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I Want to Grow Up to be a Deadbeat Dad

I Want to Grow Up to be a Deadbeat Dad

“I can’t decide who should walk me down the aisle: my biological father or my step-father. I am closer to my Stepdad, but feel bad about not asking my real dad.”

This is an actual question from an advice column-and a question more daughters struggle with than we realize. Being a step-kid can be tough; not knowing who to show your allegiance to. Stepdads can be the best dad a kid has. We can be the man they look up to, but they’ll always have a sense of connection to their bio-dad… even if he’s not a great guy. This is the uphill journey and Stepdads struggle with it daily. Developing a bond with your new kids is harder than juggling porcupines blindfolded. (NOTE: No actual porcupines were hurt during the making of this this analogy… but they sure didn’t like being blindfolded.)

Many kids develop a great love and bond with their Stepdad and still wonder if it’s okay to like him. These confused emotions can even carry into adulthood–as in the quote above. Bad bio-dads don’t have to deal with all that. Their kids love them even if they’re terrible role models and barely help with the cost of raising them. At home with mom and Stepdad the kids have to deal with the rules of the house. Mom and Stepdad can be pretty annoying with their “No boys in our daughter’s room” policy and all the checking up to make sure the kids are where they say they’ll be all the time. Bio-dads don’t bother with setting a bunch of house rules for the kids when they visit. They only see their kid from time to time so there’s no daily grind or need to keep the kids consistent. The kids go visit dad every now and then, and he soaks up the love created by their desperate need for connection with him.

The Bio-dad is the fun parent and a change from the boring life at mom’s house. Mom and Stepdad have all these rules to follow. Not dad. He’s a blast to be with! They get to do fun stuff with him, like stay up late and eat lots of fast food and take-out. Dad doesn’t like to cook. Behind the scenes mom and Stepdad are struggling to make ends meet while deadbeat dad is out doing his own thing and rarely sending child support. He can’t afford to. He needs it to spend on a Disney day when the kids visit. Yeah, mom and Stepdad know that the bio-dad is slowly investing in the full purchase of his kid’s love and devotion while doing the bare minimum. The kids ask mom questions like “Why don’t we ever do fun stuff, like we do at dad’s house?” and “Why don’t you ever take us to the horse tack?” and “Why don’t we get to eat ice cream on a Jet Ski in the living room here?” But you chose the high road and fight the urge to say what you’re really thinking. There’s no need to talk badly about the non-responsive bio-dad.

Your kids are a long-term project. You know if they’re going to turn out right then you need to put in the effort and sometimes give them answers they don’t want to hear. You know that having some consistency is vital to their up-bringing. So you work diligently with their mom to save for college and you put aside money for the things they want for their birthdays. The kids are resistant to having you in charge of their punishments, so you have to become strategic in your communication with mom, to assure you are both on the same page about the kids and how they’re disciplined. It’s work and commitment but sometimes they still resent you. Mom was much more lenient before she married you. It’s a grind. It’s a battle and sometimes you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.

All this struggle might even make some Stepdads wonder if  they got it wrong. Maybe WE should have all had kids and let SOMEONE ELSE raise them. Think how much more relaxed we’d be. Having someone else raise our kids could free up some extra time for jet-skiing and travel. If we were non-responsive bio-dads we could have it all-and freedom too. You don’t have to be there, annoying the kids and making them hate you like a real parent. All you have to do is win them over by spending some of the child support money on them that you haven’t send for months. While you’re at it you can alienate them against their mom and Stepdad to make yourself look like the victim. That will make them love you even more. Once every month or two (or three) you could drop by to see the kids unannounced and make a huge fuss. You can say things like “I want to see my kid.” and “You can’t keep me from him.” –as though the mom’s actually trying to. The kid sees you as a hero because he now he believes the reason he hasn’t seen you is because mom and Stepdad are keeping you away. Of course you know better. You’ve been pretty busy lately. You have a social life, after all. Well played! Now the kid thinks mom and Stepdad are jerks and you’re a rock star! Score one point for dead-beat dad.

