course of a custody battle.

When I was researching the 1986 edition of Mothers on Trial, joint custody was a totally new idea. Now, as I’ve previously noted, “shared parenting” or joint custody (defined in a variety of ways) is the preferred norm. Joint custody is seen as fair, progressive, feminist, and in the child’s best interest—even though a number of recent studies have shown that under certain conditions joint custody may be harmful to the children involved. Other studies conclude that we cannot prove that a particular custodial arrangement is either helpful or harmful to children.

For example, according to a 1989 study, “a link was consistently found between frequency of visitation/transitions between parents and [child] maladjustment.” The study also found that “children shuffled more frequently between parents were more exposed to and involved in parental conflict and aggression and were more often perceived by both parents as being depressed, withdrawn, uncommunicative, and/or aggressive.”

A 2003 study found that “alternating custody”—for example, week on, week off—“was associated with ‘disorganized attachment’ in 60 percent of infants under 18 months. Older children and adults who had endured this arrangement as youngsters exhibited what the researcher described as ‘alarming levels of emotional insecurity and poor ability to regulate strong emotion.’”

Nevertheless, from the 1980s on, the entire national court system and its various helpers believed that joint custody was the preferred way to go.

As we shall see, joint custody research in the twenty-first century is a minefield of dangerous biases, conflicting conclusions, and outright lies.

The View from the Bench

While lawyers and judges are quick to say that joint custody should not apply where
there is domestic violence and incest, they are often the ones who do not believe that domestic violence and incest exist all that much. And, although lawyers and judges also say that joint custody may not work in “high-conflict divorces,” that does not mean that they still don’t encourage or even order it.

From their point of view, if everyone walks away with something, there is less likelihood that their decision will be appealed or that the case will continue to stall. One judge said, “Maybe this will actually force these warring parties to grow up and learn to compromise for the sake of their children.”

Thus, the role of “parenting coordinator” and guardians ad litem has increased considerably. Many mothers view them as impoverishing agents because they are ordered to pay for their services.

Talk to some good judges—those who are hardworking, experienced, and not corrupt—and you will find that their concerns are far different from those who consume the mothers who appear before them. Judicial concerns are not those of the plaintiffs or defendants. What you will hear is about how important it is to move the cases along, how huge the backlog always is, and how impossible it is to spend too much time on any one case. Judges are annoyed, even contemptuous, when rich people can afford to pay for a long, drawn-out trial. They understand that the working poor have no such luxury, and, at both conscious and unconscious levels, the judges may resent this disparity and despair over the arrogance of the rich.

One judge said, “Rich people fight over everything. Even if they don’t need it, they will prolong the case in order to ‘win.’ It can be a second boat, a third home, a million dollar piece of art over another. They are spoiled children and I only pity their real children.”

Talk to judges and listen to them speak, and you will realize that judges do not feel responsible for the perpetual logjams that frustrate, enrage, and impoverish mothers. In fact, judges feel that they too are victims of a system that does not pay them that well. They feel it does not allot resources for the necessary number of judges. The system is beyond bursting at the seams. In addition, the matrimonial bench is utterly devalued because it concerns “families,” “mothers,” and “children,” all of whom are not high on the priority totem pole.

Most judges are overworked and underpaid compared to what the lawyers who appear before them are paid. Judges are not given the proper time to really hear a case. They are forced into forcing plaintiffs and defendants to accept limited, far-from-perfect settlements, because that will close the case and get it off the judge’s roster. They opt for hard-and-fast compromises in the interest in moving a case along.

From the point of view of a “protective” mother whose child is being molested, there can be no compromise. Allowing a pedophile father or a domestically violent husband to have access to his former spouse or child endangers both mother and child. Such mothers protest. They will not play ball. Their relationship to their children is not a corporate-like entity. It is “all or nothing” as far as they are concerned. They resist for as long as their money holds out—and then they go pro se. Their resistance to compromise is viewed as proof of “narcissism” or “mental instability.” The mother who insists on not compromising is also viewed as annoying, difficult, impossible, unrealistic, and perhaps even dangerous to the smooth functioning of an already overburdened system.

Unless she has unlimited funds, it will cost her lawyer hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions—of dollars to fight for an uncompromised settlement. Some mothers fully expect their lawyers to do so, and when lawyers cannot, or refuse to do so, a mother will often turn on them and sue them for malpractice. “Protective” mothers view a lawyer who needs to make a living as a traitor and a sellout.

Mothers do not understand how to divide a baby in half or share parenting with an absent, neglectful, or abusive father. Judges do not see it as dividing the baby in half at all. One judge pointed on, very reasonably, that in order to keep the nonprimary caretaker involved in a nonembittered way, the judge must give him or her some things to do.

“But what if this father has never taken any responsibility and does not know what he is doing?” I asked.

“All the more reason to bring him in. It can’t be good for a child to have no contact with the nonprimary-caretaker parent.”

Please note the careful, automatically gender-neutral language that one might initially view as a feminist step forward. And it is—except that such language usually “disappears” the much harder work that mothers (primarily caretakers) have undertaken, the higher standards to which they are held, and the nonprimary caretaker’s failure to take primary-caretaking responsibility during the marriage, not just after the divorce.

The judge continued, “Why punish a child because their nonprimary-caretaker parent did not function as a caretaker in the past?

As the child grows, nonprimary-caretaker parents can offer the child different opportunities.”

The judge was right, and yet she was absolutely committed to the following myths:

(1) sane, good parents are ultimately going to do whatever’s in their child’s best interests; (2) all divorcing and custody-battling parents are equally crazy and have to be forced into better behavior; (3) mothers routinely allege battering falsely; (4) mothers are crazier and more difficult to deal with than fathers; and (5) mothers, not fathers, tend to “alienate” the child from the other parent.

These are all myths.

Myth 1: Are divorcing parents really “reasonable grown-ups”? Many parents are far from ideal, even far from adequate. What is known as a “high-conflict” divorce does not involve parents who have their child’s best interests at heart. They are often more concerned with their own interests.

Myth 2: Sometimes a father is a charming sociopath. Just as we have no way of distinguishing rapists from non-rapists, we have no easy way to “spot” a pedophile, a parasite, or a wife beater. Sometimes a mother is genuinely sadistic, abusive, or bipolar. This is more quickly spotted, diagnosed, or even assumed by laypeople in the court system. Thus, if a mother has been losing sleep over the possibility of losing her children and/or is exhibiting the normal human response to being battered or terrorized at home, she may also be stigmatized by the belief that women are naturally “crazy” and “impossible.”

