Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In Which I Have a Nervous Breakdown

In case you haven't figured me out by now, I write when I am in turmoil. I would love to be able to write everytime I feel happy or excited, but the truth is that when I feel that way, I don't *need* to write the way I do when I am in a crisis. It's a shame that those who don't know me only see this side of me, because I promise I am a pleasant, fun-loving person. But this blog is my way of working through my problems. After my post about child support, I was able to organize my thoughts into a rational, calm email to my ex husband to let him know what was about to happen. Had I not written through it, I would have continued to argue with my ex in a fog of feelings and confusion and this whole thing would have been more damaging than it has already been.

We called a lawyer after I wrote my other post and set up a consultation. I truly had the intention of only going to her, finding out what was fair and why the state has set up child support the way they have: what they factor in, what they don't, why he has to pay. As I said before, my ex believes that he and I share our kids 50/50 because he takes them one extra night per week than the standard arrangement. I truly want to believe that he just doesn't understand the system, because it honestly confused me as well, enough to accept so little child support to begin with. If he's taking them on Wed and Thu nights, and every other weekend, then he should have to pay less, right? Because they're not with me?

I sat down with the lawyer yesterday and explained all of these things to her. I know my ex doesn't believe me, but with my husband as my witness, I explained to my lawyer in detail all that he does above and beyond standard custody. He takes them overnight instead of for a few hours on Wed, and then he takes them overnight again on Thursday. When it's his weekend, they stay overnight Sundays as well. He pays their health insurance. I take all three as a tax deduction. Surely he gets a break in there, right? I WANTED to hear that I was wrong, because I don't want a fight.

The lawyer looked at me, and god bless her, I could tell she wanted to choke me. As do most people when they hear what I take. She asked, "Do you honestly believe that you are raising three kids on less than $4000 a year? Or, with your "half" added in, $8000 a year? Even if he pays you standard....that's $12K a year....can you provide food, shelter, clothing, activities, medical care, and basic needs for your three children for $24,000 a year???"

I continued to defend him. "But he buys them clothes sometimes, and pays for my son's haircuts sometimes..." to which she interrupted "HE IS SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. Above and beyond what he pays you. He has to care for them WHILE THEY ARE IN HIS CARE, and provide financial support to you because you provide their main household-a house big enough for all three, a car; you drive them everywhere, you take them to doctors appointments, you provide electricity and utilities and everything they need, IN THEIR MAIN HOUSEHOLD."

She used the calculator to come up with the state mandated amount, and deducted for his extra time (which, because he doesn't take them all summer, doesn't even really count)...and it was still more than triple what he pays me now. In fact, he pays less than half of the state mandated amount for ONE child, for his current salary.

Listening to her, I knew I had to do something. She wanted me to move forward immediately, because otherwise, he will become accustomed to his new $20K+ a year lifestyle and it would be even more of a fight. Even though I had agreed with my ex to just talk to the lawyer, and then discuss things with him, I knew he would never agree to a) increase child support on his own and b) give me anywhere close to what is fair. I did ask her to hold off on sending him anything until I could email him myself and let him know.

I've thought and thought and thought about why I am so upset to be "doing this" to my ex. After all, he had absolutely no problems spending my money, sleeping with other women WHILE I was pregnant, and to this day is cold to me in front of the kids. He thinks I am this money-hungry bitch who just cares about getting his paycheck and not about how much time he spends with his kids. As my lawyer said "I just don't think he understands what child support is set up for". He wants to have joint custody, and have the kids 50% of the time, but have me be free daycare for him. If we truly had joint custody, he would have to arrange to have the kids picked up from school and watched while he was at work. He'd have them half the summers, all day long while he worked, or be paying for camps or daycare (the way I do now). And he'd be paying probably double than what I am asking for in child support. I don't know why he can't make that connection. I want him to so badly, because I don't want him to think of me as a money-hungry bitch who is after his paycheck.