One of the best perks about being a non-responsive bio-dad is you’ll hardly ever have to go to any of your kid’s events. It’s awesome! Your ex and her husband have to run the kids to practice and rehearsals and school functions. They have to sit through every game, every play and every event. They have to pay for your daughter’s dance lessons and ballet shoes and cough up cash for your son’s football physical—or is it basketball? Who knows…they deal with all that stuff! What’s most importantly is they pay all the costs–not you! It works out just fine. All you have to do is show up at one event a year and you’re a hero! They’ll run to you, hug you and drag you off to introduce you to all their friends. They’ll say cool stuff like “This is my real dad.” Boy, doesn’t that wipe the smile right off that Stepdad’s face!

When one of them is messing up or getting in trouble it’s no big deal. Yeah, your ex will probably call you to tell you your kid is evil, but heck- it’s her and her new husband’s fault. If you were raising them there wouldn’t be all these problems. You’re a better parent then she is any day of the week! But you know you’ve got it good. They’re going to lay down the punishment but all you need to do is get on the phone with the kid and say, “Hey you need to straighten up so they’ll stop bugging me. “ The kids will listen to you. You’re their “real dad.” Finish the mild scolding by tossing in a “Let’s hang out some time soon. I don’t get to see you enough.”  Now you’ve just turned their mom into an evil toad in your kid’s eyes. It’s not as tough as actually raising your kids but it is inconvenient. When they called with all this drama you were working on your suntan!

Being a deadbeat dad does involve some skill -and a serious commitment to not parenting.You’ve got to be stealthy and on your toes. It takes a lot of talent to make your kids despise their home and still manage to avoid any real responsibility yourself. It’s challenging when you’re partying in Vegas and your kid says across the line “can I come live with you dad?” It’s OK… you know how to handle this. You’ll just step away from the Craps table long enough to give him the standard reply. “You need to stay there. I don’t have enough space for another person. I moved my Jet Ski into the spare room.”  “It’s OK dad. I’ll sleep on the couch. Please!” the kid whines.  “I can’t let my kid sleep on a couch. I care too much about you to let that happen. Besides the living room’s too crowded since I bought that big-screen TV and surround-sound system.” Now you’ve got it almost settled.  Just add one more sentence and you can get back to the party. “Just stay there. It will make you stronger having to deal with all that stuff.” …another subtle poke at your ex and her man. This is a game of inches. If you’re gonna win you’ve got to keep on the offense. Don’t forget to say “Let’s hang out sometime soon. I don’t get to see you enough.”

As  a non-responsive dad you can play this game for years, but one day you wake up and realize your kid’s are growing up. Soon they’ll be out on their own. It brings a tear to your eye when you realize that eighteen years of occasional child support payments are about to come to a screeching halt. It’s been a lot of tough years (listening your ex’s whining about money) but you hung in there and it’s about to pay off. Your daughter is engaged and wants to know what song you’d like for the father-daughter dance at the reception. You say “Whatever makes you happy, baby.” After all, why should you start making an effort now? You get to give her away at the wedding too. The Stepdad can just sit and watch. You’re a reasonable guy. You know he’s earned his place in the front row- after all he’s paying for the wedding (and rehearsal dinner-and dress…). You just don’t have that kind of money. Your convertible needs a new transmission.  But you’ll still be able to get the newlyweds a nice gift. You’ve saved a bunch on child support. Consider it one last payment!

16 Comments

  1. someone
    June 23, 2012

    Best. Article. Ever.

    Reply
  2. Edward
    July 13, 2012

    I get your point, but you kind of assume all "bio-Dad's" are "Deadbeat Dads". There are plenty of unmarried "bio-Dads" who bankrupt themselves trying to pay child support. (The couple with custody usually end up spending more on the kid…but they do get to adjust their spending up and down as circumstances change. Child support is a court order that you need a judge to change…causing legal problems if you are laid off or have expensive medical bills to pay). Lots of bio-Dads *DO* have partial custody.

    You don't know what relationship the women from the advice column had with her bio-Dad. She was closer to her stepdad, but there are a million subtle levels between real parent and Deadbeat Dad. For all you know the Deadbeat Dad was only her parent for a couple years.

    I'm sure every statement you said is often true…but not always.

    I do sympathize with the job of stepdad. There are a million miserable parts of it. One you didn't think of…what happens if there is another divorce? Does the "ex-stepdad" still remain a part of the kid's life?

