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Monday, October 29, 2007

Women breadwinners face custody issues

Kudos to ABC's Brothers & Sisters for tackling a thorny but timely topic. Last night's episode brought up an interesting work/life issue a female breadwinner actually could face.

In the show, Sara (Rachel Griffiths) has always been the breadwinner in her family. Her husband, Joe (Andrew Taylor), has been the stay-at-home dad and primary caregiver of their two young children. Now that the couple is separated, Joe announced last night that instead of joint custody, he wants primary custody. His attorney told the court that Joe would be able to provide the stability that Sara is unable to provide with her long work hours as CEO of her family's company. He backs his request with recent examples of Sara calling him to pitch in when her work schedule interfered with dropping off or picking up the kids. A judge granted Joe temporary primary custody for two weeks until a court hearing.

The show ended with a gut-wrenching scene -- Joe coming to get the kids to come live with him and Sara consoling her reluctant daughter by giving her a cell phone pre-programmed so she could all her anytime.

I'm sure this episode evoked strong emotions on all sides of this issue. But it made me think about divorce and custody from another point of view. Sara found herself in the position men have been in for years. She experienced the emotional cost of being the breadwinner. As women continue to ascend the corporate ladder and become the breadwinner in more U.S. households, there are real issues that will be played out. We want equality in the workplace and what we're seeing is that men want equality at home. I look forward to seeing how the Brothers & Sisters tackles this going forward.

To see a recap of the episode and its writers' comments, click here.


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