Dead Beat Dads in the UK

Now before I get chastised from fathers, let me just say this is about my personal experience. I am sure there are examples of mothers deserting their families, but as the current stat. is 92% of single parents are women, I think my title and the context are appropriate.

It was mid January 2014, when my husband left. Okay he’ll say I kicked him out, but he was having an affair with some woman in Russia. (one of several he’s had throughout our marriage). So what would you do, say, ‘Fine honey, have a nice f@@k, see you when you get home.’ No, I’d had it. We tried marriage counselling. Personally for A. it was just a box ticking exercise. This wasn’t his first indiscretion and probably not his last. So I did try for many years. 8 or is it 10, to be somewhat exact.

Anyway he left, and for 3 weeks I had no idea how to get in touch with him (both his British mobiles had been switched off). I wasn’t even sure which country he was in. Russia, Kazakhstan. I didn’t know. So yeah it sucked. But you see I had to hold it together, because I have this child, a very special son, called E. E. is autistic. But I wouldn’t change anything about him. Okay the stringent eating habits can get a bit old, but this is my child. He is what he is.

At first, I could pretend A. was just traveling. I mean he travelled most of E’s life, so it was nothing odd. But my son is very perceptive and sensed something wasn’t right. Probably not helped by a mother with perpetual puffy, tear filled eyes. (I tried but I am only human). So by week 2, I explained to my 13 year old son, that Dad had left and wasn’t coming back. His first response, ‘Why Mom, doesn’t he like us, anymore?’ (God, that broke my heart.). ‘No, he just wants to live some place else for awhile.’ ‘Don’t ever blame yourself, it’s not your fault.’

By week 3, E. asked one night at bedtime, ‘Mom, is my Dad dead?’. I was stunned. It hadn’t occurred to me that in the very literal mind of an autistic person, leaving can sometimes equate to the finality of death. Especially if there is zero contact. (Still hadn’t heard from A. and had no idea how to contact him).
Perhaps he was dead, I guess I didn’t know for sure. If he wasn’t he was obviously trying to punish me for something. But he seemed to have no concept or concern about how his extreme absence was impacting his son. I wondered if he’d lost his mind. I still do, to be honest.

With the help and support of my amazing family in the States, I made it through those first 3 weeks. (I’d like to say A’s family were a support, but besides 2 cousins and his 90 year old father, who I think still can’t believe it, they were not.). My parents and my siblings were there constantly. My Mom phoned me every single day for a month, just to make sure I was okay. They reminded me that no matter the distance, I was so lucky to have such an amazing family.

It was my lovely cousin in California, who contacted A. on my behalf (he wouldn’t respond to my emails), and asked him to get in touch, as his son thought he was dead. So finally an email arrived from A. to arrange a Skype call, so that my very distraught boy, could see his Dad wasn’t dead.

So this is how it began, and it’s been a very difficult 10 months for my son and me. We have both been through therapy. E’s school (he attends a special school for children with autism) has been a truly wonderful support for us both. Friends and my family have rallied around. We have even moved flats. Much cheaper rent and more importantly a new space with no reminders of A.

Legally, I’m still battling the system. A. was back in Scotland for a few months as his visas for his Central Asian Utopias had expired. He stayed with his family, the folk who still have nothing to do with E. or me. He spent a few random days here and there over the summer with his son. I guess it was enough. I don’t know.

Now, I’ve found out he’s disappeared again. I was told just this past weekend, he’s been in Moscow for the last month. Living with the current gal pal (yes, I’m being very restrained here), working? Who knows? I do know, a British citizen can’t stay longer than 30 days on a basic tourist visa in Russia. Unless one obtains a work or business visa. Which means, yes he’s probably working. But no, he’s no longer supporting us*. Not much I can do legally, as British law has no jurisdiction in Russia. So yeah, he could be earning a king’s ransom over there, and I would have no way of forcing him to provide financial support to help keep a roof over his son’s head.

So when, I use the term Dead Beat Dad, it’s from personal experience. I have a husband, father to our only son, who abandoned us. The law doesn’t require him to be in our son’s life and can’t even compel him to financially contribute to our existence.

I currently live on benefits. As I’ve never dealt with the labyrinth which is the UK benefits system, it’s been a real daunting experience. I’m not ashamed. I feel very grateful to have such a strong social safety net. But I still struggle and worry. Besides half my benefits expire in 6 months time and then who knows? I apply again. I’d love to work, but I’m limited as a full time single parent to an autistic child. Besides I sadly made the mistake of staying at home raising our son, while A. travelled the globe for his career. (I thought we were a team, I was wrong).

So this is the blog post I’ve wanted and needed to write for ages. It’s been very therapeutic for me. It’s not all sad though. I’ve found I have a strength I never knew I had. E. is growing up and becoming much more independent. We have found a new normal. Am I happy, no, not yet. But everyday I’m a bit stronger and more confident. I won’t let one Dead Beat Dad hold me back. Tomorrow is another day.

*A. did leave us with a sizeable amount of money when he first left, although I’m still not 100% sure where it came from. But it’s no secret we had (have) debt and a high rent expense, so the money went quickly. He’s provided no financial support since July.


4 thoughts on “Dead Beat Dads in the UK

  1. David says:

    Incredibly honest piece Mel. I hope your support network in UK gets stronger and things improve. If I’m fortunate enough to meet you I’d love buy you a cup of coffee.


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