    Reply
    • The_Step_Dad
      July 22, 2012

      Edward,
      Thanks for your post. Stepdadding.com completely agrees. This article was mean to playfully jab at the issue of absent dads. It wasn't intended to implicate all bio-dads as dead-beats- just as an article talking about "bad cops" doesn't imply that all cops are bad. As founder of Stepdadding.com I still firmly believe that having a good bio-dad is an important part of a child's emotional formation. In fact, the statistics prove it. Unfortunately there are plenty of fathers out there who don’t put their kids first.
      Many Stepdads step up to the plate and do what the kids’ dads don’t do. These hard-working guys don’t get nearly enough respect or credit for the jobs they do. We’re here to elevate Stepdads and give them information and inspiration. Stepdads have long been branded been by the media and society. The word “stepfather” had a universally negative connotation. Just like bio-dads, there are bad Stepdads too. We’re here to celebrate the good ones. You sound like you might be one of the good ones too.
      S. James Wheeler

      Reply
  3. Get Over Yourselves
    September 24, 2012

    If a step father does want to get involved in non-biological children's lives, than they should not get married to a woman with a child from a prior marriage in the first place. Maybe the children from the prior marriage were invisible at the time you all proposed? You come in, live with our children and then badmouth bio dads, essentially demonizing them to make more room for yourselves. This whole website needs to get over itself.

    Reply
    • The_Step_Dad
      September 24, 2012

      This article doesn't talk bad about bio dads. If you read through Stepdadding.com you will see a half dozen articles that strongly encourages stepdads to work with bio dads for the benefit of the children. This article pokes fun at the fathers who aren't there for their kids-in the kindest way possible. All men who take on the father role (both step or bio) should commit 100% to their kids. Those who make less than a complete commitment deserve the scorn of society. Fathers who make children then walk away are an unimpressive group of men. Those who pick up the pieces left by these men deserve to be praised. There should be nothing for you to be offended by in this article unless you, yourself are a dead-beat dad.

      Reply
    • Russ
      September 28, 2012

      …As a step dad, I have been disrespected, laughed at, put down only to have a wife take the side of a manipulative teen. The problem is not us and the problem is not the bio dad. The problem is you women and your lack of ability to balance. Everything is okay when we are paying for a night out, but when we try to have some normal values in a household-we are basically told to sit down, shut up and the kids come first. If my marriage ends, I will never be with a woman with kids again.

      Reply
      • a woman
        September 18, 2013

        Anyone who writes the phrase "The problem is you women.." is an asshat. Hope you don't expect anyone to have sex with you ever again.

        Reply
    • someone
      October 2, 2012

      It's satire. You missed the point.

      Reply
    • NewtonSylmar
      August 11, 2013

      …and then you have the other end of the spectrum where the woman actively seeks out that strong, responsible man that her ex-husband wasn't and convinces him that he's more of a father to her children than their biological father. Once he's in the picture, she'll give a half-hearted effort to pursue child support because the replacement can cover the gaps. When approached about it, she'll claim that she's fearful or concerned that the biological father will take out his frustration on the kids, and she doesn't want them to suffer. Years go by, and the resentment in the stepfather builds, because he's playing the role and paying the dues, but almost everything involving the kids is out of his control. The kids are older, mother is less concerned about their well-being, because the hard work is over, but the stepfather is still unfulfilled. Any attempt to address the subject is swatted down, because, as far as the mother is concerned, the stepfather has served his purpose. She did her job: she provided the best opportunity for his children to have everything they need–she just had to use someone other than the biological father to do it.

      Reply
    • A--hat
      September 27, 2013

      Perfect example of why guys bail out 60% of the time because they're unappreciated. Good Job.
      Woman marries the wrong guy, tries to right the ship with a baby, then tries to fill the void of love with another baby because the first one didn't fix the marriage. Divorce, so thus begins the sense of entitlement…
      Stepdads are superheroes…you should be happy that we ignore all of your baggage and love you/your kids unconditionally. Monday Night Football, beers with buddies, the gym…all those things and any personal aspirations take a back seat to teaching your child from another marriage how to ride a bike or plant a garden, etc. Don’t forget all the court fees and flat out BS most of us had to endure on behalf of your exes along the way…we’re still around though right?

