I have not only heard stories, but I have also experienced what I am about to write about. When my ex and I started the custody exchange it began with the best of intentions.
The children were with me most of the time so I would pack bags with everything they needed for their time with their father. The children having clothes at both houses was not a financial possibility so we made do with this system.
In the beginning, everything worked like a charm, but then something happened. I’m not really sure what the something was, but it seemed the children’s dirty clothes would come back in plastic bags.
Sometimes all of the clothes came back in a plastic bag whether they were dirty or clean. The fact that they all commingled meant they were now all dirty and this had to be handled. It didn’t happen just that once, it was becoming a routine that had to be stopped.
Kid’s Clothes and Divorce: Dirty, Clean, or Missing!
The Dirty clothes Saga:
Because I was always left doing laundry for every article of clothing whether it was clean or not I was getting more and more infuriated. He lived in a single-family home with a full-size washer and dryer so why he was sending dirty clothes home at all was beyond my comprehension. I asked my ex on various occasions, very politely I might add, to stop doing what I construed as demeaning.
All I wanted was for him to make sure that the kid’s clothes came home the same way he received them. I couldn’t imagine sending him dirty clothes to wash before the children ever wore them. So it irked me to no end to have to do that very thing.
I waited to see what he would do at the next visit, and yes the same thing, the dirty clothes in a plastic bag trick. For about a year I reeled wondering if I should send the children to him with only the clothes on their back so they wouldn’t have to pack at all? Or if I should send them with only dirty clothes so washing dirty clothes would no longer be an issue for me. Honestly, it hurt me even having to think so hard about it at all.
How I handled the dirty clothes saga:
I then tried another method of sending the children with only clothes they didn’t wear to school or were slightly too small. In a way, I felt better doing the clothing swap this way but soon realized who it really affected. Why would the children want to be uncomfortable anywhere? So this method didn’t last long.
I still have no answer (nor do I want one) as to why my ex refuses to launder his children’s clothes after visits with him. Perhaps one day he’ll fill me in without my prompting.
Ultimately I could only control what I could control. I had no say as to how and what he would do, but I understood that I could monitor my reactions to what he would do and then act accordingly.
I had to first deal with the feelings associated with the dirty clothes. Was it the anger of cleaning up after him? Was it the feeling of having been his maid and his subordinate during our marriage? Or was it just him being rude and my having to deal with his rudeness as it was out of my control? I had questions about my feelings that needed to be addressed and answered. Dealing with those issues meant I could move on with the real meaning of the ‘dirty clothes.’
And then the Missing clothes saga:
No sooner had I recovered from the dirty clothes issue with the children’s clothes they began to go missing. Hardly a moment had gone by and I was promoted to yet another issue with my ex. The line had to be drawn somewhere and I had to redraw it quickly. I had to make sure that another year wouldn’t pass before this issue was addressed as I had done previously. At this point, I had to act and act quickly.
How I handled the missing clothes saga:
The only way this issue could be resolved without me having a nervous breakdown was to take pictures of all the clothes I would pack for their visits. I wanted to make sure the items that I sent even came back at all. At this point, it didn’t matter if they were dirty or not. If anything went missing I would ask for its return or the replacement value. I knew this ploy would work because my ex paying me any additional money was his Achilles heel.
It was funny to me how the missing clothes saga was worse than the dirty clothes saga. I had to learn my lesson that when you think one thing is bad it can always get worse. I can honestly say it made me appreciate the dirty clothes.
Nowadays, every so often clean clothes come home and when they do I smile and put them neatly away. When dirty clothes come home I smile and put them in the dirty hamper. Allowing someone to steal my joy these days is not an option so I choose to smile anyway. Did I feel disrespected? Yes, I did, but it had more to do with residual memories of my marriage that related to my current situation.
Would it be nice for my ex to have a “What would Jesus do?” moment? Absolutely, but I can’t waste any more of my time trying to get him to understand this simple philosophy. Would I love for him to “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you?” Yes, I would, but my focus cannot be on things that draw me back into thinking about him at every visit.
At times I think that’s exactly what he wants me to do, to think about him all day long. I have purposely chosen to place my thoughts where they belong, on the well being, health and happiness of my children and me.
Everyone will have their own solutions to the clothes drama, but how you handle it should be in a manner that is the least disruptive to your children. It took a while to sort through these murky waters but it helped me see what was really important.
In the meantime, I still take pictures of the clothes I send. I always hope they have fun with their dad, and I revel in joy when they return home.
My mantra these days is to always choose to think about something worthy of my thoughts and I usually do.