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The term “deadbeat” (usually referenced when speaking of a “deadbeat dad”) is overused and if you ask me, misused.  Whenever I hear someone call a parent a deadbeat, I usually ask: “What makes them a deadbeat?”  The response is usually some variation of “because they don’t have any money or pay child support.”

Huh? Is that it? Because they don’t pay you child support they are a terrible parent? Hmmmmm….

So, I decided to look up the term deadbeat to get a better understanding of what everyone else’s understanding of the term is.  To my surprise, this common response I receive is almost identical to the majority of definitions I found; most definitions of a “deadbeat” include reference of a “parent who fails to pay child support.”

For purposes of this blog, when referencing a “deadbeat” parent, I define a “deadbeat” as one who deliberately fails to provide financial support for their child, and refuses to be involved in their child’s life as a parent.  I expand the definition for the following reasons:

  1. Stuff happens…..Sometimes a parent may genuinely, temporarily be unable to afford to make substantial financial contributions to their child’s life via child support.  With the economy the way it is today, even those who have higher educations and a lot of experience are finding themselves unemployed and struggling to make ends meet.  Does this mean that parent should not be able to see their child because of their financial situation?  Absolutely not!  If that were the case, there would be a ridiculous increase in the amount of children who are parent-less.  Automatically deeming one who doesn’t pay child support (irrespective of any other contributions made to their child’s life) a deadbeat is shallow and ridiculous.
  2. It takes more than money to raise a childSociety has us so wrapped up in riches and material things that we often disregard what’s more important.  Yes, it does take money to raise a child: children need food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities.  However, a child with the basic necessities that doesn’t have anyone to show them how to utilize these necessities is a lost child.  Ever heard the quote: “It takes a village to raise a child”? This quote is so true.  In order for children to thrive and develop into the wonderful human beings they have the potential to become, they need positive, supportive, influential people in their lives to give them direction and teach them cores and values.  What better person to do this than their parents?  Even if a parent is unable to provide financially, they should be able to contribute to their child’s life in many other aspects without being labeled as a deadbeat.

You never know when circumstances will lead to you being unable to meet your financial burdens.  So, next time you refer to someone as a deadbeat, make sure it’s for reasons other than “they don’t pay their child support.”