Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hide and Seek

Right now, I am so angry that I am speechless. I have a great big hole where my heart should be.
Ten years ago, on February 21, 1998, I ovulated despite using the oral contraceptive pill (Marvelon.) I vomited after taking my pill, moved house the next day and decided to take a chance and not get the morning-after pill. I found out I was pregnant the day my father was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. Abortion was not an option for me- in my superstitious, young and vulnerable mind, the only chance my dad had of fighting the tumour was for his whole family, everyone who loved him, to fight for life and to show that life was important. My boyfriend agreed. We had been living together for a while and he made the decision to support me and raise our baby together. We were guided by my father's wishes and chose to marry. Two weeks to the day of our wedding, I got the phone call from my mother, telling me to come now. Dad died the following day, July 24th, 1998.
On my wedding day, my father asked my new husband if he would look after me and the new baby, do everything he could for us. Given that we all knew dad was dying at that point, it was a deathbed promise- something I cannot imagine breaking under any circumstances. He has.
In the past decade, my ex-husband has been what's politely known as "marginally employed". There were long periods of time when we were together when he was not looking for work or in work, he was consistently resistant to claiming government benefits that would require him to sign on because of the stigma attached and we were constantly in debt and eating for a very few pounds a week. It was hell. Eventually I got my act together and took a job,  which put food on the family's table though seriously cut into the time I could spend with our year-old baby. I'm the daughter of a working mother, and I seriously, seriously believe that babies need their mums at home. He took that from me. Our second son was born, again unplanned, and he remained unemployed. Our circumstances forced me to return to the workplace at 3 months postpartum. My baby developed eczema, so severe it was lifethreatening. He was given formula sometimes. He nearly died as a result of his health conditions. It was one of the worst times in my life, for this and so many reasons.
Fast forward a few years, and I got him out of my life- he chose to move back up to his parents house, despite them having offered to set him up in a flat near us. At this point, I was several thousand pounds in debt. Promises, so many promises were made about finances, work, jobs, the lot. His sci-fi collection were to be sold to pay off our debts. None of this materialised. He got a job, paid a small amount of child support, found a new partner. Her daughter's after-school club closed down- so my ex-husband took over the responsibility for caring for her, and so stopped paying child support. At this point, my wonderful Steve and I got together and started working on paying off the debts I had incurred in my first marriage.
It has continued this way ever since. In 2005 I involved the Child Support Agency after he spent six months in work without either seeing his sons or paying a penny in child support. He has always insisted that I transport our sons half-way to him, even during the times when I did not own a car because I couldn't afford it. The amounts he offered me to get me to stop the CSA claim were, frankly, insulting.
The final straw came when he claimed to be more hard-up than usual, lied about asking the CSA to review our case and then started trying to bully me into accepting a lower amount of money. As things currently stand, I have received the most disgusting email I have ever read in my life, which accuses me of trying to stop him from seeing his children.  He makes it clear that further contact with the boys who love him (I love children. They really do love unconditionally) is entirely dependent upon me complying with his wishes and telling the child support agency that I will accept direct payments- at this point, he will make lower payments. If I do not do this, the infrequent visits, birthday presents, weekly phone calls will all stop.
I am livid. He was given the option to walk away from parental responsibility back in 98, and he refused. The same offer was repeated in 2000, when I was pregnant with Isaac, and one more time in 2002 when we broke up. Now he wants it? Jeez.
Women, read my story. Next time you meet a young woman pregnant by an unsuitable young man, don't offer them judgement, or opinions. Help to keep the unsuitable men out of the joint bank account and away from the babies. I am strong, and I have raised these beautiful wonderful talented empathic infuriating and unbelievably noisy boys by myself so far- I could have done it all along. If I had, I would have spared them the pain that I have brought upon them now.
Men- see notes to women. In addition, though, if you hear a friend complaining about how hard done by he is, please give him a reality check. Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and crap like this makes it a million times worse. I love my sons so much, and I wish I could find a way of sparing them this.


Wheel said...

I say sack him and his manipulative ideas - leave him to choose what he wants to do wrt the children and just be there for them through it.

My father managed to avoid maintenance completely by leaving the country!!!

and whether your sons love their dad or not, the time will come when they have to see for themselves what kind of man he is.
Yes, painful. I'm almost 30 and just had my father telling me I've been written out of his will and he disowns me. Again. Like he didn't say those things over and over, and he didn't actively show us that by leaving and not providing etc etc....

I'm not even trying to make contact with him anymore, not for years, but he still insists on repeating these written aggressions against all his blood children. He's a sad case, that's all.

Hang in there for your children.

11 said...

I recently found out that my dh's dad, whom I like very much, did a long stint (like, all of his children's childhoods) as a deadbeat dad. My own dad? Total waste, only worse--a malicious waste. And my sister's ex-boyfriend and daughter's father is currently pulling a similar stunt to your dh. I don't know what the deal is.

Where's the male provider archetype these days? The hunter who brings sustenance back for his youngins?

Lady, you continue to amaze me with your strength and insight. I'm sending my sister to this entry; thanks for posting!