About Me (Mommy Mels)

Gaslighting Continued…

About a year ago I wrote this post after coming across a compelling podcast on gaslighting. Gaslighting 101

Here is a link to my initial post:

City, Sea Air, Babies, and Gaslighting

Gaslighting is so important to understand because it is such a difficult form of abuse to identify unless you’re informed.  Then, it becomes textbook.

 I know that there are many people receiving this treatment who do not have a name for it yet, because I was there.  I have written before, in depth, that my ex is a textbook Narcissist. He thrives on putting other people down. I am his favorite person to gaslight. 

Here it is again my friends… “in SONG FORM!”  Thanks to the Dixie Chicks! (last quote is meant to be read in Tomatoa’s voice from Moana.) 

Dixie Chick’s “Gaslighter”

My college roomie sent me this yesterday and by the time I was home from work, it was all over my news feed. The reason she sent it was because we (we meaning my college roommates with whom I speak to daily) have been trying to identify the patterns of abuse I receive from my ex and his girlfriend in order to be able to better predict when it will come.  When I can predict the behavior, it is easier to ignore it, and thus, maintain power. This exercise has been of great help. These ladies are amazing, which is why we’ve been friends and sisters since 2002. They know everything I have been through with my divorce and pathetic attempt at co-parenting. I say pathetic because it is so inconsistent and unpredictable…until now.

Recognizing the Pattern:

Yesterday or the day before, after receiving another nasty text from my ex and his girlfriend- but probably the latter- accusing me of being neglectful, I decided it was time to make a change.  I have been texting with this man for 10 years. I am also an English teacher so I spend most of my day identifying grammatical errors. His texts and emails are so erroneous that when they are correctly written, I know they are from her.  That is trivial yet relevant because it is a part of the abuse pattern. She seemingly carries around 90% of the home responsibility and I’m sure it is exhausting. When she is upset, she takes it out on him, who attempts to take it out on me. It’s a cycle.

The disrespect comes in the form of texts and emails.  I started with my mini-research project by looking back at emails.  The really nasty emails started on or around January 24. At this time, my ex was accusing me of sending sick children to his house.  He wrote, “If I end up taking them and they test positive I promise you I will take Further legal action for neglecting the well being of my kids. It’s total bullshit and unacceptable!”  THIS is gaslighting. Most people would look at this and think, Yeah! Kids get sick! You still have to parent when your kids are sick. He also never took them to the doctor. Shocking. I’m not going to get into details about this issue but his hateful, nasty emails are extremely unnecessary.   

The next time that we had a major issue was the last weekend my children were with him. This was around February 24th.   I have been having an especially difficult time with my kids going to their dads because my youngest son does not want to go.  He screams and pleads with me to stay home. He is four, so I cannot easily get a response out of him as to why this is the case.  This has been going on for about a year. The ex claims it’s a phase. I fear that my son doesn’t receive enough attention at his dads because there are so many children and his dad didn’t do much but sit on the couch and drink when I was married to him.  So last weekend I asked to Facetime my children on Friday afternoon to check in. We talked and my little man seemed fine. I asked to call again Sunday morning and Sunday night with no response. Finally, my ex responded on Monday morning that they were out of town at a waterpark.  It obviously upset me that my children were not in school so I sent a follow up email asking that I be informed on these topics. The response that followed included, “Deacon is fine and maybe the fact that your overbearing and controlling isn’t helping,” and “I think it’s time we revisit the courts to get a new agreement in place. What you are doing is harassing us.”  He mentioned court because it is in our custody agreement that I am allowed to Facetime the children daily since they are so young. P.S. I’ll never go back to court. I’ve written about this before too.  

My Action Plan

The patterns that the Zeta’s recognized were this: 

  1. These abusive meltdowns happen at the end of the month. 
  2. They happen when the children are with their dad. 

My action plan is to simplify.  We had become much more convivial throughout the wrestling season but since these last two incidents, that must come to an end.  I have always tried to get along with the girlfriend. I have gone out of my way to make sure I don’t offend her, which is easy to do.  When I do, I always overly apologize. These days are over. I was extremely worried about my young child and when I reached out for her to help me during said weekend. I was ignored and found this to be blatant disrespect.  I think I have reached an age (well, I KNOW I have) where I’m more like my mother…if you disrespect me, you can go ____ yourself and the horse you rode in on. Crude, but to the point. I will not continue to walk on eggshells around anyone.  

