Thursday, 15 May 2014

What is the Definition of a Deadbeat Dad?

I have recently seen the adjective "Deadbeat" preceding the title of "dad" in reference to my husband quite a lot. A phraseology that I am very bluntly tired of hearing. So many people blindly toss words like "deadbeat" and "abuse" around with ease and no regard for other people's feelings or the very tangible reality that comes from facts.

I know that I personally say quite a lot, but the words that I say are 1) not blatantly discriminatory, and 2) very, VERY carefully chosen in an attempt to be respectful, discreet, and understanding to people's needs and privacy. Sorry about that little aside. Back to my point...

Obviously, I am under no illusion that "deadbeats" exist. That these people can be and are devastating to the lives not only of their children, but the extended family of them (parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, etc). What I also understand is that there are just as many deadbeat moms as there are dads. Clearly, any parent is capable of falling behind and forgetting holidays and generally being what some might consider useless or negligent. What a lot of people don't realize is that this doesn't always occur because they're terrible people or don't deserve to be parents, though, but sometimes just because people are people and make human mistakes.

Like, take BM for example. I have a list of mistakes she's made as long as both my arms and legs put together, but never one single time, have BD or I ever accused her of so much as being a less-than-good mom. We praise her for raising such a wonderful, bright little girl. We appreciate what she has done.We rejoice in the fact that despite any barriers that she has faced, she has not only raised a gorgeous little girl, but she has also raised a wonderful little boy and is making another little one in her belly right now. Despite illnesses, deaths, moves, deployments, and court battles, she has still taken the time to teach sign language, times tables, and state capitols. She has made strides as a mother that are admirable and something huge that I respect even today, after all we've been through.

And through all of these kind thoughts that come from our household, BM is still consumed by hatred. I am still the "wicked" stepmother and BD has recently been granted the very special title of "deadbeat." From what I can understand, and from what I have read from BM's MANY posts, he has been offered this title almost entirely for the fact that he does not pay his full Child Support every month.

I'm going to get real about this now, because I have nothing to hide, and neither does BD.

BD worked for the military for many years. He had a completely steady paycheck for almost the entirety of SD's life. It wasn't actually until the middle of last year that his unemployment was a couple of months away from running out (after not being allowed to re-enlist because the military is ridiculous) and he contacted BM very formally and respectfully to offer another option for Child Support. Not to stop paying it, but to agree mutually to reduce it for one year until he was finished with school. The letter was obviously ignored, and BD has since been paying as much Child Support as possible every month.

And I'm sure that I can almost see several of your collective eyes rolling... "Well why doesn't he just get a JOB? what a useless excuse for a father!"  I get it, and I'll have to admit that this thought has come across my own mind a time or two. The reality of the situation, though, is that BD is going to school full time to get a job that pays a pretty gorgeous amount. Alongside school, BD is also very aware of the fact that his levels of focus are HORRIBLE and trying to work full, or even part-time would only result in failure in either his education or job. The reality ALSO is that BD started a business and is budding that business as a means to supplement his Child Support. Businesses, although eventually prosperous, are slow to start, and every penny that he gets from the business goes immediately to Child Support. It may not be a HUGE amount, but he's trying.

Despite being deficit on Child Support, we provide our best. We buy SD clothes when she's here, we pay for her tickets to visit, and we provide her with books or supplemental things during her visit.  BD calls SD regularly, supports her extra-curricular activities, and provides BM the space and respect that she requests and deserves.

And still, we are labelled as horrendous people with terrible monikers.

So, for the case of argument, I want to provide the definition that has been provided by Wikipedia (and many other websites):

"Deadbeat parent is a pejorative term referring to parents of either gender who is attempting to evade court ordered child support obligations. Primarily used in the United States and Canada, the gender-specific deadbeat dad and deadbeat mom are commonly used to refer to men and women who have fathered or mothered a child and intentionally fail to pay child support ordered by a family law court or statutory agency such as the Child Support Agency.

The term deadbeat parent is a pejorative term used more by child support advocacy groups than by Governmental Child Support Agencies. Child Support Agencies described clients either as in compliance, not in compliance or criminally non compliant. Compliance is judged by the paying party's performance in meeting the terms of the Child Support court order. However, some local authorities have mounted campaigns targeting so called "deadbeats" and eliciting a more excited emotional public response."

So, from this definition, it is citing that a Deadbeat is a person who is attempting to evade a debt of Child Support. Something that BD has never one single time even thought of doing. He has every single intention to pay each penny that is owed towards his Child Support and is slowly chipping away at it in the meantime. He is a person who means nothing but the best and wants to be able to provide for his family reliably and comfortably for a long period of time, so he is bettering his skill set to make that happen. I feel like that, compounded by the fact that he is a dedicated and interested party in the upbringing of his children should reflect for something other than the angry rants of a mother who has for years claimed over and over again that "this isn't about the money."

In my opinion, a "Deadbeat" should be more carefully defined as a parent of either gender who evades parenting obligations. Not just financially, but emotionally and for the extent of their child's life. The "Deadbeat" label should be thrust upon people who refuse to take part in their children's favorite activities, or have no interest in seeing and spending time with their little ones.

Instead, loving parents who are desperate to take part in their children's lives are being forced out of them by Custodial Parents who have no interest in sharing. No interest in being a fair parent.

I feel like a parent, a GOOD parent, is someone who is involved, cares, and attempts to be a part of their child's life. Someone who accepts responsibility for this little thing that they made to the best of their ability, be that calling, skyping, sending letters/emails, or visiting. They do the best they can, and sometimes that'll be more than other times. Despite this, it is understood that they are trying, and that is okay, because they love their child and want to see them happy. A good parent is someone who respects the other parent, no matter what their relationship status is. Someone who doesn't openly disrespect or disparage the other parent for ANY reason, be that frustration, anger, or to win the child over.

I feel like BM and many other parents need something, anything to use as a weapon and clutch onto this phraseology that is hurtful and generally inaccurate. I understand that they are lashing out and I understand that they need every weapon they can hoard into their arsenal, no matter how flimsy, but this has to stop. People's desperation to destroy another person's credibility and kindness is spiraling out of control and I'm exhausted from it.

I ultimately feel that the read "deadbeat" parent is the one who willingly keeps a child from their loving other parent. So, if you are flinging this word around willy-nilly, please think again about things beyond dollar bills. Think about the big picture of what role the other parent is playing in your child's life. And if you are having this word flung at your wildly, take a moment to see what your position in your child's life really is and pat yourself on the back if you can easily call yourself a "good" parent.