Pop Culture Custody Battle.
ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” recently started heading down an uncomfortable dramatic road, pitting a soon-to-be-divorced, full-time working mom against a soon-to-be divorced at-home dad in a court of law, with each vying for custody of the couple’s two young kids. And to watch the divorce unfold is wrenching, as divorce -- fictional or real – almost always is. It’s usually messy and inevitably causes heartache, particularly when children are involved.
In the Sunday night drama, Sarah Whedon (Rachel Griffiths) the CEO of her family’s fruit company, and her estranged husband Joe (John Pyper-Ferguson), the at-home parent caring for their children, squared off in a lawyer’s office and in front of a judge over the terms of dissolving their marriage. Though they graciously made concessions to one another during their divorce proceedings, they vehemently disagreed on the matter of child care after Joe changed his mind about shared custody, saying he instead wanted primary custody. He argued that altering the kids’ schedules and caretaking situation by dividing custody equally would be too disruptive for the children. During a hearing on temporary custody, the judge ruled in favor of the at-home parent, saying that since the father had been the one who had been with the children while their mother was at work, they should primarily remain with their dad for the sake of stability.
I’ve labeled this “Brothers & Sisters” storyline “uncomfortable” because it is as discomfiting as it is atypical to watch a mother lose custody of her kids, even if it is only on a TV show. One couldn’t help but feel badly for the Sarah Whedon character as she despairingly sunk down onto the bottom stair in her home in a haze of shock and tears after her estranged husband took their children out of the house. But seeing a parent become emotional when his or her children are being taken away from them wasn’t the only uncomfortable part of the show. Watching Sarah Whedon -- dare I say it -- act like a negative, stereotypical working dad, throwing around the fact that she makes all the money in the family therefore she should be entitled to take custody of the children half the time even though her husband has been doing the job on a full-time basis, well, to me, that was pretty disconcerting as well.
Consider some of Sarah’s lines:
- “I support my family by working. And for the record, we made that decision together, Joe and me when I was pregnant with Paige. I would work. He would stay home. God knows I can bring in five times what he can. It made sense. I thought he was so progressive.”
– Said to her attorney brother.
- “Don’t hide behind your overpriced lawyer, which, by the way, I am paying for.”
-- Said to her estranged husband after learning that he was seeking primary custody.