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3/2/11

Diary of a Deadbeat Dad (My Story)

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.
Please Share it! :)

47 witty retorts:

Chris said...

What cute looking kids! God bless your family

hed said...

You rarely hear from the other side of the coin-the father's side.

You are very strong for writing this, and I hope you get back on your feet soon.

hed

Spiderflaw said...

Damn dude, that's some pretty heart-felt stuff. I feel for you man, must be pretty hard not to see your kids for so long. Especially when they're so far away. I'll keep you in my prayers, good luck my friend.

D4 said...

I know soon you will succeed, man, you will get to your boys and you'll be in a better situation that what you're on now, not just because you're persistent and not just because you know what you need to do, or try to do, but because you're a true father. Those can't be kept away from their kids.

My most positive vibes to you, and the very best of luck.

lovebloggin said...

great little story there! thanks for sharing

kitkat said...

aww this is such an emotional post. I got so teary eyed after reading it. I can only imagine how tough it must be for you right now. I'll definitely keep you in my prayers and hell..i'll click on an ad if that helps :)
just know they love you and let them know you love them too. goodluck :)

lefthandedstraw said...

hope things are looking up for you and your kids. they look like a couple of awesome guys.

Araita said...

You are awesome man. Keep fighting

A said...

Breaks my heart man, I'm really sorry to hear about your situation.

You've got really cute kids btw, I'm sure they miss you a lot. I can't really help you much, I'm also under financial stresses, but if I had the capabilities I'd definitely help out.

Good luck man.

Zakk said...

Dude, that was powerful. You seem truly blessed to have such amazing boys, but at the same time you are in such a hard a difficult place right now. I hope everything turns out well for you, because you seem like a genuine soul. I know it might not mean much, but I love you; you are suffering right now, and no one should have to suffer alone.

Anonymous. said...

Inspirational.imilar troubles. Keep it up and it'll all end fine.

Astronomy Pirate said...

Ah, good luck. I don't have money to spare with student loans, but I'll keep reading. Hopefully one day soon you can get something settled.

becca said...

oh my they are too adorable and i totally get they whole financial thing i do. so as long as you keep posting i'll keep clciking. by the way you rock as a dad take it from a someone who as a kid all they wanted was for their dad to show a little interest but hat my friend is for another post just know you are doing a great job. hugs

Random Girl said...

What a beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking post. My heart, literally, is breaking for you. I admire your efforts to do the right thing and know it must be beyond painful to not be able to be the part of the boy's life that you want to be. I have the deepest compassion for you. My husband and I split several years ago and I moved to be closer to family and our 3 year old daughter came with me. He sees her every other weekend but I know it breaks his heart to not be there with her every day to see the little moments that I get blessed to see every day. I hate that I had a role in that pain. But the good news is that your kids, as long as you make every effort and talk with them often and stay involved in the little things in their lives, and show interest and convey your love for them, will know that you are still their dad and that you love them above all else. You can't control your circumstances right now, but you are still their dad and they will still love you. Don't ever, ever put them through the pain of losing you forever please. They would grow up to think it was their fault that you did it and you don't want to put that burden on them to carry do you? Stay strong and keep doing what is within your power to do. Blessings and good thoughts to you!

LigerLily said...

Good Luck!!! Best Wishes!!!

The Reckmonster said...

Man, I wish you were my son's dad. At least I would know my son was top priority. I don't even care about the money (the only reason my exhusband pays his child support is because he is afraid of losing his driver's license; and I paid him alimony for a couple of years after the divorce so that he DIDN'T have to pay child support) - I just want him to be INVOLVED and let his son know he gives a shit. I do everything I can short of "forcing" his dad to be part of his life. I make sure my son talks to him every day. He sees him on his weekends, but not one extra day. He doesn't even take him for the two weeks during the summer or the various school (weeklong) breaks or the mid-week contacts he is allowed to have. My son spent more time with my parents last year (who live OUT OF STATE) than he did with his own father (who lives a little over an hour away). Just make sure your kids KNOW you think of them all the time and that you love them. And I'm sending some positive vibes your way so that the "shituation" can get straightened out and you can get on to the business of loving and hugging your boys every second you can! And I'll say this - karma is a bitch. If your exwife is filling your boys' heads with garbage about you - she'll pay for it in the long run. I keep my karma clean by keeping my thoughts about my son's dad to myself and reinforcing that his dad loves him (even if he is too busy to tell my kid that himself). Stay strong, man!!

