On Child Support/Young Parents:

Dear Parents who pay child support:

Congratulations. Even more if the custodial mother or father didn’t have to ask/fight for it. Congratulations on doing the right thing.

A non-custodial parent pays X amount of state-guideline-determined dollars per month for the support of their issue.  Know how much a working custodial parent contributes?  Every single dollar they earn.

I find it absolutely appalling that we live in a world where fathers can go to jail for not working to support their chidren, but mothers are not held to the same standard because it is less expensive for the state to provide the mother with free rent/food/medical care, etc., rather than enforce the law equally, lock ’em both up, and assume the expense of raising the children as wards of the state.  After all, somebody has to mind the children — nevermind the quality of caregiving.  Foster care is just another form of incarceration (not saying there aren’t some great foster parents out there, because I know from personal experience that there are) but incarceration is not the answer. I think education, meaningful occupation, and self-esteem are the answers.

At the risk of playing devil’s advocate, I have served in professional capacities that have allowed me to witness the flip-side of the incarceration debate — i.e., a parent who owes 10k in arrearages, upon being faced with incarceration (or actually being incarcerated) somehow magically comes up with the funds to liberate him/herself — but could not be bothered with the inconvenience of working, begging, stealing or borrowing the money for the lesser satisfaction of knowing their children are decently sheltered/clothed/fed.  It is a gamble that the state loses more than it wins — but it is always willing to roll the dice.  In 2008, Virginia spent $0.60 on corrections for every $1.00 it spent on education — what in the actual hell?!  I don’t have more recent figures.  But I am willing to bet they’re even worse.

My second thought on this issue is as follows: women and men (but mostly women) who do not seek the assistance of the absent parent are not doing the children, themselves, or the absent parents any favors.  It is not noble to do it all by yourself — even if you can.  It is not even noble to save the absent parent from incarceration — even if you do not believe it’s fair — because these are the natural and lawful consequences of their failure to perform in accordance with the expectations and regulations of the society in which they choose to live (and procreate).  It should not be within your power to “save” them from those consequences, no more than it is within your power to make the choices that bring them to that point. At the end of the day, nobody is going to thank you or give you an award for not demanding [not your own, but] your children’s due.  That is your responsibility as parent/advocate.  Children cannot, in their minority, demand what is theirs by right at law — and by all that we hold decent and honorable in our society.

Occasionally, the offspring of a hardworking single parent may hit it big and dedicate a rap/country song to your efforts, or buy you a house, but that is a gamble that pays off even less than the state’s.  Why risk it?  You’ll still get that song/house even if you fight for your children’s rights — meanwhile, an occasional trip to Disney World and/or the random pair of shiny-new Jordans does not constitute a meaningful financial constribution to your child’s well-being.  Yeah, I said it.  Any one parent who works to support their children is doing no more than they must; both should be held equally responsible/accountable.  Whether they are planned or unplanned, you did not create your children by yourself.

Finally, the real mind-blowers are not the resentful noncustodial parents who do the right thing only to avoid jail, but the non-working custodial parents who think they are entitled to a free ride without ever getting their hands dirty, truly or metaphorically. the “I don’t want my kids’ dad to go to jail, but social services made me report his paternity/information [so I could get a check]” type.  Are they really thinking the day will come when their kid will say, “You and Dad might not have had jobs, or wanted to support me…ever, but it’s not your fault Dad went to jail.  They totally made you do it.  By the way, thanks for providing us with that section 8 apartment, where I had to share a room with my two half-siblings, whose fathers you were also “forced” to report.  The 10th through the 31st of every month was hell, Mom, but we sure did have some good times on the first.” Is that really going to happen?  Again, it is not in the custodial parent’s power to “save” the non-custodial parent.  Chances are, if your children aren’t born of the type of man or woman who will do whatever it takes to see them provided for, they’re going to eventually go to jail, regardless.  Again, not that jail is the solution.  But if it is what it is, I’m all about some chain gangs.

The true solution, I think, can be found in self-esteem; in early-age preventative education that allows young men and women to pursue higher education and meaningful occupation. That given, the self-esteem will take care of itself.  I think a lot of parents who don’t do the right thing by their children truly wish they could — but “wishes don’t do dishes” and a goal without a plan is just a wish.  I personally wish that I could reach out to all young women — before they (intentionally or unintentionally) become parents. We all know it takes two, but ultimately, the woman DECIDES — as she is the only one who can have a baby.  I wish I could tell these young girls that they have options, and they can have it all — without having to do it all alone — in due time, because I don’t think they know it.  I also believe more young men would do the right thing for a woman’s love (physical and otherwise) and for their children, if the right thing was demanded.  Finally, I think that unsupported children are the wages of loneliness, which begins in the childhood of their parents, and which, I believe, is at the heart of most psychopathology.  I see this dilemma as a circle.

Sex is a poor substitute for love, and a baby won’t hold a man — but how many young girls would believe it?  Unquestionably, a baby is a link; too many girls erroneously view it as proof that they were loved by/”belonged” to someone. How sad that that we have “evolved” past the point of that mattering — to anyone?

When you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.  Interpret that as you will, so long as your interpretation includes the understanding that children are the blameless consequences of pursuit of reckless pleasure.  And payment, in some form or another, is due and inevitable.

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