This post is not meant for the Mothers who have left marriages where abuse was present, or the safety of the children was in question. It is not for the woman that has divorced a narcissist or psychopath and who must follow exact regulations for her own and her children’s security. That, I hope, is a given.
I’m going to say it clearly and I hope you will trust me: Courts can get their decision about what’s best for your children wrong, and in fact – normally do. You need to help make it right. The only way you can do that is by taking yourself and your feelings about your former spouse, or even your former spouse’s new partner, out of the equation.
Truth bomb: Just because you were horribly hurt, doesn’t mean you deserve to solely raise your children. The same applies just because you are a woman. No matter how hurt you were, or how great a woman you are – God gives children a Mother and a Father for a reason and your children need their Father as much as they need you. Even if he hurt you. Even if he doesn’t lead the life you lead. Even if he used to.
My former husband left the church we had been married in and agreed to raise our children in. He began making choices, aside from infidelity, that are against the beliefs of our church. He made choices we definitely didn’t believe in, in the religion we had lived together. When we first decided to divorce I was up in arms. My babies were not going to be around that, they were not going to have to submit to the influence of what I believe to be negative choices – and our original divorce decree reflects that belief. The judged signed it without question, I believe because I am a woman. But you see guys, I was basing their need to be around their Father based on my moral beliefs, not their greater need to have a father. Because since their Father is a good man at heart, and definitely a safe man for my children, his presence was the greater need. My feelings were selfish; my actions were self-centered.
Divorce has lifelong fall outs. And unfortunately a commonality in many of them is that you will end up with two homes, both raising the same children, who hold fundamentally different core beliefs. That’s just the hard truth. All that we can do is teach our children what our beliefs are, be an example of them, and have the faith that our children will make the best choices they can; hey! That kind of sounds like what takes place in an unbroken home. That’s because it is. The difference here is their parents may have conflicting beliefs, and so their choice is going to be harder, without question, as children naturally want to please their parents. You will have to teach them from a young age to believe in themselves, and to know their life choices are between them and their God, and no one else. You will have to teach them from a young age that they won’t disappoint you, that their questioning your choices verses their Dad’s won’t bother you, that their agreeing with their Dad on some things won’t get to you (oh this is a hard one! But you can do it Moms), that you love them no matter what, you love their little independent souls. They will be expected to keep rules in both homes, sometimes the rules may even contradict – man oh man! Like that little engine that could, just keep going, you can do it, so can they, it’s still worth it to make both parents equal. Dad is not lesser than because his rules vary from yours, you are not lesser than because your beliefs vary from his – Mom and Dad are equals in different houses – you believe it, and your children will too.
Going back to the story about my court orders (a regular old fairytale). I believe my former spouse had one visit with our children, in my home, before our orders were changed. He is in the Navy and travels a lot so doesn’t have standard visits as he would like, but I had put in the original papers that his visits take place with a safe third party because I was so angry by his life choices – guys, that wasn’t my place. Only 4 months after our divorce he sued me to change our decree, as he should have – NO! As he shouldn’t have had to do, I shouldn’t have been such an idiot. For the first few days I fretted and fritted about the papers, angry and worried and frightened that he wanted more custody. And then I prayed about it.
The answer I felt I received was similar to all other answers I’d received. I should have never fretted. I felt to not be angry. I felt to continue loving this man whom was the father of my children. And I felt he deserved better than I had given him. So I called him. I asked him what he really wanted – what his goals were in doing this; and in a 30 minute, kind phone call – we had it all worked out. All he wanted was to be treated like a human, to be able to travel with his kids to see his family, to take them when he was in town; totally normal things he shouldn’t have had to ask me for. I agreed right then and there and told him to have his attorney call me, we’d work it out. And we did. I didn’t hire an attorney, I worked with his and we wrote up new papers giving him everything he wanted. And that was the end of it.
It’s been 10 years and we’ve only ever had one argument since, which I will write about in a later post because oh the drama I can cause (think, new wife – new mama for my kids). He still lives the same lifestyle he chose to live before we divorced, the same lifestyle probably a good percentage of the world does. He’s married with two more kids. He calls me when he wants to see or take our kids and I make them available every time – because he’s their Dad, and that’s what’s important.
Moms, the courts should give 50/50 by default (except of course in cases of physical and sexual abuse), that would be in a perfect world – and is what I believe even our world is moving toward. But since we’re not there yet, your kids deserve you to give that to them to the best of your ability. To do so you have to forget about yourself, your hurts, your desires, and think only of your kids – the fact that they were born to two parents and they deserve to be raised equally by those parents whether you are together or separated. It may be more work for you, scratch that – you divorced and you’re raising kids in two different households with two different sets of beliefs, it’s going to be a lot more work for you – but suck it up honey and let it be, your kids will love you for your efforts and for your selflessness.
Moms, we can do better at including Dads. Legally you have the right to make that decision no matter what the court has concluded, because you are the parent. Let’s more of us make it a goal to forget ourselves and make it a rule that our kids need both their parents equally, and then do all we can to give them that. I promise there is peace in the choice. There is greater peace in the effort. And there is wholeness in your children when the choice becomes your way of living. I have been told my children are the most well-adjusted children some have interacted with, being children from a broken home. I credit that solely to the desire to allow their Dad to be as active in their life as he chooses to be, and to make him as much a part of our home as any other extended family member is. I know you’re hurt, or you’re angry, or you’re feeling a multitude of feelings that I can’t even put words to – but those feelings don’t justify withholding your kids from their Father. I promise you will find healing as you begin to set those feelings to the side so your kids can spend more time with their Father. You got this. To use the words of the old cliché, “You can do hard things”. I believe in you. You’ve got a Father in Heaven Who believes in you. And I look forward to the joy you will feel as you incorporate these truths into your lives.