Myth 3: Most mothers do not allege battering falsely. Some, a minority, do.

Myth 4: Mothers are not necessarily “crazier” than fathers; some are. However, facing the end of a marriage, the probable poverty it may entail, plus a possible custody loss, is a far greater stressor for mothers than for fathers. It does make them highly nervous, vigilant, overly demanding, unrealistic, and prone to engaging in self-sabotaging tactics. Men tend to recouple more quickly; women don’t.

Many fathers, on the other hand, are more capable of treating a custody battle as just one more businesslike venture. This style is more compatible with what lawyers and judges need. Thus, even if the father is a secret drunk or drug addict, an embezzler, an active philanderer, and a whoremonger and/or treats his wife and children coldly, sadistically, and abusively, these facts will not necessarily come into play in a custody battle.

Myth 5: According to most research and statistical data and my own interviews, it is mainly fathers who brainwash and kidnap children, not mothers. Fathers falsely claim “parental alienation” when it is not true; yet they are believed. Mothers claim brainwashing when it is true, but they are not often believed.

I do not view matrimonial lawyers as the main or sole problem. True—some lawyers are grossly incompetent and fail their female clients in every way: by misadvising them, sleeping with them, and prolonging their cases unnecessarily for monetary reasons. But it is also true that many lawyers serve their female (and male) clients effectively, even nobly.

Lawyers do not cause men to impoverish, batter, or abuse their wives and children; lawyers themselves are often hobbled by a system of laws and by a courtroom pace that is glacial. One cannot blame lawyers because it is enormously expensive to wage a high-conflict divorce. Some women expect their lawyers to actually pay for their divorces and feel betrayed when lawyers will not or cannot do so. With some exceptions, our government will not and cannot subsidize the cost of high-conflict divorces for the parent, usually the mother, who is without resources in a country where money does buy one’s chance to obtain justice, however imperfect.

Custody cases are also very stressful and difficult for the judges involved, many of whom try very hard to do the right thing. The law is not able to cure sociopaths or psychopaths; sometimes compromising with the devil is, unbelievably, the only possible solution. A judge might only be able to “save” one child—not all three. A judge might be able to save a child from the probable horrors of state care by allowing custody to remain with one far-from-perfect parent.

Having said this, I would like to stress that both judges and lawyers, as well as the entire courtroom cast of characters (guardians ad litem, parenting coordinators, mental health experts, social workers, state agency employees, and the police) have acted in tragically anti-mother and anti-child ways. While feminist progress led to more women on the bench and to more female attorneys, many female professionals have shown very hard hearts toward the mothers whose fates are in their hands. So have their male counterparts.

For this 2011 edition of Mothers on Trial, I have given honorable discharges to six previous chapters, although I’ve preserved some of the material throughout the book. I’ve also added eight new chapters in addition to this introduction. The new chapters include “Court-Enabled Incest in the 1980s and 1990s,” “Court-Enabled Incest in the Twenty-First Century,” “Legal Torture from 1986 to 2010,”

“Contemporary Legal Trends, Part I,” “Contemporary Legal Trends, Part II,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Divorce: A Private Consultation with Divorce Lawyer Susan L. Bender,” and a section of resources.

Immediately after first publishing this book, I coordinated a Senate briefing in Washington, D.C., that was attended by some hand-selected custodially embattled mothers, as well as then Congress, now Senate members Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer. Together with the National Organization for Women of New York State, I also coordinated a national speak-out about women’s losing custody of children, which took place in New York City in the spring of 1986. Hundreds of mothers traveled from around the country to “speak out,” and many legislators, judges, and lawyers also participated in panels. I videotaped this event but, as yet, have not made these precious videos available to the public. I also appeared on network television programs together with “my mothers,” where we all said amazing things and were fairly well received. Women began organizing similar speak-outs elsewhere; I spoke at several in the United States and Canada the following year.

In 1984 a new nonprofit organization, ACES (the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support), was launched. It now has forty thousand members and one hundred sixty-five chapters in forty-five states.

In 1988 Monica Getz founded the New York-based National Coalition for Family Justice, which offers ongoing support groups for divorcing and custodially embattled mothers. Their mission statement reads in part as follows: “To identify problems and advocate for system changes in the divorce and family court systems in order to make them fair, user friendly, accountable, and affordable; to provide victims and children involved in domestic violence situations with crisis intervention, information, support, legal access, and advocacy.” They do not provide pro bono lawyers. But, in conjunction with the National Organization for Women in New York State, they have hosted important hearings and conferences.

In the mid- to late 1980s, “protective” and custodially embattled mothers also began running away from husbands who were sexually assaulting their child or children. Such mothers were almost all captured and jailed and lost custody of the children they were trying to protect.

By the early twenty-first century, custodially embattled mothers, including battered and “protective” mothers, had begun to form organizations that now meet annually and monthly. In 2003 Dr. Mo Therese Hannah began a new organization, an in 2010 Dr. Hannah coordinated and hosted the seventh national Battered Mothers Custody Conference. More than five hundred women travel from around the country each year to attend it. In 2010 they began a quilt project, Children Taken by the Family Courts, which is modeled after the AIDS quilt. They have asked mothers who have legally lost their children to provide a commemoration panel. Dr. Hannah has also published a book, Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues.

In addition, many mothers throughout the Western world have created listserv groups and websites in which they tell (and keep updating) their own outrageous and heartbreaking stories in the hope that this information might help other women. Some ex-wives have become divorce coaches. Some mothers (including those whose interviews are contained in this book) became matrimonial lawyers and mental health professionals dedicated to helping mothers and children. Some researchers have tried to document ongoing injustices in family court.

Yes, custodially battered mothers whose children are being sexually abused have organized more visibly than mothers who have “merely” been impoverished and legally tormented and who must also share custody of their children with men who hate them as ex-wives and do not respect them as mothers.

On Mother’s Day 2010, a peaceful, silent vigil was held at the White House. In the somber spirit of the U.S. suffragettes, American mothers—along with the Argentine Mothers of the Disappeared, Turkey’s Saturday Mothers, the German Rose Street Women, and the Liberian women who stopped a civil war—gathered at the White House to “ask our President to meet with us and to help stop the systemic removal and oppression of our children by family court.”

