Why, after being apart for ten years, does my ex-husband still find it so difficult to make arrangements to spend time with his children? Yet again he has left it to the last possible moment to liaise over the half term holiday and, as usual, is put out that either the children or I have made arrangements and so the possible days for him to see all of them are limited. School holidays are published well in advance so why is it beyond him to sit down and do a little bit of forward planning? It’s always the same, everything is so last minute that it seems that they are the last priority on his list, it’s a case of fitting them in around everything else in his life rather than organising his life around them.
And wouldn’t it be nice if occasionally he could spare a thought for my needs? I still have to run my business during the school holidays so surely it’s not unreasonable to think that he could take on some of the childcare or at least offer? I’ve given up on all thoughts of an adult social life and definitely given up on the prospect of a romantic relationship – I don’t think many men would be interested in a mum of five children who only has a handful of child free nights a year! – but it would sometimes be nice to think that I could give my business the attention that it deserves. Surely, if he expects me to be able to support myself financially then he should participate a little more in bringing up our children?
I know that the situation will never change, after all if I couldn’t convince him of his skewed priorities when we were married then what hope do I have now? But it infuriates me! I’ve tried lots of different techniques but at the end of the day I think I need to fall back on the old proverb: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
In my last ex-files post I berated my ex for his lack of support with our children. But this week I’ve been feeling a little like Bridget Jones when she’s talking to her fellow inmates in the Thai prison about how badly treated she’s been by her boyfriend only to hear just how awful things really could have been.
I’ve had a number of discussions with my ex over the last week or so which show that we are at least singing from the same hymn sheet in respect of the values we want to instil in our children even if we sometimes disagree over how best to achieve that.It’s good to know that we can put up a united front rather than fall into one of those awful situations where children with divorced parents learn to play one off against the other. That doesn’t mean the boys don’t ever try to do this, just that their dad and I seem to have a sixth sense about when we’re being played and can communicate enough to avoid falling into the trap. I think it probably helps having five children as there is very little that any single child can ever get away with since there is always at least one brother who will happily drop him in it. There have been many instances since our divorce when I have felt very isolated in dealing with the children but at least I have never really had to deal with their father blatantly overturning my parenting decisions.To be fair to him his lack of input into the boys’ lives probably has more to do with his faith in my abilities rather than a lack of concern. There have been many instances when I have felt alone but at least he is still part of the boys’ lives and hasn’t given up on them like many parents in similar situations. And even though he couldn’t for the life of him tell you which year of school they’re in, the names of their teachers or friends or current favourite foods, and will often forget their birthdays and other key events, he does love them and will always be there for them in some shape or form.
Bringing up children alone is hard work. I have a multitude of roles to fulfil and the bottom line is if I don’t do it then it won’t get done. There are times when I feel like I have so many demands on my time I just don’t know which way to turn and I can end up feeling like a dog chasing its tail, in perpetual motion but getting nowhere. Life with children involves constant change; just as you get on top of one phase you enter new uncharted territory. And life has a habit of throwing a few curve balls in along the way so the best laid plans tend to go awry. Some days feel like one big series of decisions and the only thing I desire is to have one decision, no matter how insignificant, taken out of my hands. As children become older the decisions become more complicated as they start to involve alcohol, sex, partying etc. It becomes difficult to make those decisions in isolation particularly if you, the lone parent, had a particularly strict or particularly relaxed teen-hood. It’s equally difficult to involve the absent parent who may have little contact with other children of the same age or with other parents of teenagers. I am very glad that my children know that it is up to me to make those decisions and there is no use going whining to their dad if they don’t like it. This certainly isn’t the case with many divorced parents I know or, for that matter, in many families where the parents are still together. Rather than backing each other up each parent seems to vie for the position of cool parent and will suddenly change the rules to achieve this. My boys’ dad often doesn’t know the current rules but, apart from a few occasions when he has made totally the wrong decision (a quick text or phone call might have been a good idea!),will normally be sensible enough to ask at least two of the boys, ensuring of course that neither has had the chance to confer beforehand and that any decision would not benefit them in the slightest.
I am resigned to the fact that I am both good and bad ‘cop’ and to be honest I think it works in may favour. The boys know that if they please me in little ways then I will be more inclined to be flexible when it comes to their social lives. They know that if they help me with things around the house or in the garden then I’ll be in a better position to transport them to meet friends. there’s no one else to do it so they need to work around their siblings and around my schedule, understanding that they are one small cog in a very large wheel. Their dad totally escapes the job of taxi driver and the evenings spent trying desperately to stay awake until it’s time to pick up, something that I do naturally resent from time to time (I’m only human after all) but at least he does frequently point out to the boys how fortunate they are that I will provide this service and reminds them that they shouldn’t presume to make plans without checking with me first. And although I get all the late nights to deal with, the nagging over homework, the never ending piles of laundry, and constant demands for food, I also get all the good things and get to be with my children virtually every single day of the year.
So this week I’m feeling pretty good about my status as divorced mum. I feel like we’re working OK together and that my ex is providing moral support albeit very much in the background. Will this last? Of course not! He’s due to collect them on Saturday for a weekend visit (a night of freedom-YAY!) so will probably say or do something so annoying that my hackles will rise again. But that, as they say, will be another story…..
I have been divorced for many years now so why does my ex still have the power to drive me to distraction and why do we have conversations that end with me appearing to be the childish, unreasonable one when he’s totally in the wrong?When we first separated we were the perfect divorced couple but that was because nothing in our relationship had changed; he came and stayed with me and the children at weekends, I had total responsibility for all matters to do with the family, he could just dip in and out when it suited him. Now I hate him being in my home and feel he should be able to take responsibility for his own relationship with the children but this means that he continues to pick and choose when to be a father and never seems to put them first. Every so often he’ll have a “daddy day” and phone them or perhaps even me to find out how school is but then that will be it for weeks. When things go wrong it’s all my fault and he has a knack of making me feel like a bad parent.
People tell me that I more than make up for his shortcomings and that the children are happy and doing well but it seems so unfair. They deserve more and so so do I; it isn’t fair that all the decision making is my responsibility; it isn’t fair that I am always the nagging parent; it isn’t fair that I am always the parent worrying where they are at night; it isn’t fair that he forgets their birthdays; it isn’t fair that they don’t hear from him for weeks at a time and don’t even know where he is. But then what really isn’t fair is that he then makes me feel like the spoilt child who is making too many demands!
How do other people cope with their exes?