Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) movie

Posted Friday, February 19th, 2016. Filed Under Voices of wisdom

Some of your were not even born yet when this movie came out. I was 12 years old and I remember bawling at this movie… I couldn’t stop crying. Ok so maybe it was the hormones of a teenage girl LOL.

It is interesting what time, knowledge and experience gives you. I watched this movie from a whole other perspective. Being divorced allowed me to look at this through a different lens.

If you don’t know the story it is about a man (a young Dustin Hoffman actor) who is left by his wife, Joanna (a young Meryl Streep) and she leaves him with a young boy of about 7 years. Joanna left her well-paying advertising job to stay home and raise their son. The father Ted was the breadwinner so to speak; each party took on the traditional roles of the time.

At age 8 of their son, Joanna leaves because she felt she was disappearing; she loved being a mother yet she really desired to return to her work and passion. Before you judge her, there are many women today who by choice and many necessity return to work after their children are born.

What I found fascinating about this movie is that in 1979 we held some very specific beliefs about role of men and women. In the movie two major topics were addressed: first, a man that works all day and comes home to a house being run by his wife taking care of their children is considered at that time “a good father” where as a mother who wants to do the same is negligent and abandoning her child and questioned as being “a good mother”. Second, women were automatically given full custody of their children despite the fact that the father may, in fact, be a better parent.

And still after all this time, the role of the parent staying at home – often the mother but this is changing – is not valued by our society. We do not see this a valued “work” as evident when the stay-at-home parent decides to return to the workforce he/she is made to feel there is this looming gap.

Staying on topic…. Joanna leaves and is gone for 15 or 18 months and then she contacts Ted who in this time had to learn to take care of his son as a single father and juggle his work. She tells him she found a job, found herself and now she wants to take her son back. He is livid and decides to fight “the system”.

Long of short, in the end the lawyers take turn painting each parent in a less than desirable way. What I found fascinating is that in the end Joanna is awarded custody. The son, who loves his mother but was abandoned by her, is upset that he now must be forced to leave his home – a safe environment – to move elsewhere and in with her boyfriend whom he has never met.

What really struck a cord was that for as long as I can remember women have been pushing for equal rights in the workplace – advancement, promotion, leadership roles, etc. In many ways so many good things have changed for women since 1979 but many would argue not enough. What also struck me was how one-sided the family law was in 1979. Today, again the laws are changing. As a divorced person I do believe that it is in the best interest of a child to have both parents in their lives. In the case of Joanna, in the end she realized that it was in her son’s best interest to stay with the father and not remove him from his safe environment.

I can only speak from my own experience, when my children were very young and as I was the primary caregiver, I did feel that I offered them a stability. As they’ve gotten older I am not ‘needed’ in the same way and the children go happily between two homes.

Some might argue there have been little changes, others might feel that we have made great strides. I think whatever it is, or even if somewhere in between, the real issue is that the child(ren) of divorce need to feel safe and loved.

As for the roles of men and women in society I still believe we have a way to go for both sides. Of course, there have been some great changes for each… in 2016 there still exists gaps between men and women both in the workforce and in family law. The only thing we can do is continue to move forward toward equality.

I want to wish everyone a wonderful weekend.

All my love,

Sandra

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