      Reply
  4. Reece
    May 2, 2013

    Hey there I am so glad I found your weblog,

    I really found you by accident, while I was looking on Google for something else, Anyways I am

    here now and would just like to say thanks for a

    remarkable post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the great work. -Reece

    Reply
  5. Windy
    June 16, 2013

    I just found this I will have to bookmark add to favs and like on facebook I’d ignore negative ppl they may not even personally know a situation like this or maybe they just had a bad experience idk but I mean thats exactly how it is in some situations. Mixed families take a lot of hard work on all parts I myself am a stepchild I had 2 stepdads obviously the first didnt go so well and the second well we had our fair share of ups and downs and even charges lol long story but trying to find a song or something I could dedicate to him is how i came across this page we still have our moments I assume thats a natural thing but I so love him to death and bc of him I have a little brother I never would of had. My bio-dad wasnt in the picture until I was grown, married, and had a child of my own. But I also am part if a mixed family of my own now and we are one of the lucky ones yes we have differences of opinions some but for the most part my husband and I agree on how we want to raise ” our” children he has 1 from a previous marriage and I have 2. The 3 of them get along great you couldn’t ask for better. They all did live with us but my son decided to go back to his bio and basically for reasons just like in your article they are bff’s and we have rules and its sad because he would rather do without than do the right thing but he is 16 his bio has never paid a dime towards anything never gets them gifts for b-days rarely for Christmas and has nothing to do with the girl when the boy was living here he would call and talk to him for 30-45 min with her sitting right there and never even ask to talk to her. On her b-day he sent her a text. Her step dad on the other hand would walk through fire for her for all of them he doesn’t treat them like step children they are his children and he would go to war for them if he needed to just like with his son he is “our son” he inst my step son and everyone knows it. That situation the bio mom is somewhat helpful and she and I can get along she even comes to our daughters dance recitals pageants ect (she calls her her step daughter and I’m her wife in law- lol) so every situation is different its not all men or all women there are just bad ppl some of which shouldn’t reproduce and some of us found that out too late but not gonna complain because I got 2 wonderful kids out of a very bad relationship and my son will eventually come to his senses or become just like his bio. Lord willing it will be the senses and my daughter already calls him the sperm donor (she is 14 btw) and she calls my husband either daddy or by his name depends on her mood I guess ( teenage girl). I used to feel bad about but I’ve come realize they are getting older and can see for themself . Sorry for such a long comment i think it turned into a vent -lol.

    Reply
    • The_Step_Dad
      June 17, 2013

      Windy,
      Thanks for the positive comments about the site. We decided early on to always keep it positive -though we do occasionally get readers who try to go the other way. This article has gotten more feedback than any we've written. It's definitely meant to be playful, not mean. I'm glad you liked it. Ultimately everything we do is focused on relating to the struggles blended family couples are dealing with. Our aim is to help couples be successful in their family lives, which helps them develop happy, successful kids.
      Your and your husband sound like you've got a good thing going. Blended families have a huge failure rate, so require constant communication and maintenance. It sounds like you're doing the hard work and getting good results. I love your comment about the nick name your husband's ex has for you. She sounds like a great woman who understands the big picture.
      Also: I've got to say, your Stepdad will love that you're dedicating a song to him. Seemingly "little" things like that can be huge for us guys. I hope you were able to find a good one in the list. (http://stepdadding.com/stepdads-blog/stepdad-daughter-wedding-dance-songs/)

      Reply
  6. smendoza
    June 30, 2013

    I wish the bio dad of my ex’s son had been as cool as the one in your article. Maybe I’d still be with my ex and my son right now if he had been…

    Reply
  7. Eric
    October 31, 2019

    Where to begin. I am in the whirlwind of everything everyone has said right now. I dont have any lids of my own and my girlfriends kids are adopted and then one BIO. For the most part its perfect, all they know is me as the provider and father figure. I knew this would take time and $. I get that and have never really worried about it. I mean my parents spent lots of money raising me right? Im only passing that tradition of raising kids correctly along. The ex husband is a real piece of shhhh. He rarely sees his kids and just got married to a woman with 4 kids. He has never paid child support and is currently 4grand behind. We constantly go to court over him.

    So, obviously all his short coming have strained our relationship and are on the cusp of breaking up. I will not let these kids down or my GF, am I crazy to offer child support? Because financially she will never make it without it if we do break up. Also, is it crazy to stay together for the kids? Being that im not the bio?

    I really love, love, love these 4 wonderful kids. I cry everyday thinking of life without them. i feel lost.

    Reply

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