Monday, May 26, 2008

seperated parenting

i posted this earlier today on LPA - I thought I would add it here...

I notice how many of us have kids from prior relationships and we talk about seperated parenting now in the world generally alot - like it is nothing. I wonder if this is so for other isn't so for me...

I broke up with Thomas's Dad when he was 3.5 years old. It wasn't my decision to break up - it wasn't a sexuality thing - and it was way hard to find my way through it. Thomas is nine now, and his Dad and I have always kept things friendly enough– no court dramas thank the goddess – and we have a fairly flexible arrangement but with agreed parenting orders which divide his week 3 nights with his Dad and 4 nights with me. We have the same rules at each house about most things - bedtime and the amount of tv and Nintendo each day etc. There have been plenty of difficult times – don't get me wrong – any change for either us has been difficult for the other I think. But we have managed overall to keep things friendly so that Thomas is clear at least that he is completely loved by both of us and that we communicate with each other about most things.

In the beginning he spent much more time with me – more like 5 – 6 nights most weeks. His Dad also went away for anything between 1 – 3 months a year on holidays and traveling. A couple of years ago thou his Dad got married and I guess Thomas got older and maybe a bit more interesting for his Dad – they started skiing together and his Dad coaches his sports team etc and slowly things have changed.

Thomas is nine and a bit now. I have been doing this for six years. Handing him over, giving him away most weeks for some of each week. And for me the pain and grief of that goes on. It has got better but it goes on. I can rationalize it to myself about the importance of his relationship with his Dad, about how it has been good at times to have time to spend with Gaye – and now lovely Al – without the particular responsibilities of a(nother) child at home. He gets access to many more fabulous holidays, has now one devoted (Gaye) and one very caring (his Dad's wife) step-parent which adds to the crowd of those who love him and his extended family, he has Al – sibling whom he loves and his loved by, there is no doubt in my mind that Thomas feels that he is the centre of his family.

Despite being as happy as can be in my relationship with Gaye and now having Al to love …for me the sense of loss continues to grow as each year goes by – not withstanding the increasing ease there is in being able to communicate with him by phone, email, school story reading etc etc, each day that he does not sleep with me. As he grows I realize more and more how much I have missed (and most weeks I see him everyday). How the missing goes on – will go on. How the loss is ever lasting…

I do know that this is about me and not him. If he wants to see me or his Dad he just says so and we organize it. He expresses no concern about his life of going back and forwards. Although I guess this could come back to bite us later.

Anyway … I just wondered how others find the separated parenting story… I don't think in the throws of the breakup I had a real sense of how this would impact on me – I was worried about him and for him – but I had no sense of the neverendingness of the process…


Michelle said...

My child's father & I split a few months before she was born. Since then, we have gotten back together, broken up (again), and now we're working on repairing our relationship (our ultimate goal is to get married and live happily ever after...or as close as we can get).

Although we're back in a relationship now, we still maintain separate households and live almost 45 minutes apart, which takes its toll on the three of us I think. Like you, we try to split the week down the middle as much as we can--and when things come up in the other's schedule we try to accommodate changes.

I know that it's probably a lot different since we're in a relationship with each other right now, and you and your ex have completely separated, but it's still somewhat of a hassle. When our child is with me at night and she has to go to school (actually daycare) in the morning, we have to get up at the crack of dawn (literally) to meet her dad in the morning so that he can drop her off since her daycare is located closer to his job than mine and with the skyrocketing gas prices, we both figured this would be the fairest way to go otherwise I would just take her myself. And when either of us wants to go out with friends on a day/night when it's supposed to be our turn to keep her, we never want to "impose" on the other's time by asking them to take on the added time--I know that sounds crazy and probably somewhat selfish that either of us would want to have some time to ourselves or with our friends without having to chase down a child who is wreaking havoc with a leaky sippy cup (I think she's going to be a track star), but it's true, we do want to have time to ourselves, however it doesn't always fit smoothly into our arrangement. But then lots of times when she's with the other, we miss her so much because neither of us gets to see her everyday.

We try to do things together on the weekends, but like I said, due to the economy and our living & financial situations, it's hard. And even then, the day/weekend is always going to come to an end eventually and we will have to go back to our separate homes (we're not ready to move back in together just yet--got a few more things to work on apart) so it's like we're in a time crunch.

It's more expensive too, the seperate parenting thing, at least for us because we buy double the clothes, toys, baby/toddler furniture, almost everything so as to avoid needing a U-Haul everytime she goes to stay with the other.

Since she's still so young (almost 2), we have no idea of the total impact that this has on her. We are starting to see little things here and there that lets us know that she recognizes that one of us is missing (like when she calls out and goes looking for the other parent, or waits patiently by the door for them) and it makes us sad that she has to go through that, but we want to make sure that we don't rush into things again. We want to get things right this time around to avoid the emotional roller-coaster that was once our relationship.

This is just me speaking, but I think the separate parenting thing is difficult even if you and the other parent are the best of friends--that feeling that you're missing out on lots of time with your child never seems to go away, it may be manageable, but the feeling is still there. Lots of parents in this situation have to deal with not seeing their child everyday, plus you get the added bonus of a slight guilt-trip (at least for me) if there come times when you're supposed to be with your child but you want to unwind with other real live adults. I think it definitely costs more. And don't get me started on the not-so-lucky parents who have to deal with vengeful, spiteful ex's where the children are unfairly pitted in the middle. It's always a kind of a gamble--how the child will deal with it; everyone hopes that they'll understand but we know that things don't always work out that way.

Anonymous said...

Separated parenting sounds so difficult and heartwrenching. I'm glad you're able to rise above it for Thomas's sake, but your pain is clear.

Stefan Lanfer said...

my perspective is as a child of split parents - i don't think anyone can possibly predict what all the seasons of life will feel like beyond the initial split and the relief, or grief, or resignation, or whatever it means for the couple. in our case, there was a lot of lingering grudges, and amplified dysfunction - parents who do OK childrearing together, despite communication challenges, do even worse when they don't live in the same house.

in hindsight, particularly as we grew, what proved important was both routine - the weekly dinners. and the vacation times; problem in our fam was mom never fought for these because she didn't think she could compete financially with dad, who could take me and bro's skiing, which we loved. but even vacation on the cheap - camping on the beach, whatever, could have made for more (any) memorable times, with space to unwind and just be us, beyond the formal dinner table time.

that plus lots of time.

and birth of our son, 16 years later. and navigating time with one or the other parent remains complicated, but somehow everything fades away in comparison to love they have been shocked to feel for their first grandchild.