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How to Deal with an absentee father
The new normal
It is a statistic now, that over 50 percent of children, live in a fatherless home. An even scarier fact, 70 percent of men in the penal system come from such homes. So, what do you do, to make sure your child does not end up one of those statistics?
In my experience, single mothers can do it, my mother did it and I now will do my best as well. I got pregnant when I was 24 years old, just out of a bad marriage, the last thing I was thinking about was children. Being told from a young age that I would not be able to have kids, my mistake was not taking proper precautions. I will not say he was an un-wanted pregnancy, but a surprise none the less.
So when I found out that I actually was pregnant, the next thing to do is tell the father. The man you love, the one you have been with for all this time. Nervous is not a strong enough word for the feelings I felt in telling him.
With the task at hand, I will admit I took the, get him liquored up to soften the blow approach. May sound a little silly, but it seemed to work, or so I thought. He took it with a blank stare iin his eyes. Him being about ten years older, I thought the maturity of the man would out weigh the situation. This was not the case. I did not see him for another 7 months, the day our son was born.
I had a pretty rough time with my son's pregnancy. I got diagnosed with psuedo tumor cerebri in the fourth month of pregnancy and was put on bed rest. I was going to the hospital two and three times a week because I was classified as a high-risk pregnancy. The doctors would ask about the fathers medical information, but alas the father was no where to be found. He moved, changed his number and completely ignored me and his child.
I was devastated, mad, resentful, honestly at one point I hated this man. Never thinking I would ever have children, I was aghast at how it had all played out. I blamed him for everything, for my sickness, for my poverty, for everything really.
I made it through, learned a lot about myself and put all of my focus on my child that was growing inside of me. Twice a week, I would go to the doctors, hear his heart beat and see his little face. I vowed then I would make it right, however right turned out to be.
Talking to a lot of single mothers and friends in the same position, they spewed a lot hatred towards their children's fathers. I got a lot of advice for child support, getting even, but no one really helped to make this a better situation for my son. Never having a father in my life as a child, I vowed that I would not do this to my son. At the same time, i resented my mother's choice of step-fathers, so I did not want to do this as well.
Dealing with an absent father
When my son was born and I seen his face, I knew everything had changed. The hate that I had for his father faded quickly, replaced with a love I could not understand. How could I hate the man who gave me my miracle?
Answer was I couldn't, I called him at his job, the only thing he didn't change and told him that his son had been born. Surprisingly enough, 20 hours after he was born, he came to the hospital to see his son.
I was literally shaking when he showed up, I let him hold him for a minute and he stayed for about an hour or so. Funny thing was, he wanted to talk about "us" when all I wanted to talk about was our son Shane. This did not change for the first year of my son's life, he would come whenever he wanted, which was usually in the middle of the night when our son was sleeping. He was not fooling anyone, he was there for relations, not our son. There was also months in between his visits, Shane did not know who his father was.
I had went to Child Support Enforcement days after my son was born with all of his father's information. It only took them 20 months to get anything, but it was done. Financially his father did not help at all the first year. I went back to work almost immediately, six weeks after he was born I had to find a babysitter that I could trust for my 5lb son. About 15 day cares later I found a small one that would accommodate me and my son. No one ever tells you how hard it is to leave your child with a basic stranger, or how hard it is going to be to find daycare for a child under two.
A year past, his father having no real part in his son' s life or lively hood. He never really took the, "It's not mine" approach, but somehow that would have lessened it for us. If he would have had a reason, I might have been able to understand his lack of care, or how I seen it anyways.
So at the one year mark, me and his father had a discussion. I made it clear, me being a licensed horticulturist, I was in the wrong region to make a living wage. (Being as West Virginian's really didn't have yards to landscape.) I basically told him in no uncertain terms, it was a shyte or get off the pot situations. Either start stepping up or me and his son would be going back down south to where I knew I could do it on my own. A place where I could give our son the life that he wanted and needed.
My demands were clear, see your son on a regular basis, i.e. at least once a week. You help out with your child financial well being, at least a hundred dollars a month. Now this may seem like a small task for any parent, but this is really the minimum that was asked of him. Some of my friends thought I was crazy, to let him get out of it so easily, but in truth the court's still hadn't served him and at that point nothing was what I was getting from him. I desperately wanted him to bond with his son, so he would love him the way I did. I was convinced that if he would just spend some time with him, the ever important bond would be made.
The Silver Lining
Nervous about the ultimatum, I was unsure how he would handle this, but you know what? He agreed and followed through. He was never late on his financial obligation and he comes every week for a couple of hours on Thursday. The bond that I had hoped and prayed for has developed in the last ten months and I am happy to say he is still holding to his part of the agreement. I never thought that me and his father would ever see eye to eye, but Shane is our common ground. Our son is the reason I don't take all my frustrations and heart ache out on him. It is surely not the optimal family arrangement, but it is our own and it seems to work.
I finally got him to go to court for Child Support, which was granted. He is only allowed supervised visitation, although I feel like that is all he really wants anyways. I gave up over 7 grand in back child support, for his agreement on the visitation. I do not regret this decision, I did not want him resenting our son for such a high debt. I had made it through the time, so I knew it would be okay. I still do not trust him to solely take our son, but I feel like in time, maybe a weekend will not be out of the question.
This whole experience has taught me to forgive, especially someone so close to your child. You can spend your life hating your child's absentee father, or you can accept them for who they are and what they are capable of. They might just surprise you.
The work is hard, the sleep is minimal, but in the end it is all worth it. My son gets to see his father, which he looks forward to and I can sleep well knowing I am doing the best I can for my child.