This morning, I watched Dr. Phil on Oprah's OWN network. The subject was "home wreckers" and the first guests were a married couple who claimed the husband's ex wife was trying to destroy their marriage. It seems the husband in this situation had two kids with the ex wife and, because of a drug problem several years ago, had been given supervised visitation with his kids. His five month marriage to his current wife was in trouble because his first wife kept calling them and leaving abusive messages.
Meanwhile, dad was not able to see the kids. His ex wife had moved 2000 miles away with the kids and apparently made it difficult for him to arrange visitation, yet claimed she wanted him in their kids' lives. Second wife was understandably getting tired of the bullshit and had started talking about divorce. She produced a tape recording of the first wife's harassing messages on the phone, whereupon the first wife had made insulting and inflammatory comments.
Make no mistake about it. It's not that I don't think these people don't all have their own perspectives. Of course there are at least two sides to every story. What annoyed me about Dr. Phil and his sage advice is his complete inability to recognize that while the children's needs should come first, the adults in the situation, especially the custodial parent, must be willing to cooperate with each other. It sounded to me like Dr. Phil was putting way too much responsibility on the man and not enough on his ex wife.
In this particular case, the ex wife had chosen to move the kids 2000 miles away from their dad. Naturally, that made it hard for the kids' father to see his children regularly. Travel takes money and the ability to take time off work. This dad on Dr. Phil was paying child support and lived far away from the kids through no fault of his own. And here was Dr. Phil telling him he had to do everything possible to see his kids, even if it meant taking a Greyhound bus. Well, that's not very realistic, Dr. Phil. In our society, people have to work to meet their obligations. And caring moms-- who most of the time made the choice to make babies with these so-called good for nothing dads-- should do what they can to cooperate, if they truly do want their kids to have a relationship with both parents. The thing is, I don't think some of these women really do want their kids to maintain relationships with both parents. A lot of them just want revenge.
My husband was in the same situation with his ex wife. She moved their kids from Arkansas to Arizona. My husband had barely been able to support the family because he was making shitty money working in a factory in their small town in Arkansas. His ex wife refused to work and had moved her sister and niece into their home. The sister also had no job. So there my husband was, supporting seven people on a salary of about $26,000. They eventually went bankrupt.
As the marriage was breaking up, my husband rejoined the Army full-time. He did this so he could make a decent living and could pay child support for three kids... one of which wasn't even his! When I met my husband, he was literally living on $600 a month. He sent his ex wife over $2700 a month for alimony and child support and also paid the house note on the money pit house they had purchased. She claimed the house in their divorce, but wasn't able to pay for it. So that duty fell to my husband and it almost broke him financially. When he finally got transferred out of the midwest, he could no longer pay for the house. It went into foreclosure. Granted, he made mistakes. He should have had a lawyer. He should have quitclaimed the house. But he didn't have money for a lawyer.
It takes money and time off to travel. The military is actually pretty generous with time off, but at the time of the divorce, my husband had just come back on active duty and needed to be at work to earn the days off and establish himself. He couldn't afford to fly to Arizona on a whim. Meanwhile, he was giving his ex wife most of his money so she could re-establish herself in a state thousands of miles away-- a state that she chose to move to. It was up to my husband to pay for everything and bend his schedule to see his kids. His ex wife refused to cooperate and treated their kids like commodities. So now my husband's relationship with his kids is ruined. The ex has had time to tell them all sorts of half-truths and un-truths about what really happened and they haven't had the critical thinking skills to question her version of events.
The truth is, my husband would have done whatever he could to see his kids... But I must reiterate again-- it takes money and time off to travel-- two things he didn't have much of when the divorce was fresh. And it takes cooperation from the custodial parent. If she doesn't want to cooperate, she can easily screw things up and make visitation almost impossible. Court systems don't seem to give a shit about the father's rights to his children. Dr. Phil made it sound like the guy on his show just plain didn't care about his kids and wasn't prioritizing enough. Maybe he wasn't, but I know in my husband's situation, the kids were always foremost in his mind. He wanted to see them and was willing to travel to see them. But he had to make the money and have the time to do it. And he had to have his ex wife's cooperation, which she outright refused to grant him. And as the kids grew older, they also grew culpable because they refused to even give their father a chance to explain.
I wonder what Dr. Phil would say to a guy like my husband. Does he not understand that as important as maintaining familial relationships after divorce is important if there are kids involved, someone has to make the cash to pay for their upbringing? Does he not understand that some jobs-- especially those involving the military-- require parents to move frequently? Does he not realize that both parents have to cooperate in order for the kids to have both parents in their lives?
As for the second wife in this situation, I feel a lot of empathy for her, too. I heard the shitty phone message first wife had left on their voice mail. I watched the first wife making smug, self-righteous expressions to the camera. I could see that she had no empathy or respect for the second wife or the situation she was in. And Dr. Phil had no empathy or respect for the second wife, either. His interests were mostly centered on the poor embattled mom and the two kids... poor embattled mom who was not cooperating with the man she claims is a loser but voluntarily had two kids with. Second wife probably said some things she shouldn't have said, but honestly, I can't blame her. Women who marry divorced men with kids often get a raw deal. It's no wonder so many end up divorcing.
People expect stepmothers to love their husband's kids as if they were their own, but never are they to take any credit for them. Never are they allowed to "mother" them in any way, lest bio mom's toes get stepped on. Stepmothers are not supposed to do anything but hover lovingly and never express an opinion about the kids that aren't theirs. And yet, they are expected to regard those kids as precious gifts, even when the kids are rude and ungrateful. It's true that stepmothers are usually adults who come into blended families willingly. But no one expects children to adapt; they expect and even encourage them to stay upset and angry.
Vindictive exes feed on that wounding that comes from divorce and use it to turn their kids into hateful zombies. And then, people wonder why these kids grow up to be immature, narcissistic, entitled, and completely lacking in empathy toward other people. The reason is because they have been treated as commodities whose feelings everyone should be bending over backwards to protect. They don't learn how to function as adults because no one ever expects adult behavior of them. They are purposely kept wounded and in pain because their parents are too selfish and stupid to put their real needs first. And when I say real needs, I don't mean letting them feel their pain. I mean teaching them to get over the pain and learning how to function properly. A lot of people are children of divorce. It's painful, but if that's the worst pain you ever go through in your life, you will be lucky. What's more, it's not a special condition that calls for special treatment. Parents should cooperate-- work together to make those kids able to weather the storm, rather than prolonging the hurt.
Anyway... I have ranted enough about this. I should not watch Dr. Phil because he almost always pisses me off in some way. He panders to women, of course, women who are in the "first wives club". It would be nice if he broadened his perspective.