View From the Kitchen Table

kitchen tableThe last time you heard from me, I was crying on the dirty kitchen floor with my snoring dog. Tonight, I’m crying from my kitchen table (at least I was able to get off the floor).

I was served at 7:30 a.m. Served with a summons requesting a 50/50 time-sharing agreement from my ex-husband. Something he said he couldn’t do two years ago. Something I still don’t think is right for the kids. But, honestly, here I sit pondering whether I actually know what is right anymore.

READ: View From the Kitchen Floor

I’m supposed to be writing a paper for school (yes, I decided I didn’t have enough on my plate, so why not go back to school) that is due in four days, but my mind is overwhelmed with thoughts of how I would survive if I had to give up even more time with my kids than I already have. I already gave him more time, I already waived child support, and I have already come to terms with the fact that I will be the one to do all the things the kids need and want (within reason of course).

I have never been through this. I don’t come from a “broken family” — not a perfect family by far, but I never had to worry about whose house I was staying at every night. In my good moments, I think I’m making all the right decisions in the best interest of my kids, and I’m ready to “fight to the death” because if I don’t, he is going to screw them up mentally. Not today, not tomorrow, but in the long run, he will treat them the way he treated me, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. He will never physically abuse anyone — not to compare because they are both awful, but mental abuse takes a lot longer to recognize — especially from a certifiable narcissist. In my weak moments, that death is mine (figuratively) because it’s all my fault, and I might as well throw in the towel and admit I’m not the mom my kids need and deserve.

In reality, I’m probably right in between. I know I’m making decisions in the best interest of my kids because I don’t know how to put myself before them — something all of us moms are incapable of doing, but should — but also, I am enough, albeit not perfect, and there is no one who can take my place in their lives. And that’s where my mind spirals out of control because now they have a stepmom. While I have nothing personal against her  — let’s face it, she is me 16 years ago, she just hasn’t figured him out yet — she is another mother figure in their lives. She is good to them, which I appreciate so much, but also, I think makes it worse. I know that probably doesn’t make sense to most. I want her to be good to my kids, but I don’t want her to be “better” than me… and because I have been knocked down so many times by the man we both love(ed), I am in a constant state of wondering when my kids are going to decide they want her to be their full-time mom and forget me altogether.

When I left him, I assumed we would have joint custody. (To all of the attorneys in the room, I know custody is a bad word, but for the sake of the audience, let’s go with it.) But, when I tried to have it written in our parenting plan, his words to me were, “I can’t have 50/50 custody, what would I do if I had to work? How would I get them to school?” At that point, he gave up. He put himself over them as usual. While, as a working mom, I can relate to that statement, it is not something that would stop me from keeping custody of my children. You figure it out; that’s your job as a parent. Can you imagine if I had said the same thing? Where would our kids be? The truth is, that was never an option for me. I would do anything for them, but he couldn’t or wouldn’t depending on who you ask.

Fast forward two years later. He’s married now and owns a 5-bedroom home with her and her two kids… but in another county an hour away from our kids’ schools and all their extracurricular activities. NOW, he wants joint custody?! Why now? Why can he make it work now, but couldn’t before? I would have given up everything to keep my kids, and he just walked away. But now, here I sit with a summons for 50/50 time sharing, 20 days to respond, and a $5,000 retainer to my attorney.

I cried (a lot) when I got the voicemail from the kind JSO officer who showed up to serve me when I wasn’t there. My first call was to my best friend who is used to my over-dramatic reactions and who can put me in my place. My second call was to my attorney to fix it. The third call was to my boyfriend, who I was convinced was going to walk away when he heard all of the additional drama I was dealing with. He didn’t. Why the hell didn’t I meet him first (that’s a story for another day)?!

So, here I sit after being served the paperwork at 7:30 this morning, a full day of work, picking kids up from school and dealing with what I call the “transition day blues,” dinner, baths, and now trying to write a paper about bank regulatory law (yawn). My kids are snuggled safely in their beds. My eyes are puffy from crying for the last 32 hours. My paper is 25% written. The dog is still snoring, if you recall my first writing, but the floors are cleaned thanks to the dog sitter. But I’m left here ignoring all the things, except the love I have for my kids and the constant internal debate about if I’m getting it all right or not.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if I am getting it all right all of the time. I’d like to say I am doing my very best, but in reality, am I? I could probably do better. But as I turned out the lights tonight and tucked my boys into bed, I know that I am exactly what they need. They may not see it right now, but one day they will. And one day, I will too.

Until that day, I just want all the other mamas out there to know to keep fighting the good fight. We all have a different fight, but at the end of the day, we are enough, whether we see it now or not, we are enough.


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