The Truth About Co-Parenting

I’m in a lot of groups on co-parenting, taking co-parenting classes and reading everything under the sun to learn how to co-parent. Is it working? Umm, not yet. But, that is not to say that I’ve given up. I’m prayerful that God is working it out.

I understand that most co-parenting situations take 5 to 7 years to work out and that will put Munch between 13 to 15. Okay, whatever! It takes a village and I’m okay with that. However, one of the things that I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot lately is the concern that step moms have that the birth mom’s hate them.

Let me pause and offer my two cents on this belief. This is not true in all cases. If you broke up a home through infidelity, then the birth mother may hate you. But, you should know that. If you didn’t and you both just moved on with your lives and met and married new people then I’m sure that the birth mother doesn’t hate you.

Neither do the kids. They just need to get to know you. The thing is that you fall in love with the man not knowing the history of what he did to that woman or vice versa.  As much as everyone would like to place the foolishness on the birth mom’s shoulder I invite you to take a step back and look at it from another point of view.

As a birth mom to only one child, I only want the best for my child. I believe that his dad wants the best for him. If I don’t know you then how can I know what you want with our son? Does that make you a bad person? Nope, not at all. But, that doesn’t meant that I like you or hate you. I don’t know you.

Does that mean that I’m jealous of you? Not at all. Again, I don’t know you. I don’t trust people I don’t know. Do you trust people that you don’t know? Probably not. It means that we are starting at a point of figuring each other out. We are not sitting here creating voodoo dolls of you and wishing bad things on you. We have a life. We have a child or children. We may have careers.

Every relationship whether friend or intimate has boundaries. When you are getting to know someone intimately they are learning your boundaries and you are learning theirs. When do you learn the birth mother’s boundaries? Do you believe there are boundaries? Do you care?

If not, then think about the relationship that you are creating with those boundaries. When we don’t respect boundaries from the birth parents and do what they heck we want in the name of love, then you will be met with resistance and anger. Probably both. Issues from the marriage or relationship carry over into co-parenting when boundaries aren’t respected. Both men and women are guilty of this.  This doesn’t mean that the woman is bitter or jealous of you. You just crossed her boundary.

Let me give you an example, maybe the ex gave her a sexually transmitted disease (STD), was violent to her, stole from her, etc. Maybe the man didn’t want the child to begin with and now wants to be father of the year with you on his arms. Who knows? You only know his side of the story.  The one that your new partner told you. Maybe the issues are deeper than you want to admit. There are many reasons relationships fail.

And when they do fail, what remains is that there are two parents that have a child to care for. Two. Mom and dad. The parents who created the child, carried the child and the mother who birthed the child left to figure out how to raise this little human being without emotionally stunting him/her. Their children will be raised in two homes, with two different parenting styles and two people who love them immensely. Does that mean that you can’t be a partner in the child’s life with your new man or woman? Not at all.

It just means that you have to recognize that their are other participants in this co-parenting relationship. The parents. Both parents. They need to work together for their child. It may be a lot of residual issues, but your job is not get involved in the BS. To respect the boundaries and love and be a supporting partner to your significant other and a supporter of the child.

Children need the love and support of their parents. If more parents are added to the mix, that’s more love to go around. Their village will expand. Birth mothers don’t go around hating their exe’s new partner. If you’re feeling hated, ask yourself whether or not you did anything to overstep your boundaries. Talk it out.

This is not a birth mother vs. step mother reality. Women have to stop being pitted against each other. We are our sister keeper’s. We are all part of the village.

 

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

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Child Support: My Story

The issue of child support is a touchy one. This will be a three part issue. The first part will be my story, the second will be a man’s story and the third will be a woman’s story. I’m going to explore multiple sides about the importance of child support and give you truth here. This may be a trigger post for some of you. So, if it is, please stay off my page with your drama. I am all about trying to equalize the argument for the benefits for financially supporting your children.

Many people see child support as a bad thing. It’s deemed the devil because many states require a man to pay 1/3 or more of his salary supporting a “lazy momma” while being denied visitation or being forced to work multiple jobs to even live.  Others see it as the only way to make a man financially responsible for his child while checking out emotionally. It is a vicious cycle and in reality there are some truths to both sides. Let’s discuss the reality.

In reality, children require more than just love to grow into healthy adults. It takes money. Can your child live without clothes, medical, dental, food or shelter? Nope.