Christophe said...

Hang in there. It pains me to see that you're in this horrible situation, and it angers me that the mother of your children is spreading lies. That's one thing divorced parents should never, ever do for the sake of the children. Lie about the other parent. I hope everything works out well. You just gotta keep grinding, unfortunately.

Remember: "When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn." -- Harriet Stowe

:)

rinns said...

My heart breaks reading this. You brought me to tears when I read about your boys wanting to sleep over.
When you mentioned the mother of your children speaking badly about you to other people. It got to me, because when my parents split my mother bad mouthed my dad like there was no tomorrow. It's like she was trying to punish him by making the three of us (myself and two brothers) hate him. And it worked for a long time. Until they got back together, it made me see how much of a bitch she was. Made me see how she didn't consider how much she could influence us to hate people for her.

I'm going to support you the best way I can, and I truly hope you can get through this.

Autumnforest said...

I really feel for the situation you're in. It's very complicated. Very difficult. I admit that I stayed in my marriage while my son was growing up purely so that there would be stability. I put aside the idea of me having happiness in a relationship and focused on his upbringing and then when he was fully raised and out of the house, I was able to think about my own happiness. My ex and I got together at 16, so I get the growing apart situation. You can't undo what is done and you have to believe that in the long run, everyone benefits from experiences, whether it's just to know what you want next time, to learn that you can make it on your own when you didn't think you could, or some other lesson. I suggest you print a copy of this and mail it to your ex. She knows your heart, even with you two divorced, she knows how much capacity for love you have and for those boys. This will make it real for her. Bad communications are sometimes the hardest part of divorce. I understand your feelings for Idaho, I have them for AZ myself. Perhaps you and your girlfriend can be working towards a somewhere in CA situation. Perhaps not real nearby, but at least somewhere in the state. Keep it up. You are a talented, funny and sweet man and I do believe in Karma. I truly do!

Shutterbug said...

I hope things turn around for you soon! I will continue to support your blog. :)

THUNDERCAT832 said...

You will make it! I'm so sorry you are going through this right now, but thank you for finding the balls to share your story with us! Here, I'm sending you an email right now with a few options that might help your situation. They didn't help me because I don't have the "skills", but you do. Let me see what I can do.

KUSHtunes said...

that really is moving. I'm trying to take steps in my life so that i never have to go through that with my kids. i feel for you man because i'm afraid that might happen to me one day and i'll be crushed.

Rondariel said...

Yeah man... I nearly teared up when reading this. I sincerely hope it'll get better for you. Don't give up.

rickysha said...

You are a great dad. Had no idea you had kids.

Isaac said...

Your post has seriously made me tear up a little. I live in California bro, I KNOW what it's like here and how horrible this state is and the job market. it is not a business friendly environment whatsoever. I make just a little above minimum wage too and the fact that you can't see your adorable kids just ruins me inside. There are lots of ways you can make money online for little or no effort. Ebay is your friend, start going to garage sales and sell people's shit you pickup for pennies and sell it at a huge markup, keep blogging and look into different survey sites. Supporting you for sure, keep your head up

Kelly said...

Damn. That was a very honest account of your current life. It was inspiring in the fact that in the face of all these obstacles and depressing incidents, you still continue to push forward and keep trying to have a relationship with your kids. I can't imagine the pain you feel being 900 miles away and not being able to see them.

I had a friend that was in a similar situation for years with his only son. His wife berated him, in prate and publicly for not being on time with his Child Support payments. She didn't care that he had lost his job and was trying his damnedest (when he did have a job now and then) to pay Child Support and still have enough money to pay bills and eat. There are true deadbeats, for sure out there but there are some trying hard and being shit on by their exes.

I'm glad to see that you are so versatile in your writing styles. You are able to switch from writing up a top notch humorous post to an honest one that's about your current reality. I've added you to my blogroll. Normally, I don't do that with a blogger until I've interacted with them for awhile but I you're one of the few exceptions. Great post. I hope the situation with your kids improves soon. Take care, man.

Rachel Neilson said...

Damn dude...I don't know what to say. That story is so sad =(

G said...

hard time bro... it must really be a heartache not seeing them...don't know how you do it - stay strong!

Lost.in.Idaho said...

To all: Thank you very much for the kind words and support. My spirits feel lifted, and I feel a bit more focused on what I need to do. The most difficult journey begins with a single step, and I'm steppin as fast and as deliberate as I can. Today is a new day.

