I finally filed for child support, for the first time after 2.5 years. And it is already a decision that haunts me.
I do not know how the State will look upon you, upon us, and I am loathe to invite its gaze. Equal parenting is the exception rather than the norm; it’s quite possible that a court accustomed to imposing bare minimums will lock you into a habit of mediocrity and award you a rubber stamp of approval for the next sixteen years, while smiling quizzically upon my “standards.” Alternatively, when presented with your excuses lacking evidence, your participation devoid of commitment, your core conviction that you are a casualty victimized by a woman’s choice to NOT have an abortion, it’s also quite possible that the court will decide “you gon’ learn today.”
Whether you will regard the process with the same flippancy as you regard my demands remains to be seen. Though I have proven to be optimistic, understanding, and yielding in light of your endless procrastination, and your insistence that your contribution be measured not according to our child’s needs, but according to how much you choose to earn (or report earning) in a month; a court has more effective tools than anger and indignation at its disposal.
I feel guilty. When I think of you losing your driver’s license, your passport, and your pride, because you refuse to assume responsibility, I feel compelled to protect you from yourself. I don’t want you to be saddled in debt; I’ve spent so much time and effort trying to clear you of it. I don’t want you to be exposed as a less than ideal dad or partner; I’ve deliberately tried to impress upon people the exact opposite. I don’t want to be reduced to a dreaded “single mom;” I’ve tried so hard to convince myself that although we’re not “traditional,” we are still a “family.” I’ve even held on to our periodic arguments about child support like they are relics of our past romantic relationship.
But then I remember. Not once have you had the same compassion towards me, or even towards our son. While I am anxious you are unaffected by the prospect of what he is going to eat today. You are unperturbed by the likelihood that the check made payable to his daycare will bounce. You are unconcerned that he may have to grow up in a community characterized by violence, poverty, and lack of opportunity because the cost of living increases every day, while my income remains stagnant. You insist on pursuing your dreams and working on your projects, as if fatherhood is not one of them. And you boldly admit that it is not.
I don’t want your money. Perhaps, if we lived in another time, another place, I could do it all myself. But this is the U$A. And over the past 2.5 years I have become all too intimately acquainted with the unreasonable cost of quality childcare, the constraints American employment places on parenting, and its magnified impact on single parent households, including my own. While I hope things will eventually change, I know that any change will come too late for us. So, this is the choice I am left with. It is a choice that brings more uncertainty than peace of mind, a choice that places all of us (including our son) on a hot seat of judgment and probably contempt. But it is a choice that has to be made because we are bound not by love, but by responsibility.