Tag Archives: child support

Staying Positive, Resetting, and Getting Positive Again

I try to stay positive with the mother of my children at all times, I really do. But she continues to do things that would get her divorced in any other relationship. Well, it worked out that way for her and me in the first place, but she doesn’t need to keep being difficult and self-righteous. I do a ton of things to keep the peace, but it’s tiring. When is someone going to offer me the merit badge for good friend and father? Never.

I would’ve thought marrying a man with money (her new husband) would relieve some of her stress, but it seems to have made her even more intolerant of my situation.

I know not to expect anything from my ex-wife. I mean, she really doesn’t owe me anything. In fact, I still owe her. But it’s a contract between us, my child support, and something I would not try to, nor could I ever get out of my obligation to my kids. Full-time employment in my field of social media marketing, can sometimes be a more hit or miss routine. I’m in for 10 months, have a good roster of clients, and then nothing.

About three years ago I hit a “nothing coming in” period and I reached out to her to explain the situation. Three years into the divorce, and still there was only flak and anger coming back at me. I shared my income, my prospects, and my business hunt on a weekly basis, trying to temper her need to press the whole “divorce” thing over the Attorney General’s office. For 45-days it worked. While I wouldn’t call it cordial, she was at least willing to give me a bit of time to figure it all out.

“Meanwhile,” she said, “I still have bills and I’m still forced to pay for things that we should both be paying on.” I was ashamed and motivated to increase my efforts.

She went ahead and filed on me. It’s the equivalent to sending your loved one (former loved one) to a collections agency. Suddenly my credit score fell through the floor, and I became listed as a deadbeat dad. What? How did all that happen? How did we get from coparenting, to answering to case workers and “pressing 2” for non-custodial parent?

And today she’s still certain that the 10% we pay to the AG’s office is some how worth her piece of mind, that she will be paid. I try to remind her that she get’s paid from every dollar I make. She doesn’t want to hear excuses. She wants to hear commitment dates.

I don’t see how having the state’s child support team clamping down on me is going to help. There is nothing they can do but threaten (which they do) and freeze my bank account

She’s always been very spreadsheet oriented, and she’s obviously paying close attention to her balance sheets. And any dip or change in the plan causes unwelcome drama all over her prospects for a better future. I would’ve thought marrying a man with money (her new husband) would relieve some of her stress, but it seems to have made her even more intolerant of my situation.

And, the bottom line, she is entitled to all of the money. And in the best case scenario, my current work search will provide a renewed steady stream of income for her and my kids real soon. But again, I don’t see how having the state’s child support team clamping down on me is going to help. There is nothing they can do but threaten (which they do) and freeze my bank account (which they’ve done twice – causing more than $1,000 added expenses and hardships for me, along the way.)

“But you owe her the money,” the AG representative told me, hours before he froze my account.

“Don’t you see that I’ve just gotten a new job and have registered this new employer with your office?”

“Fine, but what about right now? I’m going to take half the money in your account to go against the debt  you are obligated for.”

“But I need that money for the kid’s health insurance premiums.”

I don’t think she’s ever considered what it’s like on this end of her authority stick. But it didn’t need to go this way, and the 10% she’s giving the AG’s office for staying involved, is money that would be better spent on our kids.

I’ve proposed a few scenarios for securing her debt while removing the AG’s office from my backside. So far, she’s stalled and said she won’t have time to think about that for a few months. Wait, what? “It’s just a conversation I want to have, not a decision.”

She’s in control this time. Much more in control than she was in the marriage. Having the angry hammer over my head, must give her some satisfaction, knowing she could precipitate my financial shut down with one phone call.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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reference: The 5 Love Languages  by Gary Chapman

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Custody Should Be a Collaborative Term

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If you are getting a divorce and you have kids, go for 50/50 parenting or nothing at all. FIGHT for 50/50 parenting and JOINT custody. Do not agree to be the non-custodial parent, under any circumstances.

Today custody in divorce w/ children usually means someone loses. Sure, there is joint custody, but the states usually like someone to be listed as primary custodian, otherwise recognized as “the custodial parent.” And for the rest of us, usually men, we are called the “non-custodial parent.” Seems like semantics, but let me assure you, it’s serious as hell.

