I Have A Date This Afternoon…Hopefully He Doesn’t Cancel

He’s tall (6’3), good looking and wears kilts every once in awhile (as seen in his profile). We’re meeting for drinks and then going to the mall for some special sale (?). Yeah…a mall trip on the first date will be a first for me since high school… I DO need a new bra from Victoria Secret, but I think that might send the wrong message.

Let’s hope he’s not another D-bag who cancels two hours before we are supposed to meet…

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Annoyances From The Weekend

As I pick up Andrew from his father’s house, the escort, a family friend says:

“SH (ex) said he received an email from the doctor that Andrew needs his one-year appointment scheduled. He missed it.”

I don’t get emails from the doctor because Andrew is on my ex’s insurance. Despite my best efforts, they never send me ANYTHING. I do the copay. I deliver the medication. I must schedule the appointments. I go to all the appointments.

Can’t he take him at least ONCE? Co-parent we don’t.

annoyed

SH definitely failed on rising to the occasion.

To Moms: You’re More Beautiful Every Day

The last post, Mary’s Story: Leaving Her Abuser (Hopefully Forever) was very intense and difficult for me to write because I see so much of my old self in Mary.

Instead of feeling depressed, my thoughts drifted to how truly beautiful mothers are and specifically, single mothers (only because I’m a bit biased).

We aren’t told this enough.

But we shouldn’t have to be told. We should feel it. Every single day.

It’s hard to get up and work through the day-to-day mechanization of taking care of our children. Smearing on lipstick and mascara is the last thing on our minds. Even if we have a little money set aside to get that well-deserved hair cut and color.

Without all that pretty-making, our children (hopefully) keep our inner being light and happy.

I am a big believer of karma because it’s based on cause-and-effect science. You do positive things, help others, or have merely exhibit good intentions and eventually the effect will pay back in dividends. It may take time, but it happens.

Our beautiful inner beings can also translate to beautiful exteriors. Sure there’s always a few pounds to lose or a few under-eye bags we’d like to see magically disappear, but with creative organization, enough rest, and stealing those “me” moments, you’ll be surprised how small changes snowball into something beautiful.

To all the mothers out there, you are BEAUTIFUL on the interior and exterior. Say it. Think it. Live it.

Chronic Bitch Face

Bitch FaceI’m asked about my chronic bitch face in subtle and unsubtle ways almost every day. It IS the tagline of my blog after all…

The office security guard pleads with me to smile on a daily basis.

The Starbucks barista asks, “Oh, come on. Is life all that bad?”

The office lech leans into my cubicle, reminding me to “Smile!”

My then-boyfriend, grimaces and asks, “Why so seriousssszzzz?”

Yes, world. I. HAVE. CHRONIC. BITCH. FACE. Or CBF for short.

My face settles and intersects with a perma-frown and the horror of smelling shit. Call me crazy, but a perma-grin is far creepier. You know at least one person at work or your neighbor with a frozen smile. They look like village idiots or worse, happy zombies.

I do not need a reminder to smile. I am capable. In fact, you will see my smile during a dirty joke, when my kid babbles, or when I am having a wonderful day.

I accept that my CBF is off-putting or a personal affront to some. But trust me, my CBF has nothing to do with you. In most cases I’m in the middle of deep and existential thoughts. I am unapproachable, because, yes you’ve guessed it, I don’t want to be approach. Or talk. Or shoot the shit.

I had a very serious episode of CBF while I was at a nearby cafe writing my blog. A few tables down, a guy in his mid-50’s and his son were enjoying lunch. Their conversation was just as off-putting as my CBF. The dad was giving his kid (who looked like he was about 17 or 18) dating tips that sounded like they belonged on the pages of Penthouse’s Letter to the Editor. Every woman who walked by received a disgusting, objectifying comment, such as “nice legs,” “tight ass,” etc. Additionally, he was chatting up the hapless waitress, asking about her workouts and commenting about her great physique. RRRRReeettccchhhh.

I knew it was coming. The other women had come and gone. I was the last female in a 30 foot radius.

“Hey, I liiiiikkkeeee your boots,” older pervert says as lecherous as it sounds.

I don’t look up, but murmur “Thanks.”

Apparently, my dismissive CBF reared it’s ugly head.

Older pervert not-so-subtly whispers across the table to his son, “Whoa. What a bitch.”

YES! EXACTLY! I am a bitch to chauvinists assholes like you and your poor son.