If my ex husband ignores me, there is not much that I can do about it, but I do have to communicate with him about our children at some point.  If he is disrespectful, the plan is to not communicate. This requires an unreal amount of faith and support when the boys are not with me. Shout out to my boyfriend Mark for always being there to support me though these times.  I will get there… and it is not forever. At some point, my children will have their own phones, I can call them, and work it all out. It will all work out, regardless. 

 

I joked to my girls and said that March 24th you won’t be able to find me; I’ll be in hiding.  I kid. I will be fine, and I will probably be much better because if I anticipate this abusive behavior, I can better ignore it.  It is difficult because my children are the center of my world. That world has to end every other weekend. I have made it this far… I can overcome this obstacle as well.  

 

About Me (Mommy Mels)

Black Friday Thankful – In January!

I started this post in late November:

“This Friday, “Black Friday,” will make it four years since I said goodbye to my old life and was forced to embrace a new one, as a single parent.  It can’t believe it has been four years, and I am so blessed to report how full my life has become.

I have spent most of these four years reluctant to date or find a relationship because I was convinced I was living in the “land of the leftovers.”  I had no choice but to focus on the fun aspects of dating and enjoy it’s entertainment value.  I really did embrace this.  I’ve talked to friends about how dreadful it was and I went on many first dates.  At the end of the day, my true gut feeling was that I was blessed to have this time to focus on my children, and when the time was right I would find the one…the “last” one.

I have found so much more than that in my years as a single mom. I have found a wonderful man who has been what I’ve always known was possible.  I have had an amazing support system and with that, came a full circle moment with my best friend and my boyfriend – whom have known each other for 20 years.”

Fast forward to January 23… I found this post in my drafts and left it as it.  We had a fabulous night out with Kate and Ricky on the “Black Friday” that we had our first couples date together.  They love Mark’s addition to our dynamic and he continues to make me very happy.  We’ve been enjoying the early stages of our relationship and all of the new experiences we’ve shared.

In the first few months of our relationship, we’ve introduced our children and have met each other’s former spouses.  We have gone slowly through these uncharted waters, and continue to stick together.  The best and most amazing part of Mark is that he will not quit.  He has made it abundantly clear that he knows how difficult it is to find a partner in this crazy life post-divorce, and he’s serious about making it work.

We have three boys together when all is combined, and that has brought a lot of fun, and it’s own set of challenges. Mark’s son is an only child.  My children are thick as thieves and yet can be SO mean to each other.  The three boys have a blast together and also fight.  At the end of the day, we enjoy our time all together and our couple time that we get every other weekend.

I think what I’ve learned is that it will be a long road for us…but a really fun one. We are in no hurry to push a new family onto our kids.  We just want to have fun together.  That can be hard given each of their wants and needs but I think we’re doing well.  I also appreciate having such a great partner to run my ideas by.  Now to work on getting him to cook more for me… : )

 

About Me (Mommy Mels)

Feeling lonely? Start a dinner club!

I first heard of the idea of a dinner club from one of my great high school friends, who lives too far from me to ever join hers…

Dinner club?  How’s that work?  Do you do a theme?  I had so many questions; it sounded like so much fun and included my fav, wine.

These ideas coincided with the fact that my best friend kept telling me I needed to get involved in something.  She suggested an adult-sports league, fitness classes, something to get me meeting new people.  Finally, I came across this article:

I Started a Dinner Club and It Changed My Life

It’s a fabulous article detailing what one woman did for her dinner club, and the wonderful effects it had on her life.

I live pretty close to my job so I have local friends from work. My high school friends aren’t that close to me and are always busy.  My college friends are all over an hour away, although we do get together at least bi-monthly.  I was in need of some friends.

What I did have, however, were friends scattered here and there that were both local and fabulous.  I went through my contacts and I invited all women that I thought might be interested.

My first step was my interest email.  I received about 10 interest responses.  I invited women who I vibe with but don’t always have the chance to spend time with.  I invited one work friend who has one little girl and no other mom friends.  I invited my neighbor across the street because she’s the sweetest woman I know.  I reached out to friends wives and T-ball moms.  I invited one other single friend from high school.  I even invited the girl that does my facials.

