Monday, February 6, 2006

The Cost of Custody

Mommy, it's boring being stuck here with You and The Mouse all day.
His words catch me by surprise... their honesty stinging me to the core.
I try not to react but after the sixth time of him making this statement I find it difficult to ignore.
Please don't say that. It hurts Mommy's feelings.
But Mommy, it's boring being stuck here all day with you.
Not 3 weeks ago, I enjoyed marveling along with his pediatrician about how articulate The Boy is for 3 1/2 and now I find myself wishing he lacked the ability to express his feelings so openly.
The guilt and anger start to bubble up.
I am beginning to realize the true impact of Cinderella's custody trial.
It has in many ways left us crippled, both financially and emotionally.
We cannot afford to send The Boy to preschool but it was decided by the Lawyers in the custody case that my husband CAN afford $500 for Cinderella's summer camp.
We'll waive $500 from our bill so she can go to the camp, The-Powers-That-Be tell my husband.

That $500 which covers only two weeks of camp would have paid for 2 1/2 months of preschool or a myriad of other bills (like the running tab at several therapists).
The Judge or the Lawyers don't care about that, He tells me.
They may not, but I do.
It doesn't matter. This isn't about us or The Boy.
Isn't it?
We're not a Family of One. We are a family of Five.
Cinderella is the primary focus but her Brother and the rest of her Family are affected by the decisions being made for her benefit.
The Boy has lost out on a needed educational opportunity in exchange for the luxury of an extracurricular activity which doesn't start for another 5 months.
He must spend his days at home while his Mommy struggles to befriend the
Enemy and let go of the anger, adjust to a new custody routine and juggle having 3 children at home full-time, while also trying to provide an enriching environment that stimulates his intellect because she is feeling guilty of neglecting his developmental needs.
The guilt brings on the anger which I am trying so desperately to overcome.
The costs associated with a bitter custody case run deep.

The question still remains, how deep do my emotional pockets run?


Dolfinnlover said...

You know, I am going thru the samething with my SS BM.... I have the same fustration as you do. Here I am trying to see how I can send my daughter to Dance class, but yet BM can simply say.. "I cant afford to pay you full child support." How does that make any sense. I am SOOOOO bitter at the fact that I now have to tell my daughter NO... so we have to say YES to her kids. Don't get me wrong... I love my SS to death, I just hate the fact that she gets off so easy, but yet I am the EVIL Stepmother. Thanks in letting me know I am not alone!

Anna V said...

I am so sorry you are going through this right now. There are so many things that are so unfair about the family court system and how it handles these custody issues. My husband and I would love for my stepson to be with us now instead of living in the neglect and abuse-filled BM's home, but we can't bear the financial and emotional toll of a court case. I feel for you guys and the sacrifices you and the other children in your family are making on behalf of Cinderella. I'm sure Cinderella deserves the best, but so do your other children, and there is nothing fair in a custody court case like this...everything seems to hurt either one party or another. Stay strong.

hownowbrowncow said...

It has been said thta being a stepparent is like setting your hair on fire and putting it out with a hammer. The cost is great, but there is a payoff eventually. I have three Cinderallas of my own, and although our relationship has had its up and downs, they still remain my family. I chose to love, even when I don't want to. I do this for their father, my husband.

Wicked Stepmom said...

Dolfin - Thanks to you as well for letting me know that *I* am not alone. All we can do is love our kids and try to make the best decisions for all of them.

Wicked Stepmom said...

Anna - Thanks for the words of encouragement. You stay strong as well and I hope the situation improves you and your SS.

Wicked Stepmom said...

Queen: Interesting analogy! You're right, all we can do is love our children (bio AND step) and hope everything will work out for the best. :)

Mary P. said...

If I may make a comment with a different focus. It is normal for a child to be bored from time to time. It is particularly normal for a child with a teeny younger sibling to be bored. Mommy isn't quite as available, older child is thrown a bit more onto his own resources.

It's unfortunate that you've had to change your plans for him because of financial pressure. It's maddening when someone else's stupid decisions affect you negatively. But a bit of boredom? It doesn't hurt the child.

Kids get bored sometimes, and you know what? That's okay. Being bored forces them to find Something to Do, which is good. Teaches resourcefulness, encourages creativity, gives them time to stop and think. It's not all bad.

Sometimes in post-divorce families, we assume that all troubles come from the Trauma of Divorce. But more often than we realise, it's just normal stuff. I used to be a teacher, now I run a daycare. I've seen a lot of kids. I hope it's reassuring to you to know that this boy is being normal.

When my kids complained of boredom when they were younger, I'd say, "You ARE? And what are you going to do about that?" Not in a nasty way, not at all. I'm genuinely asking, but I'm also telling them that it's their responsibility to solve this, not mine. I would make a few suggestions of things to do, but if they do the "Noooo-and-flop-and-sigh" thing, I would leave them to it, or I might suggest some activity that needs doing but sure wouldn't have been THEIR first choice!

As they got older, I'd rub my hands together in glee. "You're BORED?? Oh, good. I can think of LOTS of things for you to do." It generally resulted in a sudden complete lack of boredom. :-)

My youngest amused me last week, when she heard her friend complain of boredom. "Oh, no! Don't say that in front of my mum! Let's go plan in my room now!"

I wouldn't have set her friend to doing the dishes, but it's happened enough to Emma that she's taking no chances! LOL

Mary P. said...

err.. that'd be "play. Let's go PLAY in my room now." 'Course, planning would also be a good anti-boredom activity!

Wicked Stepmom said...

Mary: Thanks for offering a different perspective. Somewhere along the lines I forgot that it's normal for kids to get bored (and ok, too!) and that it's not my job to help him entertain himself 24/7. Thanks for the gentle reminder. :)

Mary P. said...

You know where I learned that? My lawyer! I was agonizing about some dilemma with my child that I attributed to the situation with her dad, and lawyer reminded me that this stuff is normal, happens in most families. "Even if you were with her dad". She was absolutely right.

It was good - reassuring - to get that perspective. I was hoping you'd see it as encouragement, not criticism.