Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Show Me The money
As I connect with more and more stepmom's out there, I hear the same story complaint repeated back to me over and over and over again.
Where's the money?
SHOW ME THE MONEY!
As a stepmom, you are forever expected to be okay with (okay, not forever, but for awhile) watching a significant portion of your Hubs' salary go right out of his paycheck, flutter through the air and land in Mama Ex's bank account.
Where she gets to do with it as she pleases.
The money should go to supporting the children (hence that clever name, "child support"). But it doesn't always happen that way - or at least we assume it doesn't.
Stepmoms are practically set up to fail when it comes to having grown up, mature thoughts about child support. After all, we know how hard our husbands work for their money, and we can think of 12 zillion more productive things that WE would do with that money if we had it in our joint account where it belonged. Unfortunately, thinking about all the ways Mama Ex is spending our hubby's money incorrectly isn't helping anyone. And if you're talking about it out loud, chances are, the kids are hearing it.
Here are some tips for stepping away from the negative nelly approach to child support and focusing on how to make (partial) peace with it.
Glass Houses, Throwing Stones, etc. etc.
I know how tempting it is to assume the worst when it comes to child support. You see Mama Ex go on a trip to Florida but then see a notice from the school that the kids are low on lunch money. What gives??
But c'mon...have you honestly never bought a new pair of shoes when the money should have gone to your car insurance? Have you never had a bank overdraft for something stupid? Unless your financial house is constantly in order and has never been out of order, you probably shouldn't judge Mama Ex's spending habits. Everyone makes mistakes and you wouldn't want to be held accountable to Mama Ex's financial standards, right? She doesn't want to be held to yours, either.
The Law Isn't Going to Change
I've heard it 10,000 times. "Why can't the government make it so that the money from child support can ONLY be used for housing, or food, or something that benefits the child?"
Because it won't make a difference. Think of it this way.
Let's say Mama Ex gets $100.00 per week in child support. Let's say she gets $500.00 per week for her job. That's $600.00 per week, yes? Okay. You think Mama Ex spends at minimum $70.00 per week of child support on stuff for herself. NO FAIR!! So let's just pretend that suddenly the government steps in and makes it so that child support can only be spent on groceries. Fine. It won't matter. Mama Ex will just reallocate. Instead of using the $70.00 from child support on herself, she'll use the $70.00 of child support on groceries. And now she has saved $70.00 of her own money that used to go toward groceries. Which she can use to by stuff for herself. It's still $600 per week, no matter how you slice it. If she's determined to use the money for herself, she's going to find a way, yo.
And you sitting in the corner, mentally adding it all up and making assumptions about what you think she's spending will just make you crazy. And crazy isn't very sexy. Your husband likes you when you're sexy.
You Don't Know Mama Ex's Situation
Unless you are part of a very small group that probably exists somewhere, Mama Ex is probably not providing you receipts for everything that she's spending or receiving. You see a new pair of shoes and think, "UGH! Those TOTALLY came from child support!"
Um, how do you know? Did Mama Ex show you her bank statement?
Perhaps Mama Ex got a killer bonus at work. Maybe she went gambling on Friday night and made a cool $1,000.00 on Kitty Glitter. Good for her. Maybe her new boyfriend showered her with a "I think I love you" present. Perhaps she got them on a killer sale at Goodwill. The fact is YOU DON'T KNOW. You don't know any more than Mama Ex knows how much your car payment is each month.
BECAUSE IT'S NONE OF HER BUSINESS.
And her money is none of yours.
But My Stepkids Told Me....
BUT RUBY, you say. The kids told me that Mama Ex didn't get a bonus and she doesn't have a new boyfriend and she didn't win any money on Kitty Glitter. They kids TOLD me she bought that Michael Kors bag with her child support.
Your stepkids are lying, yo.
Or maybe I should rephrase. Your stepkids are placating you. They are repeating back what they've heard you already say so they can win brownie points with you. Children do not understand child support. It's this weird mythological thing that's out there causing drama between their mom and their dad. They know Mom doesn't think she gets enough of it and Dad thinks Mom gets too much of it. Imagine how stressful that is for them. It's like living in a yo-yo.
Give your stepkids a break and never discuss child support in front of them. If a friend mentions it in conversation when the ankle biters are around, SHUT.IT.DOWN. Kids have enough to worry about without you bringing in the cost of child support each month.
But the Kids DO Understand
Even more of a reason to keep mum. Imagine you're 14 years old and you truly do understand what child support is. You totally get that it's supposed to help make your life better at Mom's house because she makes less than Dad. Now imagine you hear your stepmom complaining that she is SO SICK of giving money to Mama Ex. In your head, that translates to, "My stepmom doesn't think I'm worthy of this money. I must be a pretty crap kid."
I realize there are extenuating circumstances out there and thousands of Mama Ex's abuse their child support dollars. And that sucks monkey butt. What you must ask yourself is, "what good will it do me to dwell on this?" It likely won't be changing any time soon. If you can, try and put a positive spin on it. Whether you realize it or not, that child support is helping your stepkids. It may not be helping them as much as you would prefer, but hey, that's life.
Now go buy your stepkids some ice cream and buy yourself some new shoes...