Confessions of a BioMom Gone Bad: Manipulating the Parenting Plan

14 Sep

The creation of a Parenting Plan is standard procedure in a divorce.   It’s meant to be used as a guide, and there can be variations if both parties agree.  But, if both parties cannot agree, they must go back to implementing the Parenting Plan.  What I’ve seen too often is BioMoms that use the Parenting Plan in a manipulative way especially with BioDads that are following the rules and are trying to “play nice”. 

I’m talking about the BioMoms that won’t allow BioDad to bring the kids back an hour past the documented drop-off time saying to the kids “We have to follow the Parenting Plan!”, but the next week will ask if he can keep them a few extra hours because she hasn’t finished running her errands yet.  Or the BioMoms that can’t possibly find 2 weeks that the kids can stay with their dad for his summer vacation time but will ask during the school year if he can take them for a week so she can go on a vacation. I even have a Twitter friend that said her stepdaughter told her that when she asked her mom if she could spend more time with her dad, her mom said, “You can’t because the Parenting Plan doesn’t allow it.”   Then when the father asked for more time with his daughter, BioMom said, “You are not entitled to any extra time.”  Huh?  What?  Entitled?  That seems like such an odd choice of words when you’re talking about your own child.

I’m tired of the BioMoms (and custodial BioDads) who only want variations in the Parenting Plan when it suits or benefits them.   For instance, BioMom asks BioDad to make changes in the schedule to accommodate her needs and BioDad agrees.  But when BioDad asks for more time, BioMom falls back on the “legalese” in the Parenting Plan and says something like “The Parenting Plan states that there can be variations when both parties agree and I don’t agree with you having extra time beyond what you’re allocated in the Parenting Plan.”  In the most ideal situation, the custodial parent should be happy to give up some time to the non-custodial parent when it’s requested, but in many situations, this is not the case. 

I’ve got some experience on this particular subject because I behaved badly as a BioMom for a few years (see “Confession of  a BioMom Gone Bad” in the July issue of StepMom Magazine) and I have been guilty of this offense myself.  It wasn’t until I met DH that I could observe what it felt like to be a non-custodial father.  DH has the same “boiler plate” custodial arrangement with his ex-wife that I have with my ex-husband:  every other weekend and one night a week.  I know how much he misses not being able to see his girls every day.  And while our house is always bustling with my two children from my first marriage and the daughter that we have together, nothing can take the place of the two daughters that are only with us every other weekend.  If his weekends fall the right way on the calendar, he may get to see them 6 full days out of the month (plus a day if you add up the week day visits).  For any parent that wants to be involved with their children, that doesn’t seem like enough.

That’s when I decided to start acting like a rational human being instead of a vindictive bitch.  When my ex-husband started stepping on my last nerve and I started to plot how I could get away with not inviting him to our daughter’s concert or making sure the kids had activities scheduled on his weekend, I’d look at DH and realize what a jerk I was being. I was hurting my kids more than anyone else. 

I had a few choices: 

1.  I could be completely inflexible with my schedule to screw him out of time and continue to refuse requests for extra visitation;

2.  I could spend thousands of dollars and take him back to court to have the plan revised;

3.  I could do what felt like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do—BE REASONABLE. 

Despite my opinion of him at times, he’s still half of their DNA.  He divorced me, not the kids, and he should be able to have extra time beyond what the Parenting Plan states if he wants it.  It was time for “both parties to agree”, but more importantly, it was time for me to get over myself.  Maybe it’s time for you to do that too. 

If you’re a BioStep, it may have taken the BioMom in your life to make you realize how you’ve been manipulating your Parenting Plan to suit your needs and ignore his.  If you’re a BioMom, it may be hard to let go of the one thing in your life you know will bring your ex-husband to his knees.  Bottom line is, start working for the good of your children and not for your own selfish agenda.  Regardless what your issues might be, your ex-husband (no matter how big of a dirtbag you think he is for leaving you or how much you despise his new wife) is still the father of your children, and your children deserve to have a relationship with him. Work your Parenting Plan to your children’s advantage, not yours.  A healthy co-parenting relationship is what we all want to model to our children, right? 

Here’s an idea:  the next time he asks for extra time, give it to him and use that time alone to do some self care.  Take the time to do some reflection and find the root of your anger and hostility and free yourself from it.  You may be able to do it on your own or you may need a therapist’s help.  Figure out what you’re doing to contribute to the problem, own it and then fix it.  It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you’re willing to do the work. 

