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Hi BFSO Readers!
Just wanted to let you know that we’re settling in at our new virtual home! Come on over, take a look around and tell us what you think. Our new address is http://www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com. I’m hoping that you’ll still be able to reach us via this address, but I’m not certain that you’ll be able to. So, don’t forget to take note of our new address. Oh, and for all of my favorite bloggers who have us listed as one of their favorites, please change our address in your blogroll to http://www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com! It’s http://www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com – it’s still us, still insightful information, just a different look. We’ll see you there!
I’ve held off on writing this post because I didn’t want it to sound like another angry post. In my effort to remain positive about my blended family situation I now TRY to avoid posts filled with anger, name-calling and just pure hate. Having said that, every now and then I just have to let out a frustrated scream…”ahhhhhhhhhh”
At the end of October me, my husband, his ex-wife and her current husband attended a family mediation session. The divorce mediator that my husband and his ex-wife were using suggested that K (their son/my stepson) see a child psychologist based on the information that she was provided with during their sessions. The child psychologist that they chose is also a family mediator as she deals with my children from divorced families. She insisted on all of us having a few sessions, prior to her seeing K, in order to get a better understanding of the issues that he might be faced with.
It was an extremely tense environment because we had not been in the same room in about 6 years! However, I entered the session with a very open mind as I was very interested in Y’s (husband’s ex-wife) viewpoints. I really wanted to know why she felt the need to alienate K from his family for the past year. I thought to myself that maybe she does have a valid reason for doing so. Maybe, just maybe we have just been misunderstanding each other this entire time. Honestly, I knew that this was far from the truth, but I was still hopeful.
At any rate, if you readers can remember some of my earlier post in which I indicated that K had done something that was very wrong and raised a lot of concern for not only M’s (my bio son) well-being, but his as well. This was the basic reason for us seeing the child psychologist. The psychologist started by asking this basic question; “What are your concerns?” Below are our answers in the order that we gave them.
Me: I’m very concerned because we ALWAYS focus on how K feels about something or Y feels about how K is going to feel that we seem to forget that there are two children in this blended family. And, I have to focus on M’s well-being as well. While I am extremely concerned about BOTH children one did something wrong (K) and one did not (M). Therefore, I have to make sure that both are okay, especially the one that I am raising full-time in my home. This not only pertains to this particular situation, but any situation in our blended family. I think that Y thinks that because she shares a child with my husband I must consider his “wants” over my child’s needs, and I just can’t do that. I want to be respected as a mother, and more importantly, I need a little understanding when it comes to us making decisions for both children.
Y: It’s not that I base my actions on lack of concern for M. I just don’t ever know what’s going on (This is such a lie). I feel so in the dark. I don’t know how M is feeling or what his needs are, but I do know my child’s needs and I have to base my decisions primarily off of that.
Her Husband: I just want to make sure K isn’t treated differently when he goes back to their house based on what he has done. He’s very sorry for what he did, and I’m confident that it will never happen again.
My Husband: No one is going to treat him any differently. My wife loves K and would never do anything to hurt him, no matter what. All of her actions up until this point have been solely based on concern for K and nothing else. I just want to know when my son can come back to see his family.
Before I go on, let me say that Y is so full of …She claims to be in the dark, but we tell her everything knowing that it ALWAYS leads to some long contentious court battle. As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t even be here (attending family mediation) had we not revealed to you what occurred in our home. It’s the reason we’ve been going through this mess for a year because we told you what had occurred. So, how do you feel in the dark? And, you say that your decisions aren’t based on lack of concern for M…please. You have directly stated that you don’t have to be concerned about M, and you’re right. But guess what, that can’t apply to me because I’m M’s mother. You also stated that you have no idea how certain things affect M because we don’t tell you..another lie. For example, remember when we told you that it was disruptive to the start of M’s school year to have K here for an entire month, at the very beginning of the school year? We said that for any child, after being out of school all summer, it takes a minute to get back into the school year routine, and having K here just hampers that. We thought that you’d understand since 3 years earlier you took my husband to court to prohibit him from making his morning phone call to K on the very basis that it disrupts his morning routine!!! Now if a two minute phone call can disrupt K’s morning routine, what in the hell do you think having K here for an entire month, at the beginning of the school year, does to M’s routine? Instead, we requested June and July, instead of June and August. You said that you didn’t care how it affected M, and you told everyone, including the Judge, that we said that K was a disruption to our lives, instead of telling them what was really said.