Logic tells me that CBF formed through years of defending myself against unwanted advances from clueless or aggressive men. Logic also tells me that I shouldn’t pigeonhole everyone into the category. Alas and alack (two of my favorite words) I haven’t acted on this form of enlightenment.

So, when you see a CBF walking down the street, please, resist the urge and ask her to smile. She doesn’t want to smile. Her face is exactly how the heavens above made it. Bitchy and all.

Any other CBFs in the blogosphere?

Recalibrating The Term “Child Custody Battle”:Lessons And Tips I’ve Learned

CustodyI’m sure many have heard this from a few bitter friends going through a difficult custody battle:

“I’m taking him to the cleaners. He’ll be paying me so much child support, he won’t have the money to take out all his little  [explicative] girlfriends.”

As much as it hurts right now, the court isn’t and shouldn’t be the battle ground to make him “pay” figuratively or literally.

As a single mom, created by my own making and by an insensitive ex (I don’t claim to be a saint. I still can’t stand him), I make it my job to be a fair steward of Andrew’s support.

It’s not my money.

Yes, I may pay for the lion’s share of everything, but at the end of the day, I don’t use Andrew’s money to supplement my income. I put 15 percent of his support directly into his college fund each month. I pay daycare 40 percent. The rest is used for food, clothes, toys and diapers.

If I want to get my hair done, I wait until I have saved enough. I am not a budget savant. I have to save, scrimp and cut the nice-to-haves that I wouldn’t think twice about pre-baby. I am about two years overdue for a massage or a spa day. I will probably fore-go that luxury for another year.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge feminist. I believe mothers are entitled to their “me” time like everyone else. I just don’t support the choice that it should be at the cost of our kid’s needs and happiness.

This is why child support has such a bad rap. Grieving, divorced parents or grieving, unmarried singles use support as a tool to “get back” at their exes. We lose sight of what is really important: the money belongs to our children.

We need a more productive dialogue on child support and custody.

Just because we made the decision, however wrong or right it was, to have a child, this does not entitle us to a monetary “reward.” The system didn’t intend for it to be a loosing proposition for one parent and a win for the other. Custody “battles” are not venues for a winner or loser (I struggle with this one because I unfortunately felt this way when I was going through it). I want to believe I practice what I preach so I made an edit on my About section to remove any “custody battle” jargon. Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize how short-sighted this was. Even serving as pro se (my own attorney), I didn’t “win” a custody battle. I went through the system and negotiated what I thought was best for Andrew.

With that being said, here are some tips and lessons learned I wish someone had imparted to me before I started on the custody and child support journey. Disclaimer: I am not a legal adviser. These tips are based solely on my lessons learned. Consult a legal adviser who is certified to practice law in ALL cases.

1.) It’s Not Your Money.

Repeat this over and over again when your unenlightened ex uses custody or child support as a bargaining chip. It’s against the law to do this. Child support is a right to the child. In almost all cases, custody decisions are made using the “best interests of the child” principle. Your ex may lob some pretty unreasonable clauses at you. Breathe. Don’t react. Remember that the judge or mediator doesn’t care about how much of a dick he is or was to you. The judge/mediator only cares that the proposals are reasonable and that they benefit your child. If the standard of living is high in your area, the child support enforcement bureau will adjust accordingly. If your ex is self-employed, they may even pose a beginning amount based on his last tax return. If he isn’t claiming everything on his taxes you may have to live with the fact that your kid won’t see that support. It’s just the harsh reality of the system. Again, don’t take the approach that you’re losing out on money owed to you. Your child is losing out and that’s something your ex must live with. Being a good and fair steward of your child’s support will increase your karma points.

2.) Read Everything You Can Get Your Hands On.

I had a Maryland Bar legal adviser to cut down my costs of a full-time litigator. Doing this took an ENORMOUS amount of my time. I had to read every bit of fine print. I had to research the local laws. I had to do my own calculations on support. I wrote every document and had my adviser review it when necessary. This isn’t for everyone. Both of my parents have a strong legal backgrounds so I grew up with a love for the law. Not everyone can understand the law and or should serve as pro se. Even if you have a lawyer (which I hope you do), read and question everything. EVERYTHING. Do the research. Don’t take your lawyer’s opinion as gold solely on the fact that they have been doing this for a very long time or because they promised a “win.” Chances are they may miss something because they didn’t live with your ex. I firmly believe knowledge is power. Research will only help you be a better negotiator for your child.

3.) Give When It Costs You Nothing And/Or Benefits Your Child.

