I am probably going to ruffle a few feathers here, but we need to talk about child support and child support enforcement. It seems like we can’t because in many “I’m not one of them” and “not my problem” circles, there is a small but vocal minority that shame women for having reproduced with a man who is either not paying his fair share or not paying any child support at all. We have all heard dismissive comments like, “You chose him, why are you complaining now?” As if we all have a crystal ball that we can look into and predict the future.
We have dealt with the folks who shame women by calling us gold-diggers, welfare queens, and telling us to go and support “our own” children and leave the men alone if they can’t – or don’t want to – pay child support. They say that if a father doesn’t want to pay, then there is probably a “good reason” why – and that reason probably has something to do with the mother. We have heard the nation-building scripts around this nonsense, in support of fathers who do not want to pay when they have a job, or who do not want to go and get a job – any job – when they have children to support. It amazes me that women have been so quick to jump onto the bandwagon against other women. Society has always done this to us and we gleefully take up the challenge. Women are constantly pitted against each other: who is the prettiest, has the best figure, is the smartest, has the best job, married the best man, has the biggest ring and nicest house… It never ends. With child support I have struggled to figure out what’s the goal with that one – who is better than the other one because she doesn’t have to fight for child support? I’m still trying to figure it out but I have come to one theory.
First, we have to ask why so many people are against women receiving a fair and appropriate amount of child support to raise a child and enforcing those orders if necessary. The people who speak out against rigorous child support enforcement (both men and women) are vehement that the enforcement measures are unfair to men, but offer no practical means to care for and provide a standard of living for children that these men have created. Their reasoning is about being fair to the father if he has little means to support himself, and allowing him to retain his earnings when he is well-off.
Wanting to protect a father can be admirable depending on the situation, because we all need protecting at some point in our lives. This is the reason that we are a nation of laws. But these same people give little or no thought at all to the protection of the mother who typically is the one parenting on the front lines on a daily basis, and little to no thought at all to the children who get caught up in the mess and frequently end up with the short end of the stick. Where are their protections? These are also the same people who look down on single moms when they are unable to provide – or provide “enough” – for their children. So what is the real reason they are against a woman’s right to not go broke because she is the sole provider at home?
Everyone knows that when women have children, it changes their lives. If we are honest, having children can limit a woman’s economic opportunities. The straight talk is that I am talking about poverty, economic hardships, and playing fields which are slanted in the direction of the non-custodial parents, which are often the men in these situations. According to the Administration for Children & Families, timely and sufficient child support payments have been shown to lift women and children out of poverty. Read that article here: http://goo.gl/BFoFYO. In her University of Michigan white paper “Child Support and Post-Divorce Economic Well-being of Mothers, Fathers, and Children”, Judi Bartfiled’ research reveals the steep declines women and children face in their standard of living after divorce – and the increases men experience. These economic hardships should cause women to focus on collecting fair, appropriate, and timely child support payments.
Knowing these things, why in the heck would any woman be against child support and child support enforcement following the demise of a relationship is beyond me. The truth is that deep-down, some people are against the equal economic opportunity for women because they want to punish women for refusing to remain in abusive or unhappy relationships, for being sexually active and conceiving outside of marriage, and for anything that goes against their sexist and patriarchal viewpoints. Let’s not forget that women didn’t even have the right to vote until 1920 and that we are still victims of domestic violence at alarming rates: more than 4 million women experience physical assault and rape by their partners, and 1 in 3 female homicide victims are murdered by their current or former partner every year. (Get domestic violence facts here: http://goo.gl/9ncNxw and see the full website for safehorizon.org on our resource page.)
The “women are evil” idea started with Eve, who was a bad girl and ate an apple and created all sorts of trouble. There is still a double standard where men can have sex with as many people as they can and still be respected, but if women have multiple partners, they are disrespected. Is it any wonder that some people consider woman to be bitches if we insist that a man support his children and save us from bankruptcy or prevent us from retirement because we are spending every dime that we have to give our kids the best life that we can? Is it any wonder that we have conditioned ourselves to think that we are bad mothers, bad people, or unworthy because we want the other parent to do his fair share? Deep down, some people still see a single mother’s poverty, struggle, and misery as punishment for her rebellion against male authority and ownership.
Some might say being pro-child support and pro-child support enforcement makes me a spokesperson for the female gold-digger. Now don’t get me wrong: I am all about female empowerment and self-support. Economic independence is wonderful. I enjoy the economic independence that my businesses and books have provided to me and my children; it has allowed me to give them a good life filled with international travel, university education, and cultural experiences. But I have also fervently pursued fair child support agreements and enforcement, when needed. I am not naïve to the motives of others: being anti-child support and anti-child support enforcement is about punishing women.
These are the reasons why I am pro-child support and pro-child support enforcement. I want women to enjoy their financial freedom, control the choices they make in their lives, to be able to make choices not based on desperation, and have a great life. When you have kids you cannot afford, or when you cannot afford to give them the life that they deserve, it is hard to have a great life. So if you have had a failed relationship that includes children, please do yourself a favor and pursue an agreement in the best interest of your children. If you’re a father, please remember that your kids deserve your support – no matter how you feel about their mother. If you’re a mother who is in the fortunate position of not needing child support to take good care of her children, please, please, respect the needs of the women who do pursue child support for their children and for themselves.
Finally, you have the right to live life on your own terms. Remember that though we all have different experiences and come from different places, we are all in this together. Let’s support one another.
Are you a woman who has been against child support or child support enforcement?
Do you know a woman who has been against child support or child support enforcement?
Do you think that some men use the non-payment of child support as a means of punishment?
Wishing you the best in your support of women,