FLINT logo

Families Link International
Tel:0781 886 1724

home | issues | policies | family groups | courts | court reporters | research | law | contacts | donations | Useful Quotes |

Issues - economic costs - the colour of money

The Color of Money
Fathers should relinquish role as ATMs, improve time with child

By Michelle Singletary

I attended my niece’s graduation recently, and amid all the cheers and high fives, one father said something that left me stunned.
“Thank God, no more child support payments,” he uttered to no one in particular as he passed me and other people leaving the graduation ceremony.
I gave him the evil eye.
What a shame. On such a momentous day, this father was beaming and boasting that he didn’t have to financially support his child anymore.
But after I stopped steaming, I wondered if that father was entitled to feel relieved.
Perhaps he felt the way he did because we have overemphasized the financial role that divorced and separated fathers are supposed to play in the lives of their children.
Are we saying to too many men, “Show us the money, because that’s mostly all you’re good for”?
Is it true that fathers help their children more by consistent payment of child support than by the number of visits made to their children?
That’s what Valarie King, associate professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in a research article in the Journal of Marriage and the Family almost a decade ago.
Today, the data still show that fathers who don’t live with their children make the greatest impact through child support, King said in an interview.
“I know a lot of men get upset when I say that. They say, ‘Am I just a cash machine?’ But money does matter. Kids that get child support have a higher standard of living.”
It comes down to this, King says. Child support helps enhance the mother’s economic well-being and thus her emotional well-being. The level of child support is crucial because it can significantly increase the resources available to the child. Child support can help children get better education, receive better health care or live in a better neighborhood.
But I also believe fathers — specifically good fathers — can have a powerfully positive impact on their children. And that impact often has nothing to do with money.
I know my children benefit greatly from having a father who is very involved in their day-to-day care. Actually, my husband does my two girls’ hair better than I do. The time he spends combing their hair is priceless (and a lot less painful than when I do it).
And the fact is, men want to increase their involvement with their children. According to a new survey by the online job-searching site CareerBuilder.com, 42 percent of working fathers say they are willing to take a pay cut to obtain a job that affords them an improved balance of work and home.
More than two-thirds of working fathers are spending in excess of 40 hours a week at work, and 25 percent work more than 50 hours each week, according to Career Builder.com’s “Men and Women at Work 2004” survey.
Even though 87 percent of working fathers earn more than their spouse or partner, four in 10 working fathers said they would relinquish the breadwinner role and stay at home with the kids if their spouse or partner earned enough for them to live comfortably.
I have another suggestion. Let’s stop using the phrase “deadbeat dads.”
Is it really healthy to tell a child his or her dad is a deadbeat? I’m not advocating that fathers shouldn’t be aggressively pursued if they’re skipping out on financial responsibility. But it’s important that children know their fathers are more than cash machines.
Write Michelle Singletary, Washington Post Writer’s Group, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or e-mail her at singletarm@washpost.com.

The contents on these pages are provided as information only. No responsibility or liability is accepted by or on behalf of FLINT for any errors, omissions, or misleading statements on these pages, or any site to which these pages connect, whether provided by FLINT or by any organisation, company or individual. No mention of any organisation, company or individual, whether on these pages or on other sites to which these pages are linked, shall imply any approval or warranty as to the standing and capability of any such organisations, companies or individuals on the part of FLINT. All rights reserved.