Issues - economic costs - the colour of money
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
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
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
I have another suggestion. Let’s stop using the phrase
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.