Writing a little more about my experience in court last week. This week, I want to talk about pettiness.
The Art Deco courthouse is truly beautiful.
In my custody re-negotiations I asked for language to be added around extracurricular activities. C has been in swim lessons since he was nine months old. I have sweet videos of him in the pool with both his parents, splashing. We now have a pool at our building and if I’d let him we’d go every night. Swimming is important to him. I’m the only one who has enrolled him in or paid for lessons since my divorce. I’m also the only one who’s paid for soccer, ice skating, piano, and attempted to enroll him in other sports.
No, not all at once :) I don’t think overloading children in activities is good, so I wanted him to do swimming plus one other activity per season. I also wanted the costs to be split. This was a problem, apparently. Thus - court. And the following conclusions;
It is utterly impossible to negotiate with a petty man.
As we can all tell you, there is no man so petty as a narcissist who has been dumped by a woman. And yet, I was the recipient of eye contact and a lecture from the judge as if I was the one who was making it difficult for my child to have a normal life. The judge went on and on about how bad the co-parenting relationship must be that we have to argue about and discuss this in court. I agree with him. But, unlike him, I know where to place the blame.
I’m in several divorced mom’s groups on Facebook and there’s a common refrain about the pettiness of the men we’ve left. Refusing to return clothes we’ve bought our kids, essentially forcing us to outfit two households. Ignoring the legal mandate that they tell us where our children are living, hiding behind phrases like “my mailing address hasn’t changed,” until we have to spend three hundred dollars in legal fees just to know where our children are sleeping.
Society perpetuates stereotypes of petty, back-stabbing women while extending to men a blanket pardon for their actions. It’s sexist and completely ignores reality. While I’m sure they exist, I’ve yet to meet a mom who doesn’t want to give her children a good life. I know moms who hustle between two jobs in order to pay for ballet and who are also taking online classes so that they can someday get a better job.
How I dressed for court. skirt and heels are from Banana Republic, blouse is from J Crew.
In the space of a week I’ve seen three divorced moms post excitedly about amazing job offers they’ve received from companies out of state. Offers that would save them from the threat of homelessness (in one instance, actual homelessness). Offers that would allow them to work one job rather than three, and not be dependent on a man who’s always late with child support (if he pays it at all). Offers that would lift their children out of poverty or out of economic security. And each time myself or another divorced mom has had to gently explain to them that most states’ laws will make it extremely difficult for them to leave the state with their children. Even if their ex isn’t paying child support. Even if he has little to no visitation rights.
Laws which are meant to establish the best interests of the children without taking into consideration their mother’s economic health and vitality are sexist, short-sighted and trapping women in impossible situations. Laws that have as their presumption that the man in the relationship will be the primary breadwinner are laughably outdated and ignore the reality of the massive amounts of unpaid child support nationwide. They are directly, and negatively, influencing the lives of the children they are meant to protect.
The perception that pettiness comes from women and these laws need to change. They are limiting women’s lives, which directly impacts our children. If the woman is the only parent giving their child opportunities, if she is the only parent putting aside money for her child’s education, and if she cannot better herself and improve her career because of a man whom she’s left, how do these helps help children?
Let’s call it what it is - laws that limit and prevent women from moving from one state to another without taking into consideration her current financial state and how it would be improved by a move are deeply, inherently sexist. They devalue our lives. They harm our children. And they need to be amended or struck from the books.