This past Sunday, the New York Times ran a Motherlode article that incensed me. Entitled “Forgiving $38,750 in Child Support, for My Kids’ Sake” by Kimberly Seals Allers, it smacks of the popular divorce narrative that eating shit sandwiches is ennobling.
The author’s ex-husband for some sad sausage reason, could not pay his $600 a month child support. So she “creates a new currency” and allows the guy to do chores instead.
I negotiated new currencies such as additional time when I needed child care, meal preparation, haircuts and even helping with home repairs, instead of acting as if a cash payment was all he had to offer our children. The look on their faces when he came to pick them up was more than worth it.
First off — him watching his OWN CHILDREN is not “child care” — it’s called visitation. And having your ex in your house to make meals and fix things is keeping some weird family cake alive. Different strokes for different folks, but I’m sure this would put a crimp on one’s dating life.
“Who’s that guy in the kitchen?”
“Oh, that’s my ex, Bob. He just cooks here.”
How nice for Bob to have a place to play family without the financial entanglements that the state requires.
We’re supposed to pooh-pooh the idea that men are more than their paychecks, but I’m sorry I don’t buy that. Real men financially support their children. Period. If my husband were writing this column, he’d write Real Men Have JOBS. (Don’t start him on the “value of work” rant.)
My heart goes out to every guy chump who gets half time with his kids now, and the injustice of alimony. (Which I think should be null and void if you cheat.) But child support? Damn straight you should pay that. It SUCKS that it goes to support the household of the ex-wife (and perhaps her affair partners), but we don’t have a better mechanism to ensure children are financially cared for. And visitation is never supposed to be tied to support. Screw the parents who play that game (called “pay per view”).
But this idea that forgiving a financial debt to your children is BEST for your children strikes me as the worst sort of spackle. One commentator said it was akin to bribing your ex to be in his kids’ lives.
Studies prove that school-age children of involved fathers have better academic success, higher grade point averages and go on to have higher levels of economic and educational achievement. We focus on money, when “child support” also means emotional support, academic support and the supportive power of a male influence in a child’s life. Negating that value is dangerous to our children. Regardless of what I think of him, my children love their father and doing my part to keep that feeling alive is priceless to me.
Studies PROVE? Seriously? Look, I’m all for involved fathers (and mothers), but not everyone gets two committed parents. That doesn’t mean our children are doomed to academic underachievement. HellOoo, President Barack Obama didn’t have an “involved father”! Abraham Lincoln was apparently estranged from his.
Fathers have not historically been all that “involved.” They migrate, fight in wars, die young. Some leave. But — OMG, consider the grade point averages!
The author’s ex, while grievously behind on his financial obligations, does appear to have enough money to move overseas and remarry.
But last June, my daughter graduated from middle school. She wanted nothing more than for her father, who has moved back to his native England, to attend her graduation. (Our children spend 6 weeks there with him every summer.) He could not travel to the United States to attend, he and his new wife said, because of his child support arrears and subsequent arrest warrants.
So she goes to court to forgive the debt, reasoning that she wouldn’t see the money anyway.
Yes, it mattered to me, especially during those difficult years after divorce when money was tight. But I have scraped to get by, and I view him as having been unable to pay, not unwilling. But our broken system lumps both kinds of fathers together in the same prison-bound barrel.
Oh, I see. You have the Better Sort of Deadbeat. If he’s “unable” — the law has a remedy for that, called child support reduction.
What is too heart-breaking to consider, however, is that yes, he is “unwilling.” That he makes choice after choice after choice signifying that you and your children are not a priority in his life. Haircuts notwithstanding, he chooses to not pay a modest amount of support and is perfectly okay with you struggling. You refuse to connect those dots, Allers.
I was a single mother for years. I figured out how to raise a child on my own with my sole income. His father had a fraction of the responsibility and expense and could not manage.
I have zero sympathy for dead beat parents. None.