mother and child-black and white
CC photo courtesy of Bethany King via Flickr

Forbes contributor, Emma Johnson, recently posted back-to-back articles promoting an end to alimony: “Stay-at-Home Mom Facing Divorce? Don’t Expect Alimony” and “An End to Alimony Would be Good for Women” on Forbes.com (links below)

What could have been written as a warning to women of the financial consequences of divorcing with no established career, comes off as a diatribe against women whose families have chosen for one parent to forego a career in order to stay home with the children. 

Ms. Johnson’s lack of empathy for the stay-at-home Mom is evident throughout her articles.

“Getting divorced but you haven’t worked for 20 years? Your skills are outdated and your kids still need you at home? Devoted yourself to supporting your husband’s career? Judges could care less. Get a job, honey.”

She supports her reasoning with the fact that the judge may very well be a woman who put her children in daycare in order to work her way up to the bench, so why would she be sympathetic toward you?

Johnson continues, “This…is tough for women who…chose to be dependent on their husbands. I sympathize with [women with disabled children, disabled themselves, or in their 70’s or older] — But for everyone else, I applaud this move to limit alimony. This is good for women, and what is good for women is good for families and the country.”

What Ms. Johnson fails to admit is that a child having a parent care for them at home may be good for families. Some couples make the decision to have one parent stay home, not because that parent is choosing to be dependent upon the other, but because the couple feels it is the best decision for their children.

Now this blog isn’t about the advantages and disadvantages of staying home or going to work – there is plenty of discussion in the internet about that. So what does the issue of alimony have to do with staying home with children?

Johnson writes: “Take alimony out of the career-planning equation and we force women to take full responsibility for their careers and finances from the beginning of adulthood. This is critical if we are going to close the pay gap, which has little to do with workplace sexism, and more to do with women choosing lower-paying professions and stepping away from careers to devote to family life.”

In addition to revealing her primary agenda (closing the pay gap), the author states that removing a primary caretaker’s hope of financial support in case of divorce will cause fewer women to choose being devoted to family life. And you know what? She’s exactly right.

The end of alimony may mean the end of the stay-at-home parent.

I agree that young women (and men) should be warned of the potential for financial dependence or disaster should they decide to be a stay-at-home parent, then divorce. With the divorce rates what they are, it would be imprudent to not consider the consequences and make that decision very carefully, especially considering the movements to diminish or abolish alimony.

What I disagree with is the harsh and punitive tone of Ms. Johnson’s article toward stay-at-home mothers, and her holding the pay gap – a worthy cause- as more important than what a couple decides is best for their own family.

This subject would have been better served with some sympathy and understanding toward the women currently in midlife, who were taught when they were young that sacrificing a career in order to stay home with children is an honorable thing to do. 

As a worthwhile warning to young women, the article succeeds. To read Emma Johnson’s articles, click here and here.