Here is as cautionary tale for those of you with blended families or those of you who are considering attempting this legendary feat. It is still the the courts bias to give the woman primary custody and in situations where the child is under six, I believe that might be best, or if there is reason to believe the father is not a capable parent.
However, on the other side of that pancake (there are two sides) there is the GREAT tragedy that occurs when suddenly (doesn’t matter the reason) the children are ripped from the father’s arms (quite literally in some cases) and the court doles out sparse visitation. Now, in the best possible scenario, the mother and father would be cooperative and make certain visitation is in the best interests of the children, but rarely in my experience has that been the case.
Women like to hold their children over the heads of their ex-husbands for a great many reasons: 1. They can. The court has snatch power from the father. 2. Money is a huge negotiating factor, I even know women who have sat at the table and said, “if you give me ‘x,’ you can have an extra day.” 3. Bitterness; don’t forget, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
So, now these fathers have the court telling them when they can see the children they created and nurtured, AND their ex-wives dictating to them, waving power in their faces like a muleta begging him to charge like a bull at the invitation.
Imagine, for a moment (even if the man initiated the divorce) going from a family to extended periods of darkness, loneliness and longing for your children. Being literally sick with guilt and shame and self-hatred for destroying your family (even if the wife initiated) by not being able to make it work.
Each time you see your children’s faces, you are thankful beyond measure they didn’t forget you. When their enthusiasm doesn’t match your own the pain is incomparable. Are weeds growing in the vast space between you? Is someone planting them? Suddenly your guilt can turn to outright fear you are losing your children.
This inevitably leads to what I call guilt parenting … you make decisions based on feelings of guilt. Guilt you aren’t there every day, guilt you weren’t able to make the family work, guilt, guilt, guilt. Now, you find yourself saying “yes” when you would have said “no” if you were still married. Now you feel you need to curry favor with your children or else they won’t like you or love you. You literally let them do things you know are not in their best interests because you have to see their eyes light up. Forgetting they used to light up when they saw you, now it’s just what you bought them or what you can give them.
If you are lucky (or unlucky) you meet someone new and now everything you were missing in your previous marriage appears. You realize why you couldn’t make it work, this person was still out there, waiting for you … AND she has a child! As the relationship grows, you are completely enamored with her as much as a mother as a woman. Watching her parent make you wish your ex was half the mother she is … and you fall in love.
Suddenly you have a slight feeling of inclusion, of “family.” She is there, her child is there and they love you. What’s not to love. You are a wonderful father and her child lights up the way your children used to. It fills the void you’ve lived with for interminable months, even years. The ache of desolation is abating and in its place … hope. Your wife’s child’s father isn’t much of a dad, so you get to be DAD!!
Best of all worlds, your children adore your new love. They want to sit next to her, she gets the first hug and from the first days they call her mommy. These days are precious in deed. The children immediately refer to one another as brother and sister and you step back to look at what you’ve done and you realize, for all the pain, it was the right thing to do.
As the euphoria wears off, there is this niggling in the back of your brain. When you tuck your step-child into bed, you are resentful you can’t tuck your own children in. When you wake your step-child, there isn’t the same mirth you’d feel if waking your own. When you pick your step-child up, you are saddened you don’t have more children piling in the car. When you sit down to dinner, you realize three isn’t your family.
When your own children visit, you can’t help but dote on them and favor them, much to the confusion of the child who lives in your home. The child who has to live in your home because his/her mother chose you and has primary custody. Now that child starts thinking they only matter when your own children aren’t there. The shiny penny status you’d held begins to tarnish and that child begins to long for their own father, whom they don’t see nearly enough, who is, incidentally feeling the same cavernous loneliness you recently escaped.
You hate to have to discipline your children when they are with you because you don’t want to waste one moment on negativity. You want it to be all fun and games. You go places and do things and then they leave and with it … in the eyes of the child who lives with you, so does the fun. You are sullen when your children aren’t there and even if a movie comes out, you want to wait until you have your own children to see it … it wouldn’t be fair.
You wife notices the preferential treatment and tries to talk to you about it, but SHE doesn’t understand! She has her child every day. She gets to tuck them in and wake them and see their faces after school and at dinner. She will never understand. She tries to explain she’s merely concerned her child sees the difference in the way he treats his own children and it’s beginning to fester.
Now that just pisses you off. Her child is LUCKY they get to live with you! Your own children don’t get to but her child does! What you don’t realize is that the longer the inequity goes on and the older that child gets, the less they will feel “lucky” and begin to resent you as well.
His wife should be empathetic, but can’t be because she’s never had her child ripped from her arms so she tries to be sympathetic and help … but as she sees the pain and suffering in her child’s eyes, she is blinded by her own bad decisions. Why did she fall in love with a man who wouldn’t love her child as his own. How could she have put her child in a situation they wouldn’t feel loved every day?
All she had hoped for was for her child to be happy, healthy and loved and now her child is none of the above … now her child is leaving and she knows your pain. Are you happy now?