Having married a man with children, I soon learned the affects a stepfamily has on finances and child support topped the list in the Coleman household. Once the money was seized from my husband’s paycheck, his take-home earnings were $400 a month. Any increase is better than nothing, but $300 of his net pay went toward his monthly car payment. Doing the math, that left a meager $100 which was supposed to cover the increased expenses of adding another person to the already strained family budget.
The last submission I received for Blended Families An Anthology was from Sonya Visor. The title of her submission reverberated in my soul. Her story is captured below:
Grappled with the pending uncertainty, my leg shook under the table. In a few minutes, the court would decide which child would eat this week: our one-year-old son or my husband’s eleven-year-old son from a previous relationship. We waited as the magistrate left the courtroom to formulate his decision. Who would be first on the list?
The magistrate returned with the ruling—his oldest son will eat this week. At the final strike of the gavel, they left us with a check for $3.96. How were we going to make it? Who was going to provide for my son?
My husband had just started a new job and was out ill for three days the previous week. You guessed it; no sick time. So after taxes, insurance and the child support payment, we had a whopping $3.96 left for the son I birthed. The court decided for me who was first. Responsibility of provision was made for one son, but not the other.
I stared at the check with my mouth gaped open. I looked at my husband, then back at the check. Fear gripped me as I contemplated how we would make it until his next paycheck. My hands trembled without restraint. My leg shook with so much force that I banged my knee on the table.
A flood of emotions bombarded me. Foolish for getting into this predicament. Angry that an outsider dictated how our money would be spent. Hurt that my son would go without milk and diapers. Then nobility stepped in, but only for a moment. Because when I looked at my child, I knew that it wasn’t fair to rob him—to rob us of our weekly groceries. I knew that paying support was the right thing to do, but what consideration was made for Junior?
My husband of almost three years stood without saying a word. His wide-eyed gaze and hunched shoulders spoke volumes. A responsible man and father, the frustration overwhelmed him. He fell into the chair and ran his hands through his hair. He provided for one child that week, but they both depended on him. He looked up at me with fear in his eyes and then dropped his head. While he dealt with his issues, I had to deal with mine—trying not to hurt anyone.
After a while, I did what any daughter would do, I called my mother. That’s right; I called Mom and told her all about it. She listened to me and allowed me to vent. Even in my volatile emotional state, I didn’t want to share with my husband. I knew that my words would cause him more hurt and only serve to beat him down. He didn’t need or deserve the soured fruit of my lips. Was I trying to act like Mary Poppins? Of course not, remember I called my mother, sisters and my best girlfriend. I found out that my response was typical. Our tight budget was based on a little more than $3.96. We needed that money. God allowed me the time to be angry without sin, but He did not allow me to stay there and wallow in it.
I had a choice to make—resent the older son for the rest of my marriage or allow God to take full control of the situation. I didn’t want to hold a grudge against the child. Nor did I want to be responsible for driving a wedge between my husband and his son. His son was here to stay. My marriage was solid, and I wanted to keep it that way. So, I chose life. I changed my mind; it changed my actions.
How did I make the best of the situation? I prayed. I had to. I needed assurance. Reminded that someone outside of our relationship required my husband’s time and attention, required that I knew beyond any doubt he loved me. But to then be robbed of a week’s budget is another story in itself. Now you are messing with my money. To even say “robbed” isn’t fair, and I thank God that I have come a long way. I knew that my husband had a son before I said, “I do.” I knew from the beginning that this man loved his son. If he didn’t, I don’t think I would have had anything to do with him.
The day I received the smallest payroll check in my life, I realized what kind of woman I was. I know women who have dealt with a lot of unnecessary drama and have become very bitter over it. I understand. But what I cannot justify is taking the frustration out on the children. In our case, the biological mother did not initiate the proceedings, so I could not fault her for the cash-flow chaos either.
So after a couple of hours of pouting with my girls, I moved on. By doing so, the Lord provided for us and we didn’t miss a step. My mother purchased diapers and formula and my sister brought over a bag of groceries. We also received a check in the mail. I made a decision to not harbor any resentment against the young man. He didn’t get to pick his parents or his situation. I chose to marry my husband, and I accepted the package deal. I loved past the hurt. My husband and I both found out that love is an action word full of power. He pulled from my reaction knowing that we would make it through this transition. This hearing marked the beginning of building a bridge for us to walk across one plank at a time.
The bestselling author of Blended Families An Anthology, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman has helped thousands of families navigate the challenges of child support, visitation, discipline and more. With over twenty years of experience in family and relationships, this expert has given advice on varying issues including baby-momma drama, defiant children and disapproving in-laws. On her journey to assist others with building strong families, she shares her personal testimony and practical tools to help you stop the stepfamily madness in your home! To learn more about Valerie, her books and overcoming relational matters, visit PenOfTheWriter.com.