The Case Against Home Cooked Meals From A Single Mom

Yesterday I confessed my guilt that I could only manage one home cooked meal a week. In the good old days, my working mother came home to cook almost every night. My mother responded, “Well, you should make more of an effort because it builds memories.” But the memories I remember was the act of sitting together as a family, not necessarily the cordon blu we were eating.

Studies show that the act of sitting down to a meal with your children is MORE important than making a brilliant meal from scratch.

So with that in mind, all the single moms should release the pressure of making daily home cooked meals if you’re stretched to the limit and instead focus on healthy meals and spending time with you kids.

Parents’ Irregular Work Hours Psychologically Affect Kids

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute is looking at how social class characteristics effect children’s development and achievement to suggest policy changes — found that kids of all ages can suffer fallout when parents are called in for erratic work hours.

For toddlers, that can mean hampered sensory perception, learning and problem-solving skills, and verbal communication.

Young teenagers, meanwhile, are more prone to depression and risky behaviors, such as smoking or drinking, when parents work at night.

The biggest takeaway from the findings is that policy changes and new laws are needed to prevent employers from disregarding the scheduling needs of their workers, especially those who are parents. “Employers should avoid these practices,” Eisenbrey stresses. “When you change a schedule without notice, childcare plans get disrupted or are impossible to even make, especially when it comes to high quality care, which requires regular drop-off and pickup times.”

Doesn’t seem like Amazon would care about this study too much…

4 Truths You Must Accept When Your Ex (and Co-Parent) Finds New Love (Great Article)

It’s rare to find a Yahoo Parenting article that provides real-life co-parenting philosophy. The author takes this approach to co-parenting that I can get behind: It’s not about you!

https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/4-truths-you-must-accept-when-your-ex-and-118708041603.html

By Cris Gladly

These days, complaining about your ex-spouse is as common (and cliché) as married people making snarky comments about their “dreaded in-laws”.

Talk for five minutes with any divorced person and you’ll soon hear a gripe about their ex: “Can you believe what he/she did now?! What a self-serving assh*le!”

You likely have a few gripes of your own about YOUR ex, right?

Well, I’m in that camp, too. At least, I was.

Between skipped child support payments and his propensity for frequent, nasty, overly dramatic emails, it’s safe to say I’m not a fan of my ex. But I didn’t feel true outrage until he started a new relationship.

Was I jealous? Actually, no. Not in the least. He and I were not in love, so when we split, I felt pretty nonchalant about the idea of him meeting someone new. I truly wished him well in that department.

But, what I was NOT prepared for was how much my Mama Bear instincts would rear up and let out a primal ROAR when he introduced his new girlfriend (now wife) into our daughter’s life.

What’s crazy is that, at the start of our separation, my ex is the one who insisted on strict rules regarding how we could and could not introduce a new love interest to our daughter. Items on his “how to move on” list? Our daughter was not allowed to meet a new partner in either of our lives until we knew we were marrying that person (uhm, say what?!) and that (when that time came) the ex-spouse was to meet that “someone new” before our daughter ever did.

So, how ironic that despite all of his posturing about that agreement being necessary for the good of our daughter … my ex broke his own rules just three months after we separated when he started dating a kindergarten teacher at our daughter’s elementary school.

During the two and half years of their courtship, engagement, and subsequent marriage, I disapproved of just about EVERYTHING related to how my ex (and his new love) inserted their relationship into “my” daughter’s life.

From how I found out about them dating (the very drunk, very gossipy drama teacher ambushed me with the news at a social event in front of others). To him refusing to let me meet his girlfriend in person for a year and a half, yet allowing the girlfriend to spend time alone with our daughter (including driving our daughter around in her car). To the rather un-celebrated role our daughter played in their wedding.

And don’t even get me started on what happened to my daughter’s poor cat after my ex’s cat-allergic new bride moved in. (R.I.P. Maddie Cat.)

But, here’s the thing … even though I took HUGE issue with a lot about how my ex’s new relationship unfolded in our daughter’s life, I bit my tongue and kept quiet about 90 percent of it.

