Don’t be a Deadbeat Mom

Deadbeat mom neglected her childDeadbeat dads: we know them as the noncustodial fathers who fail to pay court-ordered child support.

What about deadbeat moms? Unfortunately, plenty of women neglect the basic daily needs of their kids.

Brian shared a detailed personal story with me about his son, Sean, whose life took a lot of unexpected parental twists over two decades.

When he was in his early twenties, Sean didn’t know what to do with his life, so he joined the Marines. He was an alcoholic and his drinking problem became worse while he was in the service, stationed at Quantico, Virginia. One drunken night, he met a drug addict named Linda at a local bar. Sean knew that she was married but slept around with other Marines and local guys. They had a short fling.

Linda got knocked up and told everyone that Sean was the baby daddy. Linda’s husband Luke was a fellow Marine, and he ratted Sean out to his Commanding Officer. Sean was dishonorably discharged, lost all his benefits, and was ordered to have no further contact with Linda, Luke, and their child after he or she was born.

Sean was at the lowest emotional point in his life. He wasn’t interested in hanging around, so he moved to Minneapolis where his dad Brian lived. Sean heard through the military grapevine that Linda gave birth to a baby girl. Her husband Luke had a paternity test, and just like when they announce on those horrible daytime TV shows … he was NOT the father of little Kylie. Luke and Linda promptly divorced and Kylie stayed with her mother.

Example of a deadbeat

Even though she had a young daughter to raise, Linda continued abusing drugs and alcohol. She was strung out and sick all the time. A continual stream of boyfriends drifted in and out of her apartment. Each time a new guy moved in, Linda told Kylie to call him “Daddy.”

If Linda had any money, she spent it on booze and drugs. Kylie never had enough food or proper clothes. Linda was physically and verbally abusive. She gave a new meaning to the “beat” in “deadbeat.”

With a deadbeat like Linda for a mother, it’s no wonder that Kylie was a difficult kid. She had uncontrollable outbursts and was admitted to psychiatric hospitals periodically.

Fast forward 15 years.

It wasn’t a surprise when Linda died of an overdose. Her boyfriend of the month had no interest in taking care of a wild teenage girl and he turned her over to Social Services. Then he stole all of Linda’s and Kylie’s meager possessions.

Kylie was alone in the world, with no family and nothing to her name.

Her deadbeat mom was dead.

For the next few years, Kylie was in and out of foster homes. No one wanted her to stay. She was hospitalized frequently and doped up on lots of psychiatric medications.

Meet Sean.

When Kylie was seventeen, Sean got a summons to appear in Juvenile Court because he was potentially her biological father.

He had dreaded this moment his entire adult life.

No one is quite clear how they found Sean. It had been many years since he left the military and moved hundreds of miles away. It was by sheer coincidence that he was living about 80 miles from Kylie’s latest foster home.

Sean, now 41, went to the Juvenile Court hearing with his dad. Brian told me, “Everyone looked at Sean and me as if we were from Mars. They never expected us to show up in court.”

The DNA tests showed that there was a 99.99% probability that Sean was Kylie’s father.

I asked Brian what Sean’s response was to this life-changing news.

He said Sean was “relieved.” For years, Sean lived with the possibility hanging over his head that he had a child.  He knew he might get a hesitant knock on his front door by someone who looked a bit like him.

Relieved?

Why was Sean relieved to find out that the baby he and a junkie accidently conceived one drunken night turned out to be a teenager who bounced between hospitals and foster homes?

Sean and Brian saw this as a “great opportunity” to do something for this girl who had been brutally abused by her biological mother and then passed around the government system her whole life like a hot sweet potato.

But it didn’t happen all at once. It wasn’t like one of those movies where they all walk out of the court together, smiling and holding hands as they start a happy new family.

Sean and Kylie got to know each other slowly, through visits supervised by the Social Services case workers. At first, Kylie wouldn’t let any men touch her.  Gradually she grew to trust Sean and his dad and to be comfortable with hugs and handshakes.

Medicaid will continue to provide financial support to Kylie until she is 23. Sean gives her occasional gifts and money, but he has no legal obligation to pay child support. There is no custodial parent to pay. Kylie never had a real mother. Only a destructive deadbeat mom.

The current plan

Kylie will live with Sean after she graduates from high school this year. Her ambition is to become a paralegal. She is articulate; Brian says she skillfully advocated for herself in numerous court appearances.

Sean works long hours as a hospital technician and he just got a second job. When Kylie moves in with him, he will supplement her Medicaid income. Sean stopped drinking and has been sober for eight solid years.

Brian is confident that the Juvenile Court will approve this proposed arrangement. Sean has proven that he is serious about his parental responsibilities.  He attended numerous court appearances about Kylie’s welfare.  The members of Sean’s entire extended family (including Brian, Brian’s wife, and their other kids and numerous grandchildren) have patiently taken a lot of small steps to bond with Kylie.

Always a parent

So what does Sean — who turned out to be the exact opposite of a deadbeat parent — think about this whole crazy turn of events in his life?

According to Brian, his son Sean often says:

It was the worst mistake I ever made, but it had the best result of all – my daughter Kylie.

It’s clear that Brian is bursting with pride when he talks about how his son and his granddaughter Kylie have each turned their lives around.  “When it’s a blood relative, you’re always a parent,” he said.

Now that’s a deadbeat story with an upbeat ending.

Image © iStock.com/gioadventures

 

 

Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this article, Valerie.

    I have come across deadbeat moms in my divorce practice, but because they are so few and far in between, I think people forget they even exist and tend to fixate on deadbeat dads. Thanks for reminding everyone that nobody is perfect – not even moms.

    Also thanks for reminding everyone that kids could use both parents in their lives – even parents who have been “absentee” whether by choice or not.

    I loved this story. Great ending. Thanks for sharing.

    • Wendy,

      Thanks so much for your comments.

      As an experienced divorced attorney, you certainly have a window into unfortunate situations that arise when children are part of a disintegrating family. It must be difficult to deal with parents who don’t hold up their end of the bargain to love and support their kids.

      Thanks again for your insights, and for stopping by!

  2. Absolutely loved this story, and I’m thankful it has a good ending. That’s a tough road for a kid. No one is perfect, but once you have kids, you need to think of them first.

  3. Such a heartbreaking story but with a positive outcome told in a compelling way. It certainly restores faith in humanity. I am also very pleased to see that people confide in you and I am two hundred percent sure their stories are in safe hands.

    • Thanks, Anke! I loved this story because it’s one of the few that has a happy ending — someone stepped up and did “the right thing.”

      Some of the people who shared their stories have read the online version and told me they were pleased at how well I “camouflaged” them.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. What an amazing story. You are doing such a great job, Valerie, and I hope the stories continue to pour in.

  5. I wanted to let everyone know about my book that covers this topic. its available on Amazon and its called( “Deadbeat Moms(its not just about money”)

    • Naomi,

      Thanks so much for letting us know about your book that was just published! It looks like you have a wealth of professional experience that (unfortunately) led to your desire to write what must be a compelling book. I will definitely check it out soon.

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