Here’s why I find myself growing angry and bitter. By the terms of my divorce, based on Tennessee law, my child support is based on a ratio between my income and solely the mother’s, and the time we each have the boys. Because she doesn’t work, I’m required to pay roughly 30% of my take home income, regardless of what her household income is. Financially, that’s crippling and affects my ability to spend time with my sons. Furthermore, I have no oversight on how that money is spent. None. In addition to that, I get no tax break on that money. My taxes are based on gross income, so some years I actually owe money at the end of the year, despite living well below the poverty line.
If I don’t pay child support, I can face jail time for contempt of court. If I don’t pay it, even though I have no way of ensuring that money is spent on my children, I’m labeled a deadbeat dad, not just by the law but also by society. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with supporting my children. I would do anything for them. What I have a problem with is the imbalance of the laws that have crippled me financially for at least twelve more years, offer me no safeguards that the money is used for its intended purpose, and in effect enslave me to that obligation, regardless of whether or not she actually needs the money.
So I work, pay the money, and scrape by on what’s left.
My profession is education. Aside from writing, that’s what I’m best at doing. Today, because our society so undervalues education, during the school year, I work 60-70 hours a week. Last night, I graded until 8:00 PM, on Friday night. I woke up this morning and spent three more hours grading, recording, and uploading files. As soon as I finish this post, I’ll spend at least five to six more hours doing the same. Tomorrow, I’ll spend all day grading. From mid-August to mid-December, I get maybe three or four full days off. Anyone who has ever taught can attest that being in the classroom teaching is exhausting work in and of itself. I’ve worked other jobs and have often said that one hour in class equates to about two hours at another job. During the school year, I and every other teacher I know live in a constant state of exhaustion.
Because I have to work so many long hours with so little time off, I have no time or energy left over for loved ones. Just talking to my children for an hour four nights a week is taxing. Forget about date nights (not that I have any money for one) or spending quality time with friends and family. Forget about writing or doing the things I need to do for the farm. By the time I accomplish everything I have to do for school, I’m utterly spent, and it’s Monday morning and time to start over again. Forget about promoting my books the way I need to. Forget about nurturing a relationship. Forget about having any kind of a normal life.
I’ve had well-intending people tell me to find another profession, as if the answer is so simple. I’m trained to teach and write. I’ve yet to find an employer out there that values my skills or equates them to their needs. Not that there are any decent jobs out there right now. I feel trapped by circumstances with no foreseeable end to the cycle. I’ve all but lost hope on my books ever being “successful” financially. I’ve all but lost hope on ever getting the farm off the ground, even though I’ve proven my hydro design works. I simply don’t have the funds to make it happen.
So each day, I feel a little more bitter, a little more angry. I feel like our system has failed me at each and every turn. I’m trying desperately to find something to give me a glimmer of hope, a flicker of optimism that somehow things will get better, but each day I feel more trapped, more alone, more forsaken, more disenfranchised. That’s my reality. That’s where I am right now.