OK, I've officially had it up to *here* with the legal system in general and certain lawyers in specific. And with whoever came up with the idea of hogtying and beating people who happen to be mature enough to take responsibility for their children when their (ex-) spouses decide to run out on them because toddlers are just too inconvenient to raise...(expletive deleted, I'm sure).
The state of Colorado, for example, is extremely fond of restricting the movement of custodial parents to within certain city limits (say, a 10-mile radius) for the duration of the children's minority. This translates to "the same house, if you're lucky" unless you happen to be fortunate enough to get a *huge* raise that even comes close to competing with the boom in housing prices. And let me tell you, the house that was "cozy" when your kids were tiny is just not going to hold them as they head toward their teens. Especially if they're boys.
And forget about going back to school if the perfect one isn't within commuting distance. In fact, abandon your dreams, your freedom, and all hope, ye who did not shirk responsibility...for you are in the power of someone who wishes you ill, and the courts say there's nothing you can do about it, and you're evil for even expressing a wish that things were otherwise. Especially in Colorado.
I'm lucky; I didn't have kids with my first husband, much as it pained me at the time. But I'm married again, and we do have children (did I mention they're all boys?), and we're happy and we love each other and so on. But "our" oldest is really not mine. I'm only his mother in the sense that "mother" is a verb, and an active verb at that. I'm the one who carried him in my arms when he couldn't walk because of some weird virus. I'm the one who washed his underwear when he couldn't quite get the hang of potty-training. I'm the one who taught him to read, although with less patience than maybe other moms because I was 8 months pregnant. I'm the one who earns the money that puts a roof over his head and food (oh my GOSH the amount that child eats!) on his plate. I'm the one who makes him do his homework and go to bed at a decent hour. Mothering is not a glamorous job, but someone has to do it.
Since he was 3 years old, I'm the one who's been there for all the hard work (right alongside his dad, I hasten to add). "Mommy" has been there only when it's convenient, only for the fun times (weekends, holidays), and only since the aforementioned potty training and basic housebreaking was done. When he starts throwing up cotton candy all over the roller-coaster (I am not making this up), that's her cue to pack him into the car and bring him back to us. She makes the messes, we clean them up. A perfect symbiosis, from her perspective.
Apparently, my husband and I are evil for suggesting that maybe she is in fact a "Disneyland" mom. And how dare I claim the title of Mama in the house where my own offspring live! And so on. I won't scream, because that will get me thrown out of the courtroom, where very soon a judge will rule whether we can continue parenting (also an active verb) this poor sweet child who is caught in the crossfire, and whether we are allowed to improve our lives by moving an inconvenient distance away, if we increase the amount of visitation substantially, deliver him gift-wrapped to her door every other week, let her tie up our phone line 24x7, etc. Anything to get out of the slum where we live.
It shouldn't be this hard to do what's right for your family. But it is in Colorado.