On Shattering the Image of Deadbeat...
edited: Sunday, September 22, 2002
By Nicole L. Weyant
Posted: Monday, May 21, 2001
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I am a Stepmother… but you wouldn’t know it by living any given month in my home. Well, aside from a couple of phone calls my Husband makes each week, that is. In fact, aside from overhearing a conversation or two that we may have after our daughters have gone to bed, your only clue would be four photos that we have hanging in our home. They are of two little boys that you would not have seen playing around our house at all.
If you aren’t familiar with non-custodial families, you are probably in the middle of a fevered mental bashing of my Husband. "Deadbeat!", you may be thinking. "How can you NOT spend time with your kids!?", or "What kind of father ARE you, anyway!?", you might say. Well, if you were to look a little closer at our home, you might find a few tidbits of information that may surprise you.
For instance, you would probably find a telephone log and a folder full of long distance bills on our desk. If you were to flip through them, you would see that my Husband calls his ex-wife’s number at least three times a week to try to talk with his sons. Sadly, you would also find that he only has about a 30% success rate. Sometimes there is no answer. Sometimes she starts an argument over some trivial matter and refuses to let my Husband talk with his sons. Sometimes, if he’s lucky, she actually puts the boys on the phone.
Perhaps, if you were able to sit down at our desk and turn on our computer, you might find a certain folder in our e-mail program. It is full of correspondence between my Husband and his ex-wife. Reading just a handful of them would probably leave you speechless. You would find volumes full of horrible language, pointless threats and cruel manipulations. You would also find numerous offers by my Husband to pay all travel expenses for his sons to come spend some time with him. The replies that follow are riddled with adamant promises by his ex-wife that she will never, ever allow "her" sons to go anywhere without her. Yes, even to go spend some quality time with their father.
Dig around a little further, and you will come across a desk drawer full of my Husband’s paycheck stubs from work. You will notice the automatic deduction that he has voluntary taken out for his faithful payment of child support. It is equal to about one-half of his take-home pay. One thing you will not find, however, is the first complaint in our home for having paid it.
During this hypothetical month, you might even be walking down the hall upstairs late one evening and, through a cracked door, catch a glimpse of what kind of father my Husband really is. You would see me sitting on the edge of the bed with my Husband’s head in my lap. He is quietly crying. He talks about how deeply he loves his little boys. He tells me stories of special times he has spent with them in the past. He talks about how he longs to hold them and look into their eyes. He says he would give anything just to be able to tell them how very much they are loved. You would see me softly stroking my Husband’s hair and, with tears in my eyes, promise him that somehow, someday, this all will change for the better.
It was on a night just like this that our journey as a proactive non-custodial family began. The endless research that followed brought us to where we are today… still trying to change things, but miles ahead of where we began that night. I suppose that is where my writing career was conceived… by a bedside table lamp’s glow one evening out of one woman’s unfailing compassion for her Husband, and one man’s undying love for two little boys.
My Husband is no "Deadbeat", but there are days that he certainly feels "beat-dead". Still, he strives on. I wonder if his children know... and I wonder how his ex, and the entire society that has indoctrinated her, sleeps at night knowing that they don't.
Copyright 2001, Nicole L. Weyant