I had not thought about divorce much at all until I got separated and then divorced myself. I had not known anyone going through a “nasty” divorce. I did know a number of women who were unhappy in their marriages but not even considering divorce. So when things in my own marriage finally ran off into the gutter, I had no prior experience with how people dealt with divorce, viewed divorced people, and, most importantly, no good plan of action for myself.
My soon to be ex-husband was viewed as “a really nice” guy. People really liked him. We never really showed signs of stress in the relationship. We lived in an upper-class area with traditional type households ( i.e. mom-dad-two or three kids-dog). A lot of people driving around with those stupid people/animal stickers in the back of their rear view windows depicting their family.
Even though my ex filed for divorce, said he wanted the divorce, he refused to leave our marital home. I needed some sense of stability and peace for myself and my children. However, on my income alone, in the area we lived and where our children went to school, there was no way I could afford a place to keep us all. So, I left the marital home and moved out. Even then, I had people crying foul. Telling me to fight for the house, fight to be able to live with my kids, fight, fight, fight. Some people do exactly that and I do not disparage them. You need to figure out what is best for yourself. No decision is easy and hindsight is always 100 percent different.
I moved into a small apartment near the marital home and my kids school. Actually it was my first rental all my own! I never rented an apartment by myself ever. I had no washer and dryer and lived among a lot of twenty-somethings who started their evenings at 10 pm. At that time of night I was struggling to stay awake to watch the 10 pm news! People close to me were incredulous. They really were. A lot of them stopped talking to me and a few could not stop giving me advice and telling me everything I was doing wrong. I wanted to curl up and never wake up.
I can recall someone saying to me: “What!” “Even if I had to sleep on the floor with all four of us in one room, I would never leave my kids!!” Um, I did not leave my kids!! I left my horrible marriage! I did not leave my children. I never ever even thought of myself as a “non custodial” parent until three years after the divorce someone referred to me as that!
Well, my first apartment during the separation was a one bedroom and when my kids were over, I had one in the bed, one on an air bed, one still at his dad’s house, and I slept on the loveseat. All this luxury for over $1000.00 a month. We lived in an area where rents and mortgages were costly. I took nothing when I left except my clothes and personal items. No spousal support, no division of anything. We split expenses for our children 50/50. I had to go to the local food bank that first year because after I paid all my bills I had nothing left over for groceries.
I remember those early days searching the Internet for other moms who did not reside full-time with their children and who were going through divorce and separation. I was looking for support and information. I found NOTHING. Not one thing. Back then I was too tired, too wound up, and too overwhelmed to help anyone else. A few years later I am in a place to let others know that you are not alone and you can shape your “non-custodial” motherhood any way you want it!
There are always challenges. The schools never seem to be able to mail you, the non-custodial parent, the same information your ex gets. No matter how many calls and e-mails you send to them. Yes, you still meet those people who have the balls to say to you, “What? Why aren’t you living with your kids all the time?” There are no Mother’s Day cards for you.
There is still guilt to deal with. However, there is also a whole lot of pride. Pride in what you have accomplished since the divorce and pride in who you are now. I am about to send my oldest to college and need to pay half of his Fall tuition and also plan a graduation party for him. I am doing all of that on my own. My money, my time, my accomplishment! I still struggle financially. I do not take vacations. I can’t afford to give my kids a vacation either. If my sister, who is a hair stylist, did not cut and color my hair for me, I would really have a problem because there is nothing extra in the budget. I dream of getting a pedicure and eyebrow waxing.
I want any non-custodial mom to understand that I do “get you.” I really do. I am wishing you all the best.
- In Defense of Non-Custodial Mothers
- How I Protected My Child From Family Court But Lost Custody
- Stop Judging Me People!
- What Happens When The Non-Custodial Parent Moves Abroad