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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!
BFSO is consulting the Advisory Board once again. This time we need to help a reader figure out what she should do. Below is her scenario and my response. We know the best advice comes from those who are living or have lived it. Please respond with open minds and sincere hearts.
I’m a Mom and my ex-husband (in which we’re both remarried) have 50/50 custody. However, we live in different towns and my kids go to school in his hometown.
My problem is that my exes new wife is my children’s primary caregiver. She is currently housesitting for her mother, in which her and my children are staying there, but my ex husband is staying at their house. This is strange to me because my exes wife’s mothers home is in the same town as my exes home. My ex said that he’s getting a lot of work done while they’re gone.
I work from home and want my kids to live with me and go to school in my home town. My ex will not give them up. he says that their home is there and that their school is there. Although I agree that stability in the same school is important, my kids aren’t being taken care of by him. They’re being taken care of by their stepmom. (who is very nice by the way).
Should I take this to court since obviously my ex isn’t the one primarily taking care of them and I have the circumstances and great desire to have them with me?
What’s your thought?
Hi Jakki! Thanks so much for stopping by.
I am sorry that you’re in this position. It’s tough when you’re really trying to make decisions based on what’s best for your children. I am sure that your decision to allow your children to remain in your ex’s hometown was based on just that [doing what's best for them]. However, being cared for, primarily, whenever possible, by both of their biological parents is equally important. My questions to you would be: 1) How many days of the week do you get to see them as you stated that you share custody? 2) How many times a week does your ex actually have them since his wife is caring for them outside of their home? 3) Is there a reason why your children live with your ex in the first place?
All of those questions would definitely influence whether or not I would take my ex to court. But, just from the information you’ve provided above, if my children weren’t being primarily cared for by me or my ex, then something would definitely have to change. While I’m sure that your ex’s wife is a great person (after all, she’s caring for your children), I don’t think it’s fair to you, to her or to your children to have her primarily care for them; especially when neither you, nor your husband share a residence with them.
Here are a couple of options to consider:
1. Take your ex to court for physical custody as it’s almost impossible to have joint physical custody when you both reside in different hometowns. I’m not sure how old your children are, but they will adjust to a new school. If one is a senior in high school, then it might be best to allow him to finish out the year in his current school. Other than that, kids move all of the time, and they adjust.
2. You mentioned that you worked from home, so how possible would it be for you to move to the town where your children reside? This way, they could live with you, stay in their school, but still have unlimited access to their father.
I hope I’ve helped in some way, Jakki. I’ll repost this scenario so that readers will have a chance to respond as well.
Grace and Peace,
Divorced parents argue, agonize and litigate constantly, over how much time their children will spend with each of them. As these parents are held captive by complicated calendars and negotiate [fight] about parenting time, it has become more and more apparent to me, that the battles are really power struggles due to fear of losing relationships with their children. Their concern is seemingly more about their interests rather than about their childrens’ best interest. Through it all, no one bothers to ask the children exactly how they feel and how it affects them. Parents either assume that their children will adjust, unaffected or are too wrapped up in “sticking it” to the other parent that they simply don’t care. Through informal interviews with children and adults of divorce and blended families as well as a research study done by Dr. Constance Ahrons, author of The Good Divorce, the inconsistency regarding what mattered to the children and what mattered to the parents was amazing. As such, I thought it would be interesting to share with you what the children want you to know.
As you may know, the opinions of children are often overlooked as it pertains to divorce, so they had a lot to say. As a result, I decided to create a series of articles regarding what the children want you to know. The first will be what the children want you to know about living arrangements and parenting time.
What the children want you to know about living arrangements and parenting time
Deciding living arrangements and parenting time after a divorce is just about as painful as contemplating the divorce itself. It’s extremely overwhelming when trying to agree on what’s in the best interest of your children post-divorce. Parents become engrossed by rigid schedules which calculate their respective time with their children to the exact second. They want to be sure that they aren’t being cheated out of their parental rights. Most mothers don’t want their babies bouncing back and forth like a ping pong ball between households. They assume that by having their children spend the majority of time with them that they are creating stable households in an already chaotic world for their children. Fathers, on the other hand, desire to remain in contact and involved the way they were prior to the divorce, and feel that having equal time between both parents will allow their children to retain their relationships with each parent. Hopefully, by listening to these children, parents will be able to figure out the most favorable living and parenting time situation for their children.
The results from my study (20 children and adults who are products of divorce/blended families) and Dr. Constance Ahrons study (173 grown children of divorce and blended families) were consistent. All of them expressed that they would have liked to have their needs considered more. Some noted what really upset them, even more than the going back and forth, was the constant fighting over which one had more time. It truly made them feel as if it really wasn’t about spending time with them at all. Instead, it felt like they were more interested in punishing each other. Additionally, they said that they wanted to be able to maintain meaningful relationships with BOTH parents. When one parent limited contact with the other, for whatever reason, it made them feel as if they were losing that parent. It almost felt like a death, to them. They not only lost their family, but they lost a parent as well. All they want is to be able to continue their lives with as little stress and interruption as possible, and suddenly losing a relationship with a parent IS STRESSFUL!
