Can men and women be friends after a divorce? I think so. Not immediately, but over time, you might be surprised. But there’s one thing I think that keeps men and women at odds for a long, long time. It’s a source of resentment that breeds perpetual anger and bitterness. I’m talking about child support.
When someone has to hand over a child support check every month, a few things could be going on:
1. It can bring back the emotions of the divorce because it’s a monthly reminder.
2. It can cause financial anxiety.
3. It can make a person feel like divorce laws aren’t fair.
4. The person always kind of wonders if the child support check is really going to the kids.
5. The person might feel like the ex isn’t appreciative. So, he/she feels under appreciated.
These child support issues go on for men and women in ALL financial situations. In other words, it’s not only in situations in which people who are struggling financially. I see it from very wealthy people. It doesn’t make a difference. Most people hate to pay for one reason or another. Which leads me to ask the ironic question…
Is paying child support really about the money?
Let me paint one scenario. A guy thought he and his wife and kids were relatively happy. The marriage wasn’t perfect, but it was okay. That was life. All of a sudden, one day, his wife says, “I want a divorce.”
He finds out she is in love with another man. The ground beneath the guy’s feet gives way. He now has to find an apartment and move out, not see his kids every night, AND the worst one, give his wife (who is happily in love and living with their kids full time) a check every month, otherwise he will be in violation of the law.
It’s pretty easy to see why he might be resentful. But, let’s look at it through the wife’s eyes. Maybe she was unhappy for years. Maybe she tried to get her husband to go to counseling and he wouldn’t go. Cheating is not justifiable. I’m not saying it’s perfectly OK to cheat and leave your spouse for another person. But child support isn’t about any of this.
Child support is about innocent victims of divorce: children.
Being a mom who receives child support (and works), I sometimes feel like ex-husbands think women are sitting around having a great time, collecting money, buying whatever we want and laughing about how great we have it. That is very much not the case for me, and for most divorced moms I know.
Now, I also know some moms who make no effort to work and feel entitled and still bitter about their divorce even if they are being paid a monthly amount of child support that is much more than they spend.
So, how can a couple reconcile child support and both feel good about the amount the one person is receiving?
If someone wants to feel better–less resentful and angry about giving his or her spouse child support, they might want to be more communicative and ask the spouse to talk about what he/she spends the child support money on. I’m saying communicate in a nice, courteous, productive way, not in an accusatory, judgmental way. Say, “I genuinely would like to know where this money is going, specifically.” I don’t think that is too much to ask, do you?
Also, let’s address another divorce scenario. A man cheats and then leaves his wife for another woman. His ex has been a stay-at-home mom for years, maybe even decades. She is told she must now go back to work and is really scared. Between not having worked in so long, never having worked while having to worry about kids, and not being up to date with technology, it can feel extremely stressful and intimidating. I’ve been there. So, is child support fair in this case?
Maybe the child support check barely covers the woman’s expenses. She might have to change her lifestyle. If she cheated and left, that seems reasonable. But what if she didn’t have a choice? In other words, what if she was left? Is that fair? The point is, every divorce is unique, and so child support means different things to every couple. It’s not a blanketed term.
I personally can attest to the fact that going back to work after divorce was the scariest, most stressful thing I’ve ever had to do. And, even with child support, it feels like when it comes to money, it’s just never enough. I’m not complaining or whining, just stating a fact.
Here’s the thing. Divorce (besides having so many other challenges) is expensive. It’s a financial stressor for most people. So, with financial stress and fear, comes anger and resentment.
But I hope people who read this will think about the fact that when they give their ex that monthly child support check, they are giving it to them so that they can house, feed and clothe their children, and provide the best life possible to the people we love the most.
Sometimes life isn’t fair, and the child support check you pay or receive might not seem fair. If that’s you, I understand and I’m sorry you have to live with an injustice. My advice is to try not to focus on what you can’t control, and instead focus on your life and your happiness.
I do have something to say to women, and I want men giving child support to hear this, too. I know it’s hard to go back to work. Trust me. I’ve been here. Here are the obstacles…
1. First of all, it was so so so hard to find that first job after not working for so long.
The job searching techniques are completely different now. You have to learn LinkedIn, and how to network and use social media to put yourself out there professionally. Plus, when was the last time you updated your resume? That’s really hard, too!
2. Secondly, it’s hard to find the right fit–for your lifestyle and being a mom and juggling it all.
I had a couple jobs where I worked for less than a month and it just didn’t work out.
3. Technology has all changed.
It is beyond intimidating to those who have been out of the work force for so long. But, I can tell you firsthand, it can be overcome.
4. Stay-at-home moms lack self-confidence when it comes to working.
If you think about it, being a stay-at-home mom is thankless with no pay and no recognition. That weighs on a person and causes them to lose confidence and self-esteem.
All this said, women who are divorced should not expect and assume that they can continue being a stay-at-home mom and live off child support and maintenance alone.
Divorce definitely has a price, and going back to work is often part of it. Sad, but it’s the truth.
The thing I want to say to men (and women) who have to pay child support is, I know it’s frustrating when you have to give a check to your ex, especially if he/she left you, and who you know for a fact isn’t even looking for a job (again, in certain cases) because she just doesn’t want to work. And, if he/she is mean to you and you still have to pay, I would imagine it’s infuriating.
People, this is your time to step up and attempt to work. I know it’s not easy, but it’s your obligation to contribute to your children. The good news is, working will bring you renewed self-worth and happiness like you never could have imagined. I can attest to that 100%.
It feels so much better to make your own money versus collecting a check every month from someone else. And, it feels even better to do both! (if you are making a lot less than your ex, of course.)
I also want to bring up one last thing. I think that the way child support is structured is really bad. The psychological aspect of someone having to hand the ex a check every month is just plain old mentally unhealthy.
Why not set up an account that is for the use of kids only? A guy can put the child support check into that account and the woman can write checks against it for rent/mortgage, food, utilities and kids expenses? This way, the guy who is writing the child support checks can see firsthand where the money is going.
A brilliant idea, right? Not sure why this isn’t being done.
In closing, next month, when you hand the person who broke your heart and ruined your life the child support check, try to remember that you are handing it to your children, not him/her. And, when he hands you the check, just say thanks. It’s nice to be acknowledged and appreciated, no matter the circumstances.
Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”