Parenting is a full-time job, not some part-time gig in which you collect a refund check at the end of the weekend.
Where most people hear words, a casual conversation or small talk, I often see and hear a story. Everyone has a story. Sometimes they’re inspirational, motivational, educational, but very seldom confrontational. I try and block those out. However since I’m interested in growth, I’ve come to learn that growth has no barriers or boundaries. So whenever uneasiness or discomfort tries to slip in and take shelter inside my soul, I have to release because even the unpleasant things are here to teach us a lesson.
The Uncut Truth About Child Support
Just the other day while I was out, I ran into a gentleman that I knew. Our now teenage sons once played little league sports together.
On this particular day, this gentleman and I stopped and made small talk. He cheerfully boasted about his recent vacation, his job as an artist and how he was really enjoying life and couldn’t be any happier. I smiled as I asked my next question, “So how’s your son doing?” His cheerfulness quickly diminished and was replaced with anger and disdain as he responded; “Well I haven’t seen him in a while. My ex-wife and me don’t get along; we can’t stand each other.” He continued with, “For her it’s all about the money. Whenever I get my son on the weekends, she doesn’t want to give me any of my child support payments back.” He then shook his head in disgust and closed with the words, “Do you feel me?” As if him and I were both on the same accord.
I paused as I was taken aback by his ignorance. Frustration suddenly kicked in and before I could bite my tongue I sarcastically responded with, “No I don’t feel you. Didn’t you just brag about how you went out of town over the weekend and how you were so happy?” He let out a half nervous smile and said “Yeah.” I then said, “Well did you have to look for a baby sitter in order for you to take that trip? When you get off work and you’re tired, can’t you just go home and crack open a can of beer and turn on sports center if you’d like?” His smile completely faded. My twisted facial expression along with the anger in my voice couldn’t easily be ignored as I was just getting warmed up. Before I could even utter another word he strategically looked down at his phone in an attempt to extinguish what was quickly turning into an out-of-control burning flame. I took that as a cease-fire and dismissed myself as well as his friendship on social media and politely walked away.
His lack of compassion and understanding for his child and his child’s mother was shameful, selfish and disrespectful. This man was clearly shortsighted; he failed to look at the bigger picture. Parenting is a full-time job; not some part-time gig in which you collect a refund check at the end of the weekend.
Unfortunately he is not alone
On any given day you will read or hear about some angry parent complaining about the court system and the significant amount of money that they pay — in what they consider to be child support. The non-custodial parent (male or female) somehow feel that they’re the one’s getting a bad deal. In some cases this could be correct but in many cases it’s not.
Children should never be viewed as a bill. Writing a check along with weekend visitation is too easy. This should never be considered child support but merely financial support.
Child support is about more than just money. The non custodial parent often times fail to realize the struggles and sacrifices custodial parents make in order to assure that their child’s basic needs are met. I’m referring to doctors’ appointments, helping with homework, preparing meals, science projects, PTA meetings, after school activities, peer pressure, bullying, social gatherings, heartbreak, hormones; not to mention being a disciplinarian, a chaperón, a counselor, a consultant, an advisor, a therapist on top of being a hardworking and loving parent. These things don’t even scratch the surface.
Life as a single parent
Although I am no single parent I can certainly relate to being one. My husband recently left for a business trip and I had to care for our two teenage sons solo for a few days and it was no easy task. I actually had to take a day off work because there was so much that had to be done.
My day started at 5:30 am with me preparing a hot breakfast before I was met with my first obstacle; waking my youngest child (A problem my husband never seem to have). I was greeted with “What time is it? I need a few more minutes. My dad doesn’t wake me up this early. I have to stretch first.” This went on for about 5 minutes before I threatened to make him walk to the bus stop in the cold. After about 45 minutes, we were finally out the house.
When I returned home I had some much needed me time which consisted of a cup of coffee, a 30 minute workout, cleaning the house and washing a few loads of clothes before it was time to get dressed and start my busy day.
I picked the boys up early from school and headed to the orthodontist, then to the pharmacy, the mall for new shoes, we stopped and had lunch, followed by the barber shop, then on to basketball practice for my oldest, his spelling bee afterwards, we went home where I made dinner before we were out the door again taking my youngest son to his basketball practice. Once we made it inside the car and buckled our seat belts my youngest looked at me and said; “Wow mom you sure did a lot today and you’re not even complaining.” I smiled at my son. The fact that he noticed all that I had done made those simple words priceless. If only he knew how tired I really was.
Needless to say, we didn’t make it back inside the house until 9:30 that evening in which I was greeted to a ringing house phone. It was my husband. I had been so busy running all day that I forgot to return his call from earlier. When I heard his voice the only words that I could muster was, “Hello honey I really miss you. Now what time did you say your plane would be landing?”
When I hear non-custodial parents like this gentle complain about weekend visits and giving financial support, I immediately become frustrated. Our children deserve better. In my opinion there isn’t any amount of money in the world that can replace a physical parent who puts in time and effort.
“It takes a village.” If we are going to build strong children we must set our differences aside and make them our top priority.
Now that’s a story I yearn to write.
T. L. Criswell, author of “The Peacemaker” is passionate about the well-being of children and loves communicating with young adults through poetry. She currently works in manufacturing, and resides in Eastpointe Michigan, with her husband, son, and adopted nephew. The Peacemaker originated from her poem “Stolen Opportunities”