I had no intentions of becoming a single mother, let alone take on the role as the non-custodial parent…but as fate would have it, this became my life. My own choices led me to a path of single-motherhood. I won’t place total blame on the men I bore children with, as most women do. I can’t “blame it on the alcohol” or anything else, but my dumb self! I consciously chose to have unprotected sex with three men I should’ve never been with, to begin with. So, I take full responsibility for my actions.
I slowly fell into the “trap” of being a single mother: tired, overworked, bitter, angry, depressed, argumentative, entitled, and more! I became someone I didn’t recognize, nor did I like who I saw in the mirror. I began to hate her! I wanted to be as far away from her as possible. I had to devise a plan to get rid of her. I needed to be better; for myself and for my children.
So, what was I going to do?
I thought long and hard about it and then it hit me! Why not give my children to their dads and let them bear the load for a while? My oldest son’s dad had been asking for years to let my son come live with him, but I wouldn’t budge because what mother just voluntarily gives up her children? The horror of that idea alone was enough to drive me batty! What would that say about me as a mother? How would people view me? So many questions weighing me down that it took me a year to finally make this thought a reality.
The day of reckoning came in September 2009. I was nervous as all get out! People had so much to say about my decision, but I blocked it out. Even blocked my own gut telling me NOT TO DO IT! It was fight or flight…do or die…kill or be killed.
The boys were all gone by October. I was free. I let out a huge sigh and began to plan out my new life. Little did I know, the fun and fancy-free world I thought was waiting for me were nowhere near; instead a train wreck was headed my way going 200 miles per hour. I was ill-prepared, blindsided, shocked…before I knew it, I was being drowned by quicksand. When I climbed out, I had lost custody of my two youngest children, ordered to do supervised visits with one, scheduled visits with the other. Child support was next to dig their nails into my skin (of which I’m still paying). As the days went on, things got progressively worse. My youngest began to be disrespectful, didn’t want to come to visit me, and began calling all his dad’s other women “mom.” There were times his dad wouldn’t let me see him even though it was my weekend. Oh, and before you ask, the police and court were of no assistance at all! I found myself crying every day, asking myself how and why did I let this happen? What went wrong? This was supposed to be a FOOL-PROOF PLAN!!! Shouldn’t they (the dads) be happy now that they have their children and didn’t have to pay child support? I didn’t call their houses before 9 am nor after 9 pm. I didn’t show up unannounced. I was very respectful to the women in their lives. I’ve never slashed a tire, keyed a car or busted out a window! So, what gives?
I didn’t get it…at first…
Truthfully, I was still portraying “bitter single mother traits” as defined by society. I still held a sense of entitlement simply because I was the mom. I commanded respect albeit not in the most respectful manner. That caused them to fight back. They took their newfound roles as the custodial parent and ran with it. Deciding to “pay me back” for whatever they thought I’d did to them. We were in a constant tug-of-war of who was the better parent. It was by far the stupidest thing we could have ever engaged in. No one was winning. We all were suffering, especially our children.
I became so frustrated, I stopped calling. I stopped asking for my weekend. I, for sure, wasn’t sending any money anymore (wasn’t like I had much to send anyway), nor was I paying child support. I had given the entire situation a big ole middle finger! I was DONE! I couldn’t care less about seeing my children. It was too painful. So, I backed off. I went on about my life. I was unhappy. I was depressed. I was a failure. But, I finally understood the plight of a lot of men today. I felt sick to my stomach. I had to eat a lot of words I’d said about “deadbeat dads” because I was now one, except, I was the mom. And you best believe my “baby mamas” didn’t waste any time downing me to my sons. To hear the words come from my children’s mouths were like shards of glass being shot at me through a canon. I would sit and listen while holding back the tears and curse words. I accepted who I was. I didn’t like it, but I had to live with it. I told my boys one day they would understand. Although, I wasn’t too sure about that.
One day, I decided to move away. I left and didn’t look back. I didn’t care about a custody order. I needed to get as far away as I could so that I could regroup. I stayed gone away from my children for three long years. I saw them a few times during this period, but I had no intentions of living near them again. I had finally found peace and happiness. The arguments lessened because my calls stayed at a minimum. I stopped arguing back so they had no fuel for their fires. When I felt like calling my kids, I did. Most times, the thought didn’t even cross my mind. Sounds horrible to hear myself say that, but it’s the truth. I had finally found the freedom I sought in the beginning and I wasn’t giving that up for anyone. The boys seemed to be okay with not seeing me on a regular so who was I to make an issue when there wasn’t one. Life was moving along perfectly…or so I thought.
One day, my youngest son’s father (the one who gave me the most hell) called and said my baby was asking for me a lot. That his attitude was getting worse. That he needed to have me more involved in his life. Initially, I thought this was some type of set up because that’s the kind of person he was. There was ALWAYS a catch with him! Sometime later, my oldest son’s father said something similar. Now, I believed him. I talked to my kids individually to get their viewpoint and collectively they all agreed that having me back in California would be awesome.
So, here I was again facing a difficult decision. I was also given a new chance at being a better mom. I began to text or call my boys every morning before they went to school and every night before bed. I created group chats for us, tried to do 3-way calls as often as I could round them all up together and began to work on having healthy conversations with their fathers. Slowly, but surely my stress levels surrounding my children were diminishing and things were beginning to look upon the co-parenting front.
By the time I moved back to Cali, September 2017, we all seemed to be on the same page—wanting our children to enjoy spending time with both of their parents. Fast forward to today, things are still going well for the most part, but as with anything, there’s always room for growth.
I am happy, though. Probably the happiest I’ve been in my life. I can see my children when I want, I am paying my child support on time, I have an amazing relationship with all three of my boys, and their fathers and I are civilized with each other. I am a better mom now. I don’t make excuses for what I can’t do. If I can’t, I can’t. I don’t allow anyone to make me feel bad for it either. I speak calmly when dealing with my co-parents. I am open and honest with my children about my time and finances. I show up whenever I am available. I am doing the best I can with what I have. I no longer have the energy to prove who I am as a mother. I just am. I work on myself daily because that’s what I desire to do. I see a difference in my children and their attitudes. They are happy. And that’s all that matters to me.
Please know I am in no way excusing the behavior of deadbeat/unfit parents. I am simply sharing my story in hopes you all will have a better understanding and insight to the pain the non-custodial parent feels at times and how that pain can cause them to walk away. I am a firm believer that walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is necessary sometimes in order for understanding and growth to appear.
As painful as the past 10 years has been, I am truly thankful for becoming a “deadbeat baby daddy.” It is by far the greatest lesson I’ve had to endure.
And now I am able to stand as the best co-parent and mother I can be.
Tanisha “Tee Renee” Gladney is a self-proclaimed “reformed” single mother of four beautiful children; three boys, Anthony 17, Darion 12, Jaiden 9, and Crystal, who died when she was 4 ½ months old July 7, 2003. Having gone through almost every possible “baby mama/baby daddy” situation, Tee Renee decided that something must be done, not only in her life but the lives of others, to rectify the stigma of single parenthood and co-parenting. Knowing that the work needed to start with her, she embarked on a crusade to heal herself first and then work on mending the relationships with her children’s fathers.