Okay, good. Now, before you start saying that I’m pro the destruction of the man, stop it. I’m not. Women who don’t raise their children should also pay child support. I believe that everyone has a financial responsibility for their children.

For the record, I don’t get nor have I ever filed child support against my ex-husband. He doesn’t get it either. In fact, we agreed that we would equally split expenses for our son. So, I have no “skin” in the game to protect any financial support you think I may be getting.

Now, the difference between me and some other women is that I can afford to take care of my son without his father’s help. It’s not a bad thing. It’s reality. I’ve been blessed to have a great career that allows me both the financial and emotional means to be present for my son. However, I recognize that not everyone can say that they are as fortunate. Some women and men actually need the financial support of the other parent.

 

When I was growing up, my dad was ordered to pay $200 a month in child support for three kids. Yes, I said that right – three kids. Ask me how many checks we received?

Zero.

Not one.

My dad lived his life getting paid under the table. He avoided paying child support like it was a contagious disease. He refused to catch it.

Did he feel bad? In my opinion no. Anyone that avoids the financial support of their child doesn’t have a conscious. Therefore, they can’t feel bad for not doing for their child. Combine that with the fact that he lived in another state and didn’t see us and you have the trifecta of a poor example as a father.

He was not present. Financially, emotionally, spiritually or any form or fashion. We were a non-factor in his life. The life he lived in avoidance.

So, I watched my mother struggle. Struggle to put clothes on our back and food on our table. Struggle to work multiple jobs and go to school so she could provide a better life for us.

I imagined that the better life she was working on would provide better clothes, better shoes and more of an opportunity to have her present. See, when a person doesn’t take care of their children, it leaves the other parent to take care of the slack. But, it took two people to create that child. How come one person gets to slack on their responsibility?

 

Because of that hard life of learning to survive in spite of my circumstances, I worked hard. I didn’t want children. I wouldn’t bring a child into this world without being able to support them on my own. I would never give anyone that power to determine the fate of my child/children.

I would be better than that.

And I did. I worked hard to get my career off the ground. Even when my marriage ended and I had to re-shift my focus, it became about the most important asset in my life. My Munch. He was more important than any job or my career. I needed him to know that.

So, I spoke up. I told my employers during the interview stage that I am a mom first. That it is just me and that I will always be there for my son. I won’t miss school plays, programs or games. I will be present on the first day of school and every day thereafter. I only have him for a short time before he is released into the world, hopefully making it a better place.

My responsibilities were to my son first.  My employers understood. They respected my decision. So, I continued to rise in my career without sacrificing because I was a mother. I have been very fortunate to have that.

Even this summer when I had to adjust my schedule to get my son to and from camp. I called on my village and they helped out. My supervisor understood that I had camp that started at 9 am and there was no before care. I didn’t get to work until 9:45 am. My mother went in early and took off to pick up Munch from camp at 3pm.

I take off to take him to doctor’s appointments, to volunteer in his school, attend his programs (like the art camp) or if he’s sick. My supervisor allows flexibility because it’s just me. I need it. My mother didn’t have that. She had me.

I missed school if my siblings were sick. She had to work. We had to take care of each other.

I’m not ignorant to the fact that Munch has the best of both worlds…a mother that can afford to provide and a mother that is present. This is in direct contrast with what I experienced, but experience taught me. I chose to be a mother and I chose to have a career and thankfully I am able to have them both.

The lack of child support or financial means pushed me to work harder and become more determined to not be another statistic. We needed the financial support from my dad, but we lived and thrived in spite of. No one should ever have to be in that position.

-Part 2: His View On Child Support is Next-

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Co-Parenting: Violence

I’ve heard so many sad stories on this journey to co-parenting with my ex. People who’ve suffered abuse and have to deal with mental health issues. I’m not judging. I’m just saying that my transition is not like everyone else’s.

I saw this video last week on Facebook and my heart broke. This woman is smashing up her ex’s car. The children were in the back seat:

Now, what is scary as heck about this situation and what has garnered a discussion on co-parenting is whether or not this woman’s behavior was acceptable. I said “Hell, no. She’s dead wrong. The children were in the car. She could have hurt them babies.” But, another woman said “You don’t know what she’s been through.” Umm, whatever.

Then another woman talked about violence in her relationship and how she literally flipped on her abuser who was her child’s father and did the same thing. Was she right? Nope. But, we don’t know the full story. I paused.

