Thursday, December 1, 2011

(Deadbeat) Daddy Dearest

We've been over it a few times now: My dad is the fucking definition of a deadbeat dad. Wait. Let me offer a correction: He was a deadbeat dad. I'm an adult now. His current role is as passive-aggressive, homeless man-child and constant burden. Because I don't fucking need him anymore. Wait. Let me offer another correction: I NEVER needed him. My mom was enough of a parent to make him completely obsolete.

The problem is that, for my mother, taking on both roles took its toll and she certainly paid the price for it. Specifically, she had her first of several heart attacks at the ripe old age of 38. Fucking 38, man. That is goddamn ridiculous. But it's a price she happily paid. A price I know she would pay again, not only for her children but for her grandchildren as well. Because as I've learned during the last couple of years, as a parent, you do ANYTHING for your children.

Childless people think we are smug. They get annoyed when we tell them they don't really understand because they aren't parents themselves. And I get how that is annoying. But as a child, teenager, adult and married adult, my first instinct had always been self-preservation. It's not that I've ever been selfish, in fact, I've always thought of myself as a very unselfish person. It's the difference between wanting the people you love to have everything, loving them and enjoying their company and literally being willing to throw yourself in front of a bus for someone.

Childless people? Take a moment. Really imagine the scenario. Would you be able to do it? Even for the person you love most in the world? I wouldn't do that shit for my husband or my sisters or anyone else. But I would really and truly die for Caitlyn, without hesitation. I would give myself a heart attack working 4 jobs for 10 years straight if it was all we could do to scrape by.

I don't think I'm different than any other parent in this way. Everyone would die for their kids, but for me it goes a bit deeper than that. Because one of my kids did die. So maybe everyone doesn't actually imagine it. They don't actually think about what they would do to have their child back. They don't visualize the sacrifices they would be willing to make. But I do. Sadly, I always fucking do.

My point is kind of getting lost here. This morning I received an email from a coworker. In my company email account. From hers. And it honestly took everything I had not to completely lose my shit on her. It was about child support. Specifically, the email was several paragraphs of her thoughts on the child support system, followed by a link to a petition to change child support laws.

Okay. I am the child of a deadbeat dad. I get it, I'm biased, but this shit was ridiculous. Let me give you the highlights:

"I hope this email finds you well!"

This just seems like an odd intro to an email about corruption and evil mothers. Is it just me?

"I know several Fathers who are good dads that continue to be slaughtered by the courts & conniving mothers, who are well aware of their leverage with our court systems."

This is the sentence that nearly gave me a stroke. "Conniving mothers" in particular. I'm not about to say that all mothers are great and that none of them take advantage. I'm sure it happens. But frankly, demonizing moms is NOT going to win any points with me. Also? "I know several fathers" makes me think she fucks a lot of guys with kids. Also? WHY THE FUCK DOES SHE CAPITALIZE FATHERS? Mothers are conniving and somehow fathers are being deified? DON'T EVEN.

"We want to make a difference to stop the corruption that this madness has turned into."

I'd love to know what is corrupt about expecting a man to pay child support.

"We need to keep the court systems fair and just. Bad Fathers need to be punished! Good Fathers need to be rewarded!"

I'd like to know who is judging the "bad" and "good" fathers. A man can refuse to support his children, but as long as he shows up on weekends with enough cash to take the kids to McDonalds, then he is a great dad? School clothes, food, a roof over your head? Who needs them! Daddy of the year needs to save his cash for the chick he's banging.

I hope you make a difference today!~

You know what would have made a difference in my childhood? Not having to visit my mother in the hospital at 14 years old because she could afford to pay our rent without doing our landlord's landscaping for approximately $3 per hour.

"Good Dads shouldn't be forced to pay unfair percentages in child support and have minimal visitation of their children".

Okay. If this had simply said "dads shouldn't be forced to pay child support while only having minimal visitation of their children", I would have agreed. But "unfair percentages"? The percentage quoted in this email, for the record, is 17%. Which is admittedly rough on any one's paycheck. But you know what else is rough on a paycheck? SUPPORTING AND CARING FOR A CHILD. You know what is relatively inexpensive? CONDOMS. I'm just saying.

My point is simply that my mother spent 100% of her income on providing for her children. For at least 15 years. In fact, a lot of the work she did for our landlord was simply deducted off of our rent, so I'd say it was actually more than 100%. What is 17% compared to every dime (no, really. Literally every dime) you make? And in case you think I'm exaggerating, the story me and my siblings always tell is about the pair of sneakers my mom had for 8 years. And I don't mean one of many pairs. I mean she owned one pair of shoes and wore them every day for 8 years without ever buying a new pair. Because she couldn't afford it, even if they did have huge holes in the bottoms.

The thing that bugs me more than anything is the implication that these moms are pissing away their child support money on themselves. This was something I had to clarify for my own deadbeat dad. You see, in my family we are huge Yankees fans. Huge. And back in the 90s, you could get UPCs off of bottled water and get tickets buy one get one free. And it was only about $25 per ticket at the time. My sister and I would save up our babysitting money and buy tickets to games to go to with our mother. Then we would stand behind the stadium (back then, you actually COULD) and wait for the players to come and sign autographs. In fact, we ended up with quite a few autographs (good ones too).

