I just want to know one thing. Do you know what you're doing? Ask yourself, aside from financial assistance, what else are you doing?

A Letter to the Father Who Won’t Pay Child Support

Dear father who won’t pay child support,

I just want to know one thing. Do you know what you’re doing?

Ask yourself, aside from financial assistance, what else are you doing?

When is the last time you trimmed tiny little fingernails? Do you wake up before the sun rises to make sure your child gets on the school bus? How many hours do you spend each week helping with homework, and are you paid to do it? Are you holding your child’s hand at doctor appointments, and paying the $35 copay? How many meals do you plan, purchase for about $150 a week, prepare, serve to, and clean up after other people on a daily basis? How many nights lately have you been woken up multiple times because of your child’s nightmares? Do you know the name’s of your child’s friends, and how many play dates do you host at your house weekly, going through 3 $5 boxes of snacks in a couple hours? When is the last time you did 5 loads of laundry on a Saturday, paying for the soap and hot water and dryer sheets, and then did another two loads for good measure on Tuesday when a blanket was covered in vomit and crackers? How many days of work have you missed because of your child’s runny nose, and did you get paid time off? Do you know what stuffed animals they can’t sleep without and how they like their apples cut into slices without the skin? How many night lights do you have powered on each and every single night? Do you know how many $39 boxes of diapers and $12 boxes of wipes a toddler goes through in year? When is the last time you bought and baked a birthday cake and wrapped all the presents and paid for all the party supplies?

How many bathtubs full of hot water do you pay for in your house each month? When is the last time you had to remember yet another password to log into a school website and pay for your child’s $1.50 per day school lunch allowances? How many packages of $12 toilet paper do you buy in a month, or tubes of $4 toothpaste, or bottles of $2 hand soap? When is the last time you changed multiple sets of bedsheets at 4am with a screaming, crying child needing you to make them feel better? The last time you bought a $9 bottle of baby tylenol, and sacrificed everything on your to do list including sleep, just to monitor a fever and be prepared for an ER visit and accompanying copay? Do you know what insurance your child has? Do you know the name of their doctor? What about the name of their teacher? Did you send in 22 separate gift bags that cost $20 for the last class party? Do you know what size shoes they wear, and when is the last time you bought them a $20 pair? When is the last time you paid $15 for your child’s haircut? When your child’s last tooth fell out, did you play tooth fairy and have the cash to do so? How many $5 bottles of children’s shampoo have you bought lately, or how about $6 boxes of dish detergent to run the dishwasher nightly? How many career opportunities have you given up or failed at because you put the priorities of your children first? When is the last time you buckled multiple carseat straps before you could run to the store for a couple of things? How many $3 gallons of milk do you buy weekly? Where are you when your child needs to clean their room, or they spill spaghetti sauce all over their third outfit for the day and need to be changed?

Where are you? Are you doing these things, and if given the chance, could you do these things 24/7? Would you be able to do it alone, relying only on the income you could find time to create, and not paying anyone else to raise your kids or taking time off to attend their school events and teacher conferences? Could you do all of this alone? Are you doing any of this?

What are you doing?

Oh, that’s right, you’re working so hard. Never mind the fact that you’re underworking to be able to say you “can’t provide” what you should. You’re working so hard, when you feel like it. And you’ve got needs too. You have an electric bill to pay and you need gas for your car, you’ve got to eat, and you’re trying to save for that vacation because you deserve a damn break. And when you only have so much left after that, why should you send “your” money to “help” the mother of your child? It was her choice to be in this situation, anyway, right? Maybe she should’ve just put up with your abuse, addiction, affair-filled, or just unhappy relationship, she wouldn’t be a single mom now. Maybe in a few weeks or months, if you make a little extra cash, you could decide to be so overly generous and send a couple hundred dollars. Not because you’re legally obligated but because you are such a good guy lavishing your children with all you can spare, and you’re doing all you can, and she should be grateful you even want to help, right?

You’re wrong. 

Do you know what you’re doing? Where are you in the grocery store when someone has to tell your child no, they can’t have the poptarts with cartoon characters on them? Where are you when someone has to tell your 2nd grader they can’t afford to buy a $25 yearbook this year? Why don’t your children deserve new clothes, and trips to the expensive kid’s museums? Why can’t they join the clubs they want to, or attend the summer camps their friends are going to? Do you know how ever present you really are in your child’s life, simply with the gentle daily reminder that they live in a one income household and must make sacrifices? Why can’t your children grow up with a mother who lives a comfortable life? Why can’t they have a mother who doesn’t try her best to hide the anxiety in the house that comes from never knowing when your next payment might be? Why can’t they have a mother who allows herself to splurge on things like mascara and yoga pants that don’t have holes in them, instead of knowing she has to put every penny towards her children? Why don’t your children deserve a vacation on spring break? Where are you when your child breaks a favorite toy and someone has to tell them with a broken heart that they won’t have the money to replace it? Where are you when someone has to snap on the 5th reminder in a night to please turn off the lights, or when someone has to tell your child to wear the same jeans again to save on laundry costs? What are you doing?

You’re defending yourself. You’ve got all the reasons why you are only doing what you can, and why the mother of your child doesn’t really need your help anyway. You’re sleeping well at night, and still carry that feeling that you’ve been treated with injustice. Everyone knows you’re a damn good father. You could raise your kids better than her anyway, right, all alone without help? And heaven forbid she start dating or have a boyfriend, isn’t that his problem who pays his damn water bill then? You didn’t tell her to move in with someone – she should be doing it all alone like you tell everyone you would be able to so perfectly and effortlessly.

I just want you to ask yourself that one question: Do you really know what you are doing when you refuse to send child support? Do you realize just how much you are doing to your child’s quality of life and wellbeing of their mother, just by doing nothing? Do you realize that no matter what happened between you and the woman you once loved enough to have a child with, that you are still responsible for the financial stability of your child and supporting the person who is devoting her entire life to raising your child? Not because you’re being generous, or because you got paid a little extra to spare like you’d toss to a homeless man on the corner, not because a court ordered you to do so, but because it’s your responsibility without expecting praise or over-the-top thank you notes in return. When is the last time you told that woman thank you for everything she does in a day for your child? You are not entitled to a thank you for providing financial assistance required for the basic necessities to raise your child.

Raising children is not a game of narcissism and rewards for good behavior. This shit is exhausting, and they are half your DNA. They are not only yours to claim when you’re showing off how they have your eyes and how you treated them to ice cream one weekend. The rest of the world might take your side, they might reassure you when you fish for attention on social media, that you are doing the best you can. You might have perfected the image of successful, over-worked man with only the best interests of his children in mind. Too bad they don’t know how many months of support you’re behind in, or how your children have become nothing more than an outstanding debt. Their mother’s pleas for help and financial assistance have become nothing more than another creditor blowing up your phone and not worth your time or cost. And just like every other bill you put off until it’s shut off, you’ll continue this route because nobody else knows right? No matter what, they are “your” kids and you have rights too, right? Who cares if you aren’t supporting them?

Dear father who won’t pay child support, I think you know, deep inside, that you’re wrong. If only you could see what you’re really doing.

I just want to know one thing. Do you know what you're doing?

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