In my case, even though we share joint custody, my ex-wife has the custodial parent role. While we were negotiating the divorce, this term didn’t mean anything to me. I was assured that the “joint custody” covered me in all issues and decisions related to my kids. That was a lie.

What it really meant, is that the minute I got the slightest bit behind on my child support (the non-custodial parent ALWAYS pays the custodial parent) my wife was able to file our decree with the OAG (office of the attorney general) and put my life into a living hell.

Imagine if you’re struggling already. Imagine asking the co-parent to wait a few months while the work situation settles out, so you can get back on track with payments. Then imagine your significant other saying, “Sorry, I’m filing with the AG’s office today. It’s for the kids, not for me.”

BS.

Once the decree is signed and you (the dad) have agreed to a specific payment each month, the AG’s office becomes a collection agency. They’ve got one of those lovely phone trees that asks before anything else, “If you are the custodial parent press ONE, if you are the non-custodial parent press TWO, if you are an attorney press THREE.”

You don’t want to be the non-custodial parent under any circumstances. Remember all that stuff you learned in couples therapy about power and control? The divorce brings out the worst of the dysfunction. And if your co-parent becomes a custodial parent, you are about to get punched in the balls. (Pardon my assumption that the dad is 80% of the time, the non-custodial parent, in my state of Texas.) If you are the mom who is non-custodial, then you can be prepared to have random titty twisters anytime there is a dispute.

But we weren’t having a dispute. I was telling her exactly what was going on. “My company just lost a big client, we’re struggling as quickly as we can, so if you can be patient…”

She was not patient. She waited exactly one month before sending me threatening emails. Talking about “for the kids,” and “not doing them a favor by letting you continue to not pay.” But here’s the problem with that ill-logic. Once you’ve signed a decree for divorce with kids, the child support agreement goes into law. Not even bankruptcy can wipe away your child support obligations. So if my wife was smart, and she was, she would’ve known this. I’m sure her attorney told her as much.

So if I’m not ever going to be able to skip out on my financial obligation to my ex-wife and my kids, what’s the point of filing against a cooperative parent? Power. And. Control. Now she has 100% of the power. And with the arm of the law she also has compete control over my financial future.

By filing with the AG’s office she effectively prevented me from restructuring my mortgage with Wells Fargo. She also got a lien placed on my credit score that began to damage my financial stability and resources immediately.

HARD AND FAST RULE: If you are getting a divorce and you have kids, go for 50/50 parenting or nothing at all. FIGHT for 50/50 parenting and JOINT custody. Do not agree to be the non-custodial parent, under any circumstances. You will regret giving in on this single point more than any other item in your divorce, so PAY ATTENTION.

In my future, I have my ex-wife to thank for the hardship of used car loan rates in excess of 19%. And she could care less. She claims to be all compassionate and always interested in protecting the kids interests. But suing your coparent is not protecting anyone’s interest. There was no need to attach a debt collector to my account, I was on the hook 100% and willing. But I went through a minor setback for one month in the summer three years ago. And I still can’t get a car loan.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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reference: The 5 Love Languages  by Gary Chapman

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Please Don’t Underestimate My Fragility or My Ferocity

I have a bit of a mood problem. It seems that when my life gets really tough (bounced checks, trouble at work, arguments at home) I sometimes collapse into a depression. It’s not often, but when it happens it surprises everyone around me with the change in my energy, demeanor, and general outlook on life.

I was mad. I was a little afraid. And slightly intimidated by the event. But the overwhelming feeling was one of injustice.

On the opposite pole is my joy and excitement when I’m on a roll. I tend to be one of those creative people who generate ideas by the boat load. When I’m happy, I try to capture and execute on as many of them as possible. This sets up a bit of a whammy. When I’m hitting stride in my ferocious mode, I’m a bit of an asshole. I know what I want and I don’t take kindly to people, economics, or laws getting in my way.

I got a speeding ticket the other day. This was a prime example of my indignation at the officer trying to help me be more safe. I had excuses (though I didn’t tell him) and a lot of frustration, but I chose to keep my mouth shut. The fact is I know I was going to fast. But I wanted to blame the traffic. The cop. The fact that I switched cars for the week with my fiance. The additional fact that my radar/laser detector was in the other, faster, car.

I was mad. I was a little afraid. And slightly intimidated by the event. But the overwhelming feeling was one of injustice. How did this guy pick me from BEHIND the cluster of cars on a flat road. And the point is, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have to prove it.

