So much of being a single mom is about having control, planning, knowing what is for dinner days in advance, having the white board calendar filled out perfectly so i can at least pretend the kids will use it to know what’s going on.
When we got divorced, we decided we would share joint physical and legal custody. My ex traveled A LOT for work and truly was not in a position to share more of the physical time. It’s now been a year since he was traveling and also a year since he has really paid any child support (i think with the exception of one month). Trying to take care of my kids, my house, maintain a job, make it to appointments, shit, even SHOWER strategically, has gotten pretty stressful! Today…a car maintenance appointment at 7 am, otherwise, it wouldnt’ have gotten done. So i showered at 5:50 am, dressed, snuck out of the house to get the car in. I got back and everyone was in their pj’s and acting like there was no school today. What is that, anyway?! It’s as if they have never gone to school and as if we didn’t talk about it last night when we laid clothes out.
Anyway, the ex is over $10,000 behind in child support and well, nothing is happening. The enforcement is a joke. Now, after months of struggling, I emailed him. I always include my mom and his mom as well because I want the message to come through as it is, not as it is interpreted. I offered 50/50 physical custody, Friday to Friday. We currently share joint legal and physical custody and since he traveled before and it was not possible, I didn’t go for that before. Now though, it’s been months of no support and I simply cannot maintain like this. I sent it with complete hesitation and then waited.
I didn’t get the best feedback from some people. They thought I was bailing him out. They thought he should deal with the consequences of not paying. What they don’t know is that the consequences are still something he will have to deal with. He could still face certain consequences, however, it just won’t continue to add up beyond the current $10,000. To me, bailing him out is not holding him accountable. I want them to see him, to have a relationship with him. He wasn’t good for me, but I do not want to be, and I cannot be, the one who will keep them from him. He doesn’t do things the way I would, but isn’t parenting one of those things that most couples struggle to agree on how to do some things anyway? How is this any different? I WANT my kids to know their dad. I want them to know they can love me, him, both our families, their siblings and whoever else they feel love for. I will never interfere with that.
So how do we get through the ugliness of separation, divorce or just not being together, yet still be their parents with the best interests of the kids in mind? My point of view is we don’t get to do things as if we weren’t together (for the most part). Would you trust your ex partner to take care of the kids if something happened and you had to go away? Probably, right? Would it be perfect? No. Would they be okay? Most likely, yes. I know there are exceptions, but I strongly believe USUALLY the other parent should have fair access to the kids. That being said, when we got divorced, their dad traveled A LOT for work. For that reason we set parenting time based on that, as he simply could not be in town more. That made sense at the time. Things have not always been how I would like, but they have gotten better. He is more consistent, quite reliable and still probably a great dad for the kids. I have never doubted he loved them. I do believe lawyers put a lot of things into play that create dissonance and discord. We don’t have to fall to that though. At the time, it made sense to do an every other Friday- Monday, plus one extra night type of schedule. Unfortunately, child support has not been paid and I am struggling, like for real.
To try to fix this problem, i wrote an email. I don’t want my kids’ dad to be in jail or to lose his license because that would take him from them as well as his chance to earn money. what good is he then? For that reason, I proposed a 50/50 time arrangement, instead of every other weekend and an additional night. I sent it thinking he would not even agree. The next morning, i got an email from his mother, saying he was considering it and it seemed fair.
Here’s the deal. I’m not perfect. He’s not perfect. We are FAR from good together, but none of that takes from them loving him and him loving them, or me loving them and them loving me. We are different and both capable of providing for them. It makes me sad to think I would not see them for a week, but I feel good knowing they love him and he loves them. I feel good that they will have time with both of us as parents and i know they will adjust. Hopefully he will agree to this. My goal is to really be decent co-parents for them. I know this may take some time, but in the end, that is what I hope for. I hope we can feel happiness for each other’s successes, support each other (from afar) through tough times and schedule changes, and most importantly, be there for our children.
Co-parenting is not easy and may be one of the more difficult things parents are asked to do. Even while married or in a relationship, co-parenting is necessary. You have to learn to compromise, decide what is worth fighting over, determine how you will support one another and how you will work as a team. Transitioning to co-parenting while apart is challenging, but in the end, I hope that we can put ourselves aside and really figure this out for the benefit of the kids. to do this, we have to let go of the control we may feel we want/need and just TRUST. LET GO. My hope is that we can choose to figure out how to best co-parent the children we were given to raise and care for.
**Update: The ex wanted to do 50/50 but only if we switched weekends. What that meant for me was that me and all of the kids would have never been together, because my daughter currently goes with her dad the same weekend as the other kids go. That means planning for events for my kids and extended family would have been impossible. It meant I couldn’t have worked extra to earn more money. So I said no, take the offer as it was or leave it as is. He never responded, so I’m still the primary caregiver.