I used to think about a non-custodial mom in a negative way. I thought about someone who must have some pretty major issues. They must be drug addicts, have serious mental issues or they are so self-absorbed, they didn't want to take care of their children once they were free from the bonds of matrimony. And then I interviewed 5 women who were brave enough to come forward and talk to me about it.
These mothers did not have their children taken away from them, they gave them up. I can hear all the readers gasping in shock and surprise and thinking, what mother would give up their children? There must be something wrong with her, and at one point in time, I would have had that same belief.
But, there is nothing wrong with these women. In fact, there is everything right with these women. They all have one important thing in common other than not being a primary caregiver to their children, they are all selfless. Yes, selfless.
When a father is non-custodial, we picture this guy who is out working really hard and just doesn't have the time to raise his children on his own. He is noble and kind and pays his child support on time. And, when he does take those kids for his three days at a time, we applaud him for doing it on his own. Why can't the non-custodial mother be viewed the same way? The reason why is we have been programmed, despite feminism, to think that it is the woman's job to rear the children.
Each woman had a different story as to how they became the non-custodial parent, but the general theme was similar; they did what they thought was best for the children. Whether the father was always the primary caregiver or the father had remarried and could provide a more stable home environment in a better neighborhood, each mother had the same image of care they wanted for their kids, which was for their lives to be as uninterrupted as possible and for them to be in the most stable environment.
The decisions these women made to not be the primary custodian did not come easily or lightly, but in the end, their only concern was what was best for the kids. None of them have split parenting time, they all have standard visitation. And, with that being said, they all not only feel a closer bond to their children, who confide in them more during their quality time, they have a better co-parenting relationship with their ex-husbands.
Each mother knows the ex-husband will do what is right for the children and, more importantly, trusts them to do what is right for the kids. Ground rules were laid down early on as to how things would be handled, and those rules have served the children well. The kids are well-adjusted living with their father while visiting their mother.
It seems that all these women have adopted a very healthy attitude which is also a common thread among them. They know that even when the children are not with them, they are still raising them, and that the umbilical cord can't be severed because they will always be the mother.
Most of the non-custodial mothers don't want to speak up because of the fear of what others will think about them. After all, the stigma is strong against these women, but the truth is, I see nobility in their actions because they truly are only thinking of the children and not themselves. Putting a child's needs above your own is the best way to raise healthy children post divorce, and these women have figured out how to do that.
Is this the difference between men and women? I don't think so. What I do think is that in order for more men to parent equally, women have to allow them to parent equally and that men can be as good a caregiver, if not better, to their children as the mother. I also know that kids change and parents need to recognize this and make the changes that are best for the children.
I realize there are quite a few mothers who have had custody taken from them for all the reasons listed in the first paragraph, and truth be told, those were not the women I was looking to learn from, and not the women I am talking about here. But, imagine if all women and all men that were going through divorce thought like these women, the children would matter more and not just be pawns to be bargained with.
Follow Lee Block on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PostDvorceCoach