From the interest email I started an invite.  I chose the theme, steak and potatoes, because I was going to host the first dinner club and I wanted to make it a little easy.  I ended up burning my reduction and setting off the fire alarm anyway.  It was perfect.  We ended up with 4 of us that first night and it was fabulous wine talk about men, husbands, kids, and womanhood.

The next Dinner Club we held was about a month later.  We had a fabulous dinner at one of our members river house… it was beautiful.  Collectively, we chose a Hawaiian theme.  I brought Hawaiian coleslaw and pineapple adult drinks.  This time we had 7 women.  Some were quiet, some were cooking, but the conversation and drinks were flowing.

We haven’t been able to get together since August because we all have difficult schedules.  I think what you need to have is a commitment that you keep to one another.  I am going to try to add some more women to our group and have something when I’m off for the holidays.  I am off in the summer so planning two dinner clubs was easy.  Throw me back into work and two small kids in school and it’s so easy to let it slide.  You need women (or men) who are willing to host as well.  Right now, we only have 2 people willing to host and that can be difficult.  I also like to invite people who may need an outlet like I did. I was in a “Summer of Mel” that involved of lot of travel and self-reflection.  I needed to be around positive vibes.  I got exactly that from my dinner club.

About Me (Mommy Mels)

Take the Trip

Recently, I took a trip to Ireland with two close friends.  We were given strict instructions by one of our mothers to “find ourselves” out there.  While I was in the thick of the trip, navigating our way around the country- or letting Jessica do so…it didn’t seem as though we found ourselves.  In hindsight, almost two months later…we found much more than that.

As a single mother who shares custody, I have more freedom to travel than other moms… Over the summer of 2019 I traveled a ton. I went to Seattle and Canada (for the first time) with my mom.  We also did some time at the beach as a family.  It wasn’t until two of my closest friends found themselves needing to travel, however, that we decided to “jump the pond.”  It was difficult being away from my kids that long, but it was transcending.

Jessica was in an interesting spot in her life and she’s one of the most supportive friends I’ve ever had.  She was bouncing around the idea of a road trip while her kids were on vacation.  My wheels started turning about mid-summer and I said, “Let’s jump the pond and drink Guinness in Ireland!”  Within a week we had purchased plane tickets, filled a new board on Pinterest, and created an Airbnb account.

We bought some converters and promised to only travel with a carry-on.  We brought clothes for all seasons but had no reason to bring shorts or flip flops.  We landed and breathed in.  Deep breaths.  Serenity.  Drinks.  Cocktails with egg whites.  Handsome bartenders with cute accents.  Green everywhere.  Cars on the wrong side of the road.  We never quite figured that out, and thank God I was able to talk her out of renting a car.

We spent a night in Dublin and then took a bus to Gallway.  Gallway is the most charming little town.  I highly recommend. We made friends quickly and received great tips on where to go from there… Our final night was also in Dublin.  We skipped Cork because I screwed up on a tour date to the Cliffs of Mohar.  We saw the cliffs, and breathed some more.  The most compelling idea I found there were the Guarda, or Irish Police.  They don’t carry guns, and you don’t see many of them.

When we returned, we felt good!  We had received that time away and that new, fun experience.  What I’ve gained from that trip since then is the reward I wasn’t anticipating.

I came back a better mother. I came back ready to fall in love again, finally.  I didn’t go on one date or really talk to any men all summer.  It was a cleanse.  My head was cleared of bad dating experiences that were holding me back from finding someone special.  I was also ready to return to work for a new year with new challenges.  My school year has faced numerous challenges.  The calm I found on my trip has prepared me for them.  The experience your body has when it’s taken out of its comfort zone and placed in a whole new environment is confounding.  It’s different than the beach or a beautiful resort.  It’s real, and a new kind of real.

Go find your new real.  Take the trip.  Leave the kids with your parents.  They need that time too.  I owe my ex for forcing me to get out of my comfort zone in terms of leaving my children for longer than a weekend.  My children missed me and embraced me when I returned.  I have also been forced to create a life outside of being a mother because my boys are with dad every other weekend…all weekend.  I’ve finally found peace with this and taken the bull by the horns.  Take the trip.