So I was in ferocious mode, but I was smart enough to reel it in and keep my mouth shut. This is also my pattern when I’m depressed. On the other hand, when I’m ON I have a hard time not saying the first thought that comes to mind. I want to let others around me know (often jokingly) how they missed my point, or didn’t respond the way I wanted them to. Sure, I’m a bit of a jerk.

But sometimes it’s the jerks that are efficient and powerful. It’s the people with ferocious wills who project their ideas and energy onto others in order to get some things done.

This is not easy. I’m not used to living dollar-to-dollar, paycheck-to-paycheck, but since my divorce this is what I’ve gotten. That’s how divorce works.

I am getting things done at the moment. Everything is going swimmingly. And then I bounced a check. Or a couple checks. Just like my speed trap, it wasn’t my fault. It was a timing/accounting detail. I mean, why am I having to count down to the dollar anyway? Why am I paying sooooo much child support AND the full health insurance premium for my kids? Well, regardless of what I think the answer should be, the bank operates by its own rules.

Today I entered the bank and talked to a man about my overdraft fees. He was sympathetic. I can’t get a credit card to protect against overdraft charges. The bank’s card services division was one of the creditors I still haven’t paid off.

This is not easy. I’m not used to living dollar-to-dollar, paycheck-to-paycheck, but since my divorce this is what I’ve gotten. That’s how divorce works. The dad gets the child support payment the mom gets the kids (custody) and the house.

I’m not ready to go to court to challenge our arrangement, but I shouldn’t have to. It’s the fact that my ex-wife turned it all over to the Attorney General’s office, that it has become a real problem. She didn’t need to do that. I was telling her all along that I was going to pay 100% of the money. But she got mad. She got scared. She acted in what she thought was the best interest of the kids. And she inadvertently prevented me from refinancing my house.

If you married and decided to have kids with some 70% – 30% split, perhaps you could start with the standard divorce plan, but it’s a loser for everyone.

Please consider you partner when you make decisions about divorce. The kids need both parents equally. And the more you burden each other with troubles, debt, or “enforcement” the worse it is going to be for all of you. It’s like shooting out the tires of your ex-partner’s car and realizing later that they had to miss a child support payment to pay for the tires. (This did NOT happen in my relationship, it’s an example.)

The whole custodial, non-custodial mess is part of the problem. Always go for joint custody. If you married and decided to have kids with a 70% – 30% split, perhaps you could start with the standard divorce plan, but it’s a loser for everyone. If you think winning against your ex is a good thing, you’re wrong. It’s a victory against your kids and against your own best interests. Listen to me. Go 50/50 all the way, just as you joined and decided to share the responsibility of having kids.

Anything less is abusive to the losing partner. The real loss, of course, is how it affects the kids.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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Dear Non-Custodial Dad: Here’s What You’re Getting

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Instead of access to your kids all the time, you can now only see them 8 – 10 nights a month. For me this was the biggest loss in my life.

There is no way around it. The first time I was given my “options” I cried. I had been pulled kicking and screaming into the divorce counselors office to draft the parenting plan for our upcoming divorce. A divorce which I didn’t want, didn’t ask for, and felt drafted into. There was no hope for repair, once she’d revealed she’d been to see an attorney. She’d been looking into her options long before I knew the marriage was in trouble.

“We see this all the time,” the expensive Ph.D. therapist told me. “Dads who are oblivious to the forthcoming divorce. They tend to be overwhelmed, disoriented, and not ready to prepare themselves for the next chapter.”

While I went to these sessions with the idea that we would spilt the schedule evenly, to allow for both of us to have the same amount of time with our kids, that was not what she wanted. And having consulted with an attorney, that was not what she knew she would get if we went to court. We had decided we were going to leave the financial and legal aspects to our cooperative style. Once I came around to the idea that a marriage was not viable with only one willing partner, I was actively participating in our plan. But the deck was stacked against me.

Today in 2015, I might have a better chance of getting the joint custody and 50/50 schedule I wanted. In 2010 things were a bit different. So as I brought in my half-and-half schedule, and books about co-parenting, I was told I would take the non-custodial role and get the Standard Possession Order (SPO) to start with. Everything else could be negotiated.

They were still struggling in their tiny lives, to understand why their laughing dad wasn’t around all the time to lighten things up.