What Mothers Have to Say

What to Do When a Custody Battle Invades Your Life

“First, take a deep breath and calm down. Save your strength for the long haul.
Find out what all your options are. Find a therapist for some immediate support.”

“Any mother involved in a custody struggle is the one who’s on trial. You’ll need people to hold your hand, to hold you, to take care of your kids, to cook a meal, to say ‘I care.’ You’ll need people to keep telling you that you’re sane and that you have rights. Find those people now.”

“Never leave home without taking your kids with you—not if you’re fighting over custody. Don’t leave your kids behind to take a weekend vacation. If you’ve just been beaten up and you’re on your way to the hospital, you’d better take your kids along.”

“You’ll need to be on permanent good behavior in order to fight this fight. Your husband or someone will always be breathing down your neck spying on you and trying to make your life miserable.”

“I allowed things to get very bad before I started fighting back. I would never have waited so long if I knew what I know now: that for me not fighting was worse than fighting.”

“If you open up a power struggle with your husband, be prepared to learn how to win. Don’t go on believing that your husband won’t lie and manipulate to cheat you. He will. If he doesn’t, his lawyer will. In order to win on their turf you’ve got to be as rotten as they are. Being fair means you’re going to lose.”

“Keep a record of how often your ex-husband visits and whether he’s on time or late. Tape-record your phone conversations with him so you’ll remember everything. Record any threats he makes to you. Record what he does with the kids. Do they come back unfed, unwashed, late? Are they suddenly critical or distant from you? That could be a sign of brainwashing.”

“Organize your family photos into a ‘Mom and Kids’ showpiece album. Reconstruct a diary of what you did with and for your kids from your old calendars or appointment books. You’ll have to prove that you’re a good mother.”

“No matter what happens, no matter what they say, never let any social worker or lawyer or policeman make you doubt yourself or your self-worth.”

“Believe that you’re stronger than you think you are. Become very assertive about getting what you need from others, but depend only on yourself. You have the most to lose and the most to gain.”

“Once you’re married and a mother, it’s too late to think about how to win a custody battle. The time to think about whether and how you should become a mother is long before you’re pregnant and definitely before you marry.”

“Read the marriage contract. Talk to previously married or still married mothers who are living in poverty or who have lost custody of their children. Maybe it’s more realistic not to have children at all—or to have them through woman-controlled anonymous artificial insemination. But the state can still take your child away if you forge a check, work as a prostitute, use dope, sell dope, kill your violent husband in self-defense, or refuse to do whatever your state welfare worker wants you to do—if you’re economically depended on the state. If your own mother doesn’t like how you’re raising your child, she can call in the state against you. This happened to me. I won. But I never sleep easy.”

“Consider adopting a child as a single mother. I know a number of women lawyers who have chosen this route. And don’t marry or partner up. Not with a man, not with a woman.”

On Hiring a Lawyer

“Get a copy of your legal bill of rights. Refer to it when you’re talking to your lawyer. Interview more than one lawyer. Be prepared to leave a lawyer who doesn’t treat you well and to sue him or her for legal malpractice.”

“Once you’re involved in the court system, you must ask your lawyer’s advice about everything. You can’t start a new job or love affair without first weighing the legal consequences involved. You must assume that everything you do can and will be used against you.”

“Your lawyer isn’t God. He or she is your employee. Don’t let your lawyer pressure you into anything ‘temporarily’ that you wouldn’t want permanently.”

“Talk to other women who’ve been through custody battles. Find a lawyer who’s experience in custody battles, not just in matters of divorce.”

“Don’t let your lawyer convince you that joint custody is the ‘answer.’ It isn’t.
My ex-husband wanted to be the one who’d live with our kids in the house or, failing that, he wanted the judge to order that the house be sold. Then, once the cash from the sale of the house ran out, and I really had to struggle economically, that’s when my ex stopped paying child support. He told the kids that ‘he didn’t have to pay because they lived with him half the time.’ The kids had a much higher standard of living with him than with me. Gradually, they began to live with him full time. Then he moved two thousand miles away to take a very well-paying job. I still have joint custody. I just can’t afford to take my ex back to court or to travel four thousand miles a week in order to exercise my joint custody decree.”

“It’s important to find a good woman lawyer. Treat her with more respect than women usually treat each other. Don’t expect her to be your friend. Expect her to treat you with respect and to use the law vigorously and creatively on your behalf.”
What to Tell Your Children

“In a custody battle, children challenge maternal authority right away. Don’t let them do this. Remind them that you’re still their mother, even if you’re fighting with their father.”

“If one parent is blatantly destructive to the children, it’s the job of the other parent to say so, loud and clear. I don’t believe that cover-ups are good for children.”

“If the state takes you away from your kids, tell them that you love them and always will. Tell them that you’ll always be their mother. Tell them you’ll be out looking for them as soon as you can. Tell them whatever happens, it’s not their fault.”

“I kept quiet for too long. I didn’t believe it was right to involve kids in private adult matters. But my kids needed to hear my point of view too. They needed to know that I loved them too and would fight for them. They also needed to know that I would keep loving them no matter what happened.”

“My children really want to leave me. I fought this for a long time. I should have let them go. They already had my love. They couldn’t have their father’s love if they lived with me.”


What Is a “Fit” Mother or Father? An “Unfit” Mother or Father? Who Decides?

What are our standards for parental fitness? Who determines such standards? Are they the same for both mothers and fathers and for all classes and races? Judith Arcana, in Every Mother’s Son, describes the “idealized mother [as] a woman who is boundlessly giving and endlessly available. She is truly present to her son. The idealized father is practically invisible; he is almost never available, rarely giving; his sparse favor and scarce presence to his son become miraculous and precious when they do appear. He is like the unknowable Judaeo-Christian father-god, who is the epitome of this idea.”

Mothers are expected to perform a series of visible and invisible tasks, all of which are never ending. Mothers are not allowed to fail any of these obligations. The ideal of motherhood is sacred; it exposes all mothers as imperfect.

Fathers are expected to perform a limited number of tasks. They are also allowed to fail some or all of these obligations. In addition, fathers who do anything for children are often experienced and perceived as “better” than mothers, who are supposed to do everything. The ideal of fatherhood is also sacred; it protects each father from the consequences of his actions.

