In these enlightened times, there appear to be more and more families having to deal with separation and divorce. Gone are the days of staying together ‘for the children’. Instead, we are in a disposable culture; if something no longer fulfils its purpose, then it is replaced. If that’s the case with material goods, why wouldn’t it be the same for your partner?
Now that may sound cynical to the untrained observer, however I don’t disagree with divorce in principle – I advocate it when it is clearly making both parties unhappy to be together. Even more so when children are involved.
My two oldest kids are now teenagers, but the First Born was under 2 years old and the Boy Wonder was a foetus that none of us knew was coming when my wife told me she wanted me to move out. It came as a bolt from the blue; I hadn’t seen the signs and was unprepared.
One of the worst impacts of divorce is when your children suddenly become bargaining chips – pawns to move around and score points with. I’d like to tell you that this has never been the case with my two eldest children, but then I’d be lying. Sometimes, the frustration, resentment and sheer helplessness of the situation can get to you, resulting in irrational emotion taking over rational logic and maybe doing or saying things you later regret. It takes a bigger man than me to be able to manage this situation and not be an irrational idiot at some stage.
The thing that upset me most was the thought of not being able to see my daughter every day. It broke my heart to not be there in the morning or for bedtime. And as for all of the firsts I would miss, it didn’t bear thinking about.
I confess there are moments where I could have handled things better; not allowing the little digs and jibes bother me but I’ve done my best to do the right thing by them. I’ve never missed a maintenance payment, even when I was unemployed for a very short time and I visited regularly, even when I lived 4 hours away from them.
So what advice can I give you?
1. Be organised – get your access planned and scheduled. It’s better for the kids as it’ll become part of their routine and better for you and your ex as you can plan around it.
2. Communicate – keep in contact and make sure that you keep each other up to speed on what’s happening / issues etc… Many arguments are created by poor communication leading to misunderstandings.
3. Be consistent – make sure that you are on the same page from a parenting perspective. Nothing worse than when kids work out they can play mum and dad off each other.
4. Be assertive – many would say ‘compromise’ – the issue is that we all interpret that differently. So here is my alternative. Be assertive. Respect the other person and their views but make sure you make your opinions heard. Don’t be overbearing or aggressive as this only creates friction. Being passive and giving ground to your ex by way of attempting to compromise will lead to you upsetting just one person – yourself.
5. It’s about quality, not quantity – the time you spend with your kids should always be quality time with you. It doesn’t have to be expensive day trips; just your undivided attention for the time you have them. It helps to have a plan, even if it’s just going to the park or playing at home. Get involved.
I’d fully forgive you for wondering what makes me qualified to even offer advice on parenting. Well, if I’d taken my own advice, maybe things would have gone smoother over the years. It hasn’t been made easy for me but you have to take responsibility for your own actions and make the most of the situation as best you can. After all, they’re only little for such a short time.
It’s hard work – anyone who says that the mother gets the toughest deal looking after the kids on their own should try watching your kids wave at you in your rear view mirror as you drive away, looking for every last second until they’re finally out of view. Looking after them is tough; leaving is heartwrenching.
I pray you never have to experience it.