Well, the way it’s explained to you, when you first hear it, is every other weekend and one week night on the off weeks. There’s some provision about a full-month in the summer to make up some of the imbalance, but that’s not a reality in today’s working parent’s lives. So with the SPO, in my state, I get to see my kids 29% of the time.

The crushing news to me at that moment, and to most newly divorced dads was this: Instead of access to your kids all the time, you can now only see them 8 – 10 nights a month. For me this was the biggest loss in my life.

I could suffer the loss of the relationship. I could suffer the alone time and losing the house and neighborhood. But the loss of those kids, those childhood years, are still painful to me. It should not have gone that way. We should’ve agreed to figure the 50/50 parenting thing out, but I was negotiated into the box of the non-custodial parent and the SPO.

Today, just over five years later, I am still struck by the loss of my children. As I was closing up their rooms this afternoon, I tried to avoid feeling the hurt. I had a great send off this morning. I saw them off happy and well fed. And now they are gone.

As it turns out, we’re modifying the schedule a bit more this coming year. On the off weeks, so the kids don’t have to transfer their things, I’m settling for a dinner rather than a sleep over. And frankly, that’s a pretty good deal for me. Again, it’s not what I would’ve chosen, but it appears to simplify their lives. And in some ways it simplifies mine as well. In the coming year, I will have 2-of-10 school mornings every two weeks. That’s the hardest part of the routine. Getting everyone up, fed, and to school on-time. Giving up two of those mornings a month wasn’t a hard decision.

Still, back then, back when my kids were finishing up 3rd and 5th grade, there was no rational reason for giving up my 50/50 request. I simply got what was coming to me, and agreed to settle for 29% custody and a substantial child support payment. (Those things go together. The non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent.) Back when my kids were younger, this time was so precious. This loss of time was much more painful. I could feel it in my kids hearts when we got together, how they had missed me. How they were still struggling in their tiny lives, to understand why their laughing dad wasn’t around all the time to lighten things up.

There are some discussions about going to a more balanced schedule, but none that have gotten beyond the “what if” stage.

Today, with some guidance, perhaps my then-wife and I would’ve negotiated a more balanced schedule.

So today, dads who are looking at divorce, I’d suggest you consult an attorney. Even if you’re planning on doing a cooperative divorce. You need to look after your own best interests, because your ex won’t be thinking about your needs at all. And your high-paid counselor might not put much importance in the idea of 50/50 parenting after divorce.

My ex is still not sure if that’s what’s best for the kids, five years later. So we’re heading into another grossly imbalanced school year. It’s okay. I’m enjoying the time in my new relationship. So I’m not lonely, or pining away at the empty rooms. But I feel their loss, their absence, every time they leave. And they’ve been leaving for 5 years. I’ve got 6 more years to go until my youngest is gone for good. I’d rather find a way to reach parity, even this late in the game, sooner rather than later. Of course, there are a lot of factors involved. And with school starting next week, it’s easier just to leave things as they are.

Sad but easy. The non-custodial parent is treated a bit like a second-class citizen in the legal system. If you want to go for 50/50 divorce parenting, I think you’ll need an attorney. I also think it’s worth it, if you want to spend as much time as possible with your children. Just a few years ago the fight would’ve been uphill. Today, with some guidance, perhaps my then-wife and I would’ve negotiated a more balanced schedule.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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Reference: What Percentage of Custody Do You Have – State of California

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Carrying the Load: Money Issues from Marriage to Child Support

WHOLE-tango3

Keep the love of your children in your heart and mind and forgive even the egregious actions of your ex-partner.

The most important conversation you can have in your relationship has to do with money. Who will work while you have kids and they need more time and support? If one of you will be the primary breadwinner, when will the transition back to balance take place. In my marriage that discussion was pretty clear for the first 7 – 8 years of our marriage. When I was laid off from my big corporate job, however the kids were finishing up 3rd and 5th grade, I began to ask questions about what’s next.

When my ex-wife did file with the AG’s office she said it was “to protect the kids.”

My then-wife was not happy. She remained unsupportive and even counter-supportive during the next year of our marriage. Finally when the next corporate job, for me turned into a nightmare, rather than a saving grace, I too was done. Done with giving up my health and 120% of my time to a big job. The white picket fence was fine, the kids were happy, and my then-wife was enjoying the same part-time schedule she had become accustomed to. Fine. But I was overweight, stressed out, and exhausted.

