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Divorce Diaries: What Happens to the Kids?

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Joy Divorced Luck Club on sharing kids, control with an angry ex.

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"The Custodial Plan. What a formal and almost benign phrase for "how to turn your children's world upside down." In my case, my ex didn't even bother to discuss this situation amicably. Instead, two weeks after he left, I was served with papers early in the morning, at my home in front of my children, that stated I was being sued for 50% custody.

At first, I was in denial. These are OUR children, for God's sake. He was there in the delivery room when each of them entered the world. We bathed and dressed them together. We changed their diapers together. Went grocery shopping as a family on weekends-- sat vigil in the hospital when our son needed surgery and when our daughter was in respiratory distress from bacterial pneumonia. Raced from work and attended every preschool tour as a couple. We were a united front in the care and welfare and the raising of our children since the day each of them was born. And now, he was using a legal hammer to crush that dynamic.

Although my heart was screaming for full custody of my kids, it wasn't a realistic option during this legal process to insist on a greater custodial share. Unless my ex was a drug dealer, child abuser, or a dead beat dad, the courts would protect his desired share requirements. Even if I could insist on a 60/40 or 70/30 time split in my favor, my income was too close to his to be able to sue for child support. This would translate into figuring out how to manage the additional expenses on my own. And with the demands of a full time sales job, the children would end up having more face-time with a nanny or sitter (that I couldn't afford) than with their father. And so we paid lawyers dearly to ink an arrangement that adds to the never-ending anxiety that I am unable to shake.

The children spend Mondays through Wednesdays with one parent, Wednesday evening through Saturday morning with the other parent, with weekends alternating between parents. Essentially, the children are being shuttled back and forth every two to three days.

The schedule is tough. I can't help but wonder if this is causing unnecessary stress on these little minds and bodies. And to compensate, they get away with a bit more than they used to. I let them sleep in bed with me. I end up buying a few more toys or goodies than I really should.

I know that the boundaries and structure is what will help them feel secure. But how do I shake the overwhelming guilt? Friends with one school of thought say that a 2-year-old and 4-year-old will get used to this situation and are very resilient at this age. But I can't help but notice the extra "acting out" that has been happening these last few months, and spending the first day of each chunk of time with my kids trying to undo behavior that didn't get the Mommy seal of approval the last time it was displayed.

It's a struggle knowing that I have a limited amount of control over what happens with their father, and if he is maintaining boundaries and structure as well. We are forced to talk about topics that require communication (i.e. if the kids are sick), but since I'm involved in a bitter battle over money with my ex, I'm lucky if I can get a few one syllable words and grunts from this individual. No stories about new milestones that I'm missing or life's lessons that the children are learning, no tales of how these beautiful little people are growing or changing when I'm not with them. He has no interest in sharing any of it.

And of course, when you no longer have a say regarding your ex-partner's personal life, you realize you have limited control over who comes in contact with your children. And it's a harsh reality to know that your ex may have a new girlfriend, someone that you pray will be a positive and loving influence. I have yet to meet a divorced couple that have been able to share a story about this truly happening.

Well, the law says he's got to contribute to medical expenses. He better choose wisely. Or I'll make sure he foots the bill for the therapy costs of my kids having to deal with a mean, jealous b*tch."

TOMORROW: A family therapist weighs in on Joy Divorced Luck Club's custodial agreement.


next: Celebrity Confession: My Teen Has Sex!
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kasi January 28, 2008, 3:47 PM

I am a “step-mom” to a beautiful 8 year old girl and have been for four years…no doubt this situation is exhausting and too many fights have been fought between us and the ex wife about bedtime, healthy meals, etc…but my husband and I just had to accept the fact that we love her and so does her mother, we can’t control what goes on at her house and unless there is abuse taking place we just have let it go. There’s no use in being angry over every little thing that doesn’t go just the way we want. I know it’s hard but pick your battles and try to be ammicable ‘cause I wish we had been!

DJ January 28, 2008, 6:14 PM

I have to say that I am shocked by your selfishness. I have no doubt that you possess strong feelings of anger or resentment toward you ex but remember that your children also have strong feelings for him - only their feelings are that of love. Being a child of divorced parents, I grew up with a similiar custodial situation. I imagine it was hard on my mother but it was wonderful for my brother and me. We got to spend real, quality time with both parents and never felt that one of them was slipping away. Till this day, I am so grateful that my parents were willing to sacrifice and put up with a miserable schedule and at times, each other, in order to allow us to maintain close, meaningful relationships with both of our parents.

Instead of being so negative about your ex(and trust me, your attitude is noticed by your children)or calling his not yet existant girlfriend names, maybe you can put aside the feelings of hate and anger and make the best of the situation knowing that it will make your kids happy. In 20 years, they won’t remember an inconvienant schedule but they will remember the unending love and devotion of parents who worked together to give their children the best life possible.

kdp January 29, 2008, 9:34 AM

Mothers have to realize that children have TWO parents… and that mothers are not the ONLY caregivers to their children. You should be so lucky that your husband wants to spend time with his children. Think of all the deadbeat dads out there. Yes, the schedule is a pain. But, like you, he loves his children, wants to be an involved in all aspects of their lives. To deny him of that is interfering with his relationship with his children for your selfish needs. Just because your bitter towards him, doesn’t mean your children have to suffer. Grow up and act like an adult and put your children first.

PL January 29, 2008, 9:29 PM

Funny how its easy for us to criticize and call someone selfish when you’re not standing in the author’s shoes. But note the fact that she is involved in a “bitter battle over money” with her ex. Also note that her ex caught her off guard by aggressively serving her with papers to sue for 50% custody, instead of resolving the custody issue amicably. Something smells a little fishy here. Is the ex really concerned about the kids? Or is this more of a pressure tactic in the money battle? I really hope that the dad will still want to hang around for these kids if he loses the money battle. I guess only time will tell.

Melanie February 6, 2008, 10:51 AM

I don’t think this woman is acting/typing selfishly at all. I am not sure where those comments are coming from. Maybe some hurt in the author’s past.

I think this woman is doing a tremendous job in a tremendously difficult situation. She is simply reflecting on that & all the new obstacles in her path. She is also learning a new role in a new family situation & trying to make the best of it for herself, and most importantly for her kids. The husband is the one that sounds like a selfish #$%Hole.

Melanie February 6, 2008, 11:10 AM

I don’t think this woman is acting/typing selfishly at all. I am not sure where those comments are coming from. Maybe some hurt in the author’s past.

I think this woman is doing a tremendous job in a tremendously difficult situation. She is simply reflecting on that & all the new obstacles in her path. She is also learning a new role in a new family situation & trying to make the best of it for herself, and most importantly for her kids. The husband is the one that sounds like a selfish #$%Hole.


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