Father-starved and father-wounded sons (and daughters) rarely remember, confront, or publicly expose their absent or abusive fathers. Arcana also notes that we mothers watch our young boys go from expecting to be cherished and nurtured by their fathers to the sullen and bitter understanding that dad will not come across. And then, so powerful is society’s sanction of that “ideal” paternal behavior, we see our sons come to an acceptance so complete that they will defend their fathers even against the criticism and anger they’ve expressed themselves. And all along, the boy will not—or cannot—confront his father. Young sons will not push their fathers the way they’ll push their mothers—they learn early that dad’s affection, such as it is, is tenuous and conditional. Most boys understand all this before they are 12 or 13 years old.

When a father fails his paternal obligations, we don’t necessarily view him as an example of all fathers, nor do we automatically hold other fathers “accountable” for one father’s failure. We may be horrified when a father abuses or kills his child, but we first view him as the exception among fathers.

Or we make excuses for him. He didn’t mean to hit, molest, rape, hurt, maim, or kill his child. He is a man. Men are violent and don’t know their own strength.
Or we blame his wife. Perhaps she “drove” him to it. How could any mother leave her child alone with such a man? Where was she when her child was being hit, molested, raped, hurt, maimed, or killed?

When a mother does irresponsibly abandon or savagely abuse her child, we are truly stunned and terrified. How could a mother of the human race “act like a man”? How could both biology and culture fail to ensure maternal pacifism under stress?

When one mother neglects or abuses her child, we tend to hold all mothers accountable for her failure. One mother’s “crime” forces all mothers to prove—to themselves and to everyone else—how unlike Medea they are and how like the Virgin Mary they are.

After reading several news accounts of maternal suicide and infanticide, I read about a mother who failed in her double suicide attempt. She succeeded in killing her child but failed to kill herself. Plunging headlong out the window, she “merely” broke every major bone in her body instead.

I wanted to visit her in her hospital bed. After many phone calls, I was made to understand that her own mother refused to see her and that her husband had vowed never to speak to her again. Women who knew her and her husband tried to dissuade me from seeing her. Women said, “Don’t make a heroine out of her. She’s a real sickie. You wouldn’t have liked her. None of us did. She’s broken her husband’s heart. He’s a wonderful man.” Others said, “Her husband was about to leave her. She knew that her son would follow his father, sooner rather than later. The bitch just couldn’t let go. Why didn’t she die instead of her son?”

Voices without mercy; voices determined that no one comfort her on her cross. This mother was viewed not as human, or even as psychiatrically ill, but as an evil monster, a “loathsome thing,” a “Medea.”

I am always amazed that Medea’s knife, unseen onstage, looms so much larger in our collective memories than Agamemnon’s knife, with which he kills his daughter, Iphigenia, or Laius’s mountaintop exposure of his new-born son, Oedipus. The infanticidal fathers apparently leave no bloody footprint, no haunting shadow.
Are contemporary mothers and fathers as abusive to their children as parents presumably once were in the past? Historians have described medieval European and colonial American children as essentially their family’s “servants.” A girl was her mother or stepmother’s domestic servant and her father’s companion and nurse; a boy was his father or stepfather’s agricultural servant. Both boys and girls were often apprenticed out at young ages. Their wages belonged to their fathers.

According to psychoanalyst Alice Miller, child rearing in the West was a form of “poisonous pedagogy.” Harsh parental punishment was defended for its being “for the child’s own good”:

A sophisticated repertory of arguments was developed to prove the necessity of corporal punishment for the child’s own good. In the eighteenth century, one still spoke of [children] as “faithful subjects” . . . child rearing manuals teach us that: “Adults are the masters (not the servants) of the dependent child; they determine in godlike fashion what is right and what is wrong; the child is held responsible for their anger; the parents must always be shielded; the child’s life-affirming feelings pose a threat to the autocratic adult; the child’s will must be ‘broken’ as soon as possible; all this must happen at a very early age, so the child ‘won’t notice’ and will therefore not be able to expose the adults.”

In Puritan New England, child rearing was synonymous with “breaking” a child’s (sinful) “will”:
Every child was thought to come into the world with inherent tendencies to “stubbornness, and stoutness of mind”: these must be “beaten down” at all costs. One aspect of such tendencies was the willful expression of anger which was, by Puritan reckoning, the most dangerous and damnable of human affects. Children must therefore be trained to compliance, to submission, to “peace.” To effect such training, drastic means were sometimes needed. Puritan parents were not inclined to spare the rod; but more important than physical coercion was the regular resort to shaming.

Mothers worked hard and had little “child-centered” time to spend alone with each child. Although mothers (or women) were exclusively responsible for birthing and rearing children, they were not considered “expert” in this area. “Students of child-rearing literature in England and America tell us that in the 16th and 17th centuries the father was depicted as the important figure in the rearing of children, as well as being the ultimate authority in familial matters. In fact, most of the manuals of these centuries directed advice to fathers.”

In the mid- to late eighteenth century, male experts began to address mothers directly. Formerly viewed as vain and without souls, mothers were now viewed as their children’s moral guardians.

Mothers of the middle class were encouraged to experience biological motherhood as the source of their greatest pride and joy. The influential Jean-Jacques Rousseau viewed motherhood as a personal religious calling:

The true mother, far from being a woman of the world, is as much a recluse in her home as the nun is in her cloister. . . . [A good mother] will not be willful, proud, energetic or self-centered. In no event should she become angry or show the slightest impatience . . . she must be taught, while still very young, to be vigilant and hard-working, accustomed at an early age to all sorts of constraints so that she costs [her husband] nothing and learns to submit all her caprices to the will of others. . . . She serves as liaison between [the children] and the father, she alone makes him love them.

Throughout the nineteenth century, male experts continued to urge women into motherhood as a religious calling. However, these experts insisted that “instinctive” (emotional, “soft”) maternality was harmful to children. They advised mothers to behave in more “manly” ways.

By the twentieth century, male experts told mothers to give up breast- feeding, to feed their infants only at rigid intervals, not to pick up their crying babies, and to toilet train them as soon as possible. Some male experts advised mothers to “bond” with their infants immediately at birth. According to these experts, if mothers didn’t “bond” with or didn’t “let go” of children perfectly enough, they doomed them to “neurosis.” According to psychiatrist Ann Dally, mothers were tyrannized into believing that it was “dangerous” to leave their children “even for an hour.”

