The first thing that comes to mind when most men hear the words child support is payments. According to the courts, that’s all child support means to them. They’re not concerned with whether or not you are spending time with your child; all that matters to them is that you are funding the child. While providing the financial means for your child is important, he/she primarily needs your love. No matter how much money or gifts you give your child, what your child will value the most is your time.
I became a father at age 24, and I was so excited about opening up this new chapter in my life. I had just gotten new photography equipment and my son was the perfect subject to practice on. I’ve taken so many pictures of him that he (now 6 years old) has developed a love for photography. It was a great experience spending time with my son, capturing his image, and mastering my craft. I had the opportunity to learn new things as a photographer and as a father, and I was blessed to have the opportunity to teach him as well.
There was a time where he was unable to lift himself up or roll over on his own in his crib, so he would simply wine or cry until someone came to get him. This was my newborn son, so naturally I was more than happy to run to his aid and cater to his every need. I would smile at him and he would smile back, he would drink his bottle, burp and then relax quietly before falling asleep. I can’t say that I enjoyed changed diapers, but it was a part of my duty as a father, and so I obliged. I remember the endless warming of the bottles; it was like all this kid ever does is eat!
As my son grew, so did his needs; bigger diapers, bigger clothes, and bigger appetite. My son was a chunky baby and I loved it. His vision was getting clearer, he know who his Mommy and Daddy was as our bonds grew stronger. He looked just like me, so there was no denying him, and we loved each other so much that if I ever let, he would probably hunt me down himself to find me. Abandoning my son was never a thought that crossed my mind; no matter how unprepared I was to be a father. He grew on me just as I knew he would and the feelings were mutual.
Less than a month after he turned 2 his mother and I had grown apart and we went our separate ways. I was 26, hurt from the break-up, looking for work and still trying to find myself as a man. I allowed myself to sulk for about two weeks before snapping out of it and realizing that my son needs me now more than ever. He was used to seeing me every morning and every night, and now for two weeks, I’m nowhere to be found. “I can’t stop being a father just because I’m no longer with the mother” is what was going through my mind.
At this tender young age, he wasn’t much of a conversationalist over the phone. In person, however he was all smiles, all fun, all games and would even talk to me as best he could because he saw me in real time. The most he would do with a phone at 2 years old is look at it, lick on it, or breath in it. We needed to connect with each other in person the way a father and son should. He wasn’t aware of what was going on with his mother and I; all he cared about was being loved.
A simple request if you ask me, what child wouldn’t want to be loved by both of their parents? I owed it to him to give him the love and support that was required of me. My son would stay with me on the weekends, and we would do father and son things like talk, go to the park and play, go to church, do arts and crafts, read, you name it. He was getting bigger and bigger and to me that meant he needed more clothes, more food, and more of my love and attention. As his father, it was my duty to provide these things without having to be asked.
Sometimes in life, things don’t always work out the way we want them to, and we’re left with the mess we’ve created. As with any other scenario in life, you have to be able to rise to the occasion. Your responsibility as a father doesn’t end when the relationship with the mother does, it ends when life itself come to a conclusion. Even if the two of you are separated physically, you must remain together spiritually for the sake of the child. A father doesn’t abandon his child; he raises his child and supports them in whatever way possible.
When we make the choice to lay down with a woman and bring forth life, we must also accept the responsibility or being there for them. Too often are women left to raise children on their own that they didn’t make on their own. What could possibly be more important than your offspring living in a fatherless world? As an able bodied man, you have every tool necessary to be a provider for your family. If you are in the land of the living, you still have time to spend with your children.
At this point in life, you can’t afford to fall short, go to prison or worst die on your kids when you need you the most. They need your encouragement, your guidance, your protection and your love. You won’t be the first man to reach a point in his life where he feels lost, but through it all, you must find your way. You must break the cycle that shows our sons and daughters that’s ok to be irresponsible and abandon your children. Show them that no matter what you are going through, you will be there for them.
Not only will this decision change your life and make you feel better as a man, but also you will regain the respect of your children and their mother. She may not ever tell you that she wants you to be the best man or best father you can be, but deep down inside that’s what she’s hoping and praying for. You may feel as though you’re in this alone, but your children love you and are still looking up to you. It does neither party any good to see you doing bad, so be encouraged and no that you are expected to come out victorious. So put on your big boy pants, roll up your sleeves and take care of your business.
You won’t be the first or the last man to experience a break-up that involves kids, so don’t go losing your mind over it. Now is the time to regroup, get your emotions in check, keep your composure and get your finances in order. After all, that’s a part of being a man anyway; you don’t need a woman or a child to do this. The first thing you need to ask yourself is “What’s in the best interest of the child?” The next thing you to ask yourself is “How I am I going to make it happen?”. Once you’ve thought of a plan and have spoken it into existence, take action and make it a reality.
The term “Deadbeat Dad” isn’t something that women are making up; this is a reality for them. A man comes into their lives, knocks them up and then for whatever reason doesn’t feel the immediate need or urgency to provide for the child. Now it’s one thing for you to not be supportive physically and emotionally, but to not be supportive financially in addition to that further reduces your credibility as a man. We are the protectors and the providers, which is our role. If you’re not doing either, then you are failing yourself as a father and as a man.
Your child doesn’t simply want you to be a part of their lives; they need you to be. As they grow older, so will their needs. I remember when my son Ethan was in pre-k, it was his first Holiday play and he wanted me to be there. On the day of, I snuck into the room where they were performing with my camera in hand and found a good spot. As they are getting ready to perform, Ethan would look all across the room to see if I had finally arrived. I would wave at him to let him know where I was standing and he would have the biggest smile on his face.
He was so proud and so happy to see me; he would tell all of his teachers and friends “look, that’s my Daddy, over there look”. The whole time he would look in my direction and smile as he sang the songs he had memorized, and after it was over he’d run and jump into my arms. As a father, these are the moments I look forward to, the moments where I get to witness my son performing in life. I don’t cry often, but on that day when I saw how happy my presence made my son, I cried tears of joy. It motivated me to do whatever I needed to do as a man, to make myself readily available and accessible to my son as a father.
You won’t know much of a difference your support will make in your child’s life until you give it. You won’t know how happy you can possibly make your child until you see it. You won’t be able to experience the rewards of being a father until you do it. Having a child is truly a blessing, but you must also remember that you are your child’s blessing. Continue to love, protect, provide and support your child for all the days of your life. Step up and be the Dad your child needs you to be.
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Life & Relationship Coach