Avid followers of this site that come for the laughs and humorous insights... Today isn't your day.
I'm typing this as I just finished a 35 minute conversation with my two boys, and I'm an emotional wreck. I want to type this out - to share my story - to help educate people and help them see the point of view from a father separated from his two children.
My boys are 5, and soon to be 3. Their mother and I split toward the end of 2008, when my youngest was less than 1 year old. She's not a mega-beast or anything, but we married young. As we grew up, we grew apart, and eventually stopped working as a couple. All of this started spiraling down while she was pregnant, but it was already too late to do anything about it.
We worked out an agreement that was mutually beneficial. No lawyers, no mediators, no crazy costs. But not I'm starting to regret it. I was allowed to see the boys as much as I want, and have them spend the night with me 2-3 times a week, but on paper she was given full custody. I gave her a number I was willing to pay for Child Support, and she was ok with it.
Fast forward to 2010. I lose my job in April. I go from making about $50k a year to scrapping and fighting with hundreds of other people in California for what little minimum-wage jobs that were available. At the time, the jobless rate in my area was well into the double digits. I cashed out my 401(k) so I could continue paying rent and Child Support. $10,000 went fast.
I took whatever jobs I could to try to keep my head above water. I sold cars. I plastered ads around town, offering to buff up headlights on cars, do detailing work, build websites, whatever I could for a buck. None of it panned out. It kept the lights on and food on my plate, but I couldn't pay rent, and I fell behind on support payments.
My girlfriend and I scraped by thanks to her. She had a decent job, and made enough to keep us alive. But not enough to pay support, or a $1,300 rent payment. We went into the eviction process, and had JUST enough time to pack up our things and move to Idaho to be with her family. It took every penny we had, PLUS me selling some of my most valuable possessions on eBay to make it up here, but we did.
When I got a job up here, she wasn't working. When she landed a job, mine dissolved (I started working for a retail business, and less than a month after my hire date, they close up their business for good). Her and I have not both held a job at the same time since April. That's about 11 months living off of one income, which most of the time was $7.50-$10 an hour.
Because of this scenario, I haven't consistently been paying support. Because of my lack of payments, my access to the boys is shrinking. She tells her friends how horrible I am, how I haven't seen the boys since October 2010, how I rarely talk to them on the phone, how I'm not paying my Child Support. All of our old mutual friends listen to her, and think I'm scum. And all I want to do is pay her what I am supposed to, and see my boys as often as I can. I'm not hiding, I'm not dodging. I'm just not able.
Being 900 miles away makes it very hard. My car is 8 years old, and needs about $500 in repairs before it's long-distance roadworthy. Figure that, plus about $300 for round-trip gas, plus meals and lodging, a trip to visit them is going to cost me about $1,000. It will be less once the car isn't an issue, but now not only do I need to pay support, I need to pay about $500 every time I want to see my children. My current job pays me $10 an hour. They get half, so essentially I'm earning $5 an hour. After rent, utilities, etc are paid, the rest can go into the "see my boys" fund. It is going to take me a LONG time to get to $1,000... let alone save up enough to see them on a regular basis.
She doesn't have internet at home, so I can't Skype them. She never sends me pictures of them. I have to steal them off of her Facebook (when I can). To be honest, I don't know what they really look like anymore. The most recent pictures I have of them are from September of last year, when I took them to the beach as a "goodbye" visit. These are the golden years, and daddy is not in the picture. ...And it breaks my heart.
This, above all else, is why I hate Idaho with a passion. The cultural differences I can work around. The political ignorance I can accept and ignore. The fact of the matter is I am 900 miles away from my two boys, and it's killing me inside. I never had a suicidal thought until I moved here. Now, every time I get off the phone with them and hear "Daddy, I wanna come play at your house tonight. Can I come over? No? How about tomorrow? Don't you want to play with us?" I feel like dying. I yearn to hear their voice, but their questions are like hot knives to my soul.
What hurts me the most is this: I feel this pain every time I stop and think about them. About how much I miss them. The only time I can truly function is when I lock them out of my mind and focus on other things. But every time I do, when they come back into my thoughts, I feel guilty for pushing them away in the first place. Each day apart, I die a little more inside. I feel more hollow.
I started blogging to rant and vent, and it has helped a lot. I also started because those little ads on top of (and to the left) of my posts add up. Each penny I make with my blog will go to them. Either as support, or to me with the hopes of seeing them soon. I added a 'donate button' today in the hopes that some rich anonymous benefactors could help me in my most desperate hour. I'm not getting my hopes up, because I know the entire nation is struggling, but a guy can dream, can't he?
Back to the lesson I am trying to convey. There are a lot of people struggling out there, and a lot of daddys who aren't paying Child Support. Some are truly flakes and deadbeats, but every now and then, there's a guy like me. Don't be quick to judge, and don't throw the first stone. The ones like me are suffering enough as it is, and don't need to be kicked when we're down.
My next blog will be about the normal sillyness and humor. I just wanted to share my story to help educate, and to get this off of my chest.
I'm not asking to be bailed out. I'm not begging for money, ad clicks, major donations, or anything like that. I'm just asking you to keep doing what you're doing. Keep me in your minds, keep reading my blog. Keep following, keep commenting, and I'll keep entertaining. But, keep in mind I'm not only doing it for you... I'm mostly doing it for them:
These two boys are my reason for living. They are the air I breathe, and the beat in my heart. Without them, I am nothing. And I am without them right now. With luck, prayers, good vibes, positive energy, and some stable income, this will hopefully change soon.