And then again...why do I care what he thinks?? When I sent him the emails, he immediately shot back a nasty response. Then the texts "Who are you??????" and then more guilt, and then threats of taking the kids away and fighting me for custody. I knew they were coming, and I knew that he would know exactly what to say to make me feel like scum, yet it still made me want to curl up in a ball and hide. He called me a bitch publicly on his facebook page, for all of our mutual friends to see, and one by one his friends began their arsenal of even worse names. All this because I stood up for myself and didn't allow him the chance to continue to manipulate me...I was called the C word: By a woman...another single mother.

He is like a child who has been told no and hasn't learned to blame himself for his own problems yet. I know this, because he reminds me of one child in particular: our 13 year old son.

Maybe this is the key to why I am having such mixed emotions. My son spent months in therapy learning that if he doesn't do his homework, it's actually NOT his teachers' faults for giving too much. Before therapy, if my son didn't get his way, he would begin a verbal arsenal against me, usually declaring me the worst mother ever, that he didn't love me, and that he wished he could live with his father. He knew the arrows he could aim at my heart that would do the most damage, and if pushed he would use them. My son doesn't do this anymore. I learned how to handle him. He didn't like it, but we're good now, and he can now claim to have a higher maturity level than his 36 year old father.

I now feel like I am at war with my ex husband, which is exactly what I was attempting to avoid when we first divorced. I wish that I had hired a lawyer back then to explain all of these things to me and to give me the backbone that I didn't have on my own. Had I used a lawyer, maybe he'd be mad at the state right now for mandating such a "high" amount rather than at me for actually enforcing it. This was just the first battle, I expect it to get worse as he still doesn't know how much I plan to ask for, just that I've decided to use a lawyer and all communication about this issue from here on out will be done through her. When he hears the number, he's going to lose it.

Rest assured, I have not responded to one of his threatening texts or emails, just one email to refer him to my lawyer and to ask the communication over the subject to cease. I haven't called him names on my facebook page. I won't stoop to his level.

I see my ex as a whole person. Maybe that is my fault. It's not so black and white for me. He was raised with no father around. He was raised by a financially irresponsible mother who taught him nothing but spend spend spend, and that money was for fun and not to be wasted on boring things like bills. He was put in the middle of his own parents' fights over child support when his mother would send him to his dad's and insist he ask for the money owed her. I understand his feelings, sometimes I wish I didn't. Maybe this is a lesson he has to learn, I hope that he will wake up and this will make him a better person. I'm doubtful, but I hope.

Maybe I don't want to admit to myself that I was married to such a person for all those years. Maybe I don't want him to be a bad person because he IS raising my children some of the time. I worry for them...I can see that if my son had continued on the path he was on, he'd be my ex in 20 years. Alone, miserable, blaming the world for his problems, manipulating others into getting his way. That's a really scary thought. I love my children so fucking much. I don't want this for them. I feel like an idiot for choosing someone like this...the type of person who would allow others to call me a C word publicly...to be the father of my children.

Either way, he makes it easier for me to go after what I deserve. Yes, I can support my three kids financially, on my own, without his help, and without my husband's help too. I did it for 2 years and I am proud of that. But I'm not a martyr.