Why? Because, frustrating as it is, there are four harsh but vitally important truths we ALL must suck up and accept about handling life post-divorce:

1. If I don’t have legal grounds to complain, I need to shut up about it.

A very hard pill to swallow? Yes. But the truth is (as my lawyer explained) that unless our children are in clear physical danger (abuse, neglect, etc.) or either party “significantly or consistently” violates terms of our legal custody agreement (child support, visitation, information sharing, etc.) the court simply doesn’t give a f*ck about what upsets us personally. (Boo-hoo. Too bad. No one cares. Buh-bye!)

Our opinions and feelings on any matter outside of legally enforceable agreements are, in a word, irrelevant. So, even if I personally think my was wrong to let our daughter be alone with his girlfriend before I met her, I didn’t have one legal leg to stand on.

Like it or not, what my ex, or your ex, does and who they allows around our children during their visitation is his judgment call to make, just like the same is true when our kids are home with us. And that is perhaps the most terrifying reality a divorced parent must face. Is it not? No longer having full control over who is around our children anymore.

But the law is the law. So, if there is no legal recourse for addressing a matter that frustrates me, I’ve learned to think twice about picking a fight about it.

2. Not doing something my way does NOT make my ex wrong.

Oh, our big mommy and daddy egos — always so certain that the way we do something is the one and only right way. And, of course, our exes are vile villains if they dare to deviate from that way, right? I occasionally fall prey to this ego trip, too.

Uhm, newsflash: Our exes (and the people in their new life) don’t remotely care what we think.

So, if I think introducing a new relationship to our daughter should go differently, then the one and ONLY place I have a say in that, is in my own new love relationship. But I have no right to expect a say in my what ex does. He can court the new woman in his life, propose, and have a wedding ceremony any way he wants.

And getting over myself on this one allows wonderful benefits for our daughter. Because, as long as none of the “adults” on either side ruin it with unnecessary snarkiness, our daughter now gets to see multiple examples of how people choose to show up in relationships and show love.

3. How would I feel in his shoes?

Being a kind and gracious person is an important priority to me (yep, even when my Mama Bear temper is flaring up). So, one thing I make myself do every time I got annoyed at my ex and his new wife is imagine how I might feel in their shoes.

Sure, my ex made a big, ridiculous stink with the whole “good faith” new relationship rules that he immediately broke, but I’d like to think that occurred because he wasn’t in a new relationship yet. Our marriage was a very unhappy one. And I think when he suddenly did find new love, he just wanted to protect it. And while I certainly did not appreciate some of his choices, I understand his instinct to keep that new joy as safe as possible.

My ex has every right to move on and be happy on his own terms. Just like I have the right to do the same (and have happily done so). I mean, isn’t moving on the whole point of divorce?

4. My job is to worry about MY relationship with our daughter, not his.

What I want most in this world is for my daughter to feel valued, safe, and loved. Did some of the choices my ex made in his courtship, engagement, and new marriage negatively affect her, even if unintentionally? Yes. She says fairly often that she feels left out and less important to him.

I want that to not be so. But here’s the thing: ultimately, she is safe at her dad’s. Her dad loves her. And his new wife is actually a really nice person. Are there some kinks in their father-daughter dynamic? Yes. But, that’s his job to notice and work through. And lord knows when the teen years hit, my daughter and I will likely face kinks in our dynamic, too.

My job is to focus on making my own relationship with my daughter happy, strong, trust-filled, and wonderful. Part of doing that is teaching her the conflict resolution and communication skills she’ll need for success in any relationship in her life (with her dad and even in her relationship with me).

The bottom line is, whether I wish my ex harm or wish him well, nobody cares. My opinion of my ex and his new life just doesn’t matter. The only opinion that does actually matter is the one my daughter holds in her heart about her life and relationship with me.

So, is biting my tongue and letting ex-drama slide easy? No.

But there’s an amazing benefit of taking the high road first, as often and as consistently as you can. It sets a precedent that keeping the peace is possible and that, for everyone’s sake (but most especially for our daughter’s) the right thing to do is end the nit-picky opinionated b.s. so that we can ALL (him, me, and) our daughter) truly move on.

The Half-Brothers I Never Really Knew And The Power Of “No”

My half-brothers are in town visiting my dad. After I pick up Andrew, the plan is to go have dinner with the family.

A difficult question bubbled up from my mom on Friday. She wanted me to spend the weekend with everyone after my Saturday class. She asked, “Why don’t you make you dad happy and spend some time with the guys after your class?”