We do not know how many women actually succumbed to the tyranny of the male experts. Enslaved or impoverished mothers did not have the time, the literacy, or the resources to act on scientific opinion; wealthy and royal mothers continued to delegate their maternal responsibilities. (Perhaps some royal and impoverished mothers felt guilty about this.) Middle-class mothers were in a position to be most easily tempted by expert promises.

The church fathers always assured mothers that they were important and irreplaceable. They also tried to convince men that it was anti-God and anti-church to divorce their wives or abandon their children.

The scientific fathers shared these churchly beliefs. However, they also promised mothers “control” over the outcome of their maternal labors and over children at home in lieu of “control” over armies, parliaments, churches, or banks.

What about fathers? Did they matter at all beyond their legal acknowledgment of sperm and economic support of families? Did it affect children badly, or at all, if fathers were absent, distant, or tyrannical? What is a “good” or a “good enough” father?

According to our state and church fathers, a “good” father is someone who legally acknowledges, economically supports, and teaches his children to obey the laws of state and church. The scientific fathers failed to consider the paternal role. When pressed, one twentieth-century expert said, “The first positive virtue of the father is to permit his wife to be a good mother. In the child’s eyes the father embodies the law, strength, the ideal, and the outside world, while the mother symbolizes the home and household. . . . The only thing one can usefully demand of the father is to be alive and stay alive during his children’s early years.”

Some scientific fathers went to great lengths to deny the existence of “bad” fathers. Psychoanalysts, for example, were actually more eloquent about the rivalrous impulses of sons than about the murderous deeds of fathers. Most psychoanalysts rarely paid attention to real-world “facts” or held real fathers responsible for anything they did—or failed to do.

Psychoanalysts and other, more popular child-development experts failed to acknowledge their own expert fathering as “responsible” for an increase in maternal guilt and for turning mother blaming into a “science.” For example, the phrase maternal deprivation terrorized countless mothers in the twentieth century. A woman who “maternally deprived” her child was a “bad” mother. Dr. John Bowlby first used this phrase in 1951 to describe what happened to children whose state father had institutionalized them.

Bowlby did not condemn the state father for “depriving” his institutionalized children, nor did he (or his popularizers) hold the state responsible for the crimes such children might commit in the future. The sins of the state fathers were used to control maternal behavior. The specter of “maternally deprived” children kept mothers guilty and sleepless. (State orphanage employees and members of Parliament slept quite soundly.)

Popular accounts of child abuse invariably focus on the “sensational” episode as opposed to the more entrenched forms of child abuse. A male homosexual child molester makes ready headline copy; his more numerous male heterosexual counterparts remain invisible.

A single school or a large church involved in the sexual abuse of children becomes a scandal; the high incidence of male heterosexual abuse of female children, including paternal incest, is denied or minimized.

What exactly is child abuse? Is physical child abuse increasing in America? Most incidents of physical child abuse are probably never reported. Nevertheless, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect reports a “dramatic increase” in child abuse.

Naomi Feigelson Chase found that, historically, “serious” child abuse was either underreported or atypical. Chase and Leontine Young attempt to distinguish between severe physical neglect—lack of adequate or regular feeding—and moderate neglect, which includes lack of cleanliness, lack of adequate clothing, and failure to provide medical care.

They also point out that physical neglect is not the same as physical abuse, which, in turn, may be either moderate or severe. According to Young, the prolonged physical and psychological abuse of children constitutes a category all its own, as does child murder: “Severe [physical] abuse is consistent beating that leaves visible results. Moderate abuse occurs when parents beat children under stress or when drunk. [Those in the] severe category are unable to be helped. The abusing parents’ hallmark is deliberate, calculated, consistent punishing without cause or purpose.”

In 1978 Dr. David Gil analyzed the thirteen thousand reported cases of physical child abuse in the United States. Of these, 3 percent were fatal; less than 5 percent “led to permanent damage”; 53 percent (6,890 cases) were not serious; 90 percent “were expected to leave no lasting physical effects.”

These studies of reported child abuse were almost always correlated with extreme poverty, severely “deprived” parental childhoods, mental illness, overburdened and isolated single motherhood, and unrelieved or profound stress.

In view of the high incidence of and extraordinary stress associated with single motherhood and the great amount of time mothers have to spend with children, it is significant that both Gil and Chase found no evidence that mothers “abuse” their children any more than fathers (or boyfriends) do. On the contrary. According to Chase, “a mother or stepmother was the abuser in 50 percent of the incidents and the father or stepfather in about 40 percent. Others were caretakers, siblings, or unrelated perpetrators. However, since almost a third of the homes were headed by females, fathers had a higher involvement rate than mothers. Two-thirds of the incidents in the homes where fathers or stepfathers were present were committed by the father or stepfathers; while in homes with mothers or stepmothers, the mothers and stepmothers were perpetrators in less than half the incidents that took place.”

Researchers studied pregnant mothers who were potentially “high-risk” physical child abusers. All these mothers were young, poor, unwed, and going through with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. The study found that, as expected, one-quarter of the children was abused psychologically. The researchers explained this abuse in terms of the mothers: they had received no “maternal nurturance” in childhood. The psychologically abusive mothers “don’t know how to be nurturing. Instead of giving to the child, they look to the child to satisfy their own needs for nurturance and love, and the child cannot provide.”

This study actually shows that 75 percent of “high-risk” mothers do not psychologically or physically abuse their children and that “high-risk” mothers need emotional as well as economic support in order to mother properly. The study focuses on maternal, not on paternal, abuse.

Researchers have no control over how their work is viewed or used. This study (and others like it) are used to “indict” mothers in the public imagination, to incite middle-class or married mothers to paroxysms of time-consuming guilt, and to justify the state’s custodial or reproductive punishment of poor, unwed mothers.

Mothers do not physically or sexually abuse, abandon, or neglect their children as often as fathers do. Several statistically sophisticated studies have confirmed that it is mainly men—fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, boyfriends, older brothers, uncles, and male strangers—who physically and sexually abuse both mothers and children.

How many fathers and adult men beat or rape mothers? No one really knows. Research suggests that anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of all mothers in America are physically battered and/or raped by their husbands or live-in boyfriends.

Some studies (and common sense) suggest that wife beaters also tend to abuse their children physically, sexually, and psychologically. The sons of wife beaters often become wife beaters; their daughters often become battered wives.

How many fathers sexually abuse their own genetic or legal children and grandchildren? No one really knows, though a number of first-person and clinical accounts about paternal incest have been published and publicized.

