This is a longer, more personal, post than usual, and sharing these twist and turns in our story isn’t easy. I rewrote these thoughts three times, and considered deleting them entirely. I love helping others, but I disdain sharing my own pain. Writing about hurts in the past is one thing, but sharing our struggles, while in the midst of the storm, is another. There is the fear of being miss-understood, the fear of coming across angry, and the fear of being vulnerable. However, in the end, I’ve decided to share personal insights into our family’s challenges. I’m doing this for a number of reasons:
- First, I believe that other families, who are hurting like ours, will benefit from our story.
- Second, I share this because positive changes in our broken system will not take place, unless stories like ours are told. Sadly, there are many of them–Some are more extreme than my own.
- Finally, I’m sharing our family’s struggles–both real and raw–because this journey is far too big for us to travel alone.
So today, I’m asking you to join us. Would you consider,
- Praying for my family and I?
- Cheering on my wife and I as we share our story, and advocate for our children?
This week, our family’s life was flipped up-side-down. The past few days have been a whirlwind of emotions. Sadness, anger, frustration, and fear. As you know, we are a blended family home. Jenny and I share a 50/50 parenting schedule of our two oldest daughters (Jenny’s step-daughters). We also have a one-year-old, and a fourth girl on the way–In many ways, our family is truly blessed!
Our Blended Family Storm
Last week, either due to a fluke in the child-support system–or because these laws are outdated to the point of being unjust–I returned from family court with devastating news. It broke my heart to inform my pregnant wife that, as a result of our girl’s biological mother receiving a decrease in pay, our family would be paying their family’s rent in full.
Child support is a touchy subject. When dad’s talk about this, they are often angry, and the first thought in many people’s mind is, “This deadbeat dad doesn’t want to support his children.” Yet, noting could be further from the truth. Before writing me off, please hear our story:
How Child Support Hurts Our Kids
I work full-time, as a marriage and family therapist. I’m also an adjunct psychology professor, and write books. My goal is to support our family financially, while being the best husband and daddy that I can. Due to this recent court decision, I am scrambling to take on additional jobs. This means:
- I will be less available for all four of my girls.
- I’ll be working though family dinners.
- I’ll be able to attend fewer school events.
- I will have less time to help with homework.
- And, although I always try to be emotionally present for my girls, this will be more challenging–Staying focused is tough when you’re struggling to keep the lights on.
I’m a firm believer that children–from both traditional and blended family homes–need both their mom and dad in their lives. In spite of the fact that we are living in 2015, the family court system, continues to make it difficult for daddies to connect with their children.
How Child Support Devastates Step-Moms
From my understanding, child-support isn’t supposed to negatively impact step-parents, nor is it supposed to harm their biological children–but it does. Two years ago, when our payments doubled for the first time, Jenny sprung into action. She took-on an overnight job, so the two of us could work full-time, and always have one of us home with the children.
When Jenny’s work schedule changed–making the overnight shift a less viable option–she again took action. In a month, the two of us transformed our home into a fully licensed daycare. After our recent court hearing, Jenny is doubling-down on her new career, while picking up new, part-time jobs.
How Child Support Harms Step-Dads and Moms
As previously mentioned, child-support isn’t supposed to impact step-parents. This is why, when my payments were doubled, and then doubled again, their step-dad’s income wasn’t taken into account. In once since, that’s OK. He is not supposed to pay for my children, nor do I want him to.
Nevertheless, as a result of this court decision, my children’s stepdad and his biological son, are now living rent-free, in an apartment that my wife and I pay for. This can’t feel good. His overall income is greater than mine, and while living rent-free is nice, knowing that it’s paid for by a pregnant step-mom, has to wear on one’s emotions.
From a Biblical perspective, 1 Timothy 5:8, exhorts each person to care for his and her own family. Our system–that allows a step-father to live off of his step-children’s finances, and drives a step-mother to returns to work in order to provide income to the biological mother–is in need of reform. Although giving to the poor is honorable, laws providing low-income family’s with middle-class benefits, while forcing middle-class families to live on low-income wages, are unjust.
The Scary Side of Child Support
The scariest part for us, is that due to wage garnishments, our family will be paying the other home’s rent first. Our living expenses–including rent and utilities–come second. Jenny and I are working overtime, so that our children’s biological mother doesn’t have to. Will someone please tell me how this is in the best interest of anyone? If our power goes out, there will be four children living in a dark home. When a mom chooses not to work, she may be able to collect extra child-support, but this doesn’t mean that her kids are not hurt in the process.
Picking a Fight with Child Support Laws
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not advocating for the elimination of child-support. These laws were enacted for a reason. Nevertheless, there are very real problems with our current system.
- Some aspects of child support were never just in the first place. Surprisingly, child support is determined by a machine–a high-tech calculator–as opposed to a living, breathing, human-being. This is the first thing that needs to change, but I’ll share more about this in a future post.
- Second, other aspects of the laws are outdated. They allow low-income families to double-dip, by taking advantage of low-income resources, and child-support. Or to triple-dip, such as when the biological parent decides not to work, lives off of the new spouse’s income, collects child-support, and receives low-income assistance (As is the case with our family).
Will You Pray for Us?
As you can imagine, our family needs all of the help we can get, but not in the way you might think. Our blended family is tough as nails. We fully intend to embrace our new obstacles. Jenny and I will,
- Take on extra jobs,
- Find ways to fast-track our careers, and
- Selling furniture and blood plasma if needed.
What we would like from you is twofold:
First, would you pray for us. Jenny and I believe that everything happens for a reason. This week, my friend Erik made me smile when he said, “Jed, God wasn’t distracted with the dishes when this happened.” Erik and I still aren’t quite sure what God is up to, but we both agree that He is doing something. Please pray for strength for our family, and that God would work this situation for our good and His glory–We are confidant that He will!
Second, I suspect that God is calling Jenny and I to encourage other families who are in the midst of their own storms. This week, I met with a friend for coffee. He is hurting too. After exchanging stories, we agreed to pray for each-other. Words cannot express how much this time meant.
After our meeting, I let out a sigh of relief.
I’m not alone in my journey, I thought to myself.
Although Jenny and I are hurting, I am confidant–that with God’s help–our family will survive and thrive during this incredible ride. A second thing I would ask of you is, “Would you help us share our story?”
I don’t have the slightest idea how to reform an unjust law. Nevertheless, our family is going to dive-in anyways. The first step will be to tell our story, over and over again. We do this in order to bring attention to the need for reform, and to bring hope to other family’s who are hurting–letting them know that they are not alone.
Would you help us tell our story by sharing these posts with others?
Finally, if you would like to stay up to date on our new blended-family journey, simply leave your name and e-mail below. In the months ahead, Jenny and I will keep you updated on our adventures of paying rent for two families, and seeking to reform an unjust law, while continuing to provide resources to hurting families.
Finally, if you do pray for us, would you “like,” this post or leave a comment to let us know? Your encouragement helps keep us going!
Sincerely, Jed and Jenny Jurchenko
P.S. Leave your name and e-mail below to receive our weekly updates. It’s the best way to keep in touch. Oh, and please know that we respect your privacy and never share your info with anyone else.
P.P.S If your and your family are in the midst of your own storm, know–that as my friend Erik Tyler says,