This Mama Pays Child Support – Kveller
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This Mama Pays Child Support

As part of our month-long series dedicated to Women, Work & Money, Sarah Tuttle-Singer shares her child-support strategy.

Last month I had a grand total of 42 shekels in my bank account and no place to sleep with the kids. Nights get cold here, now. The sun sets early, and the usual standbys–the pool, the pub for dinner, or sleeping in a tent–are no longer options.

But the most stressful part of all of this was I couldn’t pay child support for two months.

Try explaining to your 4-year-old why she can only go on one 10 shekel carousel ride at the amusement park when the other kids can go as many times as they want. Try explaining to your 2-year-old why he can’t have ice cream when all the other kids get some. And now–just for fun–try explaining to your ex why the money he depends on to pay rent and buy groceries isn’t coming in on time.

Yup. Good times.

Now, I will say this in my defense: The financial situation wasn’t even my fault–my accountant messed up and I didn’t get two months worth of salary. And while my colleagues at Times of Israel saved the day with a very well-timed phone call, it was rough going for a while. But still, fault or no-fault, the fact remains that I was two months behind in wiring my ex money for our kids, and that ain’t right.

When I shared my stresses with my good friends and when I alluded to this in a previous post on Kveller, the responses were nearly identical: “Hold up. You’re paying child support? But the mother NEVER pays child support!”

Well, this mother does.

And I don’t understand why this is such a big fucking deal.

Yeah, I know, it’s usually the reverse. Mommy takes the kids, and Daddy sends a check once a month. But in the wake of our marital disaster I was working full time and my ex wasn’t. So, in the post-apocalyptic relationship fall-out, he retained primary physical custody–the kids lived with him, and I’d see them a few days a week. This was the case for a variety of reasons, namely that I had no place to live on the kibbutz, and that I was working long hours in Tel Aviv–which, without a car, might as well be worlds away.

The split was traumatic enough for the kids, and yanking them out of their community would have made it worse for everyone. So, we muddled along and it was what it was. I worked a steady job and sent a steady check. He worked freelance and picked the kids up from preschool. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.

Except when it wasn’t. Inevitably, there were nights when the kids would cry. There was anger and frustration, and an abiding sadness that permeated last winter and seeped into spring. But over the last several months, my ex and I sucked it up and worked the problem.

And things have changed now: We both work freelance. We both have physical custody of the kids. And while several friends have told me that this changes everything, and that he should be paying me, I still don’t see why.

Because it all comes down to this: even though my ex and I are not together, when it comes to the financial peaks and pitfalls of parenting, we are tethered until the day our kids start supporting us. And if we share physical custody of our kids, then it makes absolute 100% sense to share monetary custody the same way. He has a budget on the kibbutz, and once a month there needs to be enough money in that budget to pay for everything. And in order to make sure we aren’t in the red, that budget relies on two paychecks. His and mine. Period. The end.

Look, it may not have worked out between us, but I trust my ex enough to know that my money isn’t being frittered away–he isn’t using it to buy clothes at Zara or a new flatscreen TV. He and I both understand we’re in this together–like it or not. And the money I’m supposed to wire once a month goes directly into a bank account where it pays for preschool and food and the occasional carousel ride and ice cream cone.

This series was brought to you by a generous grant from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York. For more information about the important work they do, go here.

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