In the past, according to incest researchers, two to five million American women were paternally raped as children; one in every seven or one in every five American children was the victim of paternal incest or of male sexual abuse; 19 percent of all American women (one in six) and 9 percent of American men were sexually victimized as children. Other studies have shown that perhaps 20–25 percent of American girls were sexually abused in childhood and that 30–50 percent of their abusers were male members of their own family.

It is my impression that the majority of unfit mothers do not kill, torture, maim, rape, or abandon their children outright. The majority of unfit mothers seem physically to neglect and psychologically to abuse their children.

Mothers do spend more time with children than fathers do. Mothers also turn up in emergency rooms alone with battered children. The sight of a mother accompanying a child with a broken arm or a suspicious burn is sickening and impossible to forget.

We do not ask, “Why is she here alone?” or “Where is the child’s father or other adult member of his family?” We do not comment, “Maybe the father (or a man) actually beat this child, and she’s confessing in his place,” or “Perhaps the absence of a supportive husband ‘drove’ her to it.”

Still, it is my impression that when an unfit mother does physically abuse her child, she may do so less forcefully, less often, and less fatally than her paternal counterpart. (There are many exceptions among drug-addicted and mentally ill mothers.)

Physically neglectful or physically violent mothers are more closely and critically scrutinized than physically abusive fathers are. Such mothers have also often internalized certain maternal ideals. Whether they achieve or fail them, they are aware of, and often guilty about, their imperfect or failed maternal performance.
Clearly, children are equally endangered by equally physically violent parents whether they are mothers or fathers. However, women in general are more rigidly socialized into nonviolent maternal behavior under stress than men are.

Female socialization, the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, maternal practice, and the social “watchdogging” of mothers all tend to reinforce maternal physical nonviolence. Children tend to be physically safer with most mothers most of the time. Sara Ruddick observed that most mothers are (objectively) “powerless” women who find themselves embattled with weak creatures whose wills are unpredictable and resistant, whose bodies [they] could quite literally destroy, whose psyches are at [their] mercy. . . . I can think of no other situation in which someone with the resentments of social powerlessness, under enormous pressures of time and anger, faces a recalcitrant but helpless combatant with so much restraint [author’s italics]. It is also clear that physical and psychological violence is a temptation of maternal practice and a fairly common occurrence.

What is remarkable is that in a daily way mothers make so much peace instead of fighting, and then when peace fails, conduct so many battles without resorting to violence [author’s italics]. I don’t want to trumpet a virtue but to point to a fact: that non-violence is a constitutive principle of maternal thinking, and that mothers honor it not in the breach, but in their daily practice, despite objective temptations to violence.

Children are potentially more physically endangered by fathers, whose socialization as men has predisposed them to flight or physical violence under stress and has forced them into a fierce dependence upon obedience from wives and children.

Fathers, as men, are not closely “watchdogged” within the house; in a father-idealizing and father-absent culture, they are romanticized by children. (This dynamic allows children to deny paternal violence against them or to blame themselves when it happens.)

Both nature and culture have prepared women to mother in physically nonviolent ways under very oppressive conditions. Some observers romanticize the female ability to do this; others lament it as a virtue by default. Most mothers are usually able to absorb frustration, humiliation, unemployment, poverty, celibacy, and extreme loneliness without abandoning, seriously abusing, or murdering their children. As such, mothers as a group are rearing their children as well as can be expected of the human race to date.

Does a child physically need his or her father or father figure during pregnancy or childbirth, during infancy, or at some point later in childhood? Common sense and personal experience confirm that men and women do not have the same physical relationship to children.

It is crucial to remember that many children grow up without any fathers or father figures. Studies suggest that such children are no different from children with fathers—if severe impoverishment is not confused with paternal absence. Perhaps few children are physically fathered whether they live with fathers or not.

It is also clear that fathers have an effect on children whether they are absent or present, that fathers may influence a child directly or indirectly, and that paternal influence can be “advantageous, disadvantageous, or neutral.”

A number of feminist theorists and researchers have written about the psychological importance of “fathering” and about men’s potential ability to “nurture.” Such researchers have tried to show that a “good “father is potentially as good as (or similar to) a “good mother.”

These studies have essentially shown that white, middle-class, well- educated fathers can, under experimental conditions, “bond” with infants and can perform many of the physical and emotional tasks of “maternal nurturance.”

However, studies also show that “good enough” fathers tend to spend radically less time with infants, toddlers, preadolescents, and teenagers than mothers do; that fathers tend to “play” with children rather than physically to “service” them; and that fathers tend to “mother” children for comparatively short periods of time.
In real life, some (married) fathers are indeed physically “nurturant” to their children. However, unlike most nurturant mothers, such fathers are unwilling or unable to “nurture” children all day, every day, for all the years of each child’s childhood.

Fathers do not get pregnant. They do not give birth to, breast-feed, or routinely take care of newborn infants. Traditional fathers and mothers do not view these tasks as men’s province.

Researchers have found that “good enough” fathers are not able or willing to do what “good enough” mothers must do physically in related areas in order to maintain family life. For example, past studies confirmed that American wives did 70 percent of the housework, whether they were employed outside the home or not.

In their study of American couples, Drs. Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz found that married men had such an intense aversion to house- work that when wives insisted they do it, intense acrimony and a greater probability of divorce resulted.
Even if a “good enough” father is unemployed, he does much less house-work (and child care) than a wife who is a full-time employee outside the home. One of my interviewees said, “My ex-husband was once unemployed for about a year. I taught full time and rushed home at three, collected the kids, shopped, and cooked dinner. I was very tired by the time I put the kids to bed and finished the dishes. I begged him to cook dinner. He refused. After much battling he agreed to cook every Friday night. He finally cooked dinner about twice a month. We all had to praise him and eat everything. I had to clear the table and do the dishes. Everyone said I had to be very understanding because he wasn’t employed.”

Of course, a father may be able to earn more money or physically lift more weight than a mother can. Such (innate and cultural) abilities may have nothing to do with satisfying the daily physical needs of children directly or with satisfying these needs in a physically nonviolent way, especially at times of parental stress.
Is physical punishment always a form of child abuse? Is a slap the equivalent of a broken arm? Is physical abuse the most serious form of child abuse? Is a child who is made to feel “unloved” or “unworthy” more severely abused than a child who is physically punished?