About Me (Mommy Mels)

Chronicles of Dating at 36

I came across this meme on the Gram that had me in tears:

It’s pretty accurate.  I also love updating my peeps on my dating life because it is a guarantee to have all of my friends hysterics. At our most recent girls night, my high school friends told me I need to start a podcast on this topic.  While it is humorous, I’m not sure I have that much material.  I need to have some guest bloggers weigh in on this topic as well.

The last year of dating for me was entertaining for sure.  Most of the fall I didn’t date.  I am sure I went on a couple dates, but I mostly flirted with a friend who kept me out of trouble. Oh- I did go on a few dates with an ex-lover.  He spent the whole weekend with me and then was engaged to someone else about 4 months later.  Poor girl has no clue.  I went on a couple more dates…come spring I met a fellow who refused to take his hat off and then accused me of trying to change him.  I saw recently that he put a “trump 2020” (the only time you won’t see me using correct capitalization) on his truck.  BULLET DODGED.  What’s sad is that he has a daughter and yet is promoting a racist, rapist.  He’s also in a new relationship.  The best part, I have an “fista” Gram account (as my students call it) for my fitness obsession and BOTH these fools have tried to follow me.  We’re not cool, just so we’re clear. Day Ones- am I forgetting anyone?

Red flags continued.  This is a total red flag for me- if you’re so happy with the woman your with, why are you trying to follow me on social media?  Neither will ever read this post- just exposing what’s out there in the land of the leftovers.

The last date I was on was the last day of school.  I’ve spent all summer in love with my children and traveling like a rolling stone.  There are no words for the positive effects this has had on me.  The connections I’ve made and maintained are saved for another post.

It’s so important to continue to recognize red flags and dodge the bullets that come in the form unstable men.  I have one more fabulous trip before I dive back into the job that I love.  I may, mayyyyy get back on the dating scene in the fall.  I have still only been single for 4 years.  I don’t want to look back 30 years from now and think that I didn’t give myself enough time to re-create myself after my divorce.  My children need me all of the time and they will get every fiber of my being that they request.

Most importantly, what is mine will find me.  It may be in 5 months, 5 years, or when I’m 50.  I’m not worried about it because my life is so full.  I’m going back to school to become a school psychologist because there is a overwhelming demand for this career.  I am fully positive that I will find love again and I will fulfill my dream of becoming the millionaire next door so I can enjoy all of the things my family has taught me to desire.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to sprinkle all of my dating experiences, that I simply can’t make up, into the world of my followers.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Lessons from Court

Pretty simple actually…this post is about the lessons I’ve learned from going back to court with my ex over a vacation.

1. Don’t go to court.  My kids were going on that vacation no matter what, so my family and I decided that we would fight it because it was a poor decision on my ex-husbands behalf.  I knew I wouldn’t win, but I wanted to set a precedent that if he would make bad decisions, I would fight them to protect my children.  This was a [relatively speaking] inexpensive lesson that I never need to revisit.  Letting a complete stranger make a decision for your family however, not worth it.

2. Judges are humans who don’t know you from Adam.  They don’t know your story.  They don’t know what poor decisions your ex will make, or that he doesn’t parent well, or that he doesn’t have positive role models in parenting.   They will say “50-50 custody order- he can take them on vacation.”

3.  Learn to get along.  It took 3 years but we have finally figured out how to get along.  We don’t see eye to eye- but my ex and I know how to come to the same decision.  It takes compromise and manipulation.  For example, it is very important to me that my children continue at the private school they go to… he doesn’t want to pay for it.  We have compromised over money to keep us both happy.  I don’t need his money- it’s my children’s right to receive support as I’ve mentioned before.  I cannot rely on support because my ex will do anything to keep it from us.  Currently he’s completely hiding his income because I have a wage withholding order and when he gets paid, I receive support.  If he was getting paid, I’d be receiving support.  (I’m not- yet he has money to make private payments to the state to us). That is a whole other story that deserves exposure of his despicable Mormon-run company…for another post.  Just trust me on this.  He hides money from us, puts his girlfriend and car payments before his children… but we still have to get along. The alternative is a complete stranger making a decision for your family.

4. When you have children with someone, you never have complete control over their lives.  We never have complete control, but I mean more like, where they are, where they live, where they stay etc.  There are two parents; in the eyes of the law, both have equal rights.  A father can require you send your small children on a plane to Minnesota if that’s where he moved for work.  You can fight him in court, but the judge will probably say the kids can go- and that’s on you if you let a stranger decide.  For example, my new(er) attorney laid it out very clear to me that there are 4 judges in Cecil County and some of them sent their kids to private school and some did not… so if I left that decision up to one of them, who knows what they would decide.

