Custody and the Single Mother
It appears that single/divorced mothers have to be very careful in the world. They don’t seem to get the same respect and latitude as married mothers when it comes to the custody and care of their children. Is this the new form of discrimination?
Take a woman like Rachida Dati, a French Justice Minister in president Nicolas Sarkozy’s parliament. She lost her job last month after giving birth a baby girl named Zohra. Many believe that the only reason she lost her job is because she is single and her child’s paternity has not been clearly established and that this sends a bad message to the rest of the world. In other words, this woman, who was the first North African woman to hold such a high position in French politics (to the irritation of a lot of people in France, apparently)sends a “bad message” to France, and to the world, for having a baby by herself and taking responsibility for the care and custody of her child, and for returning to work five days after giving birth by cesarean section. She lost her job and now does not have income to care for her child.
Admittedly, there are more levels to the story than just that. It seems that Sarkozy has been under pressure to fire Dati for some time. There are reports that he and Rachida Dati (a good friend of his ex-wife Cecelia Ciganer Albeniz) possibly have had a little “fling” and that this fact makes his wife Carla Bruni Sarkozy jealous and that Carla wanted him to get rid of Rachida. Who knows if this is true? And it’s not that I am castigating Carla if it is. I am a woman too, and I understand romantic jealousy. But I don’t understand unfairness.
There are other rumors that many in France were uncomfortable with someone like Dati, a North African, holding such a high position in French politics. And then there were all the haters who were jealous of the fact that Dati dressed in couture/designer duds and wore expensive jewelry, when they needed her to stay in a box.
So there was a lot of pressure on president Sarkozy to get rid of Dati and he finally caved in but he used a really lame reason, I must say. There have been rumors that President Sarkozy himself could possibly be the father of the child. This, obviously, is ludicrous. I hope. But, ultimately, it is rumored that he fired her for being a single mom and for failing to name the baby’s father. If true, I am greatly disappointed in Sarkozy and he has just dropped precipitously in my esteem. I mean, if he wanted to fire her, find a good reason. Don’t use the excuse that this 42 year old woman had her first child and failed to name the father as the reason to take away her job. That is lame. I’m sorry. This was a grown woman, well educated, with her career, and had the means to take care of a child. She was not exactly Bristol Palin. Look, I’m sorry. I’m not knocking Bristol Palin. She stepped up and is taking responsibility for her life; but she admits she made a mistake and she should have waited. Because she’s a baby herself, having babies.
Rachida Dati is a different kind of woman. And my point is that she is not exactly a teenaged mother who wasn’t done with high school and who accidentally became pregnant by her teenaged boyfriend, and who could send the wrong message to young girls. This was a 42 year old woman who did all the right things, got her education first, etc., etc. She chose motherhood in her middle years and she happens not to be married. This was her first child and only child. And you fire her for choosing motherhood, for taking responsibility for the sole custody and care of her child and because she refuses to name the father? Outrageous, Mr. Sarkozy. Outrageous.
This would not have happened to a married woman and I think this is discrimination against single mothers at its highest level. I am really disappointed to learn that Sarkozy is so narrow minded. I thought better of him. I really did.
Nadya Suleman. Nadya’s story is all over the place at the moment. This single mother of six children who gave birth to octuplets has really gotten herself into some serious trouble. She reportedly told Dr. Phil McGraw in a telephone conversation recently that she is worried about getting custody of her children. Apparently the State of California has indicated that she will not receive custody of the kids unless she shows that she can care for them.
The Suleman case is one I have blogged extensively on and referenced http://www.divorcesaloon.com/index.php?s=nadya and you will notice that my reasoning has shifted over time, as I think more deeply about the issues and the implications, as I see and understand better what some of the underlying motivations are that people may or may not have in formulating a position on this issue.
I certainly think that the welfare of these children is an important governmental interest. But I don’t know that the solution is to take the children away from their mother, absent more. I certainly realize she will need significant governmental assistance (yes, at taxpayer’s expense) if the big corporations don’t step up the way they have in other multiple births (of married women, of course) but I don’t think that should be the basis to remove the children from her custody.
I am very frightened for Nadya Suleman. Sure it was probably reckless of her to go for more kids. I mean, it wouldn’t have been a choice I would have made and I don’t understand the choice, and I don’t like the choice, and I don’t necessarily think she should exercise the choice again in this lifetime, but at the end of the day, these are just my opinions. And at the end of the day, my opinions are irrelevant. Because even if she was reckless, the issue is a dead one because the kids are here. That’s all that matters now. That’s the bottom line. That’s what has to be dealt with now, not whether she should have opted for more kids or whether it was right or wrong for her to choose to have more kids. (It is the doctor who implanted her with all those embryos who should be castigated as far as I’m concerned).
Nadya Suleman’s story is potentially going to expose the newest form of discrimination–discrimination against single mothers by choice–and it is going to create a new body of Constitutional Law Jurisprudence as assisted reproductive technologies are put to more widespread use, as more women make the choice to be single mothers. Because the bottom line is, if Nadya were married, I don’t think there would be such heavy questions about whether she would be granted custody of her children. Certainly, people would not be reacting so violently negatively about it. I hope she and her parents realize it’s time to get good legal counsel, including constitutional specialists on this case, and time to stop giving interviews and access into their personal lives. This is a very serious legal matter and they need to get clued in that they need a good lawyer. Stat.
What is the takeaway? Well, the cost of single motherhood seems to be very high. As more and more women choose to be single mothers the world over, governments and societies are likely going to have to adjust their legislation(s) to reflect the changing scope of parenthood. Single mothers by choice are also going to have to get out there as a group and demand equal protection and equal rights. I don’t think the rights are equal for single mothers as compared to married mothers. It has been a silent issue to date, but the Nadya Suleman case has really opened a can of worms.
The Rachida Dati situation, though in another country, is also illustrative because, I don’t think it’s right that a woman loses her job because she chose to be a single mother and refuses to name the father. That is non of anybody’s business and president Sarkozy had some nerve firing her for that reason–if in fact he did fire her cause they are trying to make it like she “resigned.” Lame, Monsieur Sarkozy. Really, really lame.
Custody and the Single Mother