Joe Somebody said...

craigslist...it can be your friend. i hated cali just because of the price to live there. 2300 month in rent could buy you a mansion in the midwest.

Kicking Rocks said...

you'll seee them soon!

Gucci Mama said...

Oh my gosh. I cannot imagine. I need my children like I need air. I'm so sorry to hear of the tough spot you're in.

I hope things start to go your way soon.

squatlo said...

This hit home with me because I went through some of the same pain a long time ago. Rather than stay with a woman whose infidelity was making me borderline homicidal/suicidal, I took my happy ass to an apartment and started a new life. We agreed on a support payment, I got the kids every other weekend, and between all the bills she refused to help with and the support I was committed to paying I stayed check to check for twelve years until both kids were legally adults. I had a lot of tearful nights, missing my kids, even though they were only ten or fifteen minutes away. Missed alot of Kodak moments, never got a school pic, had to miss a lot of "family" functions that the kids wanted us both to attend. It was without a doubt that hardest time of my life.
Here's the good news... it passes. People who are willing to keep in touch, willing to make sacrifices, willing to put those kids first, find a way to connect. The time zips by faster than you can imagine, even if it seems to be crawling now, and your financial situation could improve to the point where you can make up the support difference. My EX was willing to work with me when we were on strike, or when mechanical costs on my vehicle crippled my ability to pay every week. Vow to make up the missing payments when you get back on your feet!
The most important thing, (in fact, the ONLY THING!) that matters is for you to stay as connected as possible to your kids. Call, write every damn day, send postcards, carrier pigeons, smoke signals, whatever! But stay connected.
Kids don't care about the money. Fuck the friends and relatives who've written you off, they don't matter now. The kids want DAD, and you have to be there emotionally, if not physically for them. Especially now.
Keep your chin up, take pride in yourself, and vow to make it up to them every way you can.
Okay, help me down from my soapbox, I have a fear of heights!
For what it's worth, if I hit the Powerball, your prayers are answered...
Just stay tight with your kids and keep plugging!!!

Mama Spaghetti said...

Wow...what a truly moving story. My heart breaks for you; I wish I could help out. Any time a parent WANTS to be with their children, but CAN'T, it seems so incredibly unfair. There are so many terrible parents out there that it seems a shame that a good one like you can't be there for his kids.

I am so glad you decided to play along with us at Blogger Idol, and I am glad to have found your blog.

Workingdan said...

Not being able to see your kids does not make you a deadbeat dad, by any means. That's really a low blow from your ex, telling everybody that you are scum, keeping the kids from you or what not. You're doing the best you can. What more can you do when you can barely provide for yourself?

I wish there was more I could say or do to help you out. As a father myself, I know how important it is to be a part of my children's lives. Just keep pushing yourself and you'll get there eventually!

Chris Bird said...

Since I have been reading your blog, you have done nothing to make me think that you were out frivolously spending money on stupid shit. I really believe that you are trying, but not because you wrote this. Anyone can say that they are trying, but people can tell when someone is really trying. So I believe that you are, and I hope that everything is resolved soon. Some of us are just not meant to have it easy. Good luck, my fine blogging friend.

Michael A. Walker said...

In general, divorced and single Dad's get a bad wrap. But the truth is, many, like you, are great Dad's caught in bad citations.

I know first hand how this feels. My ex-wife moved half way across the country taking our two little girls with her, with unfulfilled promises of sending them to see me twice a year. A year passed without seeing them. It was the most miserable time of my life. I wound up dropping everything I had, selling off my business, and packing everything I could in my little car and followed them to Texas.

My girls cried when I saw them again. It was a heart wrenching sobbing. They said their mother had told them that I didn't love them anymore and that I had abandoned them, and they wanted to know why. I simply smiled at them and asked, "In your heart of hearts, do you believe that?" They whimpered and wiped their tears and said, "No." And I responded, "Then that's all that matters. As long as you know in your heart that I love you and would never abandon you, then it doesn't matter what other people say."

They never forgot that day. That was almost 20 years ago. Today, my girls are still very much apart of my life, and I am closer to them than ever. Even more so than they are with their mother.

Kids are smart. As long as you continue to love them and be there when you can, they will figure it out in the end.

I wish you the best. My heart goes out to you because I know. I've walked in your shoes. I urge to do all that you can to move closer to them. To be apart of their lives as much as possible. And never, never give up.


Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination

The Six-Fingered Monkey said...

I'm not even gonna read the comments here and I am not going to point out any perceived right or wrong decisions you made. I simply want to say this:

Your first course of action needs to be to move closer to your kids.

There, I said it.

I understand that it may be easier said than done, but it HAS to happen and it has to happen IMMEDIATELY.

That said, you simply need to do your best to catch up and ensure that you see your children as much as humanly possible. DO NOT listen or care what your former friends, ex-wife's friends or... anyone says about you. It means nothing.

I'll have you know my story is VERY similar to yours with the way we handled the divorce, the custody, the support... and it wasn't until I was able to ignore what others "thought" about me that I was able to be the dad I needed to be.

You are NOT a deadbeat dad, because you clearly still care... but you really need to get back to them.

Brandon Lostinidaho said...

@SFM: I completely agree. Idaho was a last-resort and is helping me get back on my feet financially. When I can, I'm moving as close to them as I can.

With California, I'm not sure if I want to go back. Part of me is thinking Las Vegas. Great business opportunities, a lot of empty houses thanks to the market crash, and only 3 hours away from my kids. If I could ever get an 'every other weekend' scenario happening, I could manage that in Vegas.

...until then, phone calls and the occasional visit, when I can swing it... I miss them so much.

Mrs. Birdman said...

I was definitely thinking along the lines of SFM. You have had a rough go, but being that far away from your kids is not working. Lots of times we have lots of reasons why we can't do things, but we don't focus on what we could be doing to keep things moving in a positive direction. You can be sending them mail, as suggested, every day. If you really want them to know you care and you are really thinking of them, get at it. Never let those kids (or their mother) doubt your dedication to them. Putting pen to paper, drawing a picture, sending a photo EVERY DAY will remind them that you are a daily presence in their lives. We become mired in our own sadness, and without even realizing it, further alienate ourselves from those we love. Who cares what anyone else thinks? When those kids are grown up, and telling their kids about how their dad didn't have a cent to his name, but still managed to make them feel loved, cherished and special from 900 miles away is a gift that money can't buy. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts, and hope you find yourself in better financial times very soon. I respect what you are doing, and I encourage you to continue being a significant part of your kids lives, while you wait for your financial situation to improve.

Wily Guy said...

Wow! I love it that after we've done a little fronting, the Dudes are opening up their archives where they are showing a more intimate portrait of themselves.
This is great writing!

Now, on a personal note. If I had the money to give I would. It breaks my heart. It sounded like your ex was amicable, but not any more. Does she not want your kids in your life and you in theirs? Vegas sounds like a great plan, but 3 hours is still far away. Is your ex interested in moving? The cost of living in California is insane.

I'm with the other commenters that you need to write letters. Make copies so that if she withholds them it will be her undoing. Phone calls as you can, perhaps splurge for a smartphone for her ( make her feel good and possibly increase opportunities to Skype with them).

I feel for you!

Brandon Lostinidaho said...

She has a smartphone, but "Skype doesn't work so well" on her phone. We both use gmail and gmail has a videochat, but she won't commit to that either.

I send postcards and souvenirs from my trips (like 'Wyoming' license plates with their names on them) and keep in contact as much as I can. The good news is, at 4 and 6, they are very good at US Geography. "Where is daddy this week" is a fun game.

Still, there isn't enough contact. She unfriended me on Facebook, so the only pictures I get are when I am down there to take them. My oldest wears glasses now, and has for 3 months. I have no idea what he looks like with glasses on... it, well, it sucks.

Kianwi said...

Maybe I needed a cry tonight, but this just killed me. It is just so heartbreaking. I'm glad you shared, because your point is well-made that people shouldn't judge if they don't know all of the facts of a situation.

I hope so much for you and even more for your boys that you are able to move closer to them and that things work out for you financially.

Michael G DAgostino said...

That just sucks. I hate how this is allowed to happen. I hope your wife can grow to understand wht you've been going through.

Joe said...

Divorce sucks. I had to battle my ex constantly just to see my kids. The fact that I never missed a child support payment meant nothing. Trust me, your kids will understand what's going on as they get older. Mine did.

Youngman Brown said...

Damn dude, hadn't read this one until now. Very honest and eye-opening read... I had no idea.

Blondie McBaffled said...

My heart truly aches for both you and your children. Positive energy going your way!

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