Q: I'm thinking about going to Thailand to find a wife because I'm having trouble meeting women in the United States. My friends and family feel that most overseas women are gold-diggers who want to become American citizens, so they'll marry anyone from the States. Do you think they are right, or should I listen to my own gut feelings?
A: I can't say that all women outside the United States would marry for an American passport, but even the ones with the highest motives bring with them such different thinking and customs that marriage would present daily and ongoing challenges. And we all know that marriage in the best of circumstances is not easy, that it takes two people with similar values and priorities. If you met someone from another country who was living, working and educated in America and had blended her culture into her host country, my feeling would be tempered; certainly cross-cultural marriages can work and work
well where there is at least some degree of commonality to build on. But going to Thailand is a fantasy, a way of escaping the challenge of dating on your own turf -- which may be the most demanding but in the long run provides the biggest payoff. You've got a lot to think about.
Q: I am responding to your recent request about mothers without custody. In a bitter custody fight over two years ago, the judge decided to split our three children and give the two boys to my husband, our daughter to me. I had been portrayed by my ex-husband as being an incompetent, helpless spouse even though I had spent most of the years at home raising the children.
I had sought therapy as we progressed toward the divorce, and found that in the judge's eyes that my choice to stay home and raise the children made me appear emotionally weak. I don't regret the therapy or the anti-depressants prescribed at the time, but I do feel that because of the way it was viewed in the courts, therapy and medication may have been contributing factors in the custody decision.
My ex and I were left by the judge to work out our own visitation schedule. Over the last two years it has evolved into my having all the children every other weekend and seeing them one evening during the alternate weeks. He and I both attend the children's school functions, ball games, etc. Because of our unique custody arrangement, I see my ex and his new wife at least once a week, and we talk on the phone several times a week, working out details about schedules, activities and so forth. For the most part we have been able to get past our negative feelings and work on what's best for the children.
In my more charitable moments I realize I would have beehard-pressed to adequately care for all the children in my new circumstances: My income dropped to one-quarter of what it had been when we were together. I've been working two jobs for the past two years, and it's still a constant financial struggle.
Being separated from the boys was the most painful experience of my life. Having people make assumptions about one's mothering capabilities when they learn you don't have custody of all your children has hurt a great deal too. Luckily I have been blessed with a very supportive family, good friends and a strong faith to get me through the worst times.
A: Being a part-time, off-premises mom is still taboo in the minds of most people. Non-custodial motherhood seems unnatural, against the dictates of nature -- and yet it can happen to a fit, loving parent, as you know. To add to the fortitude you have found, the organization Mothers without Custody may be able to serve as an additional source of strength.