I began to ask about this balance in our work life as well as our intimate life. And rather than finding a receptive partner, I ran into my soon-to-be-ex-wife’s brick wall. Emotionally and intimately she had been unavailable for the better part of 18 months. And on the job front she was making efforts to re-tool, re-discover, re-define herself. Um, while our marriage was collapsing under the weight of the money stress, she was not working but having some sort of mid-life crisis. Perhaps I was too.

Either way, the money woes weighed most heavily on our relationship. And 1 month after the next big corp job went away, she let me know she had consulted an attorney to discuss her options. She was working her strategy and spreadsheets to divorce me. Wow. I was slapped in the face. But I was not surprised at her unhappiness, just her choice OUT of the marriage that would obviously destroy our kids happy-ish home.

From then on the friction about money go worse not better. As I was struggling with depression and my own financial trouble a few years after the divorce, I let her know I was about to be late with the child support payments. “I’ll get caught back up, as soon as I can.”

She was not agreeable. She gave me a month and a slew of ultimatum emails.

“I’m thinking of turning the whole thing over to the AG’s office,” she said, repeatedly.

Two things about this threat: 1. don’t ever threaten your ex, it does no good and only makes conversations between you that much more unmanageable; 2. don’t ever turn your ex into the Attorney General’s office. You are demonstrating that money is more important than your kids, and certainly more important than your ongoing relationship with your co-parent.

When my ex-wife did file with the AG’s office she said it was “to protect the kids.”

The effects of that awful and hurtful decision are still wreaking havoc on my life. At that moment I was trying to keep my house and my car in a restructuring bankruptcy. The AG’s ding on my credit killed all of my options. I had to sell the house and move in with my mom. (That was pretty harsh, emotionally. She didn’t care. She wanted her damn money.)

Today I was applying for a loan to replace my car that has been totaled by the insurance company. I was flat-out denied. The financial obligation to the AG’s office was the primary mark against me. No car at all? How am I supposed to go pick up my kids from school or the ex-wife’s house? Maybe she’ll loan me her car. NOT!

The damage you inflict on another person is really damage that you do to yourself. In the case of the co-parent, please reconsider any adverse actions on your part.

Before you file against your ex-parent, please consider your actions. In a moment of frustration and anger she lashed out in the most vindictive way she could. I was pleading for her to reconsider. I was showing her my income statements and asking for a bit more time to put the plan together. Why in the world would she do something to damage the income stream of her co-parent? Anger! Wrong choice.

Money struggles will continue for a long time after your kids have graduated from high school. You will be entangled in money decisions for the rest of your lives together. Why would you intentionally do something that would might keep the other partner from landing a new job, renting a house, buying a used car?

I’m not looking for an apology from her. I know it won’t ever come. She was justified in her mind. But I don’t understand how she thought it was a good idea. As I continually forgive her initially for the divorce and now for the inflexible schedule of the AG’s office I have to laugh a bit. She set us on a course by turning me into a “deadbeat dad” that also complicates her life. As I try to find the next big corp job, one of the vetting steps is often running a credit report. How’s that for justice?

“Honey, I’d love to get the next big job that would ease up the money for all of us, but I keep getting turned down at the ‘credit check’ part of the process.”

Yeah, keep your co-parent in a cooperative teammate role. When you make them the enemy, your actions might create just that. Of course the damage you inflict on another person is really damage that you do to yourself. In the case of the co-parent of your children, please reconsider any adverse actions on your part. Keep the love of your children in your heart and mind and forgive even the egregious actions of your ex-partner.

Today I have to forgive my ex-wife on a regular basis. Her actions with the AG’s office over a year-and-a-half ago will continue to kill my credit score until I can completely pay off the back child support. Unless I want to sue her, but that’s contrary to my entire premise of the positive co-parent. I’m learning to be better, more forgiving, and more loving, even of her.

Stay positive. Love your kids. Respect your ex.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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The Crew Must Survive

WHOLE-returnhome

When you last heard from us we were stranded in a survival hut on the surface of the moon. Everything in our world had been turned up-side down and then shaken out for final effect. We were safe. We had heat, food, and beds to sleep in, but the environment was fairly hostile to exploration, growth, and livelihood. That we had survived with our sense of humor, as a group, was one of the great victories.