As you can see I was nothing short of flabbergasted and pissed when I heard what came out of her mouth. The whole point of mediation is to uncover the TRUTH so that we can all begin to work towards some sort of compromise and solution. It’s not to lie because when you do that we just end up spinning our wheels.
It’s so funny how she and her husband claim to be so very concerned about how K is going to feel or be treated when he returns to our home based on his wrong-doing. Number one, they don’t know me AT ALL. I would never stop loving either one of my sons based on a mistake that they made. Number two, K and I had a great relationship (I say had because I haven’t seen him in over a year. His mother will not allow me to have any contact with him because she thinks that my potential actions might have a detrimental effect on his mental health). Number three, my mind doesn’t operate like hers. I would never do harm or have any disregard for a child, even if he or she is not mine. Through it all, no one asked K how he felt, until yesterday. My husband had his normal 5 hour per month visit with K and asked K if he had any questions regarding what has happened. His response: “I don’t know why a Judge would say that I can’t see my family. I just don’t understand.” My husband said that the Judge based his ruling on what your mother said. K replied, “why does mom not want me to see my step mom?” My husband told him that it was her way of protecting him. K’s exact words, “That’s crazy, she (he’s talking about me) would never do anything to hurt me.”
I’m so happy that K still feels that love that I’ve instilled in him since he was 4 years old (he’ll be 12 next month). He knows that I love him, despite what his mother says or has done. He knows that I’d never hurt him or treat him differently just because he did something wrong. It just hurts me that I can’t be the one to reinforce this notion to him. More importantly, it vehemently disgusts me that Y is alienating K from his family just because she can’t get her way. But, there really is nothing I can do about that. All I can do is continue to love him the way I know how. My husband and I will continue to negate whatever his mother says via our actions. And, we will continue to pray that God grants her some sort of peace so that we all can be free of this unnecessary stress.
I’ve talked a lot about the importance of maintaining healthy post-divorce relationships; not only with your children, but with each other. I firmly believe that children DESERVE parents who get along or at least make every effort to. As a result, I’ve been getting tons of emails from readers who claim to know the benefit of peacefully coexisting in order to co-parent effectively, but “the how” is what they lack the knowledge in. My answer is simple – JUST DO IT! You don’t have to be best friends or even friends; you just have to be civil for the sake of your children. Put your anger [of the past] away and concentrate on doing what’s best for your children instead of doing whatever gives you temporary satisfaction. Some of those same readers seem to be confused about the meaning of the word civil. Civil is not “mean mugging” each other during drop off and pick up. It’s not subtly bad-mouthing each other. And, it’s not communicating via morse code just to avoid actually speaking to each other. Get over yourself and be selfless enough to actually be civil, especially in front of your children. Be polite and learn to bite your tongue. Say hello, how are you and use the basic manners that you learned at age 5. These are things that you do every single day. Do you curse your boss out every time he or she makes you angry? What about the waitress at your favorite restaurant? Do you fly off the handle if she messes up your order? Probably not. So, I know that you can control your urge to slap your ex upside the head, too. It really is that simple. It might not be easy to do, but it’s that simple.
Before I get those comments saying “my ex is bipolar” or “my ex is an alcoholic”; let me assure you that I am not talking about those situations. I know it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to maintain a healthy relationship with these types of individuals. However, it is possible to disengage yourself from the battle. You don’t have to fight even if your ex is fighting with you.
Rule #1: Pick your battles! Life is just too short to stew over the past or fight about every little thing.
My brother taught me that sometimes it’s best to just say nothing at all. He used to burn me up when I would get so angry with him, and he would act like I wasn’t even there. But, eventually I would just move on because it’s hard to fight with someone that isn’t fighting back. In the end, you just end up looking stupid and no one wants to look stupid. Sometimes you just have to see it as that other person’s issue and move on! Let go of the past hurt for it’s the only way that you can move on. If you often find yourself consumed by anger, then you need to get some help! It’s never too late to do so. Only “fight” when you have to and don’t actually fight. Instead just communicate your concerns to your ex-spouse; which brings me to rule #2.
Rule #2: Voice your concerns to your ex-spouse!
