The Child Maintenance Service

So far my posts have all been somewhat 'glass half full' and, in a round about way, fairly positive.

This one's not so positive, so probably best not to read if you're having a really great festive weekend that you don't want me to put a downer on.  

 Yesterday, I was having one of those really great festive days; Christmas shopping with my favourite people and feeling generally happy. Then my phone rang. 

 Every few months I receive a phone call. An unexpected phone call that stops me in my tracks and catches me by surprise every time. The child maintenance service, bringing me updates and news on the person who fled from our lives and left his only child behind. 

 Let me give you an idea of how these phone calls usually make me feel; it was early days, shortly after my son was born and I got the call when I was trying to do the food shopping. They brought news that I really didn't want to have to deal with and it left me walking around Tesco crying on my own with my son in the trolley. 

Other times I've ended up arguing with the people in their offices; I once got asked on three different occasions if my ex had our son on weekends. I'd told them a number of times that he had chosen never to meet our son, let alone have him on weekends. I find the whole system quite insensitive and their lack of empathy towards peoples situations is hard to deal with when you're in a situation like ours. 

Yeah, the child maintenance service is a service that I wish I never had to have my name attached to. Basically, they collect the money that my sons so-called-father promised to contribute towards the upbringing of our child, so that we never have to speak to one another. It's just another way of him avoiding me and avoiding us, instead of making payments to us he makes them to the maintenance company and they forward it to us (after taking a percentage for themselves.) It's horrible, cold and unpleasant to deal with.  

EVERY TIME they call it screws with my head and totally leaves me feeling the way I first felt when I read the 'I can't be a father' letter. I wish I didn't have to deal with these people but for the sake of my son, I have to.
I figured that if Etienne was to get nothing from his father emotionally then he should at least have his financial support. Unlike some mothers, who probably use the service out of sheer bitterness, I do it purely for Etienne and put each payment straight into a savings account for him to gain access to when he's older. Not a penny of it goes on myself.  

The phone calls are uncomfortable, they refer to my sons father as 'the paying parent' and it does something to my brain every single time without fail. I guess it makes the whole thing more real. It's cold and it's scripted; 'the paying parent' has a name and he's the father to my darling son. It irritates me that I'm no longer entitled to even refer to him by his first name.

Sometimes, as crazy as it sounds, it doesn't feel like there's anything missing in our family. Then when I come away from a phone call with these people, I'm reminded that, actually, we're just another one of these families, on a long list of families, where the father ran away and the child never gets to see him.
It's a constant reminder of the fact that the father of my child still exists in other peoples lives, just not in ours. 

 If I'm honest, It hurts. A lot. 

 Is it possible to hate someone so much but still have some weird kind of hormonal connection that mentally draws you back to them? 
When you've spent 9 months pregnant, carrying this persons baby, you can't seriously shut them out like they were a nobody in your life, can you? 

I'm fully aware that he probably doesn't even give me a minutes thought, ever. But for me, he will be in my thoughts for the rest of my life. He's the father to the person who means the most to me. He helped to create him and he's 50% of his genetic makeup. Whether I ever see him again in my lifetime or not, he will still, forever, be a part of my life in some way. That's the way it should be, isn't it? Only, if things were the way they should be, this wouldn't be a broken family.

When you break from a partner, you put them in your past and you keep them there. In time, you forget about the feelings you held for them and they gradually leave your thoughts. 

When that person is the father to your child, it's not quite so simple. 

They are the one person who should love your child as much as you do, the person who should have been a crucial part of your 'family.' You can not leave this person in the past and forget all about them. He's in my life every single minute of the day, in the form of my son. 

My son pulls faces that his dad used to pull. I take photos of my son and see nothing but his dad. His expressions and his character come from him. I can already tell that he's going to be comical like him. He looks more and more like him every day. It is impossible to forget and somehow it is impossible to ever really feel 100% cold towards him.

Don't get me wrong, I hate what he's done and I hate the way he's treated the both of us, but it doesn't change things. 

I think my weakness is that I always try to see the good in people, even after they've messed up big time. In this instance, I sometimes find myself trying to justify what he's done and convincing myself that he thinks of us, or at least thinks of my son now and then. I'm probably totally wrong and he probably never even gives the situation a second thought, but it's somewhat comforting to at least tell myself that he loves our son somewhere deep down in his cold, messed up heart.  

Every day I see dads being good to their children, carrying them on their shoulders or pulling silly faces and making them laugh. As a parent myself, I recognise the look of pride in another parents eyes when their child does something cute or lovely. 
This is when it becomes clear to me that there's someone missing in our lives. It's not that our life is lacking or that Etienne misses out in any way by not having his father, it's just that our 'family' is made up of 2 instead of 3. 

Sure, he makes the payments that he promised to make, but does he do it because he wants to provide for his son or does he do it because the law says he must? 

He should have loved Etienne just as much as I do, he should have been sharing the proud moments and showing him off to the world like parents do. Etienne should be the first and last thing on his mind and should be at the very top of his list of priorities. Blood is thicker than water, and all that. 

Yesterday's phone call brought the news that he had been 'very compliant' and had made the phone call from his end to actually make a payment without them chasing him, he'd also set up a direct debit as a more efficient way of sending payments.

It leaves me wondering; does he feel guilty? Does he want to send Etienne some money in time for his first birthday and Christmas? Or did he make that payment now in order to not be pestered over Christmas so that he can enjoy his own holidays with his 'family.'

Will the family think of their son/grandson/ nephew on his first birthday? 

Will there be an elephant in the room on Christmas day when they all pretend that life is great, knowing that their family is somewhat incomplete and that Etienne should be sat in a high chair at the end of their dining table eating his first Christmas dinner? 

What I can't understand is how any parent could walk away from those moments of pride and the sheer joy that a child brings into the world. Etienne's charmingly innocent personality is enough to make strangers melt when they see him smiling or chuckling away in his buggy. 

 I love him 100% with every inch of my heart and feel proud 100% of the time, but I am still only 50% of him. I will always be just 50%. 

 Why doesn't the other 50% feel the same way about his incredibly bright and nice natured son? 

My questions will go unanswered I'm sure. 

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