I'm sitting in a Starbucks in St Paul, Minnesota. If you follow me on Instagram you know that I just spent four days driving across the country with absolutely zero planning. Roughly two weeks ago I realized that I needed to get back to Minnesota for my son's sake. After a crying jag in an airport bathroom I made up my mind. Despite the fact that it still chafes that a state's legal system knowingly and willingly hands an abusive man the ability to limit and possibly destroy my career, I had to take this risk. So here I am.
Cuddling in bed, showing off his latest Lego creation Pajamas are from Hanna Andersson.
At a recent hand-off my ex delivered my son in negative zero weather with no mittens or gloves. I texted and asked him to return to the restaurant and bring them. His response? "You can buy him some gloves." My jaw hit the ground. My concern had been frostbite, not money. Not to mention that the Target's in MN start rolling out swimsuits and packing away the winter gear this time of year so who knew if I'd be able to find a pair. When we handed off two days later on MLK Day he went off at me - I haven't been paying child support while in MA, I could buy him some mittens - and I stood there, floored, that he thought money was the issue here. I probably shouldn't have been surprised, given his past financial abuse.
Money is an ongoing issue for me and many divorced women I know. My ex knew how much he'd owe in child support within two hours of me telling him that I wanted a divorce. And his attitude has always been that he's paying *me* not that he's supporting his child. While I've been in Boston he's enrolled our son in no extracurricular activities and continued none of the lessons (swimming and piano) that I was paying for prior to moving. Btw, he grosses $12k a month. Yeah, I'll let that sink in.
At the Aloft in South Bend, IN. Love this hotel chain.
Throughout this process of trying to get permission to move my son to Boston with me I've been processing a lot. Struggling to maintain my calm in the face of my ex's horrific anger. Making the most of my time with my son. Trying to make the best decisions with the confines of the situation. And dealing with the scars still left by my ex's controlling ways. Forcing me back to Minnesota and refusing to let me take my son wasn't ever about his kid. The anger with which he reacts to me demonstrates that he hasn't grown or moved on, and his continued desire to control everything from hand-offs to my nightly calls with our kid isn't healthy. But it wasn't just about a continuation of the abuse during my marriage. It was partially about that six figure salary.
Our society attaches some sort of mythical significance to - "I make six figures." As if says anything about a person's true worth, their kindness or soul. And my ex has completely bought into that. His salary would come up when I attempted to engage him in conversations about finance or banking (subjects about which I know rather a lot) when we were married. He even mentioned it in the first five minutes of our custody hearing. In his mind it makes him better than other people, and better than me. So imagine how much it must have rocked his world when I broke that mythical number? How much it must have shaken his self-esteem when I, too, was worth that much? None of this occurred to me when I was job hunting - I'd just wanted to break that glass ceiling. That mythical number.
His entire self-esteem is built on thinking that he's better than everyone else around him, and his fancy degree and salary are a big part of that. Our self-worth doesn't come from how much we're paid. It's a number that can never measure the things that really matter.
I'm back in Minnesota and applying for jobs. Freelancing and putting out there in the Universe that I want to do more content marketing work. My mantra lately is - I am a Queen and the Universe will bring to me that which is meant to be mine.
Okay, fine, I had some crying fits on the drive out here. And holding onto that peace can be a daily effort. But I refuse to give in to despair. When I picked my son up Tuesday he launched himself into my arms and clung for dear life. "My Mommy," he said. He doesn't care that we only have a temporary home. He doesn't care that money is tight and there won't be any big Lego kits for a while. Children know what really matters, and that's the love you give them. Which in no way correlates to your paycheck. I am my son's calm in the storm and he, in many ways, is mine. Together, we'll be all right.