I’m not advocating violence on any level. With anyone. Especially with your children around. But, no man or woman is worth me losing my job over because I am mad at them or the situation I find myself in. I get it.

I grew up in a violent home. My dad was abusive. There was blood and the sounds of fists hitting flesh. I don’t wish this on anyone. Those images have stayed with me for years. I can’t ever forget and neither will these children.

It is important that we understand the cycle of abuse. If you are in an abusive situation, please get out. Immediately. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Get help!

If you have children with your abuser, please get them out of that situation. Report all acts of violence immediately to your local law enforcement. You have to be an advocate for yourself.

Don’t lose your children because you are in jail. Don’t allow your partner or ex-partner put you in a situation where you can’t defend your children. If you won’t protect them, then who will?

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Co-Parenting: I Never Thought

I never thought that it mattered to Munch that his dad and I weren’t together. He had turned 5 and we waited until he graduated from day care and had his birthday party. We didn’t want his 5th birthday to be scarred in any way. However, looking back on it…he probably was scarred in spite of our best intentions.

Munch’s life has always been a life where he’s experienced being an only child with two parents that love him tremendously. When we explained that we were divorcing and that he would live in two homes with two rooms, he said “But, you two are my parents.” We explained that we would always be his parents and that we love him more than life itself.

We probably should have put him in therapy. We probably should have gone to family counseling. We probably shouldn’t have done a lot of things. But, we did. None of which Munch had a choice in.

Life has a way of getting you to reflect on your choices when you’re divorced and try to co-parent. That moment came for me a few weeks ago. Munch was crying after a conversation with his dad. I asked him to come here and sit down and talk. He did. We talked. My heart broke.

My son felt like he was in the middle of his parent’s mess. Truthfully, he was. He sat with me and talked to me openly and honestly about what he was feeling. My little man child was expressing how he felt about everything. I just listened. I cried.

I asked him “Munch, what is it that you want?” We spend so much time telling Munch what he has to do that we probably don’t ask him how he feels about things. Forgetting that he’s the one that has to adapt to it. Do you know what my little boy said? He looked at me with tears falling down his face and said “I want you and Daddy to get back together.” 

This hit me like a ton of bricks. What? Why? I had so many questions. I couldn’t bombard this little boy. I asked him “Why?” He said “Because I’m the only kid in after care with divorced parents.” I explained that he’s probably not and some kids may have parents that never married. But, I had to go deeper.

I explained to him that I knew that he felt caught in the middle and I apologized for my part in it. I told him that his dad and I hadn’t been together in over four years and that we love him immensely. I explained that I know that he didn’t ask for any of this and he’s having to adjust to our choices.

We prayed. I kissed his tears. I held my son until he wanted to get up and go play.

His words stuck with me. In my mind and in my spirit. So much of what you do when you divorce and try to rebuild your life after the divorce affects your kids but do you ever stop to think how they’re coping? Probably not. There are a lot of things that Munch had no control over: his parents divorcing, his shared custody arrangement, his dad’s significant other, his dad getting engaged, his dad sharing spaces with someone else outside of him, me moving, his schools changing, me sharing my space with my mom, my dating Mr. C. and probably a whole heck of a lot more things. He’s had significant change.

We adults made the decision to move forward with our lives and he had no choice. We didn’t stop to think how our choices are affecting him not just in a once in a while conversation, but on a consistent basis. We didn’t stop to ask him what things he needs from us to make sure the transitions are working well for him. We just lived our lives believing that our choices were best for Munch.

Are they? I’m going to say in many ways yes. We are good at mapping out our lives and adulting, but we’re not good at co-parenting. We are good at telling him this is going to happen, but not at giving him a vote on our choices. We may not have a choice in what we do, but be cognizant of the fact that he’ll be the one to suffer the consequences.

Our married life is over. Whatever messes we created we have to remember that the most beautiful thing in all of this was Munch. He is our lifeline no matter how much fire I have to walk through I have to keep telling myself this. No greater joy than motherhood. Than what God has granted.

Next stop is to get Munch paired up with a therapist. Let him talk about what is affecting him. Let him sort through the mess we adults created with a professional. Get the tools and techniques on helping him adjust and be the best kid ever. We don’t have all the answers, but we can start by making the right choices to help Munch.