Just because I can do it doesn't mean I should.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I got this comment on my last blog post and thought it deserved it's own post:
I agree with what Tracey said. It is right for you to be standing up for yourself and getting what you and your children deserve.
I'm commenting anonymously today. You don't know me in real life, but I follow and comment on Jenny and Tracey's blogs/twitter, etc.
I'm in a marriage that... isn't great. Isn't even good, really. There's is no abuse or infidelity (that I know about I guess), but my husband has lost interest and 'checked out' a couple of years ago. We went to counselling, and while he said all the right things when we were there, there was no carry-over. I think he stays because it's easy - I only work part time so I do EVERYTHING around the house. He only needs to focus on his work and his 'fun stuff' (that never includes me). I stay because as the person who's done everything for my 6-year old daughter, I can't imagine not seeing her 50% of the time. It makes me physically ill to even think about it. My husband's brother just divorced and settled for seeing the kids less than 50% of the time and my husband thought that was awful and unfair. So I know he wouldn't be happy with less than 50% of our daughter's time. And he's a good dad, but has a history of being way too critical of people and having such high (impossible to meet) expectations of people that it has ruined many of his close relationships. There are many times that I'm a buffer between him and our daughter when he's going overboard with expectations for her.
So I'm scared to (a) leave her without that buffer 50% of the time, and (b) be without her 50% of the time. And I know that she wouldn't want to be without me 50% of the time.

Good lord, I had no intention of being this wordy. Essentially my question is - I can tell you LOVE your kids like crazy. How did you manage in those early days/weeks/months to let them go? Did they miss you? Do you feel comfortable with them in ex's care?

Again, sorry for all this. I really admire how you've handled yourself through your divorce, and am so happy that you're getting your 'happily ever after'.

I'm going to be totally honest: I was so exhausted with single-mommying a 9 year old, a 5 year old, and a 22 month old who was screaming for her dad until 3 am every night, that I wasn't at first so worried about sharing them with him. It was sort of like when you have a newborn and you are so exhausted that you would do anything for sleep. I was so desperate for help that I was more than happy to let them go on Wednesday nights-I was just in survival mode.

It was only after I started to get my head above water that I started to panic a little bit about them being under his influence. I am constantly compared to Dad. "Dad lets us eat junk food. Dad lets us stay up late. Dad doesn't make us eat healthy. Dad lets us buy lunch at school". My son had some issues early this year where I could see him beginning to mimic his father's attitude of everything being everyone else's fault. Didn't finish his homework? It's because his sisters had the tv on too loud! Late for school? It's the alarm's fault or my fault for refusing to drive him! It was so bad that we had to go to therapy for it, and thanks to that and hopefully the example that my husband and I set for him, he's turned that attitude around completely and beginning to understand choices and responsibility.

So while I do have constant worries about my ex's poor attitude and choices rubbing off on the kids, I don't have to worry about them otherwise in his care, because he really does love them and tries to be a good father. I came to enjoy having built-in quiet nights every week, and while I do miss them, they're back home before it gets too bad. (I also have a unique situation where I work from home, so I'm here the minute they get home from school, and take 2 out of 3 of them to school every single morning.)

When I worry about his influence on them, I feel strongly that it's something I just have to let go of. I had to weigh the pros and cons when I decided to leave him, and when I thought about my two daughters growing up and being stuck in a marriage like I was in, it made me more sad than thinking of sharing time with him. I wanted them (and my son) to see, by my example, that it is not ok to let someone treat you like crap. I wanted them to see that we DO have a choice--we can leave a bad situation and be independent and not only survive, but thrive without anyone's help. And while that would have been good enough for me, my kids ended up getting the bonus of a strong husband, father, and relationship role when I met Mr. Wonderful. Everyday that they see us together, that he takes an interest in them being raised with high morals and standards, that he shows them by example that you don't lie to get out of trouble, that we get through conflict and still love each other afterwards...they are building an example in their subconscious of what to look for as grown-ups, and hopefully they can end up in the same type of relationships.

My own mom stayed with my dad for 30 years, unhappy and lonely and miserable, because she didn't want to disrupt our lives. While I respect her for that and can appreciate where she was coming from, what ended up happening was that I was perfectly fine with the same for myself because it was all I knew. Everyday was "I just need to get through until the kids are grown" "This was the choice I made and now, for them, I have to stay". In a way, when he cheated, it gave me a little bit of an out to leave; and I HOPE broke the cycle for the kids.

I am by no means encouraging anyone to divorce. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life and is one of those decisions that, of course, requires a lot of time and soul searching and research and meditation to say the least. But I always think the best question that helped me in all decisions was, what would I want my own daughter to do? Because we love them more than we love ourselves.

