It’s the dirtiest word in single motherhood. “Child Support.” If you look at the word simply, it means “Supporting Your Child”. But often times when heard, it takes on all kinds of other ugly misreadings. “Gold-digging”. “Entrapment”. “Control”. In a few instances, perhaps there’s some truth to that. But more often than not, it is nothing more than what it says. And way too often, it is Missing. I’m going to attempt to describe the Actual Ugly Meaning in THAT.
I came from a traditional family, where Dad and Grandpas worked for money, and Mom and Grandmas did the rest. It made sense to my young mind that both of my parents had important roles in my upbringing. The economy and country these days call for different types of economic family roles, with mothers working outside the home even more than in decades past. One of many reasons is because it has become increasingly more difficult in recent economies for a single person to support a household alone.
So together, men and women raise children, financially, and physically. This is how it is for many family units that are whole, as well as split.
But too often, in a split from the mom, the dad bails on his children financially. Sometimes physically as well. I’ve talked many times to other men, other fathers who find this to be unfathomable. A FATHER not PROVIDING for his kids? It is as mind-boggling to some people as a neglectful mother would be. And rightfully so. After all, if I was starving my children there’d be consequences. Not for deadbeats though. And tell me, aren’t they virtually starving their kids? AREN”T THEY? Someone please explain to me the difference.
Sympathy is nice, it feels good to know other people can see and understand when you have been going through things. But it would be very difficult to try to express to them the real day to day struggle and pain that the absence of the other parent’s contribution can bring to the household.
Allow me to delve into my own personal dark reality of what a lack of the “C” word looks like. Please know that even though I’m an open book sort of gal, and that I live in reality rather than cover it up, this isn’t easy for me. I used the word ugly in the opening for a reason. I lived in ugly. I saw my daughters live in it. It hurts to tell, it feels shameful. It is shameful. I just have to remind myself that the shame isn’t mine. It’s HIS.
My girls were young when their dad and I parted ways. Five and three. Although I had been raising them fulltime up until this point, I went to work immediately. I secured childcare, etc. I began going to nightschool as well. I look back now in awe of MYSELF, not really knowing how I managed. A five year old, three year old, fulltime job, and school. That’s the Power of Motherhood right there though. I just DID IT.
I finally got my order. The order is a piece of paper that the piece of shit father never actually cares about. A year passed. I had worked, I had finished school, I had borrowed money from family and friends, waiting. My kids knew nothing. Nothing of the struggles, nothing of the “C” word. I kept my integrity in the midst of the worst of it, even bringing his kids to see him when he lost his license for not helping to provide for the exact same beautiful little people. The life of a single mom who makes average to less than average money is a hustle of it’s own kind. You juggle bills like flaming knives. You write checks you cant cash yet and pray.
No Child Support looks like darkness. I lost my electric while even while I was working non-stop. It was devastating to try to explain it to my kids. I watched the amount he was supposed to contribute towards them grow and grow into the thousands. But they didn’t have lights, or a cold refrigerator. I had to take off work to go beg for help from social services. There was nothing else to do. Without his help, I simply didn’t make enough to support them alone. It’s a horrible feeling walking into a social services office in any regard. But knowing that you work your ass off, that you provide for and also physically care for your children single-handedly, and yet there you are, in a sea of judgement, makes it that much more degrading. I had to unknowingly “sign over” my owed child support to the state so they would help me turn the lights back on. And so the horrific dance began.
I turned to social services. I was advised by many that the courts would never waste their time enforcing support if I was working hard, I’d have to be a “welfare mom” to get them to pay attention. I had already signed over to the state all he owed me ( 6 grand) for help with the electric ($300), what did I have to lose? My dignity, for one. My pride. And it still didn’t matter. Welfare doesn’t cover the cost of housing let alone anything else. Unless the person you had children with is an actual Man with Actual feelings for his children, you’re fucked. My children didn’t belong on welfare. They belonged to TWO completely capable parents. TWO.
Of course he had warrants by now, had lost his license. But none of that affects a man who doesn’t care about anything. After all, if you don’t care about your own flesh and blood offspring, you’re officially at a lower place than I’d ever like to visit.
We found a place before school started back. I found a new job. My work day started earlier than the school day. I had to sit down with the school list of parents in hand, and call down that list, number after number, mere strangers for the most part as our new home had brought us to a new school. I asked the parents and grandparents all could they possibly put my girls on the bus for me? I could pay them a little, although truthfully I couldn’t even afford to do that. But I had to work. Someone had to. And for the three years we had been split up now, the only someone doing that was me. I thought it was crazy how easy it would be for him to work opposed to me. I mean, he could literally just go do it. He didn’t have to call thru lists and beg people to help with his children. He didn’t have to wake his kids up so early in the morning it was still dark out, to drive them to a stranger who would put them on the bus. He didn’t have to drive to work in tears, worrying about his little five and seven year old girls. That burden was all mine. It was all, all mine. Still is.
