This is embarrassing, but one afternoon, while pretending not to hear my toddler refusing to take a nap, I came across this following piece of useless gossip: Apparently, Dakota Meyer, the father of Bristol Palin’s new baby daughter, is asking for joint custody and child support. This, despite the fact that he’s not actually caring for the baby right now — something the Palin family has very publicly shamed him for.
Bristol’s mom, Sarah Palin, told ET online that Dakota is just trying to “save face” and that the family tried for months to reach out to him prior to the baby’s birth, but he wanted nothing to do with the baby or Bristol. Meyer got further slammed by Bristol herself, when her reps said that “a real American hero doesn’t ask for child support.” (Meyer is a war veteran and former Marine.)
But this poses an interesting question — should fathers have the right to ask for child support? In a world where the majority of mothers work and in some cases are the breadwinners, doesn’t it make sense that in those instances they would be held equally responsible?
On one hand, if we want dads to be true and equal partners, they should have the right to ask for financial support for the time they are caring for the children. But on the other hand, the reality is that moms are still the ones doing the majority of the work when it comes right down to it. Not to mention that women and the families they raise are the ones most harmed by the wage gap that still exists between men and women, especially if those women happen to be mothers.
As my editor, Amy Stanford, said to me as we discussed this piece, “true equality starts by removing gender and acknowledging that the same standards should be in place for both genders on every issue.” But not everyone agrees.
Philippe Morgese, the single dad who went viral for starting classes to teach dads how to do their daughters’ hair, told me that he actually thinks “it’s a coward move” for dads to ask for child support.
“As a man, we should work harder if we need to,” he says. “We are the natural provider. Since most woman who have kids tend to lose out on job opportunities to care for their kids, they often make less or find work that can’t support themselves, let alone an additional child support.”
Having been in the thick of things as a single dad, he also points out that sadly, child support and custody can be used as a weapon of revenge to an ex. “I never asked for anything from [my daughter’s] mother except her time,” Morgese explains. “It doesn’t cost much to raise a kid if you are already supporting yourself. Kids are not meant to be a financial obligation.”
He also notes that sometimes, child support and custody is a very practical matter. For example, some states actually require that a parent of either gender file for child support if they are applying for any kind of state assistance. Florida, Morgese notes, requires a parent to pursue child support from the other parent if he or she signs up for welfare, food stamps, or medical insurance.
“For women, they can simply say they don’t know who the father is,” as a way to get around the rule, says Morgese. But for single fathers? “It’s impossible to not know the mother,” he laughs.
I just don’t see a way around this. As much as I feel like it’s engrained in me that women are the primary caretakers and thus deserve the financial support, I think that fathers should also have the right to ask for child support in certain situations. But — and that’s a big but — I do think lost wages, breastfeeding, and other “expenses,” such as the toll of pregnancy and childbirth recovery, should factor into that financial decision if it comes to that. And in the case of someone like a high-profile celebrity, if this guy really is taking the baby half of the time and is being a truly equal 50/50 parent (if such a thing exists), then I think that’s actually an example of an ideal father more than anything else.
But what do you think — should fathers have the right to ask for child support?