One day a few years ago my dad mentioned this to me. He commented how my mom always claimed to be so broke yet she could buy Yankees tickets and autographed memorabilia. I had to explain to him that she never actually bought any of the tickets, and that, if he really looked, he would have noticed that our autographs were ALWAYS on sheets of white paper. My mom would then cut a picture of that player out of a newspaper or magazine and put it next to their autograph. Glad we cleared that up, dumbass? Yeah. Me too.

I'm not trying to say that all dads who are put on child support are assholes. But they do all deserve to support their kids to every extent they possibly can. And maybe this is another biased thing to say, but I personally think you shouldn't need a court order to tell you to give money to the person caring for your child. I went through a "maybe I should leave my husband" phase a few months ago so child support is something I seriously thought about. What I realized is that I wouldn't need a court order. Being irresponsible is not one of Rodolfo's flaws.


Mother Knows Best Reviews said...

This makes me livid. We had a lot better financial situation than you when my mom remarried, and we are so lucky for that... But my dad never paid a dime. He got a doctor who was later revoked of his license to fake disability for him, so we got Medicaid. Then he had another kid and adopted his baby mama's first child so that we got less of "his" money.

Should we petition about that?

Jaclyn said...

I have a friend going through something similar. She left her ex after 7 years of him being shockingly irresponsible with their money. Now he's knocked up his girlfriend and expects her to take less money because he can't afford to support 2 kids. Fucking idiot.

wagthedad said...

Men who refuse to support their kids, at least financially, are complete assholes. Hands down. They should be paying a percentage of their salary prorated according to the number of people their family had before the marriage split up.

They should, however, also get an equal amount of visitation time. I don't live in the U.S., where I would like to assume visitation rights are much more liberal than they are where I live, in Austria.

Here, you pay roughly 40% of your income in child support and alimony (and men virtually always pay alimony here, regardless of who left whom) and you are only guaranteed 2 weekends a month visitation.

For a father like me (and I know "a few fathers" as well who do NOT fit the label of deadbeat dad), going from seeing my kids virtually every hour of their waking lives except the time spent at work, feeding them, waking them up, putting them to bed, bathing them and playing with them, two weekends out of the month would be enough for me to want to kill myself.

But only in such a way as to make it look like an accident, you know, so that they would get my life insurance.

And where I live, 99% of the courts will side with the woman as regards child custody, regardless of who left whom, who cheated on whom, and who makes more money. Seriously. I know one couple where the woman threatened to kill herself and her children multiple times in front of witnesses and because there was no "hard evidence," i.e. a tape recording or video of her saying this, the court continuously sided with the mother.

(It wasn't until she actually did try to kill herself and wound up in the hospital that they finally gave the father temporary custody.)

This is a horror story. It doesn't represent the majority of cases, where men are complete shitheads who do not give a rat's ass about their kids or their kids' financial situation.

But it does not mean that the majority of the cases should dictate the full extent of the legislation for the minority of us who actually do something for our kids.

Because I will tell you what happens in this situation (and I know at least five men in this situation): the men stay, not because they love their wives, but because they are afraid of losing their children. And then the children get to witness a horrible marriage in progress.

When all that would be needed would be more equality in child custody.

Why are men afraid of this? Because there are plenty of women (and in this case, when I say plenty, I am talking about 10 women I know personally)who WILL use the children as chips in the bargaining process.

It may be that many women feel it's their only chance to get something back from the man to take care of those children. But a child is not the same as a house or a car. And bargaining with the kids, in the negotiation of a divorce, is usually something that the woman has sole power over.

Jaclyn said...

Damn. That's a shame. I want to clarify that I totally agree that dad's should have equal rights. I just don't see how the ones who don't want to support their kids in any way (hi, dad!) think they deserve the benefits but none of the responsibility.

I think it's awful that people are staying in shitty marriages because they won't get to see their kids if they leave. When I was considering leaving my husband, it was a definite factor of consideration that I wouldn't have Caitlyn all the time. Just the idea of a 50/50 split was excruciating. Two weekends a month? Yeah, fuck that. That's just unfair.

I hate to make it a socioeconomic issue, as I'm sure there are plenty of deadbeat dads with money, but I grew up ghetto-adjacent, so I've seen first hand what happens in an environment where money is a desperate situation. And it doesn't make for responsible dads (or moms, for that matter). So maybe I've just seen a lot of the other side of this- dads who are barely scraping by so they skip out on child support and the moms end up on welfare (that's what my mom had to do). In my own experience, my dad was simply selfish and stupid and pissed all his money away gambling, plus he was too lazy to hold down a job for longer than a few months at a time. I don't know, I guess I'm biased, but I'd LOVE for the whiny American dads to know how good they have it compared to Austrians!

wagthedad said...

As far as I'm concerned, unless the woman is running around with a new set of diamond jewelry every week, then the men should just shut the fuck up about the money. The men I have known who bitch about the money are inevitably the ones who don't "put out" with the affection and the quality time, either. The ones who ARE good dads tend not to bitch about the money.