He met a woman online and skipped state, probably to avoid jail, as he had avoided everything else he should’ve been manning up to. Our oldest daughter turned eight that Spring. They had slight contact, which pretty much consisted of Facebook messages and phone calls in which he would promise things he’d never deliver. I had hid everything from them for years. My girls only knew we were struggling when the toilet paper roll would run out, or the car would run out of gas on the side of the road. Even then, I’d pretend it was ok, somehow. But it wasn’t. As I was saying, my girl was turning eight. Her dad promised to send her a Nintendo DS. They were all the rage back then. I was working alone to provide a roof, and everything else that goes with it, there was no way I could do it. So she waited for the promised package. And waited. She would have me check the post office every day, “just in case” the mailman had forgotten it. I would message her dad. I wasn’t sad anymore. Now I was pissed. It got to the point where she was leaving class to go to the office to call me at work, and remind me to check the mail. At that point I reached out to Dad’s girlfriend. This wasn’t okay anymore. He had never helped, never cared, but at least his daughters didn’t know that. I had protected them from all of it. But now, she was beginning to realize. She was beginning to feel like she wasn’t worth a birthday gift. And I was fuming. His dad’s girlfriend was shocked to hear all the truths I told her, as clearly, she had heard a much different story from him. She sent his daughter, a child she had never met, the DS. SHE DID. I have the packaging to this day, the one with the feminine writing in the return section of the envelope that says “From DADDY”.
She also threw him out of her home and sent him packing back to our town, where the cops were waiting. This person was the definition of a real woman. She was not going to be a part of a deadbeat’s life. She was not going to tolerate it. And she didn’t. I have more love and respect for her to this very day than I can say. She’s a rare breed. But she’s my breed. At this point I had gone three years, literally climbing thru hell with his daughters each in one of my arms, and I had never actually attempted to legally force him to be accountable. No one wants to see their children’s father incarcerated. But he had directly lied to and hurt my daughter, even after all the protecting I had done. So, Game On.
He got out of jail and met yet another woman online. This one decided to get pregnant. She knew he had the girls. She knew he didn’t contribute. At this point in time he had never even had a place to live on his own, ever, always and forever shacking up with family members. No car. No job. Thousands of dollars in owed support for his first two kids. So what did they do? Yup. Had another kid.
That led to him moving out of state yet again, with her this time. Bye, bye kids. My daughters were heartbroken. Again.
Child support in and of itself is rarely an amount that matches the actual amount of child rearing. What he is ordered to pay isn’t even half of the amount I pay for the kids to have a place to live each month. It doesn’t touch any of the other bills. Child support orders don’t take into account the cost of birthdays and holidays each year, which we real parents know is in the thousands. It doesn’t take into account that children play sports, and go out with friends. That they like to attend birthday parties where gifts are bought and brought to. That when they get poison ivy, or a bad cough, or need a band aid, medical insurance doesn’t cover that. If I doubled the amount of support he was assigned to pay, and contributed that exact same amount of money towards my children’s lives, they would literally have nothing. Literally. Not to mention that I provide the physical care. There are no weekends or summers or holidays where Dad helps buy meals and the like, helps drive them to and from their many activities. It’s all me.
I’ve already explained how lack of support can lead to homelessness and electric loss. But it looks like so many other things. No Child Support looks like hunger. There were times when I would get off work and have to stop at the local food pantry to stand in line for crumbs, with all of my money going towards bills for the house and car. But that’s what you do to keep your kids fed. You do anything you have to. At least, that’s what I DO.
No Child Support looks like freezing. There were days where I ran out of oil in zero below weather. I would go to the gas station and get a can of kerosene or diesel fuel, all I could afford with no help from the other parent. I’d stand next to my oil tank outside, trying desperately to pour the fuel in by myself. I’d have kerosene streaming down my arms and tears streaming down my face. That’s what you do to keep your kids warm. You do Anything you have to.
No Child Support looks like Christmases made up of donations. It looks like no vacations. My children have never been to Disney world. Their dad has never owed me less than that trip would cost.
Throughout this all, my children have been gracious. They loved him. They supported me. They had more dignity and depth in their little hearts than he showed them in all of the years since we were split up. I have tried desperately, fighting life itself many times, to give them all that they deserve. I hope I’ve come close, or as close as someone can get in my particular circumstance. Even if I have, I’ve always known that they deserve so much more. They are children, incapable of supporting themselves. They deserve Child Support. And the only “ugly” thing about THAT, is that they didn’t get it.
I’ve come a long way from that twenty nine year old mom who watched her children lose everything one bit at a time. I’ve learned trades, and developed my writing which I’ve always loved to do. My children will have it all, if it takes me to my dying day to give it to them. All of that said, I will never, ever forget the years of pain he caused them. The lack isn’t quite as ugly now that I’ve worked my way up a bit, but it rears it’s ugly head now and again even still.
People don’t like to hear about it, I know. People get tired of the sob story. But I don’t care. Because no one is as tired of it as me. No one else has to live in my shoes day to day. No one else saw my children struggle, not as close as I did. Their dad wanted them, Shit, he begged me to have them! Him and I were married, how was I ever to know that he would need me to be with him in order for him to be a father? That as soon as him and I were over, his responsibility to his children would be considered over as well? My momhood didn’t end the day him and I did, if anything, it got stronger than ever.
As a soulful person, I’ve often asked myself about this situation ,What’s The Lesson? Well, maybe that is exactly what the lesson is. My momhood grew stronger. Him being less than half the father he should be, made me Twice the mom I am.
I can’t tell you what him and all the other countless deadbeat “dads” want the legacy they leave behind them to be. I only know the one that myself and countless other single moms will leave. It will be one of Courage, of Love, of Determination, and of DIGNITY.
And it will shine like diamonds in Our Children’s eyes, PAID IN FULL.