I hope that helped, and good luck to you !!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not This Time

Yesterday was a horrible day. We all have them, right? I've had a string of excellent days lately, so I guess I was due.

My ex husband has been bragging to everyone, including our kids and my own family, about this great new job he just got and how much more money he will be making. My ex made a pretty average living (low average, but average) before, but has always been truly awful with finances. It was a major source of tension in our marriage as he would never think twice about squandering our entire savings account on ridiculous purchases.

My ex is also a master manipulator. And for some reason, even though I know this, he can get to me every. single. time. When we drew up our divorce decree, he sat at my desk and cried, telling me he just didn't have the money to pay me child support. "You make more money than me! Why do I have to pay?" See this was how our marriage worked. I paid for everything important like the kids and school tuition and our mortgage, he paid for his own car and then anything else he wanted. I was a walking doormat through that entire 11 years. He wanted to continue that pattern in our divorce.

He convinced me with "I spend more time with the kids than most dads! I don't make enough! Dads get screwed! I'll pay for their clothes and haircuts when it comes up! Just don't take it out of my paycheck!"

So I agreed on a ridiculously tiny amount. Truly, I'm too embarrassed to actually write down how little my ex husband contributes to his three children's expenses on a monthly basis, because it barely covers the bread they use for sandwiches.

I felt like I couldn't win. I felt taken hostage. I knew I could survive on my own without his money, hell I'd probably be better off now because at least I wasn't covering his ridiculous expenditures. But I felt like if I asked him for more, he'd hate me, and I was terrified to send my children into the company of someone who hated me two nights a week and every other weekend.

So I dealt with it. I pretend the money isn't even there, and it collects on my state-issued debit card that the money is deposited to every couple of weeks. I think of it as a safety net if anything big ever came up, but that is all.

So when he began bragging to everyone about the new job with the big pay increase, I kept waiting (WHY?) for him to bring up the child support. Finally, an email, saying he would like to help out more financially with the kids. He'd like to start paying for things like soccer fees and haircuts. Wow....could we be moving forward?

I emailed him back and asked how much increase in child support he thought was fair? He was truly taken aback by my question: increased child support??? No no no, he said. He was just talking about contributing to expenses when they came up.


So I wrote him back and said, do you have ANY IDEA how often expenses come up? Every. single. mother-loving. day. School supplies. Haircuts. Orchestra instruments. Co-pays. Medication. Contact lenses. Uniforms. Shoes. My life is a constant series of "Mommy I need..."

Not to mention the fact that despite the fact that I work full time from home, I take all three kids to school, I help with homework everyday, I shuttle to various activities, camps, sports, rehearsals, doctors appointments...I am their after school care, and for my youngest, I am daycare. During the summer for three months, the three of them are at my house being sheltered and fed by me, every single day.

He asks for a list of expenses which I am none to happy to provide for him. He actually picks apart my list, one by one, and tells me what he will and will not help with.

To my expense of "food"- (I didn't even include the electricity, gas money, entertainment) to which I broke down only the portion that I spend above and beyond my half, he meets with "Come on, I'm not gonna be paying your grocery and bills for you, D."

At which point my head almost explodes and I ask myself a) WHY is it fair that he gets to pick and choose which financial needs of our children he will be responsible for...I don't get a choice! and b) WHY am I trying to reason with an unreasonable person?????

His mantra of "But I'm not a deadbeat dad! I spend more time with my kids than other divorced dads!" (he does, but I still have them 80% of the time) is his excuse. Well guess what, I spend all sorts of quality time with my kids too, where's my free pass to stop paying for their food, shelter, clothes, and so on and so on and infinitely so on?