What do we know about psychological mothering and fathering? “Good enough” fathers may be psychologically cold, cruel, demanding, rivalrous, ambivalent, smothering, and abusive toward their sons and psychologically seductive and incestuous toward their daughters. A “good enough” father may also be infinitely more psychologically patient, understanding, relaxed, and generous to his children (especially to a daughter) than a mother may be.

“Good enough” mothers may be psychologically cold, cruel, demanding, rivalrous, ambivalent, smothering, and abusive toward their daughters (and to a lesser extent toward their sons). They may also be either more positively— or negatively—“maternal” toward their children than a father may be.

Drs. Joseph Goldstein, Anna Freud, and Albert J. Solnit have noted that the “best” parent-child relationship is both “positive” and “negative”; that it “fluctuates” over time; that “wanted” children may be “excessively valued” to their detriment; and that “good” parents cannot guarantee ideal child development even when they are their child’s psychological parents—that is, present and active in daily and physically caring ways.

Most parents do not view the psychological abuse of children as an epidemic with “devastating” consequences. According to psychoanalyst Alice Miller, most parents unthinkingly “murder their children’s souls.” Parents suppress their children’s “vital spontaneity” by the “laying of traps, duplicity, subterfuge, manipulation, ‘scare’ tactics, withdrawal of love, isolation, distrust, by humiliating and disgracing the child, scorn, ridicule, and coercion even to the point of torture. The former practice of physically maiming, exploiting, and abusing children seems to have been gradually replaced in modern times by a form of mental cruelty that is masked by the honorific term child-rearing.”

Miller may or may not be right. However, she rarely distinguishes between paternal and maternal behavior. She merges what mothers and fathers do (and don’t do) into “parental” behavior. Also, Miller’s psychologically high standards, while admirable, are rarely applied to fathers—or to mothers of all classes and races.
Unless or until we (and the “experts”) are prepared emotionally to judge all parents by the same standard, several conclusions are in order about how most mothers and fathers behave today.

Mental health experts, like the rest of us, tend to blame mothers, not fathers, for any problems a child may have; to praise fathers, but not mothers, for the good they may do; and to have one set of expectations for mothers and another, lesser set for fathers. Experts also tend to pathologize mothers when they fall short of idealized expectations of motherhood.

Seattle attorney Martha O. Eller notes a disturbing trend: “We are very disheartened by social workers’ and psychologists’ willingness to ignore issues of domestic violence, over-emphasize the value of a working father and under-value the contributions of a full-time homemaker, and [their] general tendency to despise a woman for having boyfriends without carefully inquiring of the father along the same lines. The [child] guardians ad litem, including psychologists, tend to evaluate the mothers harshly, even more so than the judges.”

Some mental health professionals have encouraged fathers to consider co-parenting or joint custody as their right and encouraged mothers to consider co-parenting or joint custody as their obligation, both of which are “in the best interests of the child.” Unbelievably, mental health professionals tend to trust what a father tells them and to distrust almost everything a mother says. They routinely minimize male violence and routinely pathologize the normal female response to violence. For example, read the following evaluation from a Michigan case:

The mother presents as a tense, suspicious person rigidly fixated on her ex-husband’s so-called potential for child abuse. She and the maternal grandmother, an overly intrusive, controlling woman, have convinced this child to fear her father. While the father admits to engaging in mildly inappropriate fondling behavior with his young daughter and to an incident of “joyriding” with her, I believe these were isolated occurrences and would not occur if the father-daughter relationship was stabilized. The father’s continuing inability to pay child support should not be used to deprive him or his child of their relationship. I recommend visitation to the father and therapy for the mother to help her deal with her pathological dependence on her own mother.

Here is an evaluation from a New York case:

The mother claims that her son has been terrorized by his father during so-called drunken rages.

She claims that the father allegedly threatened to kill the boy’s dog if his son didn’t obey him.

The wife claims she has been battered and that her husband tried to control her every waking hour. I don’t see this. She is too self-confident, too bossy. This woman has her own business and earns more than the father does. The father has been in treatment for alcoholism and says he is now recovered. He lives with the paternal grandparents, who are prosperous. The boy needs to live with male role models, his father and grandfather, especially since his mother has a career and is obviously hostile to men.

It made no difference to either evaluator—one a man, the other a woman—that both fathers were verified as having been treated for mental illness and alcoholism, had been fired from jobs for “losing their tempers” and for repeated absences, and had often “disappeared” from home. That both mothers had been their children’s sole support, psychologically and economically, and had sought help from the police, hospitals, and, in one case, a shelter for battered women. None of this impressed the evaluators. Incredibly, these reports—and they are typical—found the mothers “guilty,” the fathers “innocent.”

How can one fight such an incredible catch-22?

At some level, the evaluators do believe that the fathers have done some- thing “wrong,” but they don’t want to penalize them for their actions. In fact, when allegations of paternal violence are believed, the father is then exonerated by virtue of having a mental illness. While male mental illness is seen as either temporary or amenable to “therapeutic” intervention, women are often seen as suffering from near-permanent mental illnesses. Judges have been reluctant to order a wife batterer or child abuser out of the house or into jail; based on such psychiatric evaluations, they have instead ordered violent fathers into therapy or mediation. Violent or mentally ill fathers rarely lose their rights to visitation or custody; mothers, however, do. The following paragraphs are from an Illinois case and a Rhode Island case, respectively:

I guess I had a post-partum depression. I was always so tired, but I couldn’t sleep. What if I fell asleep and my babies needed me? I was all they had. I might not have needed pills or a two-week stay in a hospital if my husband had helped or allowed me to hire someone for the twins. When I put myself into a mental hospital, my in-laws persuaded my husband to move in with them, start divorce proceedings, and take custody away from me. Twice, when I and my parents, who finally decided to help me, tried to see my babies, my in-laws physically threw us out. The third time they had us arrested. The police threatened us. The judge said I was too sick to be a mother.

My ex-husband is charming, well-dressed, well-spoken, and comes from a very powerful family. He first beat me two weeks after we were married. The beatings continued. When I was pregnant, he kicked me so hard between the legs that he broke my water. I gave birth prematurely. During that beating I grazed his arm with a fork. I also pressed charges. He said I’d gone too far and I’d have to be punished. On the basis of his version of what I did with the fork, the custody psychiatrist stated that I was the abusive spouse. The psychiatrist pre- scribed a minimum of three years of therapy to cure my violence. He recommended that I have limited, supervised visitation and that sole custody go to my ex-husband and his live-in housekeeper. The judge agreed. I haven’t seen my child in three years.

