I am new so please forgive me if I am asking for help on an issue previously talked about. My hubby and I have been married for a year. I have 2 kids from a previous marriage and he has 1. Back to school, Christmas, and birthdays are always a divorce waiting to happen. My custody arrangement is 50/50 in which no CS is paid or received. We have his son every other weekend an one day a week and he pays almost $500 in CS. My kids dad buys them everything, clothes, shoes, ipods, computers and takes them on trips and signs them up to every sport. He is very involved and we are both always there for our kids and are very civil. On the other side, my Step-sons mom has never even gotten up to walk her son to school across the street! Needless to say, my step-son gets nothing from his mom, she doesn't even attend his games, she has never had a birthday party or a gift for him or anything like that. So he is very unprivileged. So When it comes to buying things I want to be equal and give them all the same amount to spend. He wants to just buy stuff, mostly because his son needs so much more and mine not so much. The issue now is that, I just lost my job and we dont have much money. So I am a little concerned because he just spent almost $200 on 2 shirts and 2 jeans. My oldest got 5 jeans and 2 shirts for $130. My other son gets the hand me downs and we only got him a $25 sweater. My hubby's parents gave his son money and clothes, shoes and a backpack, they didnt buy anything for mine. But my family buys things for all 3, even on the birthdays, everyone gets a gift not just the birthday boy! So when he tells me his son needs more clothes it made me mad to think we cant afford anymore and one of my kids is getting the short end of the stick to buy the two bigger kids new clothes all the time. Plus, he shouldnt be buying $50 pants and instead buy more for less. if he ends up spending $500 on one, the equality idea I have is then unrealistic, we cant now spend 500 on each! so how can we be fair? I know his mom doesnt buy him anything but we do pay a lot on cs so why doesnt she? Plus, just because my kids dad buys them more than what they need, doesnt mean i dont want to contribute to buying them things too or putting all the load on my ex. So he wants a divorce because i told him we pay 100% of his sons expenses, so why not get full custody and that $ that we send to CS can be used on him without a problem. he got offended and asked for a divorce. I should add that his son is severely overweight and requires clothes constantly to deal with his weight gain, so why buy 10 jeans when he will have grown out of them in a couple of months? He is only ten and wears a 36x30 and weight 200 pounds.
Sorry for venting, can anyone help with me figure out what is equal and what is fair?
I'm sorry you're so frustrated and hurt. That situation would be hard for anyone!
Perhaps you should bring up asking for a custody change for different reasons. You make it sound as though Mom isn't doing her job, as a parent. A child that overweight either has some emotional issues he's "dealing with" by overeating; or he has abominable eating/exercise habits at his primary residence. But if you make it sound, to your DH, like you just want him to stop having to pay CS, he may interpret that to mean you resent spending money on his son. He may especially interpret it that way, if he wishes to avoid thinking about the good sense in other things you're saying (like not buying $50 jeans when one of you is out of work). "She just doesn't want any money to go to MY kid!" is much simpler and easier to combat, than the other issues surrounding his kid.
I don't know that spending equality ought to be a goal, in a blended family. At birthdays & Christmas, yes. I think you & DH ought to budget very similar amounts for gifts - and for parties - for each child. What other people - parents, grandparents, WHOEVER - are giving the kids should not factor into this. The kids have unequal situations in other relationships in their lives. That's a fact that cannot be remedied or hidden. But the magnitude of the gifts they get from YOU GUYS is equal.
In terms of other spending, it may be better to assess what each kid's needs are and try to figure out how to meet them, on the budget you have. For example, in our blended family, my ex is wealthy and his wife is kind of a shopaholic, so they buy a lot of things for our kids. My DSS lives with us. His Mom lives far away and doesn't pay support. This is how we've handled some issues:
> Clothes: Sometimes money is pretty tight, for us. I have no problem with hand-me-downs and second-hand shopping. I do care what each kid likes. I just think, if you like this article of clothing - and it's in good condition - should it matter whether I bought it new or second-hand, or whether your brother wore it last year? Not when someone else (your parent/step-parent) earns the money for your clothes and everything else you need!