Are you a BioMom who worked your Parenting Plan to your advantage and his disadvantage?  What made you stop?  Or are you a BioMom who is willing to admit that you still like using the Parenting Plan as a weapon?  Would you consider stopping for the good of your children even though you feel like you’re giving up control?

For healthy co-parenting support, go to Co-Parenting 101.  They’ll be  featured in a segment on co-parenting after divorce on CBS News’s The Early Show on Wednesday, September 15th at 8:09 AM EST.  Please tune in!

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21 Responses to “Confessions of a BioMom Gone Bad: Manipulating the Parenting Plan”

  1. knittingbetweencultures September 14, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Great post with some excellent insight. As far as my parenting plan goes- I am anything but manipulative. In fact, we don’t even have a Parenting Plan in place. My husband and I used to take ODS (oldest dear son) halfway until the BD was expecting this every.single.visit. We were doing this to be kind and to facilitate visitation with the ODS but clearly, it was the BD that was trying to be manipulative. Now, he barely sees his son, perhaps every other month at most. It is too bad, as he is missing out on the most amazing and formative years of his life (the teen years). ODS is to the point now where he needs to realize that God has placed a wonderful stepdad in his life and it is time to take advantage of that blessing. (This is a reply for a completely different blog post).

    As a child, I remember my dad (who was the custodial parent and also very scorned) would manipulate my mother all the time. She had to drive EVERYWHERE and it was always on his clock. I remember this quite vividly and it saddens me that they could never get past all of the anger for the benefit of their daughters.

  2. Amy September 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    Your points are right on! Thank you for sharing. I have had a stepmom since I was 5, my kids have had a stepmom for 8 years and I am a stepmom of 4 years. My kid’s stepmom and I have a great relationship. Biomom and me as stepmom, not so much…although I am still hopeful someday we can. What you describe above is very real to us in respect to my stepchildren. She is even remarried and has a child with current husband. He had no children prior, so there is no way for him to understand what my husband goes through and fully supports and encourages the behavior. My husband continues to press forward and enjoy every moment he is allowed with his kids.

    Thanks again for you blog.

  3. Laura Campbell September 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    This was a great post. However, I am a Biomom who has a Stepmother who has no respect for me as a Biomom and as a matter of fact, my Ex believes that when he has the kids (which is exactly 50% of the time) then she IS the Biomom?!

    As a Divorce Expert and Coach, this is a struggle for me. He has her walking fully in the shoes of a Biomom, from signing the kids’ back to school forms as their legal custodian (for which she is not) to refusing to have any interaction with me either by email, phone or in person, without her present…even if it is in regard to our children.

    I just wondered if there are any good strategies for managing this so that I can use them not only for myself, but for the women who I support and coach as well?

    I fully respect her as a Stepmom and the role of a Stepmother in general. And…I am delighted that she loves my children and they really like her as well.

    I know that the issue is with my Ex however I thought as a woman and mother herself, she would walk appropriately in her role.

    I am most interested in your thoughts!

    Yours,
    Laura
    The D Spot, LLC

    • BioStep September 14, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

      Without knowing your situation, it’s hard to give you advice. I agree that the main issue is with your ex. I’d like to know what you categorize as “walking fully in the shoes of a Biomom”? Give us some examples of what she does that you believe should be reserved for a BioMom and how she could, in your opinion, “walk more appropriately in her role”. After that, we might be able to give you some more tools on how to manage your feelings about your children’s stepmom. If you prefer, you can email directly at biostep@comcast.net

  4. Peggy Nolan September 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    Bravo and high five! I love it when a mom / stepmom gets over herself 🙂

    • Tricia Powe September 14, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

      This is the awakening all bio/step parents need to have for their kids’ best post-divorce outcome. I reposted so other moms/stepmoms can come here and read it, too. Looks like I have another resource to share! Cheerfully, Tricia

      • BioStep September 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

        Thank you Tricia.

  5. Mike September 15, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    What an interesting topic. I just ran into this blog and it reading back there are some great points and what seem to be a lot of insecurities.