Don’t automatically be ready to “go off.” Instead, just talk to him or her about your concerns. For example, I recently had an issue with my ex, and I must admit that I was ready to “go off.” I even contacted a lawyer; preparing to take his butt right back to court (yes, even I slip up at times). It’s completely natural to be overwhelmed with anger when someone pisses you off, especially your ex. After all, you’re divorced for a reason, right? But, I caught myself before bringing the matter to him in such a volatile and attacking way. I first led with a positive by telling him that I truly appreciate him being so open and willing to communicate with me about issues regarding our son. Then, I expressed my concern. He, of course, countered my concern, but I did the same to his. We had a disagreement and it’s probably going to happen a thousand times over because that’s what people do sometimes – disagree. It’s okay, so expect it. It’s how you handle those disagreements that matter. In the end, my ex and I talked it out and we worked it out; without fighting.
Rule #3: Practice basic manners.
Your children don’t need parents who can’t even say hi to each other when in the same room. Remember, although your involvement with your ex-spouse in regards to setting up visitation and child support will diminish when your children are grown; it doesn’t mean that you two will never encounter each other again. You’ll be at your child’s wedding. You’ll be there for the birth of your grandchildren. You’ll be there at college graduations. You will be there, together, with and for your child, so you better practice on being polite now. You don’t want to ruin those moments and memories [with unnecessary tension] for your child because you can’t be civil towards each other. So, the next time you see your ex-spouse forget about the tension and focus on just being polite. You don’t have to invite them to dinner or anything; or even invite him or her in your house. Just take baby steps and do the following:
- Say hello the next time you see your ex-spouse
- Ask how he or she is doing
- Greet him or her with a smile
- Tell him or her to have fun with your children
- Treat him or her as you would anybody else that you are trying to be polite to
Rule #4: Don’t bad-mouth your ex-spouse’s new spouse.
If you have a concern about your ex-spouse’s new spouse, don’t bad-mouth her to your ex. Remember, that she is your ex’s new spouse. As such, it will be in his nature to defend her. Therefore, you will be starting the conversation off on the wrong foot. Additionally, when your children acquire new relatives, via marriage or otherwise, it’s important to acknowledge and respect these relationships instead of dismissing them. Acknowledge, respect and encourage your children’s relationships with their step or half siblings, step-grandparents, step-aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. Remember, that society brainwashes us to believe that family can only consist of blood lines and a two biological parent household, but the dynamics of family are changing and have been changing for quite some time. Your children’s step-family is just as much family as their biological family and should be treated as such. As a matter of fact, children can only benefit from having a large loving family comprised of step, half and biological, than a two parent household without love.
Learning to act like adult parents is not as hard as it may initially feel. Once again, you have to revert back to the days of old when you first learned basic manners and being polite. Think before you speak or act. Let go of that residual anger that does nothing for you or your children. As a matter of fact, it only prevents you from moving forward and improving your life as well as the lives of your children. You may have every right to be angry [in some cases], but it serves no purpose to hang on to that hurt. Hanging on to hurt only hurts your children. Let it go so that you can create a healthy family unit for your children. After all, with over half of marriages ending in divorce the best thing we can do for our children is to make sure that they are raised in healthy families, regardless of their parents’ marital status.
A relationship between a father and child is just as important as a relationship between mother and child after the divorce. It’s no secret that relationships with fathers and children seemingly deteriorate post-divorce. After speaking with many fathers and witnessing my own husband’s anguish as a result of seeing his relationship diminish between him and his son; I now know that there are definitely two sides to every story, and every divorced dad is not irresponsible or disinterested. There are many obstacles that a father can and often does face when trying to maintain a positive relationship with his child. The constant conflict about child support, an ex-wife’s anger and/or parental alienation, maternal bias in court and much more, sometimes makes it impossible for fathers to maintain healthy relationships with their children. Through it all, once again, the individuals who suffer the most are the children. As such, they have something to say about their relationships with their fathers.
The results were taken from that same study in the last ‘what children want you to know’ article (read it to gain clarity). When both adult and minor children, of all ages, were asked about their relationships with their fathers, they had the following to say.
