Sunday, January 25, 2015

The one with the single mom

Dear Dad,

I need the male perspective. I am a single mom of twins (boy and girl) who are now 3. I receive nothing from the dad and neither do the twins. They have only met their father once, at a park (after many attempts) for a few hours. They asked about him afterwards daily. He was "too busy" to see them again. Eventually, thankfully they just stopped asking. I don't want to poison them against him regardless of him being a deadbeat. But am unsure how to answer the "where's my dad" questions that come up after seeing another child with their dad. We have been staying with my father, while I get back on my feet and I had been hoping that he would step up a little but considering that he was never around or a positive influence in my childhood, I'm not surprised that he hasn't. What do you think?

Dear 'Single Mom':

I was raised by a single mom who not only helped mold me into the father that I am, not only inspired me to create this column, but who I wish a happy father's day to each June because she was, quite frankly, not just the best mom in the world, but the best dad in the world as well.

I realized in my mid 20's that I have a sense of a "collective father" - an internal image and sense of different male influences in my life that have helped to mold, shape, and inspire me as a man and ultimately as a father- but surprisingly at the core of that construct is my mother.

My mother selflessly sacrificed her self for the sake of her children - and while I may not agree to the degree to which she sacrificed, I honor and respect everything she did for us. My mother did not just cook our meals, keep our house clean, run the PTO, mend our wounds, or act as a shoulder to cry on - she did so much more. My mother was my cub scout leader, even though she had no idea what she was doing; she realized that men were few and far between in the part of town I grew up in, so she stepped up. My mother taught me about the birds and the bees, even though it was clear to me even at the age of ten how nervous she was talking about things, and how little she knew on the subject from a male's perspective, even then. My mother taught me how to play sports (not very well, I might add, but the point is she made sure to include that). My mother taught me to stand up and fight for myself, and to never succumb to bullies. Any- and everything that a dad should "typically" teach their son, my mother at least tried to teach me, and from that I learned and became.   Click here to read a post I wrote about my mother

My advice, 'Single mom', is to own that you are in a situation where you are both mother and father to your children. I would advise your children, in an age appropriate way, that some people are not meant to be parents, and their biological father, though not meant to be a parent, gave you the greatest gift in the world: twins and the ability to be both mother and father to them. I am not saying to make him a hero, but paint the good things he actually did: give you your babies and give them life.

I am sorry that your father was not a positive influence in your life while growing up, and can certainly relate; however, I am glad that he is there for you now as you get back on your feet. Perhaps show him your question and my answer, hug him and say: "Dad, I love you and am grateful you are here for me, but I want more from and for you, and your grandchildren need more from you." I suspect if you are living in his home, he has a sense of his failures and may be open to more successes.

My hat is off to you, 'Single mom', and to ALL the single parents out there. I don't know how you do it. Twins? Seriously - I do NOT know how you do it, as I went through the experience of twins with a support system and much of the first few years is still a haze.

Now, after that is done: go to court as soon as possible! Your ex has a legal responsibility to his children and MUST pay to help support them and you. Why have you not already done this? There were extenuating circumstances with my mother, who did not go the legal route until we were much older (and trust me, my biological father talked about his resentment of paying that debt on his deathbed, deadbeat that he was to the core). Your ex is legally responsible to take care of his offspring, and the law is there to make sure he fulfills that responsibility! If he is "too busy" to know his children, so be it. You can take care of that, Single mom. If your ex foolishly chooses not to support his children, he can go to JAIL. Please contact an attorney ASAP and have it ironclad that your children are in YOUR custody, but your ex still has to pay his fair share to raise his children.

I am sending you good thoughts and energy, 'Single mom'.

I have been running this advice column for over two years now, and am still flabbergasted by the number of mothers who are angry at their ex partner's refusal to see their children, but take no legal action to make sure they pay for their legal responsibility. Why is this? Are single moms afraid they will come across in a negative light, or do they not realize under law they are entitled to child support?

As part of this advice column, I encourage readers to use the comment section to have a conversation on the subjects that are presented for 'Dear Dad.' I will be around all day to be part of the conversation. What are everyone's thoughts?

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