I was a little disappointed when Nas and Kelis split up. I liked them as a couple: the spirited songstress with the devil may care attitude and my favorite rapper who, next to Idris and Common, also happens to be my celebrity crush. I guess if I couldn’t be with him myself, she was representative enough of me—creative, sassy and outspoken—to get my thumbs up to be his lifemate. But when they didn’t work out, I said “awww” and I moved on to the next hot headline.
Until she had their son and a judge awarded her $44,000 a month in child support.
Forty-four thousand dollars. A month. For a newborn child. He couldn’t fly in his own private jet, he wasn’t in some high-priced boarding school, he didn’t make boo-boos in gold-plated Pampers, so what in the blazes called for that kind of cash? That little dude crawled out of the womb making pretty darn close to what I was bringing in around that time, and he was just a few hours old (Way to put that in perspective.). Even now, some three years later, that figure has been reduced, but I’m still flabbergasted by it, just like I was back then. My reaction is inflation-proof.
To me, hers was a classic scorned woman strategy to hit her ex right where it hurt. We gals tend to aim for one of two places when we’re incensed: the balls and the bank account. (Sometimes both, actually.) And since she couldn’t lodge her foot between his legs, which would’ve only been fleetingly painful anyway, she cocked back and socked him right in the net worth, an agony he’d be feeling long after his swollen scrotum healed.
It was an ugly moment in woman-dom. For some ladies just trying to pick up the pieces and move on after the relationship with their man melts down, child support can be a help. For others like Kelis, it’s the handmaiden of sweet revenge.
I seriously question the effectiveness of child support. I can almost hear the sound of teeth-sucking and eye-rolling from my fellow single mothers, since we’re the ones on the receiving end of the funds the majority of the time. If you have any experience in childrearing at all, you know that cute and cuddly as they are, kids are freakin’ expensive. And there’s always something new that has to be paid for, like athletic equipment or school fundraisers or field trips or class pictures or driving lessons. And God forbid they need braces, too. Ouch.
So conceptually, yes, the non-custodial parent should sow money into the household that their child is living in so they can be cared for, housed, fed, clothed and occasionally see a movie or play a game of putt-putt. But that’s not how it shakes out in real life, when dollar figures often—not always, but often—give parents reason to beef, dissolving their relationships down to simmering resentments at best and Jerry Springer-esque showdowns at worst.
I’ve seen otherwise normal, seemingly reasonable folks become tire-slashing, window-breaking, rumor-spreading wild people over some judge’s child support ruling. Women who feel like they got low-balled by the system act out and men feel like they shouldn’t have to pay some court-ordered figure because it’s too high, because they believe their ex will use the money for other purposes, or because they don’t want the system to tell them what to pay at all. And I know guys who can’t do nothing but come home and stay home—and maybe if they’re feeling real spendthrift, buy themselves a beer—because the entirety of their checks go to child support. For one kid, not a herd.
I believe in making sure little ones are taken care of but somewhere in there, greed creeps in—either by dudes being stingy or women being self-serving. And it puts good intention in a headlock and bullies it mercilessly. At the root of all the squabbling over individual agendas is the kid whose parents can’t stand the sight or sound of one another because of a child support quibble. True, they’re sometimes headed in that direction anyway, but a summons slapping one party with a case puts the other person on immediate defense.
On the flip side, and contrary to what some disgruntled fellas make it out to be, child support is rarely a huge financial windfall, unless a woman has the good fortune of being a basketball wife or some high-powered executive’s dirty little secret. In real life, moms still got to get up and go to work everyday. So although it may seem like a hefty amount to the man who’s doling it out on the monthly, the woman and her kids are more than likely not living any more high on the hog than they were before the order. I know ladies who get roundabouts $50 a week. Puh-lease. That’ll barely cover a night out at Applebee’s or a value pack of Huggies.
All I know is this: any way you cut it, child support can end up putting more at stake than the dollar amount could ever fully compensate for. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have it, but sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth it at all.