    Definition of STEPMOTHER
    step•moth•er noun
    : the wife of one’s father when distinct from one’s natural or legal mother
    Merriam-Webster Online edition

    I have seen plenty of biological fathers say that they want to spend time with their kids BUT are rarely there when they actually get their children. They can be more focused on being difficult for the mother than about the time spent. The warning signs of this are the Father dropping the kids off with family members, girlfriends, wives (or any other babysitter) when they get what little visitation time they have. Always having an excuse with work, projects, family, and the kids end up spending more time with everyone else than the father. This causes so much pain for the kids as they don’t feel like they are a priority and the father constantly disappoints them. When I have seen this happen the mother typically tries to protect the kids from the father’s consistent disappointment and the hurt that ends up landing on the children. It is sad but someone has to protect the children from this quiet abuse from the father.
    On the other hand there are plenty of Biological fathers that drop everything for the kids, never miss a moment of time, and give every effort to make their time more comfortable when they do have them. That is the way it should be and those fathers really deserve more time with the kids. If they are doing everything they can to support and are making every effort then time should be the reward.

    • BioStep September 15, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

      Mike, perhaps you’re not a divorced/single father because there are quite a few things I don’t think you’ve thought all the way through.

      Many non-custodial fathers do have to work overtime in order to get by. My ex-husband would often pick up an extra shift or have mandatory training on his visitation day and my attitude was, “You missed your day. Tough,” and I wouldn’t offer him another day to make up for the one he missed. If my ex has to work during his custodial time, I’m happy if my kids spend time with extended family or friends that they don’t see on a regular basis (and honestly, I’m happy that he’s WORKING when so many fathers are out of jobs). “Quiet abuse”? I think you’re way off base here. If my kids had to spend a weekend with their grandmother because their dad had to work on his weekend, I’d be glad that they had quality time with grandma and then I’d offer him an additional weekend that he didn’t have to work so he could spend time with the kids! My ex sees the kids EOW, I see them every morning and every evening approximately 26 days (out of 30 in a month) so I think I can give up one of my weekends so the kids can spend time with their dad. But that’s just me. The point is to be more flexible.

      I think a custodial parent (mom or dad) using time with the children as a “reward” for what they perceive as their ex’s “good behavior” is dangerous for the children, and in the end may damage the child’s relationship with the custodial parent. It’s not about “deserving” time with your children. If you are divorced Mike, I hope your ex-wife doesn’t have you on this “rewards and punishment” system.

      And for all, this isn’t just a stepmother blog. It’s a parenting blog. I address issues in first families and stepfamilies. Everyone is welcomed here: biomoms, stepmoms (married, unmarried, gay/bi, straight), biodads, stepdads, grandparents, etc. The only thing I ask is that comments are respectful and encourage conversation.

    • CuriousLurker September 16, 2010 at 9:56 am #

      Mike, you start off saying that if dads are “doing everything they can to support and are making every effort then time should be the reward” but then say in your second post that “My point was the Step-Mom has nothing to say about all of this. They have no right and no dog in the fight. Or what seems to be the case with this blog if I am reading it correctly the almost Step-mom.” Biostepmom says nothing about her DH’s parenting arrangement other than it’s every other weekend and he misses his kids. This post is about her and how she dealt with the father of her kids in the past. You throw a few little jabs so it sounds like your issue is really with Biostepmom. I really hope your not the biomom in disguise or her DH. That would be sad if it was true because it would just add more fuel to the crazy biomom myth.

      I like this blog because it’s honest and it talks about a lot of issues that come up in parenting. We can all relate.

  6. Deesha September 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    “Mike”, treating parenting time as something a parent is “rewarded” with as opposed to being entitled to by virtue of being a parent is quiet a dangerous idea with huge potential to damage parent-child relations. Between this sentiment, the random posting of the definition of “stepmother”, and your tone, I find your comment on a post about a stepmother owning up to her mistakes curious, to say the least. I applaud BioStepMom for her “confessions.” Parents are learning from her, and children and families are being healed by her honesty and forthrightness. These character traits that are certainly more refreshing and admirable than innuendo and veiled jabs. Talk about “insecurities”…

    • knittingbetweencultures September 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

      I agree with Deesha here 100%. “Mike” is quite vague and it makes me wonder what he is doing in a stepmother forum anyhow.
      I have to say that I find BioStepMom refreshing, honest, and raw. She owns up to what she is doing wrong and tries to fix it- along the way, trying to share her mistakes so that others could possibly avoid the pitfalls that she has made. That is a FAR CRY from insecure! Bravo to you BioStepMom.
      If I had to guess, I would say that “Mike” is probably a “Michelle”- a biomom angry with her own situation with her ex and current stepmom of her children. Perhaps I am way off base, but with the ambiguity of “his” post this is my best guess.
      Stick around, Mike- I am sure there is so much you can learn from BioStepMom and the other blog readers!

