And we're moving in a forward direction trying to make it easier for mothers.
Last week on Andrew Denton's Enough Rope, Wolf said that society's reluctance to pay mothers to care for children revealed a contempt for motherhood.
The child's unconditional love is not payback enough; mothers deserve more, said Wolf. "It's Stalinist to designate one gender to be responsible for child-rearing," she says. Fatherhood is still grappling to find a voice, let alone a foothold, in the national conscience.
These children and their fathers never experience typical family life together - being kissed goodnight, waking up together, starting the day over breakfast, being more than a "visitor" in each other's lives. Given the chance, most fathers are eager to embrace that because, like mothers, fathers have the same need to be with and near their child.
These are the distressing findings of Bruce Smyth and Anna Ferro, from the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Imagine if 1 million Australian children lived apart from their mothers, and study after study showed that these children were generally worse off than those who enjoyed meaningful relationships with both parents.
Voices would be raised, forums convened, radical solutions pushed. Yesterday, high- profile American feminist and author Naomi Wolf was in Melbourne to give the motherhood cause a kick along at a forum with Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward.
As the hype around Wolf shows, motherhood and its woes are fashionable.
Yes, residence orders now favour fathers in almost 20 per cent of cases - up from 15.3 per cent in 1994-95.
But in an extensive study of contested parenting cases from 1988 to May 2000, Lawrie Moloney, senior lecturer at Melbourne's La Trobe University, found that fathers tend to succeed only where the mother is judged inadequate - they win by "default" - not because of their own capacity as parents. And thousands of children still go to bed each night unable to say goodnight to their dad.The only cultural shift they know is fatherlessness, which David Popenoe, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, describes as "the most basic, unexpected, and extraordinary social trend of our time".The Australian, 2003-05-07, by Janet Albrechtsen In the photograph, the father is holding a tiny baby, a few weeks old, maybe less. In Australia upwards of 1 million children live separate from their fathers. That photo of my father is on my fridge as a daily reminder of his love. So often the deep bond between father and child goes unnoticed. How else do you explain a society where fatherlessness is so common? I didn't notice how much love was in that photo until I had a child.More than one third of children who still see their dads never spend the night with him. It's the whole bedevilling, demanding, riveting and privileged experience of raising children.