Overnight, Marjorie went from being a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters to being the non-custodial parent with very limited access to her youngest daughter.
Her eldest daughter was from a previous relationship and her husband had tried to persuade Marjorie that since she had a child, he should be able to raise their youngest daughter alone. Any mother knows that it doesn’t work like that. Children are not like toys that can be divided up. When Marjorie wouldn’t agree to the proposal, her husband contrived a situation to get Marjorie arrested for domestic violence and then he got a restraining order restricting her contact with their daughter.
Marjorie has been the non-custodial parent for over a year now, and during that time she’s found that the pain of being separated doesn’t go away but there are creative ways to stay involved with her child. Here’s Marjorie:
Well, when it first happened, it was hard for me, because the school had gotten involved. It was almost as if they had to protect her, as if something was wrong with me, so it was hard for me to go to the school. It wasn’t until they started dealing more with my husband and noticing how he would always try to prevent me from being involved with the school that they realized “something’s wrong with this guy.”
At first it was really unbearable, because although she spent some time with me, I was aching and I was hurting because I knew that she had to go. That was really difficult. I knew our time was coming to an end, and she would have to go. For a while, that would preoccupy me. It’s still hard, it’s still hard when she comes. Just last night, she said to me when we were leaving, “This is the worst part of the day for you, mommy.”
I said, “Yes, how did you know?” and she said, “This is the worst part of the day for me too.” We know we have to separate. It is a type of pain that is so unbearable, it’s almost like something is pulling at my heart, and every time I look at her picture, every time I think about what she must be feeling and thinking, what she would be thinking when she’s laying in bed. Her mommy’s not there. Her sister’s not there. That’s when I really start to hurt for her, that she’s had to go through this. I know what I had to go through, but I’m strong, she’s just a little girl, she’s just a little kid.
I worry too about her knowing the anger that her father has, she’s sensed it, she’s seen it. What is that doing to her? That hurts. That makes me hurt, too, that she’s having to deal with that.
The time I spend with her, it is so precious. I don’t think I will ever take loving her for granted again. Even with my oldest, she’s in college now, and every moment that I have, even with her, those moments are precious to me.
Now I’m understanding more about my rights. Even when something like this happens, you still have a rights as a mother…the judge gave him majority custody of her, but it didn’t give him majority rights, and that’s the tug of war. I now go to school, have lunch with her, volunteer, so that means even the days that she can’t be with me here in my home, I can go to the school and I can see her face and I can give her a kiss and I can go on field trips. That’s how I still stay involved with the school and be present in her life.
A lot of times, the parent who has the majority custodial time believes that gives them more rights to the child, and more decision-making, and it’s not so. The child is being used as a pawn. My child is being used as a pawn, and that’s the sad thing, that’s the sickening thing.
The Divorce Coach Says
Marjorie makes a very important point here about the difference between parenting time and parenting rights and I love the ways she found to stay involved with her child even when she didn’t have custody. It’s this sort of approach that embraces, in my view that being a parent is a state of being, it’s not a responsibility that begins and end with parenting times set out in a legal document. I know that my parenting agreement while stipulating joint decision-making on educational matters didn’t make any reference to either my or my ex’s involvement in school or after-school activities.
So even if you are in a shared custody situation, take Marjorie’s advice, there are still ways to have contact with your children when it’s not your “parenting time.”
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