This was definitely a moment of change for me.  My kids were allowed to go to Hawaii despite my telling the judge that Dad has a drinking problem and doesn’t always require seat belts and life jackets.  She ordered he use them but there wasn’t someone in Hawaii to monitor that!  I had to let it go and I decided to spend this difficult time in Boston with my best friend of 20 years.  She made sure we were happy and relaxed, and I survived.  Without control.  It was good for me.  All of the lessons were good for me and will change the way I go about things in the future.

Here’s me with my God-daughter when I arrived in Boston.  Blessed.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Custody Agreement- What I Wish I Had Known Then

It took me a moment to decide how I wanted to write this, as I try to offer what I think people may both want to read and need information about…

I am in a pickle with my ex-husband.  Nothing new, but this Thursday will be the first time we’ve actually gone to court since our divorce.  In short, I have a very vague (shitty) custody agreement.  In my agreement, it says that each parent may take the children on vacation for a week with two months notice given to the other parent.  During the school year, it says that the other parent must agree.  That is pretty much it when it comes to vacation guidelines in my agreement.  It has no previsions to protect my children from their father who drinks excessively, especially on vacation.  It also has no previsions to protect my children from a parent who isn’t too serious about car seats and life jackets.  As a result, I am now going to court with him because I will not agree to this vacation during the school year or at all, for that matter. Not at such a young age, as it is also a 17 hour plane ride for a 4 day vacation for my small children.  There are also four children on this trip and only two adults.  This doesn’t make sense to any responsible, rational person I’ve spoken to.  I didn’t have children with a responsible, rational person.  I had children with a Narcissist.  This trip is not about my children, it is all about my ex-husband.  All of the information he has shared and all the communication we have had on the topic has been completely centered around him.  This is evident in his wording and his absolute refusal to meet with me to discuss the logistics of the trip. I have many safety concerns and in addition I do not trust someone to take my children around the world who will not even meet with me to discuss their well-being.  He is a true Narcissist.  Alas, we knew that, and a judge will decide on the trip.

That being said, had I known how imperative our custody agreement was – the wording of it – I wouldn’t be in this situation.  We made this agreement when I was not even thinking clearly three years ago.  It is so important because if there is ever a conflict between parents, a judge will look at the exact wording of the agreement and most likely determine the outcome that way. That makes sense to most – but it is almost impossible to predict all of the possible situations that may arise when two people get divorced and no longer are raising children “together.”

My next step is to request a modification in our custody agreement so this situation never happens again.  It is my job to protect my children and this is part of it.  There are many issues and specifics that need to be covered in a custody agreement.  Some of the topics that need to be covered are the process in determining schools for my children.  Right now they go to a private school that I pay for and that we are very happy with.  My ex hasn’t fought me on this decision, but he also has not made the decision with me and alleges that I made it alone.  I have documentation of my requesting he help make the decision, requesting he see schools, requesting he help research, and he just couldn’t be bothered.  If anything ever comes up regarding their school, I need to make sure this decision is solid.

Sports are another topic not mentioned in our agreement.  Our oldest is in sports now and my ex had him in a winter sport near him- keep in mind, he moved 35 minutes away from us last spring. Now our oldest is in a different sport at a league close to our home.  He alleges I didn’t “run this by him” which again, I have documentation that I did.  Narcissists live in their own lies.  Their truth is whatever works for them and comes out of their mouth.  If I showed him my documentation, he would simply say he didn’t remember saying it… I know this because I can predict his behavior based on his past behavior.  He is a Narcissist.

I never even pressed the issue of his moving away from us because I didn’t want to negatively affect the children.  Since he moved away and out of state, I could insist that he meet us for exchange.  Right now, I drop off at night, he drops off in the morning.  I think that is in the best interest of our children as they are dropped off at our homes, not in a parking lot somewhere.   I will always make decisions based on the best interest of my children.

As of now, I have some work to do and so does my attorney.  I will keep this post up to date in case I know anyone else who may have a similar issue.  I am very interested to learn other topics and suggestions that I may need to address while I seek this modification.