Many times people think they need to “win” every custody argument and think it’s a show of weakness to give on the little things. I can tell you it’s not. To preserve my sanity, I gave my ex ample time with Andrew. Not just because I could (it cost next to nothing), but as my dad would say, it’s the right thing to do. I have a provision to keep extra time discretionary. It was such a small thing to do, but it really paid dividends. My ex can feel free to ask for extra time and you know what? I never deny it. It’s made visitation so much easier. It’s a show of good faith. Even if your ex is an asshole, you can rise above and give. Since I have Andrew full time, I gave his dad a bunch of static holidays and some rotating holidays (odd and even years we rotate). I don’t celebrate Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so do I really need to fight for those holidays? No. I have plenty of other holidays.

4.) Apply Negotiating Jujutsu.

Jujutsu- close combat for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon.

Some of the most seasoned negotiators apply the mental art of jujutsu to reach compromise. They are successful because they understand what is and what is not in their control and they have a respect for what is equitable. This means, the only thing you can control is you. You can’t control the system or manipulate it for your own benefit. Judges and mediators are very well attune and sensitive to manipulation of the court. Chances are, if your ex tries to manipulate the system (as mine tried), he will fall flat on his face (he did). Only liars have to remember the stories they tell. Truth tellers can recount reality with very little effort. Bottom line: keep telling the truth. Stick to what is based in fact. Divorce your emotion from the process (as hard as it is). Make a mental effort not to succumb to tactics that are inflammatory. Reacting this way adds credibility to the claim however untrue it is. You have the power to control how you react and don’t react. This is jujutsu.

5.) Don’t Obsess.

Although #2 seems a bit obsessive, fact finding shouldn’t take a life of its own. Once you obsess you have lost control of yourself. You start reacting to every word or inflammatory remark. This starts a tit-for-tat mentality that can set you back to #1. Learning should be the end, not a means to find a loophole. Negativity also has a way of infecting others the more you obsess about your case. It takes more mental energy and strain to obsess than to enjoy life in the moment and learn.

6.) Respect The Court System. It Is What It Is.

If the court had time to wrestle over every ill in our society, we would never progress. The court system isn’t infallible and sometimes it makes serious errs in judgement. At it’s best, courts, judges, lawyers and other court stewards exist to stay neutral and equitable. That’s the very definition of justice. So, you may not receive the judgment you feel is right for your child. That’s not fair. But, you have the power to appeal. If you can’t afford it, make due until you can. Because the courts rarely like to deal with the rawness of a very emotional split and custody arrangement, seek outside counseling with or without your ex. If you had a court appointed lawyer due to income restrictions (they are often over worked and unappreciated too!) and you feel like they didn’t advocate well enough, save for a lawyer who can and appeal based on serious unfairness. Don’t keep wasting the court’s time with frivolous motions because you’re angry or were unfairly represented. Most times the judge will reappoint another lawyer in cases where there is clear and convincing evidence to show you weren’t represented fairly. Which leads to my last point…

7.) Keep Records Of EVERYTHING.

All the small emails that seemed innocuous at the time. Record the frequency of your lawyer’s phone calls, what you discussed and what decisions, if any, were made. Keep a chronology of events leading up to the custody petition that show you have your child’s best interests at heart. Ask for a court recorder and pay for the transcripts. This is key, especially if you plan on an appeal. A court recorder’s transcripts show an accurate reflection of what you and your ex testified under oath. If he swore under oath you were a good mother and then recanted it later, a judge will naturally ask that he provide evidence that proves otherwise. Keeping records holds everyone (yes, including you) accountable for their intentions, actions and words.

I hope the lessons I learned are helpful. Remember, this too shall pass. Keep loving yourself and your L.O. Karma has a way of paying it forward…

Daycare Battles and Unsolicted Parental “Advice”

adviceDo any bloggers have stories of their daycare provider/babysitter taking liberties with the care and welfare of your child/children?

I have a major gripe going with my daycare provider right now. I’m trying to switch, but alas and alack, Andrew LOVES her. Enter mommy guilt.

First of all, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t hear about my parental failings:

“You forgot formula AGAIN!”- Um no biotch, you told me you needed more after you were out. What sense does that make? Tell me BEFORE you run out. Logic = problem solved = mind blown.

“You really shouldn’t bring Andrew if he’s congested. Even if he doesn’t have a fever, it’s still not good for the other kids.” – I’m a single mom. I don’t have the luxury of taking off every time Andrew has the sniffles. I pay you to…wait for it…DEAL WITH IT. Quarantine if you have to. Just don’t make the running of your business my issue.