  7. knittingbetweencultures September 15, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Also, I wanted to address the issue of “rewarding” fathers (or mothers)with extra time or “punishing” them by taking time away is a very slippery slope. Anytime you are using your child (or time spent with them)as pawns in your parenting head games is wrong on so many levels. Children deserve to spend time with both parents and deserve for both parents to be flexible for special occasions, etc. This will ensure that your children are healthy and happy- isn’t that what this is all about anyhow? The selfishness this behavior stems from is appalling to say the least! In the end, it is the children that suffer.

  8. Mike September 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    In the State of Washington the only thing a father is Entitled to is payment to the State in Child Support. They do not get the same rights as the mother. Some day they will fix that and give equal rights. Right now the Bio-Mom has the power. My point was the Step-Mom has nothing to say about all of this. They have no right and no dog in the fight. Or what seems to be the case with this blog if I am reading it correctly the almost Step-mom. I didnt see anything said about “taking time away” in my post so you might want to re-read again a litle slower. I just think that when two parents agree to a plan and the non-custodial parent is contributing to the well being of the child then they have every right to ask for more time since they are doing the right thing. IF the father (as they get short changed most of the time unless the mother is an addict or just doesnt care) is not doing the right things and causing harm to the child then I do understand a mothers feeling to protect the child. Its common sense to most. It’s sad that the child misses out on the father but if they got the act together everyone would win. Its a pretty simple concept that has nothing to do with taking time away from anyone. There are also plenty of flakey Bio-Mom’s, Step-Moms and Step Fathers as well. The world is full of them.
    As a father this is a good read on the dark side and I wanted to chime in and give another perspective that was getting missed. I will chime out since it seems that an opposing view is not welcome here. Cheers

    • BioStep September 15, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

      Not to be rude, but apparently you missed the title of the post: Confessions of a BioMom. This post is about MY bad behavior as a BioMom and was written purely from my experience with my ex-husband. The examples that I give are from the MANY BioMom and StepMom blogs (and comments on those blogs). It seems that there is a common thread in divorced families and the same stories are sadly told over and over again. My point is to make angry/vindictive/unhappy custodial parents (which as you point out, are mostly BioMoms) realize the harm they do when they manipulate the Parenting Plan. I did it and I’m not proud of it and I’m trying every day to have a workable and honest co-parenting relationship with my ex.

      I’m glad you think this is a “good read on the dark side”. That’s my point. If you read “About BioStep” you’ll see this: “I like to look at the ugly stuff and figure out why we act the way we do.” Parenting isn’t always pretty.

      An opposing point of view is always welcomed, but antagonistic comments are discouraged. I wish you well and hope you find your bliss.

  9. knittingbetweencultures September 15, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    Mike–
    I did read your first post quite slowly, however I did presuppose that if you were rewarding time then you were also “punishing” with time as those 2 tend to go hand in hand. Forgive me, if I misread into your words. The ambiguity kind of left much to be interpreted by the reader.

    I have a friend who is married to a dear friend of the family. His ex is constantly using their child as a pawn and treating the not so new step mom as if she didn’t exist or as though she had the plague. It is so sad because if the child would be taught by both bioparents that sometimes step parents are in children’s lives to give them extra love, time and attention (often that isn’t even received at the bio home) then everyone would all just get along much better. This would also create much more harmony and love all the way around. Instead, though, jealousy runs rampant as if an infectious disease and does just as much damage, especially by the scorned biomom. It is heartbreaking, but true. Sadly, this happens all of the time.

    I do agree that parents need to come up with a plan where it is a win-win situation, especially when everyone wants to be involved in the child’s life. I do not agree that time should be rewarded. I think that as parents, it is important to be flexible, kind and caring and impart these traits onto our children. Please, feel free to stay- everyone is welcome. Conversation is always more interesting when there is more than one side to the coin.

