I am a non-custodial mom. Well, technically, my ex has primary physical custody and we have joint legal custody. This does not stop him from telling everyone he meets, “I have the children.” I have never taken an illegal drug in my life….never even smoked a cigarette. I do occasionally drink. I drink a lot more since June 2008 when I left my ex, “Ted”. I adore my blessings who are now 14 and 11 ¾ (I am told I MUST include the ¾ when sharing my daughter’s age.) I have worked in healthcare for a long time. I am a typical mom.
I applaud every “A” and have artwork plastered all over my refrigerator. We have two rescue dogs, a rescue cat, a kitten we brought home from the farm who is convinced she is a dog, and an adorable lop eared rabbit. I get frustrated when my daughter “Kristy” can’t find the right socks in a room that looks like a hurricane hit, or my son “Grant” doesn’t understand why I cannot possibly afford the overpriced private high school ALL of his friends are going to attend, but HIM. It’s not easy, but I try not to sweat the little things too much, because I have seen the alternative. I have held babies and children while they died. I know it could be much worse.
So….how did I get here? How did I get to this terrible place of only being allowed to see my blessings one day one week, two the next, and every other weekend? I have made some mistakes, and I have regrets. I have come to the conclusion that whoever said ” never live life with any regrets” was either high or never really lived through something THIS hard. My prayers sometimes consist of pleading for a little break to collect myself before the next wave of bad, because God promises He won’t put us through anything we can’t handle but some days I’m not so sure.
I was married for 14 years to a very religious man who increasingly became possessive, dominant and isolating. The emotional abuse started slowly, but got much worse over time. I lost almost all contact with my family. I felt like I was living my life in a very small cage. His constant criticism made me feel inferior and suppressed. Nothing I was doing was ever good enough and I was never thin enough.
I did finally walk away. I got my own apartment, had Grant and Kristy most of the time unless I was working, and paid for everything from clothes to activities because Ted refused to help. I worked a twelve hour night shift at the hospital so I would not need a babysitter. Ted loved to play games of hiding the kids at a family member’s when he went to work, and refused to bring them to me when he was supposed to. There was a protective order in place from a “situation” (as our magistrate later called it) that ended with Ted hitting my mom with a closed fist two weeks after our separation.
Seven months after our separation we had a provisional hearing. The magistrate decided Ted was better fit to have primary physical custody, and set the parenting time we still have today. Shock, disbelief and darkness settled over me. THIS man was a better parent than me? Was he serious? Did the magistrate even listen? This is when I realized our “system” is just that, a very broken system minus any justice.
During our two and a half year divorce, there was a whirlwind of constant activity. There was a deposition. There were bazillions of nasty letters between lawyers. There were changes in lawyers on both sides. There were mediations. There were deals. There were hearings. There was $60,000 in debt on my side alone. There were many tears and an even darker depression that sometimes still envelopes my whole being.
Since the divorce in November 2010, we have been through two years worth of meetings with a court ordered parent coordinator, two (court ordered) six week sessions of parenting classes, hearings, my bankruptcy, Ted’s attempt at suing me and the city police department, and many, many emails. We have both remarried. Ted announced his new (basically mail order) bride in an email that ended with him taking away my right of first refusal. I remarried during a spell of very deep depression and self loathing. My second marriage quickly ended after emotional abuse turned physical with threats of killing Grant and Kristy.
I wish I could say things are better now but in some ways they are worse, because I no longer let Ted “suck me in” to the drama he desperately needs. My lack of reaction sets him off even more and he pushes even harder to do anything he can to punish me, even if Grant and Kristy are in his path of destruction. Ted’s emotional abuse has shifted toward Kristy, leading to anxiety in me wondering if she is ok when she is there because I can’t even talk to her in our “codes” to find out because he has now stopped allowing phone calls and texts between Grant, Kristy and I. (Big deep breath)
As I look at myself today, I know I have changed a lot over the last 5 years. I have gained strength I never thought I could muster. My mom often tells me “Honey, I don’t know how you do it. If I were you I would either be dead or in prison.” Honestly, I don’t know how I do it either. I try really REALLY hard…sometimes through gritted teeth or tears… to count my blessings every day. I have discovered I have a voice. I am worthy. I can stand back up even when I know I will be knocked back on my face. I can sometimes be smart and witty, but mostly I’m just a train wreck.
I always have to hold on to hope that one day as everyone always tells me, things actually WILL get better. I am a constant work in progress. I still have my dark times when I curl up with a glass of wine and cry, but those days have now turned to hours. I want to help other moms like me. I have many experiences to share. I want them to know that through all of the darkest times, there are others out there going through a similar situation, ready to hug them tight even if it is only through a computer. I want them to know there IS always hope, and to just keep breathing.