No diploma, no job, 3 kids

Family Man in the Washington Post tells the story of a young father who wants to do the right thing by his 18-month-old son and his girlfriend’s two daughters by two other fathers. But 20-year-old Bobby Krotendorfer, a high school drop-out fired from his last job for skipping work and mouthing off, lacks maturity. His 22-year-old girlfriend’s bipolar but they’d rather spend their money on eating out than paying for her meds. Instead of getting his rotten teeth fixed, Bobby wants to buy an expensive gym for his little boy.

Bobby Krotendorfer plods through the garage and into the kitchen of the small, blue-gray Colonial in Southern Maryland. He drops a Snoopy diaper bag onto the kitchen table next to the GED prep book and a box of Hostess Twinkies. A lanky 20-year-old wearing baggy sweat pants, Bobby has just taken his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter, Faith, to school, then listened to his girlfriend fuss at him over the cellphone on his way back home. Seems she’s always yelling at him about something since she took a part-time waitressing job at the Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, leaving him to watch the children.

“I’ve had it,” Bobby says. Exhaustion pulls at his pale, angular face, and his day has just started. There are baby clothes to fold, floors to mop and three kids to put down for naps: 18-month-old Robert, called “Junior,” his biological child with his girlfriend; 3-year-old Hope, whom his girlfriend had with another man; and Savannah, the toddler daughter of a couple whom he agreed to watch.

By the end of the story, Bobby’s got an $8-an-hour job at a car wash. He and his girlfriend plan to get married next year. They’ll continue to live with her father — until she gets bored and moves on to another guy or Bobby gets tired of her mood swings.

The economy makes it worse for unskilled young men trying to support a family. But Bobby’s bad decisions — goofing off in school, quitting at 16, trusting a girl with two kids to stay on the pill — have dug him in a deep hole. He’s not ready to be a family man.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Tracy W says:

    This reminds me of several family members’ stories. Except that many of them had, or have, degrees.

  2. hardlyb says:

    The stereotype of the Republican view of this is to spend more time ranting at this loser while he’s a kid, and then ignore him once he doesn’t abstain and get a job. The stereotypical Democratic response is to coddle the loser so that he stayed in school until graduation (knowing no more than he does now, but with a diploma and higher self-esteem), and then make sure that he has a social worker and welfare helping him when he fails.

    I don’t see either of these approaches (or the more nuanced versions that are actually proposed) as doing much good, although I don’t know what would help. But I’m positive that just giving people anything once they’ve gotten in such a deep hole only lets them keep digging – I’ve seen that in my own family with people that have a lot more going for them.

    And unless we get better treatments for bipolar disorders, the same story will be playing out in a generation with at least one of those kids…

  3. Good strawman arguments. Took a lot of deep thought and really lends a lot to the discussion.

  4. The adjustment to parenthood is extremely stressful on a relationship. I’m very glad that my DH and I waited several years after we were married to have a baby. We went through an extremely rocky patch after our oldest was born and had our relationship been less secure we very well might’ve split up. And we were both college graduates in our mid-20’s with a steady income and good family support. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for families like Krotendorfer’s.

  5. greifer says:

    –The economy makes it worse for unskilled young men trying to support a family.

    Yeah, it’s the economy’s fault! we should have an economy that makes it easier for unskilled young men to go without a high school degree, knock up their girlfriend repeatedly while refusing to marry her, and live at home!

    Seriously, some things can’t be fixed. An acting like a better education (or a better economy) would fix this seems to be suggesting that giving the homeless homes would fix homelessness.

  6. Bill Leonard says:

    “Seriously, some things can’t be fixed. An acting like a better education (or a better economy) would fix this seems to be suggesting that giving the homeless homes would fix homelessness.”

    Exactly.

    The sad truth is, education and making sensible choices as often as possible in one’s lie do not guarantee success or wealth. But little to no education and continually making bad — and often, frankly stupid — choices will pretty much guarantee continued poverty.

  7. Bill Leonard says:

    Ahem, I meant to type ‘in one’s life’, although it may be true that one’s life also is a lie. Many such lies, er, lives, are to be found in the halls of Congress.

  8. FuzzyRider says:

    There comes a point where people should be cut loose- an alcoholic will not quit if constantly provided with booze! Productive people are forced to give up the bread they have earned by the sweat of their own brow to support such leeches, which to my libertarian mind is the highest form of immorality!

    People can make whatever choices they like- as long as they are willing to enjoy or endure the consequences. This is the essence of liberty!

