Deb - posted on 05/11/2014 ( no moms have responded yet )
Hi! I am an older (48) mom of three school-aged girls, recently divorced, who reluctantly caved to the stonewalling/stubbornness/threats of my ex and stopped fighting for custody, in large part b/c I had zero chance of winning primary custody, and 50/50 in my state is so *evenly* divided, they would be bouncing around like ping pong balls all week (that's what he wanted, and according to three different lawyers and a mediator, that's what he was likely to get). I just didn't see how it was best for them, especially since I couldn't possibly afford to live anywhere near his neighborhood, and their school (where the judge would order them to stay b/c it's a good school, better than I could afford to live near). I'd been a stay at home mom for 10 years, and although I tried for a year to find a job, I couldn't find one that earned enough to cover the childcare obligations I had, or rent/expenses for me and three kids even half time. Rather than blow more money I didn't have on lawyers, I signed a two year agreement thinking they'd be better off in a more stable situation, staying in their school, with their friends, in their same house, etc...Plus this would keep us all out of court as my ex said he would fight anything other than even 50/50 split right down the middle, and was considering demanding primary anyway b/c of my lack of stable financial support. We had no family nearby either, so I'd have been 100% on my own. In many ways, I saw it as a sacrifice for their benefit, with me as the main loser.
The problem for me is that I did something after the first year of separation that turned some of my friends and sister totally against me. I started dating a man while separated, and fell in love, but he lived 10 hours away. He can't relocate b/c of his job, which is very secure. I wasn't looking for romance so soon out of marriage, it just happened. I'd been so unhappy for so long in my marriage, so alone, and this was a friend of mine and we just "clicked" in a way my ex and I never had. I was so torn--to move near him would mean MUCH cheaper living situation, as well as the emotional support of someone who loved me, but it would mean not seeing my kids every other weekend. On the other hand, seeing my kids every other weekend exposed me to the constant manipulation of my ex, and my living expenses were breaking me. I was struggling, still not finding work, and the stress showed and stressed out my kids. I went back and forth on it, and ultimately decided to move b/c his step-dad offered me work. I have seen my girls roughly once a month since moving, but guilt still haunts me. I skype them DAILY, and will have them 5 weeks this summer too. I'm working from home now, living with my BF, able to save enough to see them consistently and have nice relaxed "fun" time when I do, but again, my heart breaks that I am absentee mommy most of the time. My eldest and youngest seem to take it in stride, even see it as having two homes, and they love my BF and enjoy visiting us on holidays. My middle daughter is struggling, and thinks I "left" her and doesn't understand, and I have no good way to answer her questions? All the answers DO sound "selfish." But then I think wouldn't it be more selfish to be more concerned with appearing to be a "good" mother by staying and struggling harder, alone, stressed, lonely, forsaking a happy relationship after so many miserable years, than to give that up to give my daughters stability, and a chance at seeing BOTH her parents happy, healthy, financially secure?
I don't know the answer. Some days I feel so justified in what I did, that it was the best of a lot of crappy choices. Other days I want to SCREAM that it's not like it used to be--where the mom just "gets" the kids if she's been the 24/7 parent for their whole lives. My ex worked 70+ hour weeks, totally ignored us, didn't become "super-daddy" until the separation, and I even homeschooled the kids! They were my WORLD! But when it come to custody, the court didn't seem to care in prelim. hearings--even during separation, they ordered me to let him have them exactly 50/50, that means every two nights they had to switch houses. It was a NIGHTMARE, chaotic, confusing, stressful beyond belief. Some times I get so angry that he doesn't see that 3 little girls should be with their Mama :( On the other hand, he takes "good care" of them. They are healthy, well-provided for, have sitters I hand-picked myself (so I know them and they know me), are getting straight As in school, and making friends. Only the middle girl seems to be having some issues emotionally, and she was always the most emotional of the three, the most prone to take things personally.
I guess what I want isn't absolution, or for people to pat me on the back and say what I did was right or good, or even "okay," I just want some advice from any other moms who have gone through this, or are going through it, about how to get through it--day to day. How do you not beat yourselves up? How do you accept reality, and move on? How do you forgive yourself when society tends to look at you like you MUST be unfit, or a whore, or some other horrible thing if you don't have your kids. If Dads don't, people feel sorry for them, they don't beat them up. I get shit from friends, and family, who don't even know the first thing about my situation, about how much my ex spent on his lawyer (of our money), about how he threatened to spend it ALL, about how he stonewalled throughout the separation, sending his child support and spousal support late enough, and fighting to keep it so low I had to borrow to pay the bills on the house he got the judge to force me to stay in, and they judge. My sister hasn't spoken to me in almost three years!
Anyway...I just would like to know I'm not alone. Thanks!