“You’re late. I have an important nursing certification class I’m now late for. I don’t have time for this. I’m going to have to charge you next time.” – I was well within the 10 minute grace period of our contract. It’s not my problem you scheduled your classes so close to the grace period. Either a.) change your policy OR b.) live with it. Again, not my problem.

“I can’t believe Andrew is one already! My baby boy is growing so fast! I mean, our baby boy is growing so fast!” -Okay, I’m pretty sure I was the one pushing him out of my uterus, not you. This isn’t a parenting partnership because I PAY you to listen to ME. I pick him up and nurse him back to health when he’s sick. I kiss away the boo-boos. I decide what he wears and eats. I take him to the zoo. I’m squirreling money away for his college fund. Loving Andrew because he’s a great kid is one thing, but claiming him as “your” or “our” baby is a little weird and uncomfortable.

One thing I’ve learned as a mom is that you don’t fuck with people’s parenting skills. EVER. As a single mom, people feel COMPELLED to give you advice, even if it’s in good faith (married mothers, I know this is true for you too). I don’t need your two cents. In fact, if I need help, I will ask. I will say, “Hey, that’s a great grocery cart cover for your baby, where did you get it?” Please don’t tap me on the shoulder, point to your grocery cart cover and say, “I got this on sale at BuyBuyBaby,” in a passive-aggressive attempt to get me to feel guilty that Andrew is sitting nicely in the cart without one.

My mother is a great example of this. She operates under the I-raised-you-and-look-how-well-you-turned-out-so-listen-to-me! principle. I simply asked her to not use the term “no” around Andrew by correcting his behavior in an example like: “We do X, not Y.” She was incensed, saying that Andrew understands, “No,” and little else. Yeah…I get that. But saying “No” twenty times to a baby doesn’t correct behavior and I’d like her to get into the habit of taking the word out of her vocabulary altogether. It’s more of a conditioning experiment for the authoritarian, not the baby. My philosophy was lost on her.

Our culture needs a heavy dose of “butt-out.” Grandparents included. You may grandparent Andrew by sneaking him treats when I’m not around, but you should be staying out of my major parenting decisions. And yeah, the incessant crying in the grocery store is never fun. I hate it too. But who am I to go up to the tired and annoyed mother and berate her for not silencing her unaware infant at his/her impolite behavior? Unfortunately, American culture is easily irritated, highly impersonal, and completely impatient.

Hey, know-it-all/unsolicited advisers: It’s NOYB, so CYWO (i.e. “None of your business, so see your way out”).

When It Sucks Being A Single Mother…

sickThere is a time when you rue the day you became a single mother. That fateful day is none other than–DON, DON, DAHHHHH– THE FLU.

I felt the body aches cascade throughout my body Saturday night.

Then the fever.

Then the nausea and the chills sending me pawing for the toilet. No…no…no…

By early Sunday morning, I carefully crawled to the bathroom sink. I looked like a zombie– part of the pasty, undead hoard of the Walking Dead. The dark rings under my eyes had the remnants of crust and frenzied sleep. My blood vessels had hemorrhaged. Andrew, thankfully, was still fast asleep.

“Mom,” I croaked over the phone.

“What? What is it? Everything okay?” my mom said, half-asleep herself.

“I need dad to take me to the ER.”

My mother is use to the constant stream of sickness. This is the third stomach flu in three months. The gremlins at daycare have radar. Seek and destroy with biological warfare.

Both of may parents arrive in separate cars. One to take Andrew and one to ferry me to the ER.

My dad slings a bathroom trash can into my lap.

“Vomit here,” he directs. As if I had a question.

Four hours later, I am discharged, a Zofran pill (thank the gods for this miracle drug) dissolving under my tongue.

I sleep for three hours at my parents place, try to force down burnt toast and sadly wave to Andrew through my self-imposed bubble of quarantine.

That night, I’m (kind of) well enough to go home. At least the vomiting has stopped and the chills are waning. The ER was a gift (albeit a $100 gift). My dad drives Andrew and I home. I quickly bathe and tuck him in after wearing my hospital-issued face mask while washing my hands like an OCD patient.

The next day, with my spirit renewed, I couldn’t have thanked my parents more. I am lucky to have a support system who can drop everything at a moments notice. But I hurt for the single parents living away from their family when the proverbial shoe drops.

If there is ever a day I hate being a single parent, it’s listening to Andrew wailing for “Mumma,” while vomiting uncontrollably into a toilet bowl.