 

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Five Years Later

This popped up on Facebook today:

0711

It was a picture of a luau. Five years ago my ex and I were celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Munch was four years old.

We spent nine beautiful days in Hawaii. This was the first of two luaus that we would attend on a beautiful island. Hawaii was perfect. We needed that trip. It was designed to give us time to reflect and strengthen our marriage knowing that we made it this far.

But, it was a short trip down memory lane. Seven months after our Hawaii trip, I was asking for a divorce. I was exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. There were many reasons why, but ultimately I wanted each of us to find happiness because we were making each other miserable.

Five years later we’ve both found happiness. At least I believe we have. But, there are still things that aren’t working. Mainly our ability to co-parent.  I have many wishes or as my friends say expectations of how I want things to work. However, I’m an eternal optimist and I like the word “wish”. It brings sincere hope for something better. So, here are my three wishes five years later:

3 Wishes – 5 Years Later

  1. I wish that we would talk to each other about our son. I mean truly talk. Not forceful or accusatory conversation but a conversation designed to help lead our child down the right path. Really listening and respecting the other person’s point of view.
  2. I wish that we could co-parent Munch. You see many people tell you how you should co-parent, but don’t tell you the tools required to do so. The judge believes we can, others pray for it.  But, we’re not co-parenting. Until we can respect each other it will always be a wish. We begin to parallel parent. That kind of parenting hurts Munch.
  3. I wish that we could remember that Munch is watching us. Munch will never forget how we act towards each other and it will sit with him forever. He is watching and observing our behavior and he will craft his own perception of how things are and were during his younger years.

I’m not perfect. I’m an alpha female. I’ve always been that way. I won’t change. I don’t expect you to change. But, we’ve got to do better. I know that you want the best for Munch. I want the best for Munch, but the more that we continue to have painful conversations, lengthy emails or text messages that don’t have anything to do with Munch. The more time is wasted on bulls*it rather than focusing on Munch.

We have to proceed in these next few years as a unit committed to loving and raising our son. It’s five years later. Time has passed quickly and pretty soon Munch will be leaving our home and going to college where he will be responsible for creating his own destiny. What lessons would Munch have learned from us?

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Co-Parenting: Bonus

Last week some friends and I were discussing Mr. C and I and why I’m not rushing down the aisle. LOL. Multiple reasons, but love isn’t one of them. I explained that I’m not ready and we’ve just created this great space and relationship and do things in our own time.

I started telling them about Mr. C’s son getting accepted into the school he wanted to go to and how he was heading to college in the fall and I’m super excited for him. Sad for my man because he’s going to miss the hell out of his son, but excited that they are embarking on this journey together. Mr. C calls me for advice about college and questions he should ask and I try to dole out tips, information and suggestions. I like it. I feel like I’m providing valuable input.

One of the things that I may not have mentioned is that Mr. C raised his son by himself. He is an excellent father and one of the things that I love about him is that no matter how busy he was providing, he was always there for his son. That speaks volumes for me. He and I definitely have different parenting styles, but he loves being a dad. It works for him.

So, knowing that we are dating for the purpose of marriage it comes as no surprise that I’m excited about his son’s next phase of his life. I love being a mom and although his son is 9 years older than Munch and headed to college this fall while Munch heads to fourth grade, it warms my heart to know that I will have a bonus son when we marry.

My friends were asking “Bonus son?” I said “Yep, he’s the unexpected bonus I receive when I marry his dad. I didn’t have to give birth to him, but my life is immeasurably better because he’s in it.” They smiled. “I like that” said my friend.

Just like Munch and I are a package deal, Mr. C and his son are one. We are going to be a blended family someday and I don’t expect everything to be perfect, but I expect that we’ll try. I will be the bonus mom that won’t quit. The best bonus mom ever! He may get tired of me sending care packages while he’s away, but I honestly can’t wait.

Bonuses are a blessing. Unexpected blessings that are extras and while I will gain a bonus son, he’ll gain a bonus mom and a bonus brother. We’re going to be one blessed family.

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Divorced Again

I told you in yesterday’s post Failure of the Court how we went to court for a modification of custody to find out that we are still legally married to each other. The court failed us. We thought we were divorced, but the divorce wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. It was a sham.

In Maryland you can have both your divorce and custody tied together if there are no issues. It’s simpler, more effective and cheaper. I chose this route since I filed for divorce. It saved us time and money. However, because our custody was tied to the divorce and not separate. There was no custody agreement because there was no divorce.

