Sunday, December 18, 2016

Women of the World, Rise Up! - Trista Hendren

 
Painting by Cheryl Braganza

We began the Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy anthology a few weeks before Mother's Day in the United States. As someone who lived many years as a single mother, I had a few things to say.

So I began my blog post with these unpopular words...

Don't send me another fucking Mother's Day Card—or even flowers.
I want my back child support. That's right, all $33,201.04 of it. If you love, value and appreciate mothers, spend this Sunday rallying for moms to get their child support payments—in full.

In the U.S. alone, that is more than $108 billion of unpaid support1—and
who pays? Well, children obviously. But more than that, the mothers who care for them who do absolutely everything in their power—including sacrificing their own life, health and needs to make sure that their kids are taken care of.

I know this is an upsetting subject for some, because whenever I post about it, I get complaints saying that men sometimes don't get child support either. So here are some stats: 87% of custodial parents are women.2 I don't want to go too far off tangent on the pay gap, but it is important to note that single mothers also make less3 than other mothers, and certainly less than other men or even single fathers. Single dads have the entire world rooting for them. Single moms get treated like second-class citizens day-in and day-out. If you don't believe me, check out this, this and this—and then tell me that any of this would be “newsworthy” if it were about a single mom.

Today we are talking about Mothers. On Father's Day I will probably still be talking about mothers because for most of my children's lives, I have had to play both roles with very little financial support. And I know damned well I am not the only one.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if men who owed back child support couldn't go out and make new luxury purchases? I mean, what if a man who owed back child support went in to pay cash for the newest iPhone or car, and the sales clerk had to look him up in a registry first. Imagine the look on daddy's face when the clerk takes his money and tells him, “I'm sorry sir, but it looks like this will be going toward taking care of your children
first.”

It would be hard to enforce on dinners out and fancy new clothes, but as a single mom who rarely experienced either of those things, I think that sometime before next Mother's Day, the world could give us a real 'thank you' by at least making an effort.

When men don’t pay child support, mothers are put into a situation where they can’t pay their utilities, rent or even buy food. That means that utilities are shut off, families are evicted and children don’t eat. Mothers don't get the doctor, dentist or any other treatments they need. Sometimes children don't
either.

The men who cause this should be the ones facing consequences.

There is a common argument that men should not be jailed for non-payment of child support. But
not feeding your children is abuse.

Mothers who cannot feed their children are charged with child abuse or neglect. When you put the significant pay gap into play with the amount of mothers who do not receive child support, it is not a pretty picture for children. It is not healthy for children to grow up in chronic stress and poverty.
Non-payment of child support should be criminally prosecuted as child abuse.

In most states, there are very few penalties for not paying child support on time or at all. It seems nothing much has changed in the decades since June Jordan wrote:

At any rate, as my lawyer explained, the law then was the same as the law today; the courts would surely award me a reasonable amount of the father’s income as child support, but the courts would also insist that they could not enforce their own decree. In other words, according to the law, what a father owes to his child is not serious compared to what a man owes to the bank for a car, or a vacation.”

$108 billion in unpaid support says child support enforcement is not working in the United States. We need to find places where these programs do work and ensure that children get the support that they need.

I wish I could say I received that back child support since I started writing about it, but my past due child support has now grown to more than $46,000.

As we were about to release this book, my children's father died unexpectedly. It was a very hard time for all of us, and perhaps the subject of another book.

Time will tell if my children ever see their past due child support—but I now know that it was always there, as I suspected, hidden in plain sight by someone who claimed to care about them.

I know I am not alone in struggling to raise my children without the financial support they need.

In what sort of a civilized world do you allow children not to be taken care of by
both their parents? In what sort of world can men not pay for their house and car and continue to drive and live in them? Why are there not more sanctions for not paying child support? More than $108 billion is not a small problem. And it doesn't begin to measure the long-term effects on women and children.

One has to wonder if denying children and mothers financial support is POLICY at this point. This is not rocket science. Some States collect child support significantly better than others. Nordic countries are about as good as it gets.7 It is time for the world to learn from what
is working and rise up and demand better for women and children.

We reject the patriarchal, androcentric, and capitalist value system which labels caring as worthless, demeaning, and inferior, and we reject the patriarchal model of family. We promote the truth about mothering; that it is strength, power, resilience, and requires endurance, skill, creativity and self-mastery. We believe that the negative way mothering, as ‘women’s work’, is viewed and treated in our society is symbolic of the way in which all women’s work is viewed and treated. We insist that mothering be acknowledged as real work, and we call for the introduction of Basic Income to reflect this (as well as destigmatising benefits in general). We believe in the rights of children as full, equal beings, their right to their mothers, and their right to vital attachment and loving, safe, free, innocent, explorative childhoods, free of poverty, abuse, sexualisation, gender stereotyping and adult stresses.” -Esther Parry, All Mothers Work

Post and share about this issue on social media. Non-payment of child support and financial abuse are feminist issues—and they deserve more coverage.

For the single mothers who are tired beyond what they can bear. For the single mothers working three jobs who never see the children they are trying so desperately to raise. For the single moms who watch their ex-husbands show up in Gucci loafers every week while their children don't have enough food. For the single mothers who have to marry tyrants (again) to pay the bills. For the single mothers whose children have been sucked up by the “Family Court” industry. For the single mothers who are laid up in hospital beds after stress-induced heart attacks—while their ex-partners are “too tired” to bring their children to their beds. For the single mothers who have lost—or nearly lost—their children to suicide. For the single moms who have to leave their daughters elsewhere for years at a time to ensure them a better future. For the single mothers who are raped or killed by ex “partners,” who don't scream or fight—because their children would hear. For every single mom out there who has killed herself (literally, or not quite) so that her children can have what they need.

We stand with you and shout:

WE ARE DONE WITH THIS BULLSHIT. 

Single mothers and our children deserve better.

Women of the world, rise up and join your sisters in demanding better.

-Trista Hendren, an excerpt from Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy
 
Order here.

Notes:
1 Hargreaves, Steve. “Deadbeat parents cost taxpayers $53 billion.” CNN/Money. November 5, 2012.
2 Casey, Timothy and Maldonado, Maldonado. “WORST OFF – SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES: A Cross-National Comparison of Single Parenthood in the U.S. and Sixteen Other High-Income Countries
Legal Momentum: The Woman's Legal Defense and Education Fund. December 2012.
3 Casey, Timothy and Maldonado, Maldonado. “WORST OFF – SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES: A Cross-National Comparison of Single Parenthood in the U.S. and Sixteen Other High-Income Countries
Legal Momentum: The Woman's Legal Defense and Education Fund. December 2012.
4 Arata, Emily. “Single Dad Goes To Beauty School To Learn To Braid Daughter’s Hair.” Elite Daly. February 4, 2015.
5 Flaherty, Ciara. “Single dad and little daughter out for Valentine's Day receive heart-warming note from couple.” Breaking News. February 17, 2015.
6Mordecai, Adam. “This daddy-daughter hair-braiding class is heart-explodingly adorable.” Upworthy. April 18, 2016.
7 Casey, Timothy and Maldonado, Maldonado. “WORST OFF – SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES: A Cross-National Comparison of Single Parenthood in the U.S. and Sixteen Other High-Income Countries
Legal Momentum: The Woman's Legal Defense and Education Fund. December 2012.

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