    If a person chooses to help those who have made bad choices, or experience bad outcomes due to circumstances beyond their control, this is charity, and one of the most noble human endeavors.

    If a person-or government- chooses to coerce an innocent person to help those who have made bad choices, this is extortion, and one of the most vile of crimes.

    There is a difference between “give ’til it hurts” and “give or I’ll hurt you”

  9. If a person-or government- chooses to coerce an innocent person to help those who have made bad choices, this is extortion, and one of the most vile of crimes.

    There is a difference between “give ’til it hurts” and “give or I’ll hurt you”

    Nice extreme libertarian argument. It’s evil, as extreme self-centeredness always is. Go live in a cave somewhere. The world will be better off.

  10. Griefer Yeah, it’s the economy’s fault! we should have an economy that makes it easier for unskilled young men to go without a high school degree, knock up their girlfriend repeatedly while refusing to marry her, and live at home!

    I don’t see how the performance of an economy has any effect on being willing to marry someone or not. I suppose a really terrible economy could make it impossible to marry because you can’t afford the license, but that’s about it.

    But in this case, here’s a guy who made some really stupid decisions as a teenager, but apparently now is trying to do at least part of the right thing and be an actual dad to his kids. Why shouldn’t we want to live in an economy that supports people when they do start trying to get their act together? Do you really want to live in a world where decisions as a teenager condemns people for the rest of their lives? I can understand the moral argument against providing government support for people who make stupid decisions, but for heaven’s sake, I thought the upside of that argument was that once people started taking responsibility for themselves and their children (and any other results of earlier bad decisions), they could gain some self-respect from doing their duties as a parent.

    It may not be the economy’s fault that he made bad decisions, but it’s not necessary to be at fault to also be useful in fixing it – doctors can set broken legs even if they didn’t cause the leg to break in the first place.

    Seriously, some things can’t be fixed. An acting like a better education (or a better economy) would fix this seems to be suggesting that giving the homeless homes would fix homelessness.

    So having a regular job where presumably you provide services worth more to someone than your pay is the equivalent of just giving someone a home? How does that work? I mean, say I give a homeless person a home. All that is is consumption, the homeless person may feel better (or they may drink it away). But if someone takes on a genuine job, they’re not just getting money for free, they’re generating wealth (as are people who start their own businesses of course). That’s how come OECD countries are so much richer than in the 19th century, because those of us with the luck to live in them are more productive, not because someone came up with a really bright idea to redistribute incomes.

    And you also appear to be setting a really high goal here, of fixing this. But if someone is better off, even if they’re not fixed, I think that’s valuable. I have dyspraxia, it’s not fixable, but I’m still grateful for the years of speech therapy that mean I can pronounce common English words, it makes my life a lot easier. And getting a job probably won’t fix Bobby’s life, but it should make it better.

  11. Margo/Mom says:

    It seems that sometimes there is an unhealthy generalization of a “tough love” mentality that serves as an excuse for self-centeredness. I am personally hooked on the “Intervention” series. One of the repeated mantras for families is: “we won’t do anything more to support your disease. We will do anything that we can to support your getting healthy.” I think that this second part gets overlooked way too often. Ensuring access to jobs, or even education, for those trying to overcome earlier screw-ups is part of the second part. In the end, this is supportive not only to the poor schmoe who is only late in life finding some limited yearning towards taking one responsibility, but also of those children who are motivating it.

  12. It seems to me that this poor kid was a victim of some really poor parenting. Who let him skate through school without learning? Who gave him the idea that it was OK not to show up for work or mouth off at the boss? Who gave him the idea that having a family came before having a wedding (or at least a conscious commitment)?

    In short, how is it that he got to be an adult without ever growing up?

    It’s not the economy’s fault that he’s not a mature adult.

    What can be done about it? In a practical sense, I don’t think anything can be done. He will eventually grow up, but it will happen too late for his kids. In the meantime, I suppose there are ways to support the family materially, but the real damage is already done. You can’t retroactively give those kids the security of a two-parent, all-grownup family. Instead, they will likely grow up into childish 20-year-olds who repeat the cycle.

  13. Let me make it clear: Bobby is the father only of his girlfriend’s son; her two daughters were fathered by two different men, one of whom pays child support and sees the girl on weekends. The girlfriend stopped using birth control pills without telling Bobby. He considers her daughters as part of the family and wants to raise them as his own, but . . .

  14. The article said that Bobby was aware his girlfriend went off the Pill and that the couple were using condoms (albeit inconsistently).