Sisters shouldn’t always do it for themselves

2014-04-20 15:00

Since the birth of my daughter, my ideals have shifted quite dramatically.

I had previously subscribed to the somewhat naive feminist notion that I could do it on my own.

Of course, I was out of touch with reality. I had this very strong, personally held conviction that I would never run after “papgeld”.

A little voice told me not to try to fill the role of a father in raising a child, but to let the father play his role.

I came to the sobering realisation that both parents need to, and must, contribute to a child’s maintenance.

Needless to say, the fight for child maintenance is the ugliest, most daunting and arduous task.

I committed to ensuring that my child – as she is still a minor – receives what is rightfully hers.

Children’s rights to support encompass an adequate standard of living, healthcare, education, and other basics like play and recreation.

On top of these, a balanced diet, a warm bed to sleep in and access to schooling are essential and must be equally provided by both parents.

It is now just more than five months since the end of a year-long court battle with the father to secure our daughter’s maintenance.

My situation was a little different from the norm.

The father of my child had been contributing 30% towards our child’s maintenance, but it was not enough.

The standard court calculations confirmed this. In an ideal world, this could have been resolved amicably.

As two mature adults with a child, we could have sat together, broken down the costs and discussed affordability.

The situation, however, did not allow for mature conversations.

I found myself chasing my tail trying to negotiate with my child’s father, who felt I was being extravagant and inconsiderate.

I had initially delayed the maintenance court route as I felt sure we could work it out. I soon discovered that this “reasonable” person had become a total stranger.

The terms of negotiation were suddenly very different.

There were no more warm and fuzzy romantic feelings to temper the discussions.

The court experience was a learning curve for both of us. I say both of us because we were taken aback by the realities of law and the “cut and dried” application of the constitutional rights of the child.

These state that in any matter concerning the child, the child’s rights are paramount.

The only issue, quite rightly so, was that our little girl deserves our love and every form of parental support available to her.

Initially, I did not know how to calculate my expenses.

The spreadsheet I got from my lawyer – which came as a shock – detailed all the expenses for the maintenance.

A child needs shelter, early development (crèche), extramural activities, clothes and food.

The father saw some of these as luxuries that did not warrant the extra cash.

The father is to be allowed to fully exercise his rights as a father.

I have learnt that child maintenance is not about me.

It has nothing to do with my pride, but everything to do with both parents playing their part in the child’s upbringing.

No parent should take upon themselves the burden of raising a child alone if this is not absolutely necessary.

And one cannot arbitrarily decide the amount of money needed. Certain criteria have to be applied to determine the amount that needs to be paid.

Women should realise that not enforcing the payment of child maintenance from the father does not make you a wiser or more dignified woman.

You are actually emasculating the man in his role of raising his child.

I appeal to all single mothers to use every method at their disposal to ensure that the rights of their children are protected.

They are not yours to give away through some misguided sense of pride.

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