Some felt as if their relationships with their fathers had deteriorated since the divorce and were unequivocally upset about it. Blame came in all variations; from the divorce itself, to a remarriage, to the father, to a stepmother to new stepsiblings. Often times children feel as if they are being replaced when their father remarries. Therefore, it is essential that fathers are allowed to continue to foster their relationship with their children post-divorce. It is equally imperative that fathers continue to put forth the effort to do so. When a divorced dad remarries, jealously is to be expected. If it’s expected, then it won’t catch you off guard and you can deal with it before it gets out of hand. It is essential that you make your bio-children feel like they are apart of the family, as well as make them feel as if they are still important and special to you. If your bio-children don’t live with you, be sure to maintain regular contact with them. Call them regularly, send a little gift (it doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be a card) to remind me that you’re still there for them and that you love them. Sometimes, bio-children need some alone time as well. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to achieve this when there are step-children involved. A father must consider how sensitive the situation is for ALL of the children involved. However, an easy solution is to spend time alone with your bio-children when your step-children are visiting their bio-parent or extended family. At one point in my own blended family, my husband, sons and I sat down and scheduled date nights that consisted of alone time with both of our children and each other. Our children were happy to be apart of the arrangement, knew what to expect and therefore, didn’t feel the least bit slighted when each got their alone time. Children often times just want to be included (when possible) in on the decision making process that undoubtedly affects them in some way.
Another group actually blamed their fathers for the deteroriation in their relationship after the divorce. This group of older children reported that financial and lifestyle changes often dictated their decision to erase their fathers from their lives. Most went from houses to apartments, had to help take care of siblings because their moms had to work extra jobs to make ends meet and often witnessed their mothers’ anguish about finances. All while their remarried dad was living it up with the new family. They couldn’t understand why step-mom got to sport designer bags and clothing, live in elaborate homes and drive the finest cars, but they (his children) had to worry about money to sign up for cheerleading, basketball or other extra curricular activities. Or why their mom couldn’t afford shoes or clothing. HIS wife and their children weren’t suffering, so why should they have to? It just didn’t make sense to them, and as a result, they just wrote their fathers off altogether.
Fathers pay your child support! Just as much as your children deserve relationships with both parents, they also deserve to be financially supported by both parents as well. It is okay if you choose to get remarried, have more children and/or even father someone else’s, but don’t forget about those that you left behind. As a matter of fact, they should never be left behind; they are your children! Your children should always feel as if they can count on you, in every sense of the word.
Some of the group blamed their mothers for the change in their relationships with their fathers; claiming that their mothers’ words and fathers’ actions never seemed to add up. Their mothers would tell them or imply that their fathers’ didn’t care about them anymore, but their fathers were calling them every night (if they weren’t allowed to see them, for whatever reason), telling them how much he loved and missed them. When this group of children were allowed, usually via court intervention, to have relationships with their fathers, they quickly realized that the person that their mothers’ described was not that person at all. Most of this group was able to reconnect with their fathers when their mothers’ interaction was no longer necessary.
Some of the group members’ relationships got better after the divorce. This is the portion of the group that was allowed to maintain regular, equal contact with their fathers; spending two days a week and every other weekend with dad. I must also note that the parents of this group cooperated to co-parent their children effectively. Even when mom, dad or both remarried, the childrens’ relationships with either parent seemed to go unscathed. These children often viewed their step-parents and step or half siblings as an added bonus rather than a threat.
Limited Contact Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Losing the Relationship
There were some children who could not see their fathers as regularly as they wanted to. Often times this was due to distance; either mom or dad moving away due to a job or remarriage. However, a portion of these children didn’t feel any less connected to their fathers as a result. These children were apart of their dad’s life, had unlimited access to their fathers and felt completely loved by their fathers. Their fathers made it perfectly clear that they were interested in their lives and wanted their children to be apart of their lives. They called them consistently and inquired about school grades and activities. This group managed to have close relationships with their dads despite the distance. As a result, it isn’t always true that fathers who have limited contact with their children will totally lose their relationships.
In conclusion, maintaining a relationship with dad post-divorce calls for cooperation on both mom and dad’s part. Mothers should never prevent their children from having a relationship with their father due to their own issues. In the longrun, it only creates more issues for the children. Mothers are in a position to either help facilitate contact or make it very very difficult. It’s unfortunate that most choose the latter because these children all agreed that consistent contact is beneficial in maintaining that emotional bond that they long for with their fathers. And fathers should never give up on maintaining relationships with their children because it gets a little difficult. Although you may have to modify your relationship with your children; it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to develop meaningful relationships with them just because they don’t reside with you full-time, or as much as you’d like. Make good use of email, cell phones, online photos and even webcams to communicate consistently with your children. Your relationships with them and your children will be better as a result.