The map ahead needed to be completely reimagined and then redrawn. The objective was still clear, if not quite a bit further away now that all of our gear had been wrongfully evacuated into deep space.

Our only option for recovery back to the good life on Earth was fuel production. Without cash flow there would be no fuel for the return journey. That part of the plan was never in doubt.

“Everything I write is positive and about doing the best I can as a single parent. That’s the reason I publish it.”

I had been seeking high-level employment all Summer and we were now heading towards Winter. And while I’d gotten plenty of interviews, the last conversation, if there was any conversation, continued to be “they’ve hired someone internal.” Over and over. But there was no energy or space for hopelessness. As the captain I maintained a proud face, a calm and joyful demeanor, while I continued to probe, mine, ask, and apply for new opportunities.

And then in late September I had a big win. A company that had been vetting me for 7 weeks finally setup the penultimate interview: a meeting with the CEO. Within three days I had the offer I’d been waiting for. Small tech company, young and aggressive plans, and a hunger to develop their website and ecommerce program. I started the next Monday, and as a crew, we reveled in the idea of our potential escape.

The morning of my second day, however, the same CEO asked me to come with him to one of the conference rooms downstairs. It was 9am. As he sat there, and the new HR woman, who had started the day before just like me, said they were terminating my employment. They did not have to give me a reason. 

I sat there, stunned. I looked at the CEO for clues to what had happened. He did not meet my eyes. I asked, “What is this about?”

The young HR woman said, “It’s just not a good fit.” 

I pressed. “Is it about my writing, online?”

“There are some things you have written,” she said, checking with the CEO for approval. “That are not in keeping with the brand of this company.”

“My 100% positive single parenting writing, you mean? For the Huffington Post?” I could see I had gotten them both a little nervous, though the CEO still refused to answer my gaze. 

“We can’t go into specifics, I’m sorry.” She said. The CEO said nothing and looked at his manicured fingernails.

“Well, that’s total bullshit. Everything I write is positive and about doing the best I can as a single parent. That’s the reason I publish it. Being picked up by the Huffington Post was a victory, not a liability. That’s what I do, I create content and stories that reach people. I was assuming that’s why you hired me.”

The termination was over. They hadn’t even had time to write up a termination agreement for me to sign. The HR woman said the CEO would go with me to gather my things and get the electronic key card back.

In silence we walked back to my desk together. Me and the man who had 24-hours earlier welcomed me into his “culture first” company, gung-ho and ready to go.

I am lucky. If I had gotten our crew halfway back to earth when the coup de grace happened, it would’ve proved disastrous for all of us.

Somehow. Even though I was being hired as a digital marketing manager, they had failed to Google me. The HR team didn’t Google me. the interim CMO didn’t Google me. None of the consultants who were asked to interview me, Googled me. It’s right there at the top, it’s the top news site on the web. Huffington F-in Post with my smiling writer’s profile picture. It’s even at the top of my LinkedIn profile, though I don’t go into the subject matter on that site.

I handed the key card to the CEO. I really wanted to say something. I wanted to ask him, “What’s so scary that he couldn’t look at me or talk to me.” Picked up my empty computer bag and looked right at him. I did not offer a handshake or a word of acknowledgement. As I walked out of the hip and cool office, with the not-so hip and cool hipster-looking CEO with his fancy suit and flair for purple pocket squares, I knew that I had dodged a very serious bullet.

I was sad for about 30 minutes as I drove across town. I needed iPhone charging cables for the entire crew, so I was headed to a store to get them. I had been excited by everything I could understand about the company. My first day had been grueling, but I was prepared to dig in and create some big wins for this small company. But the small-minded CEO would’ve been a problem. I am lucky. If I had gotten our crew halfway back to earth when the coup de grace happened, it would’ve proved disastrous for all of us.

No, as I returned to home base, I had a sense of relief. The fit was wrong. I don’t know what triggered the execution, but I’m glad they didn’t give me life in prison or worse, death.

I had made the exuberant mistake of updating my LinkedIn profiles and telling most of my friends about my new gig. That morning, as I returned to the survival bunker and told my horrified mother, it was a bit of a low point. But it started an even deeper quest.