Twice a year, as I put away off-season clothes, I make a pretty anal inventory of what each kid needs, for next year. (How many outfits appropriate for school; appropriate for dressing up; appropriate for getting muddy outside; pants and T's to sleep in; different kinds of jackets and shoes, etc. will it take, for that kid to get through a week of school, church, extra-curricular activities and playing with friends, with me not having to do laundry more than once a week? Because it takes a week for me to wash clothes and linens for 6 people!) Then, throughout the year, I assemble what each kid still needs, from good deals I find at stores; second-hand shops and garage sales. Although each kid has clothes at their other parent's house, I feel like what I put away for the season - at our house - is a good approximation of what's available to them, at our house. DSS also gains about 20 pounds every time he visits his Mom in the summer, then loses it over the course of the school year. So, part of my planning is the knowledge that he'll need shorts in one size for the start of school; and pants and shorts in a smaller size, for the fall, winter, and start of next summer. In other words, I never get rid of his "big" shorts, when he slims down. I just put them away 'til he needs them again.
Sometimes, my biological kids need scarcely anything, because their Step-Mom has bought them many things that wind up permanently at our house, so most clothes spending is done for DSS. Sometimes, my biological kids have a growth spurt and need a lot; while the hand-me-downs DSS gets from them meet most of his needs, so I buy him a few new (or new-to-you!) shirts/sweatshirts/sweaters he'll feel excited about but most of the shopping is for my bio. kids.
In our case, all three kids leave for school every morning, from our house. But if one of them only got dressed here every other weekend, naturally that would affect what I felt that child's clothing needs were, at our house. On the other hand, if that child's custodial parent weren't providing him enough clothes, that might factor into my assessment of his needs, too.
Things are straightforward for me, because I do all the clothes shopping. But if DH wanted to do some of it, I have a specific list I could give him, of what each kid still needs at any given time. If your DH is going to do the shopping for his son, it is not unreasonable for the two of you to agree, in advance, on how much you have to spend - total - on back-to-school clothing; and for you to be clear with him about what all that budget needs to cover - for ALL the kids. If such restrictions ACTUALLY make DH want to divorce, then perhaps this is a relationship that can't be saved. But I suspect he would grudgingly get with the program, if you matched his overspending on DSS's clothes, with spending cuts in other areas of your family budget - areas DH would notice. ("Sorry, honey. When we buy $50 jeans for the kids, it cuts into our beer money...")
> Extra-curriculars: My bio kids run cross-country, which means decent running shoes (which sometimes their Dad buys); an overpriced team sweatsuit every few years; and a yearly participation fee. But, other than that, they need some running shorts and junky T-shirts, to practice in. DSS does sports AND plays an instrument. We simply never compare the spending, on each kid. We just pay for what they need, to pursue their interests. And if we can't afford it, we look for alternatives. Can we rent an instrument from school, instead of from a music store, or buying it? Or, registering DSS for intramural baseball costs half as much in one neighborhood league, as it does in another.
> School: Last year, we spent tons more on DSS's education because we decided the most appropriate school for him was a Catholic school, while my bio kids were in public. Again, no sense comparing it and trying to make it equal somehow. Just address each kid's different needs.
> Technology: My bio. kids (the twins) have some vision- and fine-motor-related challenges and are allowed to use assistive technology in school. So they have Neos (word processors) and Kindles (with their textbooks loaded, so they can magnify the text). This did not make us feel like DSS needed to receive similar "cool" gadgets. (DSS did decide he wanted a Kindle, but it was a birthday gift.) However, when the vision specialist at the twins' school offered to get them iPads this year, I refused. iPads offer no educational advantage over the Kindles and Neos the twins already have. And it would make DSS understandably jealous. Plus, our teenagers shouldn't feel entitled to technology DH and I can't even afford to provide for ourselves. If it helped them in school, OK. But even the vision specialist said the main reason she pushes the iPads is that the kids get so excited about using them. Sorry, but so what? I'd get excited to drive a Porsche Cayenne, that doesn't mean I need one!
Hope this gives you some ideas of how to balance "fairness" and addressing each kid's needs, which are different in ANY family, but especially one where the kids spend different amounts of time at your house!
I think that focusing more on what each child actually needs and less how how much is spent would be helpful.
