Just because you’ve got a rich ex-husband doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to work for a living

This divorcee's expectations don’t exactly square with basic feminist principles

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The Independent Online

Hello Tracey. Yes, you. Tracey Wright, a fit and healthy 51-year -old, and mother of two lovely children. Who are also fit and well. I’m sorry that your marriage to Ian didn’t last, but since it’s now seven years since your divorce, and nine since you actually stopped living together, you’ve probably rebuilt your life quite successfully. What? You hoped that Ian would support you for the rest of your days? All right, he’s pretty wealthy but, come on Tracey, surely you want to do something with your life other than behave like a donation box outside Boots?

I have no idea exactly what sort of words Lord Justice Pitchford used when he informed Tracey Wright that she had no right to expect her ex to support her for the rest of her days, but I am sure they were clear. Indeed, the case – which came to the High Court after Mr Wright sought a reduction in his £75,000 annual maintenance bill – might come as something of a landmark ruling as Lord Pitchford has ruled that there is a “general expectation” that divorcees with children over seven should work for a living, thus drawing a metaphorical line in the sand for future divorce cases involving very rich ex-spouses.

Poor Tracey. In her distress, she complained that, at 51, the only job which would now be available for an unskilled (but pretty well-heeled) mum like her would be that of a cleaner, at £10 an hour. Putting aside the brutally obvious point that many women, who may or may not be mothers, are working for quite a lot less than that, I must urge Tracey to wake up and realise what century she is living in.

How about training to give something back to the society which has offered you such a good living so far quite apart from the maintenance (mortgage-free house, horse, ponies for her daughters, zero anxiety about paying the bills)? You could train to be a midwife. Or a paramedic. You could do a bit of volunteering, you know.

 

One of Tracey’s fears about entering the British Work Force is that she won’t be on hand to pick up her children from school. Well, given that the youngest is 10, Tracey, you are only going to have that joy for one more year. No child at secondary school wants to see a parent hovering at the school gate. And Tracey, can I introduce you to the twin glory that is WiFi and a smart phone, a duo which is surely feminism’s most pertinent ally, since it enables women to achieve meaningful and sometimes fairly lucrative careers working in that very familiar place, At Home.

Tracey, why not start blogging from the comfort of your £450,000 house in Newmarket. I’m sure your story would get quite a lot of people hooked. How about “Tales of a Single Mother”, or “My Divorce Nightmares,” or even “How I managed to walk down to the local Job Centre and put myself through the horror of looking for work”?

The saddest and most pertinent moral of the whole saga, however, is that here is a woman who, in the 21st century, considers herself washed up at 51 – unable to do anything other than collect a child at 3.30 pm and be at home in case said child might have a cold. Which, frankly, is a bit of a blow to the whole business of female social equality. Ho-hum. Two steps forward, one step back.

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