*Disclaimer*: When I use the word “father”, it could just as easily be “mother”, if the situations were reversed.
I hear this question all the time. As a single mom, I asked it myself a million times in the early days.
It takes two people to make a baby. Both have responsibilities. Financial, emotional, practical ones. It’s not a case of 50/50. Both parents should be giving 100%.
Very often, it doesn’t work like that. In the case of teen moms, sometimes the dad does not want to (or is not able to) support the child financially. This causes complications and extra financial responsibility for the mother. There ARE ways around this, such as claiming maintenance via the courts. As many of you know, this is often a long, frustrating and often futile process. But you have to try.
The more complicated issue is when a dad (whether he’s paying or not), is not interested in being involved in the child’s life. Not interested in doing his part, taking responsibility or even having a responsibility-free, fun-dad relationship with his child.
Moms ask me all the time – How can I get him interested?
Short and nasty answer: you can’t.
Rule one: This is NOT about you.
Rule two: You cannot force a person to love another person, even a sweet innocent child
Rule three: This is NOT about you.
Rule four, five & six: This is NOT about you.
Yes, a deadbeat dad causes extra work for the mom. She has nobody to rely on, nobody to “help”, nobody to shoulder some of the strain of parenting. It HURTS to realise that dad does not love this little person who you care about so much. It HURTS to know that some day you’re going to have to explain this to your child. It makes you ANGRY knowing that he is “getting off easy” while you do all the work.
Truth is, you can’t make it right. Only he can. All YOU can do is behave in a way that ensures you’ll be able to look your child in the eye one day and say you did all you could.
Your 1st responsibility: do all you can to make sure he is supporting his child financially. NOT because it helps YOU – but because it is YOUR CHILD’S right. Sometimes, this isn’t going to work. Then it IS going to be all on you.
Your 2nd responsibility: never ever ever say bad things about dad to your child. No matter how frustrated or angry you get, no matter how hurt you feel on your child’s behalf. DON’T DO IT. You need to be able to look back one day, when your child asks, and KNOW 100% that you did everything right.
Your 3rd responsibility: keep encouraging dad to be involved. Tell him your child wants him and needs him around. Keep all your personal feelings about him to yourself. Do NOT fight with him about his life or choices. Do NOT say he has a responsibility to you to help. He doesn’t. He has a responsibility to his child. Keep trying, so you can tell your child that you did.
Your 4th responsibility: know when to let it go. An abusive, addicted or criminal father has no place in a child’s life, until such time as he’s not those things anymore. If there is no relationship with the child, despite your best efforts to build one, and you see that your child is happy, healthy and secure despite this (this is YOUR job, to make sure that they are) – then no father is better than a lousy father. Continuing to fight to make dad care will stress you out, will ultimately stress your child out, and as they get older, they might resent being forced to interact with a father who obviously doesn’t want to.
While the courts might be able to legally compel a parent to pay maintenance, they cannot be forced to care. Any parent who is being forced into doing it will NEVER do a good job.
So sometimes, as unfair as it is (to you and mostly your child) -you have to let it go. Let him wander off into the sunset, knowing that your child will be okay regardless, because YOU will make sure of it.
Yes, it sounds like he’s “getting off scott-free”, and that makes some people angry. So what? So what if he’s now having an easy life while you struggle?
The Rules above, remember? It’s NOT about you. It’s only about your child. And if your child is okay, that’s all that counts. Even if it means you have to pick up all the slack and do all the work – the alternative is that you don’t. That you say “Dad won’t do his share, why should I do extra?”
That is the OPPOSITE of a good mother.
That lousy dad may one day wake up and realise what he’s lost. That’s sad. It’s sad for a child if his father doesn’t care. But it doesn’t have to define their life. You can make sure it doesn’t.
Your job: try and try and try again. Mind your own business about his personal life (unless it directly affects the child). Make a life for your child that will be awesome despite dad. Know that you’re doing it all the right way, and your child will always know that you did what was best for him.
So – how can you make a father take responsibility? You can’t. Only he can decide to do that. If he doesn’t, you go on regardless. Because that’s your job.