I had already agreed to Sunday dinner. And to be clear, I don’t really have a relationship with my half-brothers. We don’t call on each others birthdays and we never grew up together. In fact, for ten years, my brother’s were virtually estranged from my family.

Now that I am an adult and a single mother, working full time and attending graduate school, I have very FEW moments to myself. I cherish the time I do have every other weekend to take care of my soul and pursue the things that make me happy within the 48 hours twice a month- even if it is as simple as an hour at the gym and a moment to write or decompress from the week at the nail salon. Between guilt and perceived family “obligations,” I am unapologetic with “me” time. If my brothers had picked a weekend when I had Andrew, I’m sure I would be writing a very different post.

The point I’m trying to make is that mothers, single or not, who dedicate their precious free time to make others happy or comfortable are doing a disservice to themselves. Our culture encourages the ideal that once you are a mother, you must sacrifice, sacrifice and sacrifice almost all of your time for the “good” of your children. I believe quality time, not the quantity of time is what’s important.

Sometimes, we need to embrace the power of saying “No” and make our mental and emotional well-being a priority.

Kimberly Allers Forgives Almost $40K in Child Support: I Have One Huge Problem With Her Argument!

New York Times Photo Credit

New York Times Photo Credit

For all interested in the issue of child support, I recommend reading this article the New York Times showcased “Forgiving $38,750 in Child Support, for My Kids’ Sake.”

There are many things that I agree and disagree with Ms. Aller’s article.

Things I Agree With:

  • “We have too often reduced nonresidential fathers to being weighed and judged by a financial transaction. If you don’t pay, you’re a “dead beat.” End of one story, beginning of a new one, one that can mean suspended drivers’ licenses and professional licenses, seized bank deposits and tax refunds, and the very real risk of jail time.” I agree that financial support is one facet of the value of fathers, however the law does not deal in subjectivity and intangibles. This is a weakness of the legal system and social services.
  • “Studies prove that school-age children of involved fathers have better academic success, higher grade point averages and go on to have higher levels of economic and educational achievement. We focus on money, when “child support” also means emotional support, academic support and the supportive power of a male influence in a child’s life. Negating that value is dangerous to our children. Regardless of what I think of him, my children love their father and doing my part to keep that feeling alive is priceless to me.” Again, I agree with this premise. Children do far better when they feel love and spend time with both parents. Plenty of visitation time between fathers and their children should be the norm, not the exception. Parents who engage in parental alienation by trying to circumvent visitation should be punished harshly.
  • “In the seven years since my divorce, my ex-husband (or “wasband” as I like to call him) has always given our children his time, whether he had money or not. He currently makes payments to me directly when he is able.”  I think that’s great, however this woman should have established a parenting plan with a low, base amount with direct payment to the mother and allowed the judge to sign it, rather than getting Child Support Enforcement (CSE) involved. CSE only gets involved when you submit a case. In many states, this is a viable option.

Things I Disagree With:

  • “I’m financially stable now. I’m lucky to be able to forgive the arrears, but it is money I would likely never see anyway. Hanging onto that debt is like hanging onto other things that went wrong for us, and it gets in the way of what’s best for our children. It will have been three hours and $38,750 well spent.” This is the crux of my disagreement in Ms. Aller’s argument: that this woman is “lucky to be able to forgive arrears, but it is money I would likely never see anyway.” This money DOES NOT BELONG TO THE HER. By definition, child support is for the children, where the custodial parent acts as a responsible party to help pay for things that are in the best interest of the child. The woman who writes this article fails to realize that her spouse bilked almost $40,000 from his child, not his ex wife. That’s a pretty nice chunk of change that could go to a college education.

All other arguments were mostly concrete until I read that the judge actually agreed to forgiving her child’s much needed support. The decision is for her to make as the responsible party, however I don’t think she acted in the best interest of her child, even though her intentions sound honorable. She misunderstood the entire premise of child support- better named “the child’s support.”

I don’t believe criminalizing men who are unable to pay versus unwilling to pay is the answer, however the law deals with compliance and fairness, not emotions, for a reason. Asking the judge if they could create a parenting plan that includes setting a low amount for a college trust fund would have been a better, more responsible answer to this divisive issue.

At the end of the day, child support is the CHILD’S SUPPORT and not the parent’s support. When we acknowledge and educate individuals on the difference, I hope our legal and social services will create more supportive services to custodial and noncustodial parents to favor parenting plans over Child Support Enforcement and legal battles, provided an amicable divorce/child custody arrangement.

