Although I'm not divorced (nor have I ever been married) and I do not have kids. I just wanted to share my perspective as a CHILD of divorce, who is now grown, and who has some memory of the conversation surrounding child support for ME. My dad was a good guy in terms of being loving and kind and adoring me to pieces. He was NOT a good guy, especially in my mom's eyes, in terms of being responsible, on time, respectful of her time, or good about keeping his word and making his payments. My parents were 19 when I was born and their marriage didn't last a year. My dad moved out of our apartment when I was 4 months old.
As I was growing up, my mom always made a sincere effort to keep her negative feelings about my dad to herself. But children, as you all well know, notice everything. So I knew she didn't wasn't his biggest fan. I did not know, however, until I overheard her on the phone with a friend one day, that he never paid her a DIME of child support for most of my life.
This wasn't information I was supposed to have, but I did. And when I found out, I remember feeling really sorry for him, and wanting to defend him. I knew he was broke, always switching jobs, never quite able to get his act together. I didn't understand, then, that adults made choices that led them to certain consequences. I just knew that my dad didn't have any money to give us. And my mom seemed to be getting us by just fine on her teacher's salary. So why was she pestering him? I probably even asked her about it and got upset with her response. I’m sure that was awful for her, but, of course, I had no idea at the time.
I remember a few years later seeing some papers on her desk that I wasn't supposed to see. They were court documents, indicating that my mom was taking my dad in front of a judge to get some of these back-logged child support payments due to her. She’d never see thousands and thousands of dollars he SHOULD have paid, but maybe she could get some of it. When I saw the paperwork, I remember feeling upset with her for putting him in this position, not understanding the position HE had put HER in all those years. I think she eventually ended up getting a little money from him every month, but it wasn’t until I was much older, almost ready to go to college. And it was probably only $150 a month or something relatively useless like that.
He also promised to make this all up to her by paying for half of my college education. Needless to say, by the time the first college bill was due, he didn’t have a penny to give to her.
Now that I'm a grown woman who has to keep a job and pay bills, I can only begin to understand my mom's experience. She was a single mom, practically a baby herself, and she was trying to do it all. And the man who sent me birthday cards, called to hear my voice, and begged to see me for weeks at a time during the summer – the man who wanted to share the experience of being a parent with her - wasn't willing or able to help her financially. And he was sorry and he had excuses but none of that mattered to her when she was living paycheck to paycheck, trying to raise a kid by herself.
I feel sad that they both had to go through any of that - that he couldn't just get himself together, and that she was in the position she was in. All I can say is that my mom is one of the strongest, most admirable people I've ever known. And my dad, today, is still sort of in the same situation. He has been married four times. He has trouble with his jobs, he doesn't have a lot of money, and he isn't terribly responsible.
Again, I’m not married, never have been, and cannot imagine how challenging it can be to raise a child, let alone to do so without a partner. And I'm not saying that men cannot change, or that women are stronger or smarter. I am saying, though, from the perspective of a kid who grew up watching her single mom battle her less-than-stellar dad, that people show us who they are. We should believe them. And we shouldn't count on people when they have shown us they can't be counted on. It doesn't make them bad people, because life deals difference hands to everyone, but it will make US stronger when we lower our expectations of people who have never met them in the first place. Just my 50 cents on the matter. ;)