Every day I read something negative about divorced parents. Every day I hear some complaint about the “other” parent, the bad parent, the parent who makes life that much harder where children are concerned. Every day I hear the struggles, the woes, and the desire for a collaborative, co-parenting atmosphere.
But, it’s usually followed up by, “If only she,” or “If only he.”
However, would that if truly make all the difference?
My guess? Probably not.
We, as divorced parents, place the burden of co-parenting on the other parent, believing they are the sole problem. I would love to think that my ex and I are a strong, emotionally stable, co-parenting unit. But, we’re not. Not even close. Even though I invite my ex to everything involving Tiny, and even though my ex invited Mr. M to be an assistant coach for tee ball this last spring, we still have heavy grudges that we struggle to get overcome, just to maintain civility for our child.
My ex calls me the angry, crazy, shrew of an ex-wife. He claims that he “never wanted” a divorce (he divorced me), and–my personal favorite–that he “gave me everything” (like, my house and my car?).
I guess he messed up his own credit, too, because, according to him, he “pays for” my credit card. I mean, he only used it, without my consent, to pay his lawyer, … but that’s neither here nor there.
Of course, on the flip side, I am also guilty of the “if only he would” comments. I resent that he lowered child support in order to finally go to college and “better himself.” I resent that my ex lied about wanting to “raise the support to what the court originally ordered” as soon he got himself into an established position. I resent that he refuses to pay the required medical support, unless the state “makes him” do it.
Hell, I resent when the father of my child lies to me–which seems to only ever be when his mouth is open, and he’s speaking to me.
See? I do it, too. I’m just as guilty as the rest of us for carrying huge grudges around on my shoulder that only I can see.
Of course, there’s a reason we divorced parents do this. We just so happened to marry someone who turned out to not be the person we believed him or her to be. Because of that, and because of the tiny people we brought into this world, we now have to both see and communicate with this person for the rest of our natural lives.
It’s a daunting prospect, right?
However, over the course of time, we–along with the rest of society–have placed assumptions on divorced parents, by breaking the parent into categories of Mom and Dad. These categories have been long established, but they became more noticeable over the last week, when Texas passed a law that would make it impossible for noncustodial parents to renew their car registration without being current on child support. People came out in droves on social media to comment about this, and to, ultimately, prove the basic assumptions about divorced parents.
Assumptions that need to be broken.
The dad is always the noncustodial parent.
I know a lot of dads who are custodial parents. Either the mom didn’t want to be a mom, or the mom wasn’t suited to be primary. It happens; sometimes the dad is the child’s best choice.
As always, it’s about what’s right for the child, not about what’s right for the parent.
The mom only wants the dad’s hard-earned money.
This can also be tied to “she sits at home and eats bon bons, but always knows when to increase the child support!”
Insert chuckle here.
Here’s the deal, folks: the kid has two parents. Two. Children are expensive, they have needs, and it is up to both parents to support the child. The dad isn’t “giving” the mom money, and the mom isn’t using it to by Jimmy Choos. If that is the case, it’s a freaking rarity; it’s not the norm.
The custodial parent (most often the mom) wants for the child to be equally cared for, and the court mandates that that is separated into both child support and visitation.
The dad never pays child support or medical support.
If he truly doesn’t, he’s in jail, or he should be in jail and the mom refuses to have him arrested. Every state has laws against this. He might not pay the right amount, he might not be caught up. But, if he’s not paying, his butt needs to be in jail. It’s a gross, negligent violation of the custody agreement.
Majority speaking? The dad is paying. If the mom is complaining, she’s probably complaining that he’s behind, or paying the wrong amount.
The mom keeps the dad from seeing the child.
There are moms who do this, and they are terrible people. Unless the mom fears the dad (in which case a TRO would be in place), then she’s just a shitty person. Still, this is not standard. Just like the noncustodial parent can go to jail for not paying child support, the custodial parent can go to jail for not allowing the other parent to see the child.
Now, to credit dads, most of them do not want their children to see Mommy dragged away by the police. Most women aren’t of the same opinion.
However, I know women who work hard at placing barriers for visitation. I also know that most moms, like me, want the dad to have a chance to see their child.
The dad never wants to see the child.
Some dads try to see their child, and the mom does block access (see: dads don’t want the child to see Mommy hauled away by police). The mom then tells the children that Daddy doesn’t want to see them.
It’s just plain wrong.
Other moms are strict, and refuse to give an inch more than the papers allow, or try to take time away without offering a solution to make up the time. That’s also wrong.
It is rare that a dad is just not interested. It happens, but it’s not the norm. Dads love their children just as much as the moms do.
The mom uses the money on herself, not the child.
How on God’s green Earth is a woman supposed to pay for the transportation to take the child to daycare, school, and extracurriculars, pay for a mortgage or rent on the roof that the child lives under, pay for the food that nourishes the child, pay for the clothes that keep the child from being naked, pay for the shoes that allow the child to run around and play, pay for the daycare that watches the child while the custodial parent works, and pay for the school supplies on that dang long list, and still have money left over from child support to pay for even a lolly for herself?
Is the kid naked and malnourished? This assumption is just plain stupid.
How much does everyone think custodial parents receive in child support?
I mean, seriously? We’re not the Real Housewives of the OC, we’re freaking working parents.
And some of us work multiple jobs.
I’m just saying.
We have all of these assumptions about men and women in divorce, about the moms and the dads. They’re based on friends we know, family we know, or general stories told for generations. From these stories, we’ve determined who holds the most blame, but, what we’re failing to realize, is that we’re all human. Divorced parents carry certain grudges. From those grudges (like the fact that I used to holler when I was told that if I didn’t make his lunch, he was then forced to buy it, hence his stolid opinion that I’m an angry shrew), we decide who is to blame. For women, we generally blame the men. For men, it’s the women.
Because the woman was married to the man, and the man was married to the woman.
Now, there are exceptions to this rule. Some people truly married horrible human beings who heavily restrict time spent with the child, who never co-parent, who are emotionally or verbally abusive, and who do not pay any form of child support. Fortunately, in the great state of Texas, there are actions the custodial and noncustodial parents cannot do: refuse to allow the other parent visitation rights, abuse the child, and refuse to pay child support.
Still, we need to start breaking assumptions on divorced parents. The men are not all tight-fisted lechers (Mr. M goes above and beyond for Lil Dude), and the women are not all angry, frivolous shrews. Some of the stories we hear need to be taken with a grain of salt, because emotions run high with divorce. Like I said before, divorced parents are stuck with each other. There’s a kid, sometimes kids, plural, involved. Whether that child is 18 months, or 22 years of age, they will always want and need their parents. This can be a point of contention if the divorced parents never reach a mutual understanding.
So, the next time someone tells you that they’re a divorced parent, keep the above assumptions in mind. That dad might be the custodial parent. His ex might illegally be withholding child support. The mom is probably working extra shifts, and every dime she makes goes toward her child.
You never know, until you let go of the assumptions.