I feel like there is a certain stigma attached to women who are non-custodial moms. Before I fell into this category, I used to wonder quietly…”I wonder what she did to lose her kids?” Are non-custodial moms all bad? Of course not! Before I became one, I assumed that moms who didn’t have custody of their children either didn’t want their children, or had their children stolen by fathers who just vanished into thin air with the kids.
Now I know the difference. Since I lost custody of my three older children, I have learned that there are THOUSANDS of women who have lost custody of their children at the hands of an imperfect family court system. Justice was supposed to be about, well, Justice! These days, Justice might still be blind, but her vision gets miraculously clear when money is shoved in her face. He who has the most expensive attorney wins! Money can’t buy you happiness, but it sure as heck can buy you a judge…and a guardian ad litem if you so choose. Unfortunately for me, and my kids, I couldn’t afford to bankroll either of them. But, I digress.
I’ve found myself fibbing out in public, more so lately than ever. People will see me with Tristan and ask, “Is he your first?” I proudly say, “No, he’s my FOURTH!” Usually I get an “Oh my, you don’t look old enough to have four!”, followed by a, “How did you get a kitchen pass to leave the others at home?” Sometimes I tell them they’re with their dad, and they will assume that means at home, where I live. Sometimes I just tell them that the other three are in school all day. (Which isn’t a lie at all…they really are in school all day…just in school 900 miles away). I just don’t like to get into the story of how it all happened. Because trust me, it would take a while to explain it. One day I will put it all in my memoir, but for now…I just really don’t like to get into the details. Especially with people I hardly know. On more than one occasion, I have mentioned that I have three older children who live out of state with their dad. That remark usually earns me the slot of “deadbeat mom” and I’m dismissed from that person’s realm of friendship. I assure you, I’m no deadbeat. I pay child support like any absent parent should. I see my kids regularly, often more than what the custody arrangement calls for. I even chaperon field trips with them from time to time. Yet, still, it is assumed by most people who don’t know me, or my situation, that I’m a bad mom because I moved away from my children.
The truth is, the courts actually do NOT favor the mother. Perhaps the next time you come across a mom who doesn’t have custody of her children you’ll pause before rushing to judge. In all likelihood, that choice was made by an imperfect court who knew neither her or her children, not by the mom herself. In the meantime, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t really matter what other people think, and not everybody I meet needs to hear the whole story. So, for now, the little white lies to the strangers don’t really matter. Those who are closest to me know what happened, and the struggle I went through with my choice to relocate. Those who were my true friends stood behind me and supported me through it. My children will one day learn the circumstances of it all as well, when they’re old enough to understand. Until then, I have to continue to ensure that they know how much I love them and that my doors are always open, whenever they are able to decide for themselves in front of the courts just where they want to live, and with whom. It may not happen until they’re 18. It could happen sooner. Who knows?