To paraphrase Carly Simon, you probably will think this is about you. It’s not. I won’t lie, there are elements of your mind-blowing behaviour in this letter, but it’s not just about you because unfortunately there are so many absent, non-paying fathers out there and this is for them all.
Dear Absent Fathers,
I should start by telling you how your children are but then let’s be honest, my number hasn’t changed. If you wanted to find out, you would pick up the phone and ask. But in case you’re wondering, they’re fine. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they’re better than fine, they are incredible and yes I take full credit for that.
I’m writing because it’s that time again when you either reappear after having months away or you decide to slink back into their lives from the darkness. You do both pretty regularly. It’s tiresome trying to keep track. This time, when I heard the latest crop of excuses for why you refuse to pay for or see your children, I felt compelled to write.
Apparently, children don’t need a father just for money. A good father isn’t just a wallet, you say. Quality time with them is important according to you and if only I would see that, then I would be a better mother. I have to ask, if I’m so horrendous, why do you leave them with me 24/7?
The thing is, quality time doesn’t clothe two children. Quality time doesn’t make sure that they have a warm roof over their heads and it definitely doesn’t put food in their bellies. And that’s just the basics. I would love to have the quality time that you sporadically enjoy with them when you reappear for a few months to play Superdad. But I can’t. Unfortunately, you are too busy living off your latest girlfriend and her family who ironically see you as a doting stepdad.
You carefully ensure that you have no quantifiable income as far as the Child Maintenance Service is concerned. (I mean seriously, do they think that you are surviving on thin air?!? Why don’t they do something about this abuse of the system?!?). Because of this, I have to work. Long days and long weeks because you choose to contribute nothing towards your children. Yet you choose to tell all and sundry that I am a ‘money-grabber’ and ‘materialistic’ because I dare to ask you for money in order to make OUR children’s life more comfortable.
At times, you’ve lectured me about my spending as if you still think you have the control that you once had. How many times have I been the recipient of long, eloquently worded emails telling me that if I only stopped buying the children trainers that cost x amount, then I wouldn’t need you to provide for them. I even recall being told to ask my parents for help if I’m struggling because ‘good parents help their children’. Can you see the irony?
If only I had managed my money better and stopped buying non-essentials, I wouldn’t need to request maintenance. Thank you for your wise words. It’s a shame that whilst you were researching how much the children’s trainers cost, you didn’t add a pair to your basket and purchase a pair for them. Thank you for informing me of how much they cost. I must thank their Grandad once again for buying them, whilst my money is used up on essentials like electricity, gas, rent and food and the like.
I have to agree with you. A father is more than a wallet. A father teaches lessons, shares experiences and sacrifices his time. Have you done that lately? In case you’re trying to figure it out, the answer is no. No parents evenings, no assemblies, no sports days. Absolutely nothing. What interests me about those events is that the children never even ask you to attend. They never ask me if I can ask you to come. I’m not quite sure if they already know that you won’t bother or if they know who will make the effort to be there for them. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both?
I know you like to hear this so I’ll say it again. You’re right. A father is many more things than just a wallet. I know this well because I’m doing the job of father and mother and I’m exceeding expectations. Exceeding in spite of your constant put downs and poisonous rhetoric that the children will grow up to hate me because I worked too much or because I wouldn’t let you see them. Laughable, nothing and no one would stop me from seeing my children. A real father never gives up.
As you love to frequently remind me, you have exactly the same legal rights to the children as I do but obviously take none of the responsibility. You choose to flit in and out of their lives. You choose to be absent.
The children will grow up because of me and if they choose to hate me when they are older, at least they will have grown up into healthy, well-adjusted adults. It’s a chance that I will take. Because if their care was left down to you, they wouldn’t even be able to eat. Fresh air feeds no one. And yes you’re right again, the children love you and they are sad when you aren’t around but unfortunately they are so used to your absence that they simply move on and get over it by spending time with the new supportive family that love them.
If you read this, you’ll undoubtedly be calling me a liar and tell everyone that I’m the reason why you don’t see you children. You’ll be telling everyone who reads this that you do care, you do love the children and that you do contribute. I’ve heard it all before. However, you might want to consider telling it to the little people that matter the most. You might want to consider being present, using your hours of free time to attend sports days instead of complaining that you were not ‘down to do that’ – whatever that even means.
I’ve given up asking you to share your time or money with the children. It’s pointless. There’s always an excuse or an imaginary illness that prevents you from being a father. I’m not sure what you think I do when I’m genuinely ill… You can’t stop being a parent when it suits you.
All I ask of you now is that the next time you tell someone that you have two children, but their mother is this, that and the other, you revise your words. You need to stop and think. I am doing everything I can for those children because you don’t. You can afford to walk away, rarely see them and pay nothing because of the woman and mother that I am. You knew I would fight tooth and nail for my girls. You knew that they would never do without with me by their side. You knew that I would always protect them from harm. So, until you grow up, step up, stop expecting them to live on fresh air alone and be excited at sporadic scraps of attention you throw their way, instead of calling me vile names, you should be profusely thanking me for doing everything that you do not.