Thursday, February 7, 2013

Neither Victim nor Hero

I began this as a comment to Semi-Hippie Single Mama's post, but I was writing so much that it merits its own post here.

I don't know if there were multiple ones, but I was one who helped launch a letter-writing campaign to the President regarding child support (and those who don't pay it). SHSM (to summarize) implied that such an action made single moms feel like victims.

My attempts at bringing our voices together were never meant to tell anyone how they should be feeling. If fighting for child support is not important to you, then by all means, don't. It was an avenue for those of us that wanted to do this. I would never think less of any single parent for opting out.

Having said that, I strongly disagree with SHSM's assessment of how I felt.

First of all, no one can tell me how to feel about anything. While I'm not angry about it all the time (or even most of the time), there is such a thing as right and wrong, and it is just plain wrong and illegal for anyone not to comply with a court order, which is the problem at its most basic level.

Also, as my girls have gotten older, they have begun to understand that I have done battle on their behalf, and I'm proud of that. At the same time, they will also be among the first to tell you that they are proud of what I have done to take care of them on my own financially. I don't think that being proud of yourself and fighting for what is right are mutually exclusive.

Frankly, I felt quite the opposite of helpless by being part of the fight to at least raise awareness. I felt empowered by it.

On the practical end, I can now say that having lived without child support for nearly 10 years, and having had it for 5 months, without a doubt, it made a difference to have it. It gave us a small but welcome amount of breathing room.

For the record, in my paperwork, I had to sign off on a form acknowledging that I consented to a monthly amount that is less than half of what the courts would normally order in our circumstances. In other words, what I have requested is less than what is even considered reasonable. But it was just enough to let Sylvia take a master dance class this summer, to pay for the gas for our commute, and in the coming months, could have been enough to help pay for her driver's training and her auto insurance.

Of course, we have and will live without it, too, and the girls understand that their dad loves them even if he can't financially care for them.

I don't vilify him, and in fact, the last two times we saw him, we all had a really good time together. But I have and will continue to call him out for the mistakes he makes.

My girls are more emotionally evolved than most people I know because they have learned that people, for the most part, are not all good or all bad. That we are all flawed, but still worthy of unconditional love while seeing someone for all that they are.

I'm passionate about this because it points to a larger problem of single-parent families being pigeon-holed. We're either strong or pitiful, awed or vilified, patronized or admired, and of course, in reality, we can be worthy of all and none of these things.

Yes, I get angry sometimes. Yes, I feel completely overwhelmed sometimes. And sometimes, I am  full of pride and joy. I can't tell you how many times one of us has said, "I love our family." And yes, the girls have said they've hated each other and me, too.

One post, one emotion, one moment can't define us. (And my, how boring if it could!) In any event, I never intended, nor do I want to be defined as a victim. I'm just another single mom, doing what I can.


Missy June said...

So true that we can wear just about any label at various times. Thank you for your perspective! Have a great week!

BigLittleWolf said...

I call this standing up for ourselves and perhaps more importantly, for our children - as well as for what's right.

Anonymous said...

It's good that you (finally) got child support but the situation, particularly where the parent lives in another state and despite the laws, is generally shameful. A pity.