Co-parenting Conundrums

This last weekend, I made a road trip. I drove my home in Orlando to Naples to pick up my son for the weekend. My ex-husband and I have joint custody of our 11-year-old son. At this season in my life, my ex is the custodial parent, and I pay child support. It wasnt always like this. I was the custodial parent for about a year and half. Then my son had behavioral issues and it was recommended by his psychologist that he needed to be with his dad. So my son moved to Florida to live with his father about a year ago. I ended up moving to Florida myself a little under a year ago as well.

It is nice to be close to my son. I can say, in all honesty, that if I was still living in Missouri, I would probably not see my son. Travel is so expensive. Trying to get off work for several days at a time each month to visit is almost impossible.

Even though I live in an expensive area, and rent is outrageous, I don’t regret moving down here. The trip from Orlando to Naples is about four hours. I pick up my son, turn around and drive back home. Last weekend, my air conditioner in the car stopped working. So this trip was made in the 90 so degree heat, with just the windows down. Again, no regrets! We spent a great weekend together, swimming, watching golf, movies and relaxing.

Those brief weekends, those few hours of time together, I cherish. Even if they are not weekends full of amusement parks and dining out. Just feeling like a mom again gives me so much joy. To see my son smile and hear his laugh this weekend playing in the pool, was priceless.

You see, I suffer from “mommy guilt”. Modifying the custody agreement to let my ex-husband be the custodial parent was like a punch in the gut. Things are better now, but I still have the nagging voice in my head wondering why I can’t be with my son 24/7 like it used to be. Like it used to be during my marriage and shortly after.

Is it selfish to feel this way? My son is living with his dad and step mom, who are financially stable enough to send him to one of the best schools in Collier County. They live in a gorgeous condo, with many opportunities for recreation. I am grateful for his dad and step mom. They stepped up as parents.

I still get mildly irritated when I have to text back and forth with my ex regarding weekend plans. It’s always something. Dates don’t work, times dont work. My son showing up missing half his clothes for the weekend due to last-minute packing. The usual.

It’s all worth it to see your child. I thank God that my ex and I have enough of a cordial relationship that we put our son first.

Who has some co-parenting stories like this? Do any other parents out here feel like I do sometimes?

Cleaning Up Your Finances after Divorce

Divorce is difficult, expensive, messy, and trying. One of the most dramatic changes is your finances. And once the papers are signed and filed, the next step is to start moving on with your life. One of your first steps should be getting a hold of your financial situation post divorce. It can be overwhelming at first, but take it day by day. I’m going to share a few resources I used when my divorce was finalized to help me get back on track financially. I recommend you approach your financial situation objectively, this will help clear your mind and make progress with the budgeting process. Being overly emotional with the process can slow you down and cloud your judgement. Your ultimate goal here is to get back on your feet, and that means being honest with yourself regarding your spending habits. It’s not going to be fun, but in the end you will feel better knowing where you stand and the steps you need to take to get your life on track.

The first step is to sit down with a pen and paper and comb through your divorce judgement. Write down the debts you are responsible for. Make note of how much child support you are to pay/receive each month. Then go through your own personal expenses and make a list of what you are responsible for.  Writing it down on paper gives you a black and white view of where you stand.

The second step is to make a monthly budget. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I just took out a piece of paper  and on the left side noted all my bills and expenses for the month and on the right side noted my monthly income. I then subtracted the bills and expenses from the income and that is what I had left over for the month. In my case, with my first budget, I was in the hole money wise. So what now? Look at your bills and expenses and cut things that are unnecessary. Be that cable, getting your hair and nails done, eating out, etc. It sucks, but at first after your divorce, you need to get back on your feet and to a place financially later on down the road to be able to spend money on those things.

The third step is research. Google and YouTube will be your friends. Research all you can regarding budgets and ways to save money. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I took this course at my church with my now ex-husband several years ago in the early stages of our marriage. Dave gives no-nonsense advice on how to make a budget, understand insurance and investments and instructions on how to use his baby step program to get out of debt. He also has an awesome podcast on iTunes, and a motivational Instagram account to keep you on track. To find more information about Dave Ramsey click here

As a single mom, I found Emma Johnson over at Wealthy Single Mommy to be a great resource for moving forward financially post divorce. She gives great advice on how single moms need to be financially independent. She also blogs about issues affecting single moms, be it jobs, relationships, parenting, etc.