I had to stop conversing with him because he's so incredibly amazing at manipulating me that I begin to feel crazy. He throws out digs that he knows will make me feel guilty..."You have two incomes now", "I don't want to have to worry about not being able to put food on the table for them", "I want to be able to take them on a real vacation", "Why are you making me feel like a bad father"....

In actuality, when I let myself think about it overnight, my ex himself has NEVER suffered. He always seems to have enough money to eat out everyday for lunch, he has cable tv and internet, he frequents bars and happy hours, he takes trips without the kids, he has plenty of new clothes and fun stuff for himself. However, when I ask for his help with birthday parties, haircuts, soccer camps, he never has any money.

I take responsibility for allowing this to go on as long as it has. He has held me hostage with guilt and I've let it happen. I don't mind carrying the full financial responsibility for my children, I love them and they come first and they will never go without. But it is time for me to stand up for myself and stop allowing myself to be taken advantage of.

This time, I'm calling a lawyer.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What I Will Tell Them

I've been settling into married life with my husband and kids now for a few months. Transition is always tough for us but we are in a groove again and I couldn't be happier. I still pinch myself when I think of the evolution of my life from a few years ago til now. Things are all falling into place one after the other, even things like careers, that I never could have imagined possible.

I was thinking today about what I would tell my kids in just a few short years, when they themselves begin to look for a life long partner. I don't really know what the past few years has done to them or what sort of impression they took away from everything. Like every mother, I do not want them to make the same mistakes I did and have to go through all the "learning experiences", the hard way.

When we divorced, we were both very careful not to let the kids in on the details. We explained that we had grown-up problems that we just couldn't work out, and reassured them that it had nothing to do with them. So thinking of how to talk to them about what mistakes I made and how they could avoid them is overwhelming...how to do so without disclosing that their father couldn't stay faithful.

But I think that I will be able to tell them what love is, and what it isn't. I've now had two very different experiences in marriage, the second of which I never would have known existed had I not found it. My parents certainly didn't have it, I thought it was a fairy tale. I made excuse after excuse for my first marriage, even before the cheating. My sister-in-law recently reminded me of a very sad conversation we had once during my first marriage, where I told her I was just basically resigned to being unhappy....not in a crisis kind of way, but more of a low hum that I could try and ignore. For the rest of my life.

It turns out that there IS a greater love out there, and it's not what I envisioned either. It challenges you, it puts a mirror to your face that you don't always like, it takes gritty hard work, it isn't perfect. But every second of it is so worth it.

The true partner will bring out the best in you. They will never ask you to do what will hurt the ones you love. They will never ask you to lie or cheat, and they won't either; not just to you, but to everyone. They will be proud of you and want the best for you. They may not always know exactly what that is, but when you ask for it, they will give it or at least try to. They will be honest with their feelings no matter how scared they are. They will be open to discussion and dialogue. They will persist that you open up when you try to shut down and push them away. They will show you that they are trustworthy over and over again, not with words, but with actions. They will make mistakes, but they will own them and apologize when they've hurt you. They will disagree with you, but respect your opinion. They will never push you into doing what you aren't comfortable with. They will never find happiness at the expense of you, or of others. They will be excited about the things you are excited about, and want you next to them when they experience their own success. They will be willing to work through problems even when it's uncomfortable. They will call you on your shit. They will ask about your feelings and opinions and thoughts and experiences. They will trust you. They will have fun with you. They will make you feel like you are the most amazing person on the planet and they could never imagine life without you. They will beg you to take care of yourself so that they never lose you. When you are with the right person, you will like who you are when you are with them.

I hope that my kids can watch my current marriage and see the twinkle in our eyes, the loving exchanges, the compliments, the teamwork, the respect, the intensity, the laughter, even the fact that we will forever go to monthly couples therapy to keep the fire going. I hope that I'll never even have to have a conversation with them about what love should be, because I hope that they will have enough time with The Real Thing as their own model. And I hope that I can tell and show them what to look for without ever having to tell them what NOT to look for.

Only time will tell.