Holli Bragg-030211Listen to Holli Deal Bragg read her column.
When a woman recently asked that I write a column about deadbeat dads, my first reaction was that I had no experience with the topic. My father was an excellent provider, loving parent, and great teacher.
But the more I thought about it, I realized there are "deadbeat dads" all around us.
A recent Facebook post by a young neighbor, barely more than a baby herself, bemoaned the fact that the father of her two young babies is not stepping up to the plate.
Then I thought about another man I know, who has two boys. Their mother told me the father rarely visits and doesn't pay child support like he should.
Another man I know has dodged the law more than once, running away from the back child support monkey on his back. He could see his children if he would just stop drinking, but he can't, or won't.
It's not just a deadbeat dad epidemic. How about "misfit mom?" I know of a woman who abandoned her children for no known reason, and never paid a dime of child support.
Why? How can a parent toss aside a responsibility like a child? We're not talking about a puppy or kitten dumped out for someone else to care for - we're talking about someone's flesh and blood.
Coming from a family where love and needs were never neglected, it is hard to imagine being the child of a deadbeat dad or misfit mom. I never had to do without anything because a parent failed his or her duty. I never lived in a home without security, and even when my parents went their separate ways, every effort was made to make sure my brother and I had the full support, love, and presence of both parents. Joint custody and shared expenses. How hard is that?
How can a parent live with not being a part of his or her child's life? The mother I know who abandoned her children - how can she endure Christmas or her sons' birthdays? Not even a phone call. No card or letters. The boys are grown now, and the wounds from the abandonment still bleed.
There was never an explanation for why she ended the loving relationship. I suspect she became involved in drugs, because her decline from a loving mother and wife to someone with no hopes, goals or pride in herself cannot be explained any other way.
Where are the deadbeat dads and misfit moms when their babies take first steps? Learn to talk? Draw pictures of a family with one parent? Ask questions such as "Where is my daddy?" and "Why doesn't mommy love me anymore?"
How can a man live a party life, splurge on beer, and act like an irresponsible teenager while the mother of his child struggles with a low-paying job, sometimes two, to make ends meet?
How can a woman walk away from her daughter's first dance, first date, first love?
There are single parents out there who deserve medals. They work until their fingers bleed, get little sleep, and find time to read to their kids in spite of laundry, cooking meals and cleaning house. They sacrifice their social lives in order to give their children everything they want and need. Of course, they are bitter. While they struggle, the other parent - the misfit mom or deadbeat dad - live a life of leisure.
Once in a while, you will see an arrest listing in the newspaper with the charge "child support lockup." On occasion, these failed parents who won't keep a job, who won't care for their kids and refuse to pay their share of support end up paying after a fashion by spending time in jail.
There is a flip side to the story, however. It's not always the noncustodial parent who is the bad guy.
Some men and women pay child support faithfully, but have a hard time dealing with the custodial parent concerning visitation. Some custodial parents likely spend the child support on things other than their children and the children's needs. This is wrong, too.
Who suffers? The children. They see and hear parents fight. They hear complaints about child support being in arrears. They feel the absence of two loving parents in the home, and many grow up never knowing their deadbeat dad or misfit mom.
There should be laws, stronger laws, that force parents to be parents, or else.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.