I found that social media is a great resource for financial information and motivation. Just be wise about who you follow. I personally love Instagram because it is simple and to the point and it is easy to engage with others for advice. Facebook pages are also a great resource for budgeting and advice on saving money.

The final step is to get moving! Now that you have your budget made, look at ways to increase your income if need be. Start a side hustle on eBay, Etsy, or sell things on Craigslist. Take whatever money you can make and apply it to your debts and saving. Make goals and start working on them. Goals will give you motivation when times are tough. And there will be tough times on this financial healing journey. Keep in mind that you will get through this, just one step at a time.

What resources do you use to budget? What advice do you want to share in regards to healing financially after divorce?

The Divorce

See the photo of that woman? Those sad eyes were mine back in August 2016. That was the month I found out I was getting divorced. I remember the day the bomb dropped as if it were yesterday. August 2016, my husband, son and I were just moved back into our house in Fordland, Missouri. We had spent the previous three years in Naples, Florida for my husband’s job. On that particular day, it was morning, I was making a protein shake in a blender bottle. My husband was eating breakfast of eggs and bacon. My son was already at school. “Paula, I have something to say to you”, he said, “I want a divorce, I don’t love you anymore.”

I felt the world fall out from beneath me. I won’t get into specifics right now as to why he wanted the divorce. But I knew from that moment that all of our lives would never be the same again. Those three years we had lived in Naples were difficult for us both emotionally and financially. Three years prior, my husband had graduated with a Masters degree and no job. He found a job in Florida, we packed up all our belongings and moved from Missouri. I started working full time as a medical assistant. Our son had special needs, being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It was stressful. The entire time we spent in Naples, my husband and I grew apart, talked less, and both became depressed. The move back to Missouri was meant for us to slow down, be near family, and try to fix our struggling marriage.

The few months leading up to that eventful day in August 2016 were filled with revelations, his lies and infidelities. My world was rocked. I wanted us to stay together. Myself being the product of a divorced family, I resolved that I would never divorce. I was resolved to keep my son from being a child shuttled back and forth between homes on weekends, vacations and holidays split between parents. I thought my husband and I were making progress. I thought we were mending our marriage. I was wrong.

The move back to Missouri, I was blessed to find another medical assisting job fairly quickly. And to make things worse, the day I was told about the divorce was two days before my start day at my new job. I was numb for the next couple of days, with our son totally clueless as to what was going on. From that moment forward, my husband refused to touch me, talk to me, or even make eye contact. I felt like I was thrown away, like a hefty garbage bag tossed in a dumpster. My husband threw me away for another woman.

“I’m not paying for any of this.” I said that morning of the divorce bombshell. “If you want this divorce, you are paying for all of it.” I added. My husband did. In short order, the divorce was filed, signed and over within two months. I didn’t have any money, or an attorney, and ended up signing the parenting plan and custody agreement. My husband and I agreed on joint custody. With myself being the custodial parent.

For those two months, my husband and I slept in separate rooms, only communicating when it came to our son’s needs. I spent most of my time in my bedroom, crying and sleeping. After two months, my husband packed up his things, and drove to Naples, Florida to be with the woman he loved. He left me with our son, no advice or help as to find childcare for him before or after school. Thank God for my friends and family, who stepped up to the plate and helped us out. They helped me with childcare so I could go to work on time, helped watch my son on weekends so I could rest.

I was blessed at my new job to have a manager who was completely understanding to my emotional state during the early months of my divorce. I spent my breaks in the bathroom crying and praying for help. I had no idea how to be a single mom, no idea how to live on my own. And outside of work, I was a mess. I drank constantly at night after my son was in bed. I spend hours crying in bed. Morning would come and I would start throwing up due to anxiety. I couldn’t eat. I ended up losing 20 pounds.

But slowly, as the weeks went by, I started healing. It was rough at first. I was so angry and hurt. But slowly and surely, the anger lessened and my son and I fell into a new routine. I started eating normally again. We moved out of the house in Fordland to a duplex in Springfield. I started college again. Things were looking up.

To those of you going through divorce or have been there and are still hurting, know that there is hope at the end of the tunnel. You will get through this. It’s not going to be a quick healing process and it won’t be overnight, but you will get through this. Stay tuned for the next post, I will tell you what I tried to help with the healing process of divorce.