“Good enough” mothers behave (and are trained to behave) differently toward children from the way “good enough” fathers do. Most mothers give birth to children after successful pregnancies.

Most “birth” and adoptive mothers do not physically abandon or physically abuse their children once they have gotten involved in caring for them.

Some mothers do physically neglect their children. A small (and unknown) percentage of mothers sexually abuse, torture, and kill their children.

All other things being equal, the majority of mothers physically nurture and support their children adequately, continuously, and in nonviolent ways.

All mothers are psychologically imperfect. Some are also psychologically abusive.

Most fathers are trained to neglect their children physically. Many fathers physically abandon their children. As we have seen, perhaps one in seven fathers (and stepfathers) sexually abuses his daughters; perhaps 50 percent of fathers economically abandon their children.

All fathers are psychologically imperfect. How many are also psychologically abusive? Most? Some? Few?

In a woman- and mother-hating culture, it is emotionally difficult or psychologically forbidden to acknowledge female or maternal superiority even—or especially—in the areas of female “specialization.” In a man- and father-idealizing culture, it is emotionally difficult or psychologically forbidden to acknowledge male or paternal inferiority even—or especially—in the areas of male nonspecialization. These are two of the reasons we “forget” that a “good enough” mother is different from a “good enough” father.

As adults, we respond “indignantly” to news of an abused child. We experience child abuse as something extraordinary, not ordinary; as something that other parents, mainly mothers, do; not as something that our own parents, or fathers, once did to us; not as something that we as parents do to our children; and not as something that fathers allow to happen to large numbers of children in their name and without their protest.

As adults, we confuse images of maternal psychological imperfection with maternal psychological and physical unfitness. For example, the idea of a mother’s locking her child into a room arouses our rage and a deep sense of heartbreak. (Why? Were we all once left in rooms alone? If so, do we think that this constitutes “child abuse”? Does it?)

The idea of a mother’s verbally tormenting or refusing to speak to her child at all or the idea of a mother’s neglecting or beating her child provokes the greatest fury and terror in us. (Why? Did our mothers or fathers beat us? If not, why do we so empathetically identify with the image of an abused child? Are we by nature altruists?)

As children, none of us could escape or protest whatever minor or major abuse we suffered at maternal and paternal hands. Now, in one mighty adult voice, we vent our long-suppressed fury at the mother in the child-abuse headlines. She is utterly evil and can never be rehabilitated. (How can she be? She is a “stand-in” for so many mothers.) She is very powerful. This time she must not escape us.

Given male violence (or indifference), how can our own mothers accept or defend the way things are? (And they do, they do. . . .) How can our own mothers bear to hear our cries and do nothing? How can they leave us alone in the tiny rooms of our lives?

Given male violence and our fear of it, we scapegoat mothers instead. (They are trained to “take it” without killing or abandoning us.) Given male violence and our fear of it, we ask: How dare any mother refuse to become pregnant? How dare any mother have an abortion or abandon, abuse, or kill a child—because if she can, then there is no respite on earth, no one to bear the brunt of our imperfections, and no one to save us. We, the innocent, are damned.

Medea—not Jason, not Creon—is still the one we blame.

In summary, an ideal mother is very different from an ideal father. A real mother is also different from a real father. Traditionally, an ideal mother is expected to choose married motherhood for her future at a very young age. She is expected to become pregnant, give birth, psychologically “bond” with her children, and assume bottom-line responsibility for her children’s physical, emotional, and economic needs. She is also expected to behave in physically nonviolent and psychologically self-sacrificing ways.

Nevertheless, this female socialization into and practice of motherhood is devalued and taken for granted. We experience the same parental abuse as “worse” when a mother performs it. We condemn mothers more than fathers for failing the parental ideal, for performing parental work inadequately, for being psychologically imperfect, and for being physically abusive.

With such double standards and anti-mother biases, what kind of custodially challenged mother would automatically be viewed as a “good enough” mother? (A person might say, “There must be something wrong with her. Why else would her husband or the state challenge her?”)

Do judges, priests, politicians, psychiatrists, or social workers view unwed, imprisoned, or “career” mothers as maternally fit? Would they view their custodial victimization as unjust? Do white married mothers or white social workers view nonwhite or welfare mothers as maternally fit?

Most custodially challenged mothers blame themselves for being imperfect. What kind of custodially challenged mother would view herself, or be viewed by other challenged mothers, as a truly “good enough” mother?

I decided to study sixty custodially challenged, predominantly white mothers who had internalized the Western ideals of motherhood and were demographically similar to the majority of divorced white mothers in America. These sixty mothers were custodially challenged in every geographical region of the United States and Canada between 1960 and 1981. In addition, I interviewed fifty mothers who were black, brown, yellow, and red. Some, but not all, were part of this study. They are very much a part of this book.

In general, the sixty mothers I studied married as virgins—or they married the first man they slept with. They both married and gave birth at relatively young ages. They assumed the bottom-line domestic, emotional, and primary child-care responsibilities of traditional marriages. In general, these mothers stayed at home until their youngest children were of grade-school age. Both psychologically and physically they put “work” or a “career” second to motherhood.

During our interviews together, these mothers casually and matter-of-factly described performing at least twenty-five very specific maternal domestic and child-related chores—quite separate from domestic chores that are husband related.

As I noted in the introduction, I was exploring a worst-case scenario.

Could a “good enough” mother ever lose custody? Could she lose custody to a relatively uninvolved or abusive father? Could this happen more than once? Could this happen often?

In my book Women and Madness, I allowed each of my sixty interviewees to establish what would ultimately be a collective portrait of the mental health profession. I employed this approach with custodially challenged mothers.

However, I also interviewed fifty-five fathers who battled for, won, or gave up custody. These independent interviews confirmed many of my conclusions about the range of paternal custodial motives.

The study you are about to read is a study of “good enough” mothers. Unbidden and silent, the mother Medea accompanied me to each interview.

Reprinted with permission from "Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody," Revised and Updated Second Edition by Phyllis Chesler. Text copyright 2011 Lawrence Hill Books, an imprint of Chicago Review Press. Published by Lawrence Hill Books, an imprint of Chicago Review Press (distributed by IPG). Available in stores and online.