Again, this was a moment of great despair for me, but I was not about to show it or lose the momentum I had gained from my victory. Even if that win didn’t pan out, the gift was more one of hopefulness and resilience in spite of such a traumatic blow to my career and ego. But from that moment on, I was able to see an even deeper value in what I was writing. Right there, this writing, was more important than a closeted, man of fear’s, knee jerk reaction.

I suppose if I had been less certain of the value and purpose of my “divorced dad” writing I would’ve had a real crisis on my hands. But instead, the little mind of this company’s CEO emboldened me to my purpose. My leadership and confidence actually grew a bit stronger, as I understood how important this writing has been to me. I had to look deep into my own soul about the purpose of what I was doing here, and I came back with a resounding answer: this work and exploration of being the best single parent I can be, is one of my life’s purpose. What I had gained through the course of sharing and digging deeper into my own understanding and failures was a super-positive understanding of what parts were important in my life and what parts were critical, but less important.

Even as my mom was freaking out, at me, at the Huffington Post, and my former employer, I was smiling inside. I did not miss stride or fall into the pits of despair. I simply shared with her my renewed understanding.

After mere survival, being a better parent and a strong positive force in my kids lives was the most important task in my life. Finding the positive side to every aspect of being a single parent is not always easy, but even at the start of this blog, I recognized the changes that began taking place. With each conflict or hardship I had an opportunity. If I wanted to put the story in the WHOLE PARENT I had to find the good aspects of the lesson, or work to create the good result from the hard left change in direction.

So I rolled right along through October and into the beginning of November with the same attitude. We would survive even this direct hit. In fact, we would thrive and make better choices as a result of this near disaster. I’m sure the fallout inside the company that spent a lot of time and money to hire and on-board me  was more significant than the disruption in my life.

In early November a client came out of the blue, based on a recommendation from on of the same references and former colleagues who had gotten me the one-day job. And within a few days I was contracted to provide 100 hours of consulting in November. This was awesome. I joked that this meant my kids would get Christmas presents. Of course, what it really meant was, I would be able to provide 100% of the money for those gifts rather than having to ask for help.

And the work took off, I worked well from the remote base on the moon, and they asked if they could have the same deal for December. And “Christmas was saved” indeed.

I suppose I could’ve been more discrete or cautious about outing myself. But at this point I was dauntless.

I love the work I do. I am good at it partially because I believe in it and I love it. Writing this blog is the same mechanical function, but I’m pointed at the issues of MY life. In my work I point my craft at the issues of a business. With the contract client I got an opportunity to work on 5 different clients in the course of 2 months. I wrote their annual plans for 2015. I managed 100% of their social marketing and advertising. And we had some wins and some losses. And I renewed my understanding of my value and joy at doing the work. Oh, and they paid me pretty well. Not well enough to reach preparedness for another Earth mission, but I got the jolt I needed to kick things one level higher in my search for a full-time job.

On Dec. 14 I started my new gig with a company very similar in mission and size to the previous, now dead-to-me company. And on the first three days of my work, I used my early morning time (6 – 9 am) to complete up the monthly wrap-up reports for the contract client. For those three days I was making the most money I’d ever made in my life. And the cool thing about net-30 payment… I’ll get a care package of cash from them sometime in February, even as I’m now gainfully employed by a company with a lot more integrity and true transparency when they say “culture first.”

On my first day I was laughing with my HR manager.

“Do you want to hear a funny story?”

She had me retell the tragedy of the one-day job  later that afternoon at lunch. Oh, yeah, this company brings in lunch every day. And sitting around that table, telling 15 people I’d just met about how I hoped to make it past 9am on the next day, was a liberating experience. I had told the HR manager the story because I was confident that my boss had seen (since we talked about it on my first interview) my Huffington Post writing. (This writing.)

I suppose I could’ve been more discrete or cautious about outing myself. But at this point I was dauntless. And the HR manager, as well as the table full of new colleagues laughed at my story. I now tell it with some dramatic pauses and well-timed reveals.

“Because I write a blog about being a 100% positive single parent.”

That one of the things I do.

Stay-tuned for the next episode… When we’ll learn:

  • Did our hero and his crew reach the Earth?
  • Did the new fuel supply experience a catastrophic failure ?
  • Would the team find an available ship and be able to stay together for the journey home?

Of course, I still have to live what’s next.  The saga will continue…

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: 1947 Rocketship Galileo 2, tom voter, creative commons usage