Both you and your DH are currently buying things for your children *because you want to express love for them.* I think if the two of you sat down and agreed to how many changes of clothes each child needs per season and went from there it would help.
I also think that figuring out ways to express love that aren't about buying things would help not only your marriage, but also your kids.
but everything has pros and cons
Jeannine, I agree 100% with you. I do almost everything you listed. Because I dont get CS my ex pays for all the extra curricular activities/uniforms/gear/fees. Since I lost my job he has picked up all expenses so I dont feel like I need to take him back to court to get CS if he is providing for everything they need. My DSS is the youngest yet bigger than my 13 yo son, so I had him pass his clothes down, whatever doesnt fit my oldest and then my youngest gets saved. If it fits the others and they would wear it (they all have different styles but jeans are jeans you know). Once the clothes are passed down and what doesnt yet fit is saved for next year, I take inventory of what they have and assess what they need. Based on that we go shopping. But my DH just wants to buy, wants to spend, like it brings happiness, like it equals love, and if that is how he assesses love and equality well, its not meeting their needs (like Linda stated) I agree with buying them what they need but seeing how fast my DSS grows out of his clothes its just unreasonable. For Christmas my kids went with their dad and came back with Ipods, well, we then had to turn and buy one for my DSS because "it wasnt fair". When they got a PSP and a DSI for their birthday, my DSS wanted one too and of course we had to buy it, buying him things is not what bothers me what bothers me is that its not because he wants it, its because my kids got it and that is why he wants it because he will lose it, or never use it after its bought!
I dont like analyzing how much money is spent because I know more is spent on his son but its unreasonable for him to then buy expensive things when he wants to buy a lot of it. And then turn around and say that its not fair for his son because my kids dad buys them a lot of "things" and that they have the support of both parents unlike his son. I dont know how that is unfair to him? I am there for him as if he were my son too! I cant change what their dad does for my kids, but I have asked my family to never exclude him and almost forced my family to not buy something for just one but for all. SO how am I being unfair? When he got mad about the unfairness in the difference of their other parents and how underpriveledged his son is and is unfairly treated by his mother, I said what his whole family has always told him, he needs to fight for his son and take him out of that "bad environment" if that is the underlying issue. My DSS's mom has made our lives a living hell since we first started dating. She takes his son away from him when she feels like it, we can never get a hold of her, she never answers and refuses to let him have contact with us when he is with her. SHe smokes inside the house and he has asthma! She had a second son with a different man and we even took care of that kid like our own, until she accused us of molesting her son. She has caused a lot of tension and he is so afraid of her that he wont do anything about it. She has caused so much frustration that our fights got so heated and ended in abuse. Ultimately right after my post the cops showed up and he got his things and left screaming at me to file for divorce. Saying that I was evil and never cared for his son and we have been friends for 14 years, dated for 6 and married for 1 year. I have seen my DSS grow since he was in his mommas belly. I am hurt but feel like I cant make him see what I see and if I am wrong I dont see where either. Now I am jobless, sitting in a home and with a new car in the garage that I cant pay for. I dont know if he will come to his senses and if he does Im sure nothing will change. OMG all over back to school clothes.
I'm echoing what others have said, but the perspective shift that has been incredibly useful in my life is acknowledging that what is FAIR is not always EQUAL.
When he got mad about the unfairness in the difference of their other parents and how underpriveledged his son is and is unfairly treated by his mother, I said what his whole family has always told him, he needs to fight for his son and take him out of that "bad environment" if that is the underlying issue. My DSS's mom has made our lives a living hell since we first started dating. She takes his son away from him when she feels like it, we can never get a hold of her, she never answers and refuses to let him have contact with us when he is with her. SHe smokes inside the house and he has asthma! She had a second son with a different man and we even took care of that kid like our own, until she accused us of molesting her son. She has caused a lot of tension and he is so afraid of her that he wont do anything about it. She has caused so much frustration that our fights got so heated and ended in abuse. Ultimately right after my post the cops showed up and he got his things and left screaming at me to file for divorce. Saying that I was evil and never cared for his son and we have been friends for 14 years, dated for 6 and married for 1 year. I have seen my DSS grow since he was in his mommas belly. I am hurt but feel like I cant make him see what I see and if I am wrong I dont see where either. Now I am jobless, sitting in a home and with a new car in the garage that I cant pay for. I dont know if he will come to his senses and if he does Im sure nothing will change. OMG all over back to school clothes.
