What I Learned from a Custody Battle at 21

The day I turned 21, I received a packet of papers in the mail stating I neglect my son and interfere in his relationship with the boy. Now that I’m two months from turning 23, I’m not bitter like I thought–I’m empowered.

I used to think that having a custody order meant I had failed my family. That I didn’t work hard enough to make them happy or that I didn’t deserve to be a mother. I genuinely believe that if you put your family before yourself, there’s nothing that can come between you. Later I added for the right man to the end of that, but you get my point. I’m not a failure, and neither are you. no matter what age you are, having someone you think you love telling you that you’re not worthy of raising your child (or watching them think your child isn’t worthy, which also happened to me) is the most heartbreaking thing in the world.

it’s not your fault. there is genuinely no reason to blame yourself for the choices of another human being. There’s nothing you can do to change someone especially in a time of the greatest change of all. Having a child changes people. Sometimes it’s for the best and other times it’s for the worst, but people change with age at no fault of anyone but themselves. If you know you have made sure they know the door is open, know that it’s not on you.

your child will not blame you for what happened. as a product of divorce, I know first hand that your kid is never going to come to you and say “you kept my dad away” I mean. Unless you did. Anyway, don’t beat yourself up over something that will be normal to your child by the time they get old enough anyway. They’re going to know who’s there and who’s not, and they may have questions ( ex. why does everyone have a Dad and I don’t) but for the most part they will accept it as their normal. Having two houses is basically the American dream for kids these days, anyway.

there is no one on this planet that can take your place. if you are hesitant to leave a crap relationship because you don’t want another woman around your child, consider this–what would you like your child to see as the standard of love? Two (or one) people that “stayed together for the kids” but argue every day, are uncomfortable to be around, or seeing you standing strong and happy on your own? When I considered making things work with my sons father it was mainly for this reason. I could not fathom ever being okay with another woman coming in attempting to come for my spot, but here’s the catch–it’s almost always harder for them. Of course the kid is going to pull that “you’re not my mom” line (the petty part of me hopes so), then there’s the fact that the man you love has to always consider another woman and child before you. You can’t really just pack up and move (and if you’re dating my sons dad you better think twice about every calling my son your own) there are so many things you can’t do on top of the fact that whether you like the child’s mother or not (btw we don’t care) you still have to deal with her for the rest of you life. If you are truly a mother, no woman will ever be able to replace you. Trust me.

it will make you feel “old”. in June I’ll be 23, but I always say I feel 32. Almost like I’m damaged goods now. I don’t really relate with people my age because I’ve been through things they haven’t. I’ve had to mature for my son, and for his father too (that’s why I haven’t hit him yet). My standard of fun is different, and the way I live/view life is greatly different from other women my age.

Once you come out on the other side? it’ll show you that you can endure anything. as a woman, the most painful thing is to have to depend your place in your child’s life. But guess what? You can not give up, and then you take that into every other part of your life. I know how hard it is to want to quit, to want to go back and undo some things or make different choices so you don’t have to out up with someone being mean. I remember crying myself to sleep at night (sometimes I still do) wondering why it had to be me and not someone else. Here’s what I’ve learned; it had to me (and you) to teach you not to doubt yourself. To prove to you that no matter how many times you tell yourself you can’t take anymore or when you beg God to let up on you that you will make it. And you will.

The most important thing I’ve learned from all of this is my own strength. The only power others have over you is what you give them. And there are some that will take as much as they can and try to crush you with it. I’m not a pushover anymore, people work to earn my affection and my trust instead of trying to see the best or push someone to be their best I take them at face value. For those of you that tell me you wish you could be as strong as I have been through all of this look in the mirror, or reflect on your day when you go to school or work or both and hustle until you can afford a home on your own. Watch the way your child loves you or how much trust they out in you because you are perfect to them. You were given this life for a reason–because you are strong enough to live it. Have faith in yourself, and trust that one day this will all be a distant memory.

Much love, SSM

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