2010 Interview with Keith Wilkins - part 1

Published in: Examiner.com - San Antonio edition
Published on: October 4th, 2010.

By: Rebecca Alizadeh, San Antonio Single Parenting Columnist 

 It's been said before, by many, but it's worth repeating:  Parenting is hard for anyone regardless of gender or marital status. The sense of responsibility can be overwhelming and the probability for heartache, to some degree or another, is pretty much a given.  For single parents, in particular, the adventure known as "Parenthood" can be particularly daunting. 

The exact number of single-parent households aren't important unless you just happen to like numbers (and, if you do, you can read more about them here).  What is important to keep in mind is that the majority of single parents are mothers.  But this, Smart Reader, comes as no suprise to you.  In our society today, we hear numerous tales of single mothers -- the good, the bad and the terribly ugly. 

The single father, on the other hand, seems to be in short supply.  Oh, they exist and we know this because the Census Bureau tells us they do; but they're not always that obvious to spot.  They certainly don't seem to garnish as much recognition and attention (good, bad or otherwise) as the single mother.  As a writer writing for a category of "single parenting", finding parenting information geared for single fathers has been incredibly hard to find.  Some might say impossible, even.  

It is important to note that the definition of single parenting is a non-married parent who has custody of a child and cares for this child fulltime.  There are a lot of individuals who would consider themselves to be single parents because they have a child/children and happen to be single because they are not married.  This is not a single parent in the scope of this article and the general inclination of this particular column. 

Luckily for me, and for you, I was able to find a single father of a beautiful daughter, a fellow writer and former songwriter, living in Florida more than happy to share his thoughts and experiences regarding single fatherhood.  He has so much to say, in fact, that this article will be split into two parts.  

Dear Readers, meet Keith: 

Q: Thank you so much for agreeing to answers my questions. I really appreciate it. Now, for the readers out there, would you mind telling me a little about yourself? Describe you, if you will, for us and also provide our readers with an introduction to your family.
I’m honored to answer your questions, it’s my pleasure. As far as my background goes, I am a retired professional Contract Songwriter who retired in 1996 in order to settle down and start a family. After my songwriting career in the 90's, I got into Bank Management as well as Casino Management, and now have gone back to writing as a freelance columnist.
 
Regarding my family, I am a single father to my beautiful daughter, Kayla, who will be 7 in January. I first met my daughter's mother in 2002, fell madly in love with her, and eventually married her. In 2004, my wife gave birth to our daughter, who I delivered myself.
 
Unfortunately around the later half of 2007, my wife started having some affairs. As a result, she took a vacation with Kayla, supposedly to visit family, but never came back. She hid Kayla from me, refusing to let me know where she was.
 
In November of 2007 I found Kayla, got legal custody of her, and it’s been just her and I ever since. I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful daughter, I love her more then anything in the world, and am one of the proudest fathers you could ever meet.
 
Q: As a single father, do you think that men that are raising their children don't receive as much attention as the single moms out there? Is this something that you feel to be unfair or unjust?
We don’t get the attention that single moms get and I think it’s simply just because when people think of the term "single parent", they automatically think of a mom....not a father. It’s totally understandable, after all, there are many more single moms than single dads out there. People don't realize that woman can be "Dead Beat Moms" just as well as men can be "Dead Beat Dads". I thought the same way, though. Before I became a single parent three years ago, I never knew any single dads. But ever since I became a single dad, I have met so many other single dads, you just wouldn’t imagine. We are not only out there, but unfortunately, we are growing.
 
I think one of the reasons we don’t get the recognition at first is because single dads just aren’t as out in the open as much as single moms are, we’re not as obvious about it. When people see a dad out in public with his child, and they don’t see a woman with him, they tend to think one of two scenarios....either his wife/girlfriend is just not with him at the moment, or he is a divorced dad who is spending time with his child for his scheduled visitation. Single dad is usually the farthest thing from anyone's mind.
 
My daughter and I do all kinds of events together on the weekends, one of the things we like to do is go have picnics in the park and then my daughter plays on the playground. And when I would start talking to someone, one of the two scenarios I mentioned earlier are usually what they first thought of. They are caught totally by surprise when I say that I am a single dad. It’s kind of funny, actually.  It’s like a double-edged sword, really. Once someone finds out that I am a single dad, and the shock and surprise fades away, the first thing they say is how special I am for doing what I am doing. I never understood that. I am not doing anything special, I am just being a dad.  No more.  No less.  I am not doing anything that is any more special than what a single mom is doing. Women raise their children on their own all the time, but people don’t automatically have that response to them. But to single dads, they have that initial reaction.
Q: What do you think can be done to get more attention or focus on single fathers? Is that something that you would even like to see happen?
Well, I think the place where more attention needs to be placed on single dads is with the government. There is definitely, without a doubt, a total double standard when it comes to the government, especially when it comes to two specific areas: 
 
The first double standard is when it comes to government assistance for those single dads who are financially scrupling. When I first got custody of my daughter three years ago, I was scrupling. My soon to be ex-wife at the time stole my credit cards and ran them up when she left me.  I shelled out more money than you can possibly imagine on my divorce and child custody battle, and I got laid off from the casino at the same time. The whole thing devastated me financially, and still is. I started looking to see what kind of government assistance I could get to help me out and I soon found out that, unfortunately, the same programs that are set up to assist single moms, don’t exist for single dads. And the few programs that do help single dads, as well as single moms, don’t advertise it for the men like they do for the women. It’s truly a form of discrimination.
 
But the one area that really desperately needs to be changed is how the Government/Department of Revenue handles child support. In the past three years, my ex-wife has made the equivalent of only three child support payments. I have had a court order for the past two of those years to have her child support payments automatically taken out of her paycheck, and it still has not been done. The DOR is in no hurry to even serve her with the court order. They have both her home address and her work address, but still won’t get off their butts and serve her, or enforce my child support order. I know men who have only fallen behind on their child support payments by one month and they are getting their driver's licenses suspended and getting threatened to be thrown in jail. Yet my ex has only made three payments in three years, and she hasn’t gotten threatened with anything at all. If situations were reversed and my ex had custody of our daughter, and I had only paid three payments in three years....I’d be in jail right now.
 
It’s a total double standard....they are much harder on "Dead Beat Dads" then they are on "Dead Beat Moms", and that is just not right. It doesn’t matter who is raising the child.  The child still needs to eat, be clothed, and all the other expenses that come with a child. Those expenses don’t disappear simply because a father is raising them as opposed to a mother.
 
Q: Do you have a support system in place to help you deal with the challenges of single parenthood or provide you with the occasional night out to allow for de-stressing?
I am so grateful to have some really wonderful friends in my life who I can always count on for support if and when I need it. As far as family is concerned though, unfortunately, the only family I have is my Dad. I don’t get much time to go out by myself at all actually. My ex-wife rarely ever sees my daughter......she literally only sees her a few days, maybe a couple of weeks out of the year. My Dad is in his late 70s which makes it hard on him to watch my daughter, and I am not the type to ask my friends if they will watch my daughter so I can go out to party.  I hate to impose on people. So, usually, the only free time I have is while my daughter is in school or on the extremely rare occasion that my ex takes her for a visitation. If it’s something really special, I will find someone to watch her though.
 

As mentioned before, due to the lengthy nature of Keith's insights, thoughts and experiences relating to his single fatherhood, this interview will continue in Part 2 appearing in this column tomorrow, October 5th.