It took me a long time to ask myself that, and even longer to figure out or admit that I was not the responsible party.
When my husband first left, he didn’t see the kids for a couple of weeks. Part of that was due to my not letting him. To explain myself a little, not that it was right, but I look back and I would do the same again. The kids were so confused, and in my mind, they needed some time to digest that he left and wasn’t coming back in the position of husband and dad like they knew him. They needed to realize he wasn’t out of town on business, or on another guys trip. Many of you will be angry and judge me and definitely disagree with me, and that is ok.
But part of it was due to the lifestyle he was leading and decisions he was making: lots of other women, partying, and spending our joint monies. For this reason, it is a decision I made and I still stand behind.
When he did come see the kids, he would make arrangements to take them, giving me a time he would bring them back. However, he was always bringing them back early. Once he picked them up stating he was taking them for ice cream and gave me a time of an hour and a half later they would be back. As they walked away from the door, I went through the house, into the garage and got in my car and all but followed them out the driveway. I drove to a friend’s house for some much-needed girlfriend time, about 3 miles from my house. I had been in her house no more than 15 minutes when my 14 year-old son called asking where I was. When I inquired why he wanted to know, he informed me he and his 5 year-old sister were back at my house. He said his dad dropped them off and left. So I left my friend and went home. I did inquire to my ex- to- be why he dropped them off much earlier than planned. His response was something to the effect of he didn’t know what to do with them.
He argued and argued with me about arrangements for Christmas that first year. He wanted them Christmas day to have dinner with his parents. I had no objections to that, only we disagreed on timing. He said dinner was at 2, so he would pick them up at noon and have them back at 8 p.m. For Christmas dinner, I accompanied our oldest son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law to her grandparents’ house. My parents are both deceased, so it was a crucial time for me to be included somewhere.
I again received a call from our 14 year-old son asking if I was home at 6:30 because they were on their way. Again, I leave and head home. I not only find our children there before me waiting at my front door, but their Christmas gifts stacked by the door. I open the door, hug the kids, ask if they had a good day and turn to their father and remind him our agreement was 8 p.m. His response? “Dinner was over, and I didn’t know what to do with them.” I responded, “take them back to your house and spend time with them.” He shrugged.
Why is it my responsibility to tell him what to do with our children?
I also inquired as to the reason their gifts (all opened) were at my door. His response was, “what am I supposed to do with them?” Again I replied, ” take them to your house so they have stuff to do there.” He hadn’t thought of that!
Why is it my responsibility to tell him what to do with our children’s gifts?
More time passes, and he had picked up the kids to keep them for a weekend, not the first weekend, nor first overnighter, and he sent me a text saying I forgot to send our 5 year-old’s toothbrush.
Why is it my responsibility to have stuff for our children at his house?
I suggested that he go buy them the basic necessities to keep at his house, and keep the clothes they brought with them so they have clothes at his house. Now, don’t misread what I have said: I was not mean about it, and I would not withhold anything our children wanted to take over there, but he needed to step up and take responsibility for being a parent. After all, he didn’t want me to be his wife, so why were the wifely duties still mine?
Eventually, he bought stuff for our kids to have at his house, including new clothes. The next time he was scheduled to take them for the weekend, I get a text telling me to be sure to send them with something to wear home because they are not allowed to take his clothes he bought them to my house! Besides me finding that ridiculous, I didn’t send them to his house naked, so they had clothes to wear back to my house. I often received texts demanding I send back his hair bows or his headbands or his tennis shoes, etc. Nothing at his house belonged to the children: it was his.
Fast forward several months. He was taking the kids with him on “vacation.” I won’t share all of the details, but I received a couple of calls from our son upset because not only was he babysitting his sister, but two other kids that belong to a friend of his dad, so his dad and friend could go to the bar. Another call came from my son, saying he had to watch 3 kids in the hotel pool while his dad went and got a drink. Needless to say, it wasnt feeling like a vacation to our children. I received a text from my ex complaining that our children weren’t acting the way he thought they should, and they were being disrespectful.
Why is their behavior on his vacation my responsibility?
After many upset texts from our son, I received one telling me I needed to buy him a plane ticket home or he was running away. It is very hard to calm a child down via text, but I tried my best. I wasn’t allowed to speak to him per his father, so all of his texts were being done without his father’s knowledge. I tried to explain that he needed to calm down, to find a way to get along with his father. Try to have fun. He explained that they were being “dragged” from one baseball game to another because that is what his dad and his dad’s friend wanted to do, and it didn’t matter that he and his sister hated baseball. I then received a call from my ex asking if I was going to let our son ruin his vacation.
Really? Why is it my responsibility to make our children behave when he has them on vacation!
My ex then demanded that I talk to our son and make him behave. By this time, our son was hysterical and furious, and wanted to come home. I did speak to him on the phone and tried to calm him down. I tried to explain that he had to respect his father’s rules. Our son’s response: “he will get respect when he deserves it.” Hard to argue with that. I did try to explain that even if he couldn’t respect him, he could not disrespect him.
Why was any of this my responsibility?
When divorce happens, no matter whose choice it was, each parent now assumes the role of both parents. But do not expect the other parent to continue with duties or responsibilities that were once theirs during the marriage. If your divorce is amicable, good for you! This will be less of a trial for you. But if your divorce is like mine and less than amicable, support your children the best you can, but make it clear that the other parent needs to tow their end of the parental rope. I will always be their mom, but I am not my ex’s wife so I no longer have to make things easy for him or fill in the parental voids of his capabilities.
Responsibilities change in many ways in divorce, parenting responsibilities included. No matter how painful or how argumentative it is, defining those hazy lines of responsibility will benefit all involved. Whether you or the other parent agrees, in the long-run it will make you both better parents. Before you step up to help out your ex, make sure you are doing it for the right reason; make sure you are not doing it for them, and make sure it is not something they should be doing themselves. We as parents will always want our children to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted, so lead by example. Do not allow yourself to continue in the role of partner when you should be co-parenting.
Donna D24 Originally Published 7/14