Excerpt: Raising Boys Without Men

These days, deprivation is the name of the blame game. That's what is making boys more aggressive, critics say, and the mothers have to be home or else. Mothers are blamed, even though studies of children raised in the same Israeli kibbutzim that separated the kids from their parents most of the time -- and where they spent many hours away from their mothers, often sleeping elsewhere -- revealed sons who were quite the opposite of aggressive: They were cooperative, friendly, and well-adjusted. And then we have custody fights. More and more when the father wants custody, he uses the successful mother's career as a strategy to get the children. Pamela McGee, who plays for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter while the court investigated whether McGee's work prevented her from being a good mother. In his motion for temporary sole custody, McGee's ex-husband, the Rev. Kevin E. Stafford, asserted that a career and motherhood are mutually exclusive. McGee's "level of achievement," he argued, impaired her ability to parent their child. McGee was on the road four weeks a year. And the father said it took away too much from the daughter. But the court did not investigate whether the father's travel schedule, which took him on the road seven to eight weeks a year, made him an unfit father.

"We live in a culture where we want mothers to do everything, and whenever something goes wrong, it's the mother's fault," Mary Becker, who teaches family and domestic violence law at DePaul University in Chicago, told the New York Times. This perception is reinforced daily by everything from the people around us to the news. In 2002, the New York Times published a story about a mother named Tabitha Pollock, who was convicted of first-degree murder "by accountability" (meaning that if you have certain knowledge that a crime will be committed and you do nothing to stop it, you are as guilty as if you had committed the crime yourself) and sentenced to 36 years for having failed to anticipate the murder of her sleeping 3-year-old daughter by her then boyfriend.

The Illinois Supreme Court finally overturned the conviction, finding that while Tabitha Pollock may have been guilty of poor judgment in her choice of men, there was no basis in law to judge her for someone else's crime. That decision came after she had served seven years in prison. Noting that there are hundreds of cases across the nation like this one, the article went on to question whether mothers are held to an unreasonably high standard of behavior and whether the resulting punishment of the mother and her surviving family was unduly harsh. According to legal experts, mothers in situations similar to Tabitha Pollock's have been repeatedly found guilty by accountability, but fathers have gotten off without penalty.

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