It was bad enough that my parents divorced, but then they started fighting about child support. My mother had custody and my father paid child support. My mother said she didn’t have enough money from my father; my father said that he couldn’t afford what he was paying. No one seemed to care about the difficult emotions that I was going through as a child whose parents had split up. They only seemed to care about what it was costing them.
Imagine the message I got as that child. I was 13 years old when the child support argument started. The message that they communicated to me was that my father thought I was a financial burden. My mother thought I was a financial burden too. No one thought I was “worth it”. I felt as though suddenly everyone wished I was never born because now that they divorced, no one wanted to be financially responsible for me.
My needing to be supported seemed to be causing a lot of fighting and anxiety and fighting and anxiety went against everything that I had EVER learned about survival. As a survivor I lived by the rule “don’t cause fighting or anxiety”. Now I was caught in the crossfire of this divorce and it seemed that I was causing a very big problem.
I started stealing my clothes within a year of their separation. I would do almost anything not to be a burden to my parents. Stealing was like “my contribution” to helping out with the financial burden that I was. But stealing also made me feel really bad about myself and added to the growing body of evidence that I was unworthy, just like they communicated to me.
I still remember all the things my mother would say about not having enough money. I remember the way she said “your father” as though it was my fault that he was the way he was. “Your father” was an accusation but I wasn’t sure what I was being accused of and I concluded that I was just not worth the burden that she had to endure over this whole thing.
I got my period for the first time at school. I was in grade 8 and I was 13 years old and it just happened that I was going to stay at my father’s for the weekend right after school that day. I asked him if I could have some money so I could go to the drug store. I was so embarrassed; I didn’t want to have to tell him that I had to buy pads. But he would not give me any money unless I told him what it was for. The whole thing was just so humiliating because to me it was a reminder that he already paid enough child support and he didn’t want to give me a few dollars for anything else. I felt like a beggar. I felt like an orphan. I felt like a NOTHING and I was reminded of how alone I really was. I was 13 and other girls shared that “event” with their mothers but I had to tell my father who was really only concerned with what it was going to cost him. I was reminded of all the feelings of abandonment that I ever felt. It was painful. It was one more time that I was discounted.
When I got home from that weekend, I told my mother that I had gotten my period and she was angry! SHE felt ripped off that she didn’t’ get to share that “special moment” with me. She continued to remind me of how hurt she was over it many times throughout my life. I couldn’t win. No matter what I did it was always wrong. I was always in the way and always a burden. I couldn’t even start my period at the right time.
People wonder why kids run away from home when their parents split up and get divorced but the truth is that rarely are the kids supported emotionally through any of it. Most kids feel like the divorce had something to with them and their failures. I remember telling people when I was an adult that divorce is hardest on the parents! That was the belief I had struggled and succeeded in accepting. I don’t believe or accept THAT anymore.
It was communicated to me that the divorce was devastating my mother, but that it was not really my pain because I would still have a father but my mother would not have a husband and so as with everything else my feelings didn’t matter and I tried to convince myself that I was wrong to feel anything but sympathy for my mother. I reprimanded myself for feeling that I had been rejected by my father too, telling myself that I was “being selfish” I told myself that this was “Not my pain” and think of what your poor mother is going through. I told myself “don’t be so self centered Darlene; I don’t think that this is about you ~ stop making this about you!”…
But the truth is that it wasn’t me that was making it about me. THEY kept making it about me with that fight about child support. And neither one of my parents ever tried to talk to me or help me with all that I was going through as a child of parents who were getting a divorce. They discounted me and my need for emotional support and reassurance so I discounted my needs too. They discounted my need for financial support so I discounted those needs as well. It was communicated to me that I didn’t deserve to be taken care of properly, emotionally OR financially. Those beliefs didn’t resolve just because I “grew up”. Even when it became my own responsibility to take care of myself, I had never been taught or shown how to do that. My “self value” was not known to me.
This ordeal with the ongoing child support argument between my parents contributed to the already formed belief that I was not equally valuable to everyone else in the world and also thing led to the foundation of my belief system about my self worth when it came to money. (Spending it, making it; all of it.)
Another snapshot of truth;
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