These children also want you to know that transitioning from house to house IS HARD! To them, it feels like they have to deal with change over which they have no control. They want to have their needs considered. For example, older children (12 and up) desire flexibility in the parenting time schedule. Feeling tied to a strict schedule is annoying and unfair. Smaller children want to be reassured that things will be okay. They feel frightened, left out and confused.
When parents are in conflict
When parents are in conflict, children said that they NEVER look forward to going back and forth. They detest being grilled by either parent about what’s going on in the other household. They also despise their parents bad-mouthing the other, putting them in the difficult position of having to choose sides. These children expressed that their parents can reduce stress by at least minimally cooperating and leaving them out of grown up issues. This group also declared that they are smarter than what we give them credit for. Even the parents who are gritting their teeth to operate in what they think is a civil manner, their children still feel a great deal of hostility.
My husband and his ex-wife are a great example of this. I once reached out to her asking if we could sit down and resolve our issues because she clearly had and has a major problem with me. Her response was that she didn’t wish to disrupt the level of calm and civility in K’s (stepson) life at this time. To her, things were calm and K was properly adjusting because nobody was literally tearing each other apart when in the same room. She didn’t take into account that visitation drop-off and pick-up occurs in front of a police station where they each stand on opposite sides of the street, while not even making eye contact with each other and delivering handwritten notes via K. But, even K and M (my son) could tell that there was a problem; which was why I tried to reach out to her. Often times K and M (at 6 and 7 years old) would debate about how much K’s parents (my husband and his ex-wife) HATED each other, and they used that specific word. So, parents just because you aren’t yelling and arguing back and forth at each other doesn’t mean that your children don’t pick up on the obvious tension.
When parents get along
About one fourth of the entire group noted how beneficial it was to have their parents cooperate with and even like each other! They appreciate their parents talking to each other, in a friendly manner, instead of passing notes via the kids. Having parents who get along helps ease the transition between households; it helps to normalize their dsyfunctional family. They expressed a feeling of security and were less worried about the changes of divorce. These children felt like they adjusted faster and didn’t dwell on their parents being back together again.
In my case, my ex and I cooperate with each other and communicate our disagreements pretty well. I will not say that we agree on everything, but we make every effort to hear the other out, work out an optimal compromise and don’t involve our son. We definitely put his needs above our own interests. We remain flexible with our parenting time schedule and he has unlimited access to either parent in our respective households. Drop off and pick up occurs at our respective homes, and we always have a friendly conversation at those times. As a matter of fact, all of us (me, my husband, my ex and his wife) are friendly with one another. Our son has taken notice of this as well. When he was 6 years old (during that same conversation that he had with my stepson about his parents hating each other) he said that his mommy and daddy liked each other. I asked him how he could tell and he replied, “Because every time you each other, you smile and give each other a hug.” Recently, I asked him if he ever wanted his biological parents to be back together again; and he responded with an emphatic no! He said that he is happy with the way his family is and he wouldn’t change a thing.
What is evident is that regardless of parenting time and living arrangements, children hate being put in the middle. They want their parents to consider their feelings more and work together to resolve conflict that makes an already stressful situation even more stressful. Most importantly, these children want the opportunity to maintain stable and meaningful relationship with BOTH parents. They’ve already lost their family; they don’t desire to lose a parent, too.
Interesting Fact: Children whose parents were constantly in conflict after the divorce grew up to have trust and commitment issues in their own relationships. Almost all of them blamed the divorce on these issues. However, children whose parents cooperated, got along, and encouraged contact and relationships with either parent grew up to embrace family and seemingly adjusted better than the other children post-divorce.
Thanks to http://www.kweenmama.wordpress.com Blended Family Soap Opera received the Brilliante Weblog Award!! The award is given by other bloggers for brilliant content or design. We are so excited and honored to receive such an award.
According to the rules, after receiving the award we must pass it on to at least 5 other blogs that we feel are worthy of the same. We’ll be back at a later date to do so. Stay tuned. And, thanks again to kweenmama and our other readers. We hope to continue delivering “brilliant” content that you felt was worthy of this award.
September 16th is National Stepfamily Day, according to the Stepfamily Foundation. As such, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the bonus (I don’t like the word step) members of my family. Don’t forget to do away with the negativity on Stepfamily Day and instead, take this opportunity to recognize and thank the members of your blended families for what they are doing right!
- My first thank you goes to my wonderful husband who is daddy all day, everyday to our son. Thank you for being the primary and prominent male figure in his life. We love you!
- Next, I’d like to thank and recognize my son’s second mom. Every time he leaves your house he comes home talking about how much he loves you, and I can’t tell you how great that makes me feel. And, the fact that you still welcome him with open arms even when his father is out of the country for most of the year is also amazing. I love you for that!
- I’d also like to thank my bonus son’s second dad. We appreciate you being the primary and prominent male figure in his life.
- Finally, I’d like to thank my sons, K and M. They are two of the most wonderful kids I know. We have put them through a lot of changes, but still they remain, kind, honest, intelligent and thoughtful kids. How lucky are we?
Don’t forget to take the time to thank the special members of your blended family as well. Let’s forget about the challenges that we face in our respective blended families and instead, take this day to recognize the blessings that exist within our families.
HAPPY NATIONAL STEPFAMILY DAY!