I have heard many complaints, over the years, from divorced dads regarding unfair child support payments! It is something that my husband and I have struggled with, too. It is an issue that can be the death of the blended family. Sometimes divorced parents will continually make this issue about them, and it’s easy to do so because your finances is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But, it’s not about what your ex doesn’t need; it’s about what your child needs. If parents always consider the best interest of their child, then there shouldn’t be a problem. So, divorced dads don’t be stingy with your money by not paying child support or paying less than what your child deserves. You are not hurting your ex; you are hurting your child. And, divorced moms, don’t try to empty your ex’s bank account. Remember, that your child still has to have visitation with his father, and he has to have a house and money to take care of his child during visitation. You are not hurting your ex; you are only hurting your child. With that said, read the following comments from one of my readers and my response to her.
I agree that both parents should support the child. I don’t agree that only the non-custodial parent should be doing so. What do you do when a custodial parent lies about daycare, education expenses, dance classes and so on just to get more money because she is financially irresponsible. The court doesn’t even require proof of such things. But we don’t get to even know the name of the dance studio or the daycare. She even tried to get her ex mother in law to tell the court that she paid her weekly for daycare. Thankfully the Ex MIL said she would not lie in court. We pay a huge amount of money and have no say in the childs life. We are lucky to see the child 6 days a month. She has had numerouse contempt charges based on all of this but we still can’t get joint custody.
Thanks so much for your comments! They are always greatly appreciated.
Let me start by addressing what I perceive to be issue number 1: most of the financial burden falling on the non-custodial parent. I whole-heartedly agree that the child DESERVES to be financially, emotionally, and physically supported by both parents. But, that does not necessarily mean that the support will be totally equal. In regards to child support, it is set up so that the child continues the same lifestyle that he would have lived if his parents stayed together. Just because you get a divorce or split from the mother or father of your child doesn’t mean that you are any less responsible for caring for that child. As such, if the non-custodial parent can afford to pay more (without breaking his bank, of course), then he will likely do so. The child support system, in most states, considers both of custodial and non-custodial parent’s income when setting up child support. I know it can sometimes feel unfair, especially when the non-custodial parent isn’t allowed to be as involved as he would like to be (trust me, I know firsthand). But, don’t misplace your anger; sometimes excess emotional baggage can cause us to do this. Meaning, if we are really really mad at the ex-wife/baby’s mama (justified or not), then any and everything she does or we have to do as a result, is wrong. Is your husband really the only one financially supporting the child?? Unless he is paying for her mortgage or rent (shelter for his child), her car payment (transportation to get his child back and forth), food expenses (his child has to eat), health insurance (health care for his child) etc., then he is definitely not the ONLY one supporting the child. I’m certain that it takes a whole lot more than what your husband is paying in child support expenses to raise a child. I don’t doubt that his monthly child support payments help out a great deal, but that’s what he’s supposed to do; whether he sees the child or not. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. You can’t punish (withhold child support) the child because of something that his or her mom is doing.
In regards to issue number two- your husband not being able to see his child. I completely understand where you are coming from. It’s a hard pill to swallow to know that you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing, but you aren’t allowed to be actively involved in your child’s life. It’s unfortunate, but this part of the system is not set up to produce favorable results for the father, who is often times the non-custodial parent. As I explained in one of my posts, Judges seemingly have tunnel vision when it comes to these family law issues. They assume that all dads are deadbeat dads and the moms are helpless hard workers who only want what’s best for the child. When the truth of the matter is that many dads just get tired (or run out of money) of fighting. It’s extremely taxing on the dad and the child. Not to mention, that there are many moms who could care less about the best interest of their child; they are more interested in just sticking it to the ex. I’ve worked and am still diligently working hard to change this. They have to start viewing these cases on an individual, instead of a generalized basis!
With that said, your husband certainly has a right to be informed and involved in his child’s life. I would suggest getting a good attorney to set up a visitation schedule that is in the best interest of the child.