I recently watched Kramer vs. Kramer on the retro movie channel. This Oscar award winning film was released in 1979 and follows the custody battle over a seven year old boy.
In 1979, I was only eight years old and I am kind of surprised I remember the film to begin with. Now in 2013, I have a four year old and six year old daughter and the film is more poignant.
Some of the more powerful scenes include Ted struggling to deal with work and raising Billy. He struggles to cook and does not even know what grade his son is in the first day he drops off at school. His boss’s suggestion upon hearing about the divorce is to have Billy live with relatives.
It really points to the times as well. I believe the 1970’s had higher divorce rates as more individuals struggled to have an identity and also be part of a family. Men and women both struggled with traditional gender roles. The workplace was also portrayed as intolerant of family responsibilities. Families have the same challenges today and the most recent National Vital Statistics System reports 2,118,000 marriages in 2011 and 877,000 divorces in the same year.
Recent research has indicated that continuity and a stable home life are important contributors for a child’s success. I am suggesting that couples stay together for the sake of the children in the absence of abuse or infidelity.
In the movie Joanna walks out on Ted and Billy in stark contrast to traditional gender roles. During the custody battle, it seems that Ted would provide a better home for Billy, yet Joanna receives custody quite in line with the judicial preference for the mother retaining primary custody. In 2011, a Huffington Post article reported that in only 8-14% of custody decisions is the father receiving primary residence custody.
Ted makes out a pro con list for retaining custody. The con’s include money, no privacy, work affected, no social life, never lets up. The pro list is blank. It is very difficult to objectively communicate the joy of children and close relationships in general. People question why did I get married and why did I have children? At times parenting can be overwhelming. However, cohabitating and being emotionally there for your children is an ideal that every parent strives for.