January 22, 2019
By Rachel O. S. Edmund
Step children. What should happen to them? Pt 2
I talked about the step father (or step mother) in the last installment of the blog so today I will continue with my thoughts on the other dynamics of the relationship. I left the article with a situation which I have inserted below:
“Daddy comes over to mummy’s home where the children reside. Daddy is there for his first weekend visit since court. Oldest child is excited to see his/her daddy and run out to greet him on the porch. He/she attempts to jump into their arms but daddy is no longer daddy and no longer responsible for him/her. He gives a halfway hug but the child does not understand this. Mummy comes out with the child’s siblings to hand over to daddy for his weekend visit. He says his goodbyes to the child and leaves with his children in tow…”
Three questions come to mind here:
- How does the child feel? Answer: CONFUSED AND SAD.
- How does the father feel? Answer: INDIFFERENT MAYBE SAD.
- How does the mother feel? Answer: HEARTBROKEN FOR HER CHILD.
- This is a bonus question. How do the siblings feel? Are they too young to recognize the difference in treatment?
Relative to the child I will say that they would not fully understand the change that is taking place and things like an alternative weekend arrangement for the younger siblings will negatively impact on his sense of self. He/she will feel unloved by “daddy” whom he/she has called daddy since he/she could speak. He/she will begin to fight an unnecessary internal battle not understanding why or the genesis to which he/she may begin to act out at school and the like.
When a person begins to feel unloved, somehow hate begins to enter the cavity this lack has created. It becomes a two-edged sword wielded in the hands of a twelve-year old child in this case! The child begins to hate him/herself because doubt and feelings of unworthiness begin to set in. He/she begins to think that something is wrong with them as they see “daddy” treating them differently to his/her siblings.
The child wanting to make sense of it all at such a critical life stage begins to question his/her worth as well as the mother and in many cases it is usually here when the child learns (if it was not disclosed before) that his/her “father” is not even a biological relative. This can be difficult for children to process and can be the impetus for very negative behavior because now the child’s sense of belonging has been displaced; his/her sense of who they are becomes somewhat of an untruth. No one wins in such a situation and why should anyone? The well-being of children is not about winning or losing!
I asked the question as to if the child’s father were either dead or incarcerated who should shoulder the responsibility then and the responses came in (expectedly) as none other than: THE GOVERNMENT and that means YOU AND I (taxpaying citizens) who were nowhere in the picture when this child would have been conceived, the very argument that they made as to why this man should be absolved from his responsibility toward this child.
How did I come up with you and I as the benefactors? Government is a representation of the people instituted to do things for the people which will be undertaken by the people therefore YOU AND I. So we were not there but it is fair to us to accept the responsibility toward this child! Please understand that I am fully cognizant of the responsibilities of the government however that is not the issue that I am attempting to dissect here.
During that discussion many women posited that the mother should in such a case let the man be and simply seek support for the children that are his. She should always have maintained her independence from the man. To this I vehemently disagree and here is why. Yes, this child he did not help to create but this child knows only him as “daddy” and daddy duties only end upon daddy’s death. Yes, the couple were never married but they were a family cohabitating for over ten years so upon dissolution of the relationship they become a different type of family but family all the same!
When a matter is fully ventilated in a court of law when it comes to children their view can be completely myopic but focused on the issue of the child. In a case such as this the court, even if the mother acceded to the father’s insidious statements the magistrate will wonder and ask why she is only seeking the support of only two of her children. It will seem odd to them and they will begin to inquire as to the grounds for having the stepfather continue to support all three rather than just the two that are his.
Legally, the entitlements for step children are the same as biological children in terms of support. Legally, the father has put himself in the position of giving the mother and the child a better life and the court would want to maintain same and more importantly the relationship between father and child hence the provision for support to step children and visitation/ custody rights to stepparents. As I stated in one of my responses, if this were not seen as an issue there would be no legislation making provisions for same.
Many antagonists were mothers themselves which is why I couldn’t understand the lack of empathy displayed toward the non-biological child stating only concern and empathy for the stepfather who no longer wished it to be so. Parenting comes with a particular code and once you sign up for the course you have to expect and prepare for many uncertainties. As a parent the concern should not be for your biological children but for all the children of the home.
The discussion even veered into the area of men dating single mothers; many women were of the view that they would warn their children whether boys or girls of the dangers because they believe that it is “entrapment” by single mothers. I think that this is such a cop out for parents because rather than teach their children valuable life lessons about the intricacies of dating a single parent they would rather teach them to discriminate against them. Instead of teaching their children how to navigate such a potential relationship successfully they would rather teach them ostracism.
Single parenting is very difficult to navigate as adult women as there are so many obstacles to overcome singlehandedly. Why add to the already mounting pressures that we already face? The notion that women should simply “suck it up and move on with their lives” really irritates me. Why do men get to go along their merry way whilst we are the ones left with the struggle of raising these children and keeping on the straight and narrow path? The society, as it is now, in many ways blame us the women for the indisciplined and unproductive children and adults that they encounter.
Another thing that irritates me to my core is this: as single mothers if we are in receipt of child support from the father of our children we are required to declare same when filing our income tax as additional income. For the fathers (mostly) they are able to claim the child as a dependent as well as if they pay alimony. As a married individual one is not able to claim the child as a dependent so my question is two-fold a) why is this perpetuated for divorced individuals and b) who is actually shouldering the burden of financially supporting the child?
I will answer the second question because the first is something that I intend to have changed by the hook or the crook! The government or taxpaying citizens and the mothers are the ones who shoulder the financial burden of children of single parent homes. So once again men are ranting about the payment of child support when in fact they actually do not have anything to complain about and once again they are misinformed about who really takes care of the child.
Many are misinformed as to the laws of the land and feel that it is unjust and unfair for a man to shoulder the financial burden of a child that does not carry his DNA but I say to them that DNA alone does not make one family. The real injustice to such a child is allowing a man that has been there for him/her for all of his/her life to renege on his commitment to them and walk out of his/her life on a whim without consequence simply because the relationship with the mother was terminated.
This topic has been a learning experience and I was hope that I was able to fully ventilate this issue of stepchildren and who should be financially responsible for them after the dissolution of the parents’ relationship. I hope that I have indeed provided a view that is able to cause you to think about this in an objective manner. The important thing to remember is that all decisions should be made in the best interest of the child or children of the home. Emotions and feelings simply do not matter when it comes to such!
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