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