I previously wrote about this topic here: Recalibrating The Term “Child Custody Battle”:Lessons And Tips I’ve Learned

Mothers Rejoice! New Study Proves Quality Time Matters More Than Quantity

stylishlyeverafter.blogspot.com

stylishlyeverafter.blogspot.com

According to a groundbreaking new study, to be published in April in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which found no relationship between the behavior, academic achievements, or emotional well being of a child aged 3-11 and the amount of time spent with a parent — particularly mom.

“When it Comes to Spending Time With Kids, Quantity Doesn’t Matter.”

Bottom line: Don’t worry so much about the amount of time, but what you do when you are together.

Why Does He Do That?

For those who are undergoing a divorce or bitter custody dispute with an abusive ex-partner, or thinking about leaving him, I really recommend you read Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. She acknowledges that many abusive ex-partners can be women, but in her studies, the abusers are overwhelmingly male.

Some of her most salient points on the tactics abuser’s use to manipulate and control during post-separation and visitation include (paraphrased):

  • Pumping for information about the mother’s life, especially about new partners.
  • Returning children dirty, unfed or sleep-deprived.
  • Discussing the possibility of the children living with him instead, even though he doesn’t have the means or time to support the children or the change is unfounded.
  • Continuing to drive relationship wedges with unnecessary conflict.
  • Undermining her authority by making his house a place where there are no rules or limits so that the children chafe against the normal discipline of the mother’s home when they return.
  • Threatening to take the children away.
  • Seeking unfounded or unreasonable modification to existing custody or visitation orders.
  • Insisting on visitation, only to leave the child in the care of another family member, friend or partner.

why does he do thatI really recommend this book. It has a rich account of her case studies and burrows deep into the different forms of abuse/abusive types and deconstructs how they tick. It’s worth the money, as I still use it as reference and a refresher from time-to-time. It has really been a source of strength for me during the last two years.

Knowledge is power.

Single Parent’s Perspective: Back-handed Compliments

My mother is one of my fiercest referees when it comes to parenting. Last night, after discussing how I am navigating a contentious co-parenting relationship with the ex, she delivered a seriously back-handed compliment (of which, I’m sure she is oblivious):

“You’re doing the best you can with what you have.”

I’m sure she saw it as a show of support. I was thinking, “The best I can? That smells of ‘I could be doing better.'”

Some other examples of back-handed admiration or I’m-glad-not-to-be-in-your-position-isms:

“As long as the child’s father is involved…”

“Look on the bright side. At least you get every other weekend off!”

“I don’t know how you do it without help.”

“You’re only one person…”

“Well, living for your child is the only thing that matters.”

“You’re doing such a great job!” or “You’re so good with him!” (from my ex-mother-in-law).

“She has a strong support system.” (my defensive mother said to her friend).

“Wow, you’re totally a supermom. How do you find time to shit?” (a man I was talking to online after he found out I was a parent, career woman and student).

Does anyone have other examples of the dreaded back-handed compliment?

Backhanded Compliment(image source: tumblr.com)

Waddling Wednesday: We Are Walkin’…Almost Talkin’

So I’m going to take a page out of Beyonce’s book on Blue Ivy: post pictures that obscure her daughter’s face. I kind of like that idea.

My little waddler :-)

My little waddler 🙂

So Andrew is dashing around the apartment now with frantic pace. He’s into EVERYTHING. His favorite toy is the blinds’ pull string. The darn thing is so long I have to vigilantly tie it up. We’ve kind of moved beyond the cabinet phase with my handy-dandy locks, however, they are a pain in the ass to remove if I need something (like Fort Knox). I have so many toys that I could open up my own Toys R’ Us and yet, he finds more mischievous ways to entertain himself. I will forever be in awe on how babies are born to defeat the Man (i.e. baby proofing system).

Our word count is now at a solid ten:

  1. Dauuughhy- doggy
  2. Boo- blue
  3. Maaammmm- mom
  4. Da-da- dad
  5. Meemee- grandma
  6. Noooooo- no
  7. Ewwww- ew
  8. Uhhhh-ohhhh- oops
  9. Curcal- circle
  10. Nannn- Nana (other grandma)

He also points and gestures and can put toys in cups during bath time.

Ahhhh how they grow. I will savor every moment :-).