Yes, we got divorced. Yes, we got angry and bitter and had some tussles over child support and entitlement. And yes, I still have fond feelings for the mother of my children, in spite of all that we’ve been through. It’s not the same as wanting to be in a romantic relationship with her. No, that’s not it. That part was done before our marriage was done.
But the relationship, once you have kids, is not about what’s gone wrong between you, it’s suddenly about what can go right between you as you support your children. Together. The fall and slip of one parent equals a fall and slip of the entire family. We’re still a family, both emotionally and financially. The sooner you come to realize that after your divorce the better.
You Take What You Get
Whatever the “deal” was you struck with your ex-partner, that’s what you’re going to have to live with. Over time, you may both ask for flexibility and forgiveness in various aspects of the decree, but for the most part, you can always revert back to the “schedule” if things start getting too squirrelly.
So then, as a divorced dad, I had access to my kids 70% less of the time. That was a huge blow. From full-time to fractional-time. And that’s where the compromises begin.
- I don’t always discipline my kids the way others might
- I want to hear them more than I want to hear almost anything in the world
- I adapt my goals and plans to make room for their ideas and agendas
- I am looking for ways to connect and support them in everything they do, even when they are with their mother
- I don’t raise certain issues with their mom, because I’d rather focus on my time with the kids, not arguing over some detail about health insurance billings
- I give my kids the benefit of the doubt on almost everything
- I assume that they are honest and good kids, and I give them leeway in managing their own time
Was I still married to their mom we might work together more closely, to enforce and build healthier boundaries, better manners, more respect for other adults in their lives. We might be more strict about things like picking up their clothes, letting us know of their weekend plans *before* the weekend. And we might have more collective influence and bargaining power over their decisions. But we aren’t and so we rely more on the attachment parenting ideals that we used when they were little.
I love my kids with all my heart and soul. I still love their mom, but primarily for the way she has navigated this divorce trip, and how she has never stopped putting them first as well. We are aligned in parenting. We’ve been aligned on most of those things since the earliest days. So our parenting discussions and negotiations are usually pretty easy.
Where things have always been hard is around money. When there’s not enough, on either side, the tension gets high and things get wacky. It was that way when we were married too, but today things have fallen into disrepair. I am happy to say, we’re working on it. Talking about it, at least.
In the compromise that was my divorce, I opted to not fight. I decided to accept my dad role as it was outlined by the state of Texas and do my best within that structure. I miss my kids every day. And I know there is no getting back the time, the 70% of the time, that they are not with me.
So as a single father I work really hard to make my time as authentic and honest as possible. At this age, (14 and 12) I can hope to have several real conversations with each of them over the course of “my weekend.” And then they are gone. The house, though wonderful, orderly, and clean, is less of a “home” without my kids.
Afterword: So while I unload and vent on this site from time to time, know that my intentions towards my kids are pure and my relationship between myself and my ex-wife may be in the “it’s complicated” setting for now, but we’re working on it.
More from The Postive Divorce section:
- 8 Lessons from My First 2 Divorces
- The Kids are All Right: A Dad’s Divorce Reflections
- Having A Positive Divorce is Up To You: The Two Levels of Healing
- The Hero’s Journey of a Divorced Dad
- Focusing On the Other Person is a Trap
- Seven Strategies for Winning Divorce
image: swingset, creative commons usage