You see the dilemma?

We were both having mini-breakdowns and trying to navigate what happens now. The magistrate explains that he can’t discuss custody because we’re still legally married and that divorce we were given is invalid so we can’t modify the custody as part of the divorce because the divorce is invalid. Basically, no one has custody. Are you freaking kidding me? What?

We were trying to digest all the information that was provided. The magistrate informed us that he was upset over the situation as well and wanted to get out of meeting with us because he couldn’t bear to hear that one of us had remarried and what that meant because he had defended a woman that had a similar situation in another county.

In Maryland, bigamy is a felony that can result in an individual spending up to nine years in jail.  The only way out of it is if your “ex-spouse” has been gone for seven continuous years or you don’t know where your “ex-spouse” is living at the time of your new marriage. That meant that if either of us had been remarried we would have been charged criminally with a felony because the courts screwed up our divorce. They don’t care if you knew about their screw up or not because you are charged criminally and divorce is a civil case.

This is getting more frustrating.

To learn that even if you didn’t know that your divorce was invalid and the courts were at fault and you get remarried you could still catch a felony case? To put it in perspective, our magistrate then tells us a story of a client he had a few years ago that went through this. She went through a bitter custody and property divorce. Her ex was upset because it wasn’t favorable to him. They settled custody and property and then the woman’s attorney filed for divorce. The divorce was filed 11 months after their separation and they were granted a divorce.

Fast forward two years and the woman is remarried and just had a baby with her new husband. She receives in the mail a bench warrant for her arrest and a notice vacating her divorce as invalid. Her “ex-spouse” had went to the state’s attorney’s office and requested that he check their files because their divorce wasn’t legal because Maryland required a 12 month separation not 11 months. The state’s attorney found out it was true and then the woman’s life became a two year nightmare of having to fight a felony bigamy charge, getting divorced, getting remarried and getting her life back.

We sat there dumbfounded.

I said “I don’t understand how the state can charge someone for something they did. The state is at fault because you can’t marry or divorce yourself so if documents aren’t valid then the state is at fault for that. How am I to be criminally charged with their poor hiring choices? That’s not my fault.” He responded “It’s not your fault and you did nothing wrong. But, Maryland law is firm.”

Thank God neither one of us remarried.

The magistrate then asks us do we still want to be divorced. Umm, yes. However, I said that I don’t want to pay for it. I paid the first time and it was a waste of money so everything should be free.

So, he has us go to the paralegal’s office down the hall and have them print out a complaint for absolute divorce and an answer to an absolute divorce. I then requested a complaint for custody and an answer to complaint for custody.

We completed the forms and I asked for sole custody in all paperwork. Both sole physical and sole legal.  I wasn’t going to stop his visitation, but I needed written confirmation on how we’re supposed to do this. We went back into the court room and the bailiff let him see my forms so he knew how to respond in answer. The bailiff gave the forms to the magistrate.

We asked questions on how do we proceed not having a signed custody agreement in place, he said as a lawyer I would advise you to keep things as they are until you go before a judge. No matter how you want to change it, the courts care about how the child is coping with things now.

We sighed.

He included a line in the decree to untie it from the divorce and we would get a separate custody agreement. He turned on the recording and then proceeded to divorce us.

We were divorced again. We left feeling somewhat defeated. This ordeal was working our nerves.

We then met with the scheduling coordinator and turned in our custody paperwork. The coordinator then scheduled all of the things we needed to do including the temporary hearing for 3 weeks. It was overwhelming to say the least.

We go to court again for a hearing on May 4th. My ex-husband (I pray this is in fact legitimate) and I will go to discuss a temporary custody agreement, attend parenting classes and mediation and then have a final custody hearing in August. It’s a hot mess.

We are trying to meet and work some things out on our own prior to our May 4th court date. The more that we try to do on our own and just have the courts put it in writing the better off. There are no winners in our battle for custody. I know that. Ultimately, Munch will be the loser, so knowing that allows me to try to meet with him and work some stuff out on our own.

At this point I realized and began to accept the silver lining in all this. What silver lining you might ask? The fact that he wanted a modification which got us back in court to realize that our first divorce wasn’t real and then actually get divorced again. This allowed us to not have to catch a felony case or sue the state for negligence.

You see? God was in it.

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.