  10. M.R. September 15, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    As Biostep said, sometimes it’s sad that Dad’s do have to work, it doesn’t mean they are dumping their children it just means they are trying to make a living, most of the time FOR THEIR CHILDREN. Many weekends I have spent taking care of of my stepkids while my husbands at work. Many times the disappointment does not come from the child naturally but is fed by the other parent claiming because the other parent worked “he does not care”. Watch it Mike, that is a slippery slope you are treading on. Dare I saw that maybe in some situations if the child support wasn’t so high sometimes then the father wouldn’t have to work as much???
    Divorced fathers get the bad end of the stick sometimes, people make it out to sound like they don’t care and other things you have just stated yourself. Its that kind of ignorance that breeds broken homes and leads to more problems.
    As for dad’s not having the same rights, can you please send me your number and facebook link? SO I can send it to all the equal rights fathers that strive so hard to make a difference and silence that kind of ignorance. I’m sure they will have a hayday.
    Sounds like the best thing you can do Mike, is EDUCATE yourself on these issues in the proper way. Good luck, you have a long way to go but you can do it!

    • Deesha September 16, 2010 at 4:57 am #

      M.R., Washington state having gender-specific child custody and support laws was news to me too! Curious, I searched some statues and never even found a mention of “mother” or “father” until about the 3rd item, and even then it was in a context that applied equity. Lots of factors are involved in determining parenting time and support–but gender alone does not. Even in states like Massachusetts where an unmarried father does not have “automatic” rights when the child is born, that situation is remedied by the courts once the parent(s) seek to have the father legally recognized. Of course, courts may FAVOR a mother over a father in terms of bias, but that’s very different than saying that this is the case de jure, or that such bias is anything but inappropriate and damaging.

      Too often, people believe “custodial parent” and “mother” are synonymous. Or that child support payments are mom getting her due payments. Shameful.

      I really don’t think this is so much a matter of “Mike” needing to educate “himself” as it is “his” allowing a personal agenda to get in the way of facts.

    • BioStep September 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

      M.R. it’s true that sometimes attitudes are “fed” to kids by the parents. The level of a child’s disappointment about anything can always be affected by the parent either positively or negatively. I know in the beginning when my ex would have to miss one of his days to work OT, I’d say in a most exasperated tone, “Your dad has to work overtime, AGAIN.” I was so angry with the fact that he was missing his time that I didn’t realize that my attitude was rubbing off on the kids. I was unknowingly communicating to them that work was more important, which was not true. And honestly if I had just kept my sassy mouth shut (which I learned to do later), they wouldn’t have even noticed the fact that he missed a visit because they’re always so busy afterschool and on the weekends. Things happen and schedules change. Now when he misses, I remember to be flexible and I’ll tell the kids, “He can’t come today, but we’re going to schedule a different day as soon as he gets home from work.” Changing MY attitude made all the difference in the world. If the kids have to spend time with extended family while dad works during the day, they’re usually having a blast wherever they’re at. And like I said, I’m glad my ex is employed when so many are out of work.

  11. Erin September 16, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    “Mike”
    Try this one on for size.

    My husband, a loving man who has always tried to do the right thing, was told to keep his job he’d need to move across the country to work on an engagement that was bringing a lot money into the company he works for. The week before he was sent across the country, he, his ex-wife and I admitted my stepdaughter into a hospital for an eating disorder. She was 12.

    We were told there was no way of knowing how long she would need hospitalization but that she was seriously underweight and would probably require months to years of therapy, nutritionists, etc. IN case you’re not aware, eating disorders are considered a mental disease and very little is covered by insurance. So, my husband could either risk losing his job by staying in town and being with me, my stepson, his ex and my stepdaughter or he could leave us but come home every weekend and keep his job (aka, the source of the money he uses to pay for child support, health insurance, kids’ activities, kids’ clothes, etc.).

    He’s done this now for 18 months. My stepdaugher is out of the hospital and still requires $500-$1,000 a month of medical bills above and beyond the child support, health insurance, clothing, etc. we pay for. Obviously, my husband can’t quit his job and the kids’ mom is bankrupt so she can’t pay for these things either.

    Obviously, this kind of “parenting plant” isn’t ideal in the family court system. However, the entire family — my husband, his ex, me (the stepmom) and the kids make it work because the other option — being spiteful about the travel — doesn’t help anyone. We all had to get over ourselves to make this work.

    To imply that any parent that isn’t spending “enough” time with their kids should be punished is absurd. In the height of my stepdaughter’s treatment my stepkids’ mom had to work a lot of overtime and the kids were with me almost all the time. Does that mean their mom should have been punished and that I, their stepmom, should have gotten custody?

    • Melissa August 20, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

      Has anyone thought to apply for Social Security Disability on behalf of this girl?
      If the mother is lower income that might make a difference in her being eligible.She would also have access to the services possibly not covered just be fathers insurance.

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