Momzilla: I Can’

Oh that child support. It has been said that men never really support their children…unless they die. I have spent a good part of my career — all of those years on the Midwest…

Momzilla: I Can’

Oh that child support. It has been said that men never really support their children…unless they die.

I have spent a good part of my career — all of those years on the Midwest Farmer’s Union so named because the region was firmly Republican at the time — as a reporter in the New York Times. I saw you work the issue from both sides of the fence.

In 1980, the median income of the middle class was $48,948. That’s an income figure that speaks for itself. In 1987, my then-colleague and friend Bill Benson wrote, “In the 1970s, an American family of four averaged $64,000 in gross income. That amounted to a gross income twice the median income in the same area of rural Pennsylvania in 1970. Those who opposed anti-poverty programs said that lack of family support in those days was due to too much money, not too little.”

Today, with median income of $68,304, and middle class wage earners going through a very difficult period, a point was made in an article on’s Mornin’ America blog recently that people saying “Raise our pay!” is a Washington-fed “pie in the sky” agenda.

However, in 1981, Jonathan Swift, the Irish author of the Gulliver’s Travels wrote: “The word ‘raise’ never existed in dictionary meaning — it is the most common fake of the English language.”

“Not all money is, by its very nature, equal,” Swift wrote, “any idea that one should ‘raise’ one’s standard of living is an anti-common, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, anti-social scheme which is dangerously naive.”

Of course, a rising income does not automatically equal a reduced demand for a higher pay-check.

When I was 24 years old, I had a child from a 15-year-old daughter and arranged to sell my house for $150,000 to help pay child support. I had helped to raise my child from age four. I was seeking what I considered to be a fair payment.

I didn’t believe in divorce, but I was in love. I was in love with the house and the kids, and I didn’t want to give that up. I had signed the property settlement document — a document which you most likely have never read — because the case was settled. While reading, I simply added on, “but I wouldn’t mind, selling that house, if I could find a way to pay for the allowance and support.”

It seemed to me that the court recognized the futility of my experiment in trying to sell my house, while making a large payment to the parent of the child who had been my caretaker for those fifteen years. I passed my son’s educational tests, and I was able to get a new job as a producer for the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. To make up for the lost income, I took a year off of my $135,000 salary and did a bit of writing, and I continued to pay child support. My former child-support-paying-ex, I’ll call her Peppa, broke even.

“All money is equal,” Swanson was right in that my daughter’s father, we’ll call him Jeff, was better educated than me, he had a job and a career and his mother had acquired a first-class degree. Still, I felt for Jeff and for Peppa. She didn’t have to be a child of single mother, and she had a really nice childhood.

I knew the difference between money and control. And I am a fan of the control part.

Today, I can’t hear my personal friend, “Raise our pay!”, without cursing me for something that I did. I will never take him seriously again.

But, on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do what is right.

When I was 25, I could have gone on my first date with a 29-year-old man who worked at the same company I did, and looked and acted exactly like me. So I did it. I paid him $1,000 for a date. I believe marriage and children are important aspects of my life, and if I could marry the man who I love and take him on a date, it would be the ultimate in control.

No, the reality of life — including child support — never comes as a surprise to me anymore.

But a goal to get married and take the other person on a date? That’s easy, because it’s something we can control.

That one day, the two of us will have a conversation about how we will raise our child and I will tell her, “

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