I'm so sorry to hear that's happening in your life!
I know that a crazy ex, a stepchild with "issues", worries about money and unemployment, and a blended family in general are a lot to have on your plate, in that first year of marriage, when - no matter how long you knew each other beforehand - you have so many things to work out and adjust to!
If, by "abuse", you mean emotional/verbal abuse, do you guys have a priest/pastor you could talk to, if he does come back? I don't see how your marriage will survive, if you don't get some help coming to an adult agreement about how to handle your money and children. It's not sustainable, for him to avoid managing money - and avoid dealing with his son's needs - by going to extremes and threatening to end the marriage, when you point out that there's a problem.
But if he hit you, in response to stress, you shouldn't try to stay in this marriage. Even if he's really, genuinely sorry for hitting you tomorrow, he's still capable of hitting his wife when he's stressed. And there will continue to be periods of stress, in a blended family. I am sure it would be awful and depressing, to contemplate ending a family you so recently cemented, with marriage. But you should not be with a man who punishes you for bringing up difficult issues, by hitting you. And your kids should not see you stay in such a relationship.
So many, many parents are struggling financially and worried about the future, in this economy. You are by no means alone. And things will be better, at some point. You can find a way to handle this alone, if you need to.
I'm so sorry, mama.
A new job will help a whole lot, in many many ways. Whether you reconcile with your husband or ultimately do divorce, if you can support yourself and your kids you will be negotiating from a position of strength. You might WANT him back, but you won't NEED him.
Assuming that you two eventually do get back together, there needs to be some new spending rules, agreed upon by the adults out of earshot of the kids. Really, truly, one adult should be in charge of buying clothes, all children should have wardrobes that are roughly equal in quality, and the idea that all the children have the same gadgets is just insane and budget-busting. But that's a conversation for later, much later, after you hash out the fundamental "do we still want to be married?" question.
Jeannine - your words are very comforting, thank you. We did start going to church after moving in together didn't prove to help our fighting. Church helped a whole lot and the change was drastic, so much so that we decided to go to counseling and ultimately got married. I was against getting married as this is not my first but the change felt so real. Shortly after being married it happened again (physical altercations) and we went to our pastor, who was very disappointed and put us back to where we should be. We started Dave Ramsey classes and we were finally on the same page and making great progress towards being debt free. He even had me quit my job as we saw that we could manage without. Since all of that every time it happens it not as bad, so its not like its getting worse, but it still has happened. Now that he has an engineering license, he is afraid to lose it and thats why he walked away. Its sad that that was the determining factor in him NOT touching me when there is more at stake than a damn license! I am very involved with our church and he volunteers as well, we help out every third weekend so tomorrow is the day. I am sure he will go and that he will come here after. He has never asked me for a divorce so I kind of think he was serious. I am hurt but not sad to see him go. I realize that no matter what I do he will never get counseling for his anger problem and he will never fix the issues with his son, so this will be something that he will present to me as a take-it-or-leave-it decision. At this point I dont think that that kind of environment is doing his son any favors and in a way, is worse than the situation with his mother because he is seeing that this is how you deal with situations like that. I dont and never approved of this happening to me and having my kids witness it even after his apologies to the kids and promises of change.
Smithie - you are right, I would be better of if I had a job but I still feel that my pride and self worth is of more value, yet I dont know if I can stand up for it if he were to apologize and want to try again. How dumb and weak minded does that sound? yet I want to believe I am strong and of value?! ugh. I am lost. I really really love him and when we are good, which is 90% of the time, we are GOOD and near perfect soul-mates. I have never enjoyed being with someone like I do with him, I have never loved someone like I do him, I have never felt so much affection and chemistry and or felt so comfortable with someone like I do with him, yet I do fear him when we fight. I dont know but I highly doubt that if this doesnt work out I wont be able to trust anyone or let anyone get so close to me and my kids again.
I can truly understand how you feel. She should not get the benefit of child support if he spends most of the time at your home. It is his responsibility to care for the child not her.A lot of women use children as ways to sustain a lifestyle but sont want to do any of the work required to raise them!