It’s been a while. With the divorce finally kicking into gear and turning a nasty color, I’ve been preoccupied, dropping balls here and there in my juggling act. After this, I have to pay a late bill and check my school account, praying that I haven’t been sent important emails that I will have to mia culpa, perhaps explaining the divorce, new custody arrangements, the murder of a friend, and a younger cousin dying in a hospital room. Amazingly, my life has become more dramatic, the very opposite of what I want.
Lately I’ve noticed that a good friend of mine has become my foil, my dark mirror. She is going through a nasty little divorce as well. She was a stay-at-home-mom but has now returned to the workforce. Her husband owns his own business, and he is an alcoholic and wife-beater. As for me, my divorce shows promise in nastiness, and I remain at-home to continue my education through the school year, fighting the ex and his lawyer for that privilege. While my ex owns his own business, his addiction is not an alcoholic and he threw mean words, instead of punches. Simply put, my friend and I are survivors.
But like all friends, we do not see eye to eye on everything. We view our custody arrangements and fights very differently.
When mediation began, I confided in her how the ex wanted 50% custody and my plan was to fight that and give him more like 30% because, not only had I sole custody for nearly three years, but the ex cannot balance his work-social-home life. He needed more time to get his work and social life under control so his time with his boys was about them.
“Hon, don’t fight him. It’s too hard of a fight.”
“He’s going to win anyways. It’s not worth it.”
No, seriously. What?
“And you’ll learn to enjoy your time alone. You’ll love it and won’t be able to wait for it.”
What the hell?
“Let him have the boys. It’ll be fine.”
I just stood there. Stunned. Trying to wrap my head around her little speech.
Um, ok . . . .
Note to self: don’t mention this to her again.
I don’t listen to myself very well because last week, I confided in her again. It was the beginning of my first weekend without the boys. I told her how worried I was, how anxious I was, how freaked out I was.
“I understand. I’m about to give her to him three nights a week. It’ll be hard, but it’ll be good. You should consider it. He is their father. And this fight is not worth it. He’ll win any ways. And once you get used to it, you’ll like having all those nights to yourself. Hell, when they get to middle school, you’ll be shoving them at their father.” She laughed.
Here it is, boys and girls. Plain and Simple. None. None of those reasons have anything to do with my boys. None of them. Those reasons are about what’s best for the parent or parentsssssss. They are not about what’s best for the kids.
Yes, he is their father. But being a father means you decided to donate some sperm to the equation. Now, the ex did more. He was The Provider, but he was and is only Dad when he wants to be. Friends meeting at a bar? He’s there. Golfing with the guys? He’s grabbing his clubs. Partner calls at dinner. What food? Employee calls during bedtime routine. What work hours? Client calls. Just let him do this one thing. Father in town. He’ll see the boys later. But if there are no friends or outings or work issues or work or girlfriend issues or whatever, then he’s right there as Dad. He could use a few parenting classes and has a few parenting issues, but when he’s on, he does all right for himself.
Is the fight worth it? Hell, yes. I’ve been sole guardian for nearly three years. I’ve been primary guardian for almost 8.5 years. For two years, the ex spent half his time in CA while we lived in AZ. I know my boys. I know my ex. When we decided to get a divorce, I thought long and hard about what custody would look like. I wanted what was best for the boys. And what’s best for the boys is parents working in their best interest, giving their dad plenty of time to get his stuff handled so they can be the focus of his attention on them when he had them, and taking a large lion-share of the time because I could focus on them. I’m not vindictive or petty. I don’t think one gender is better suited to parenting than the other. I know that an every other weekend and one night a week would work best for my family.
Could he win? Possibly. But I doubt it. I have evidence of the ex’s life style. I really do think that once the ex gets used to this custody, he’ll like it. This gives him plenty of time to devote himself to his usual long work hours and still have time for friends AND get to be Fun Dad when he wants. I think he would naturally gravitate towards this plan even if he had 50% custody. The only reason to fight is if he’s only doing this because of money, and then I can only pray that the best plan for the boys succeeds.
Will I like a 50% custody? No. You see, when I decided to be a parent, I realized that for a few years it would be a prison. My life would revolve around them. Go ask the older generation how often they got out with young children at home. Not often. And usually it meant walking across the street to the neighbors while the kids slept or some other crazy thing we wouldn’t consider. So I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to go out as often as I liked, but I knew the years would pass, and then before I knew it, the boys would be going to friends’ houses and to visit grandparents and uncles and going on trips. They would be old enough to leave in the hands of a capable teenager, and then they would be old enough to be left alone with the internet turned off. Then one day, they would be gone, off adventuring on their own. While the goal was always to produce brave, independent adults, I knew it was going to be a lot of hands on work. I also knew that my time with them as children would be gone before I knew it, and I should cherish that time.
I want what’s best for my friend; if her custody arrangement works best for her and her family, then I’m happy. But for mine, 50% won’t work, and I’ll go down fighting for what’s best for my boys. I want my boys to be healthy and whole. If that means I have to fight their father tooth and nail, I’ll do it. If that means my boys spend more time away from me than I want, then that’s fine. If that means I have to sacrifice a little me-time and a little sleep, I can do that. Because I’m the mom.