Divorce Guilt Took All This Mom’s Money

September 24, 2013  |  

Divorce is hard on the couple, but it’s especially hard on a parent who sees the hurt on their child’s face. So how do you fix it? You might try to shopping away your kids’ pain. That’s what Christine Presley found herself doing after she divorced her three sons’ father, and it was really, really expensive.

In One Mom’s True Story: How I Stopped Spoiling My Kids, she remembers trying to fill the void her ex-husband left in her kids’ lives with the games and gadgets he would enjoy with them:

The boys were so sad all the time. It broke my heart. I wanted so badly to make it up to them. So I’d say, “What can I do to make you feel better?” And, inevitably, they’d say, “Can you buy me…?” and then they’d ask for a new toy or video game, which I’d purchase, even if I couldn’t afford it, because it was a tangible way that I could make them happy. Or so it seemed.

Not only was she buying her kids’ happiness, she was also buying the pretense that nothing had changed: “My guilt spending, in addition to being an attempt to appease my kids, was also my way of keeping up appearances.” But now Presley she was relying on just one income and just a little child support, it was tough to keep the spending up. Besides, it just made everything worse:

“Despite all the money I was shelling out for my kids, things at home were still shaky: Being so financially strapped made me more stressed-out and short-tempered with the boys, which in turn made them feel badly. Then I’d want to buy them something to make them happy again… a vicious cycle if ever there was one. Not to mention that my constant yes-ing to my kids’ every request was turning them into spoiled brats.”

It wasn’t until she had to miss a car payment that she realized just how much these little treats were costing her; extra toys and video games for three sad little boys had started to run her an extra $400 or $500 a month.

That was when Presley realized she needed to get serious about her finances–and about teaching her boys discipline. She instated a monthly “commission” for her sons (“I didn’t want to call their payment an allowance, because it implies that you’re entitled to the money you receive”), where they had to work to get their money. Presley stood her ground and now her boys are smarter about how they spend what they earn; they’re also a lot less bratty.

Not every parent shells out $500 a month trying to appease their kids post-divorce, but what Presley describes is something a lot of parents can relate to. Have you ever tried to buy your kids’ happiness or bribe them? How did you deal post-divorce?

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