This is a tough question for me because it really makes me look back at and analyze my past behavior. Who likes to do that? I am not perfect, nor have I ever claimed to be. My answer to this question may be more honest and forthright than I am comfortable with admitting.
When we got divorced, I had a very hard time separating my feelings from my behavior. Although I was the one who left, I still had glimmers of hope that he would fight for the kids and me. I would dream about him showing up at the front door like a character in a Nicholas Sparks novel and “make things right again.” That never happened.
Obviously, we didn’t get along. If we HAD been able to get along, then maybe we would have stayed together. Although we didn’t get along, I think we were always child-centric on certain things. I believe the small child-centric things we did are just common sense, but it seems that most people who are newly divorced do not do these simple little things..
When we moved into our new house, the first thing my ex did when he brought the kids home was to let them give him a tour of the house. He spent time looking at their rooms and swinging in the backyard. So immediately they were comfortable in their new home because Daddy approved. He may not have supported my new home, but he came and showed his solidarity because it was in the best interest of our kids.
We were also always good about sitting next to each other (or at least very near each other) at events so that the kids would not have to divide their attentions. It would also prevent the other child from having to choose which parents to sit with which would only cause the kids anxiety.
The kids have pretty much always had one birthday party too. One of us would have the party and the other parent would come. Again, common sense. Kids only have one birthday, so why have more than one party unless the priority is the comfort of the parents and not the child with the birthday.
With that being said, even through all of that I do not believe I was truly child-centric. We just did what was right in front of the kids, but my heart was ANGRY. I was mad that my ex called the house multiple times a day to talk to the kids. I felt like he was imposing on MY custodial time (although they were with me all week, every week). THAT was me being selfish and wanting to punish him for not coming to bring us home. I didn’t give him extra time because I was afraid he would someday use it against me like I didn’t want the kids. I printed out every email for years and argued about everything I could argue with him about – haircuts, money, his girlfriend, etc.
I would still cry every single time I dropped the kids off at his house (our former marital residence). Even after he remarried, I would cry when I pulled out of the driveway. It was like my life had moved on without me and I had to see what it looked like. I would see my kids with my ex and his wife and my dog and I would feel REPLACED. That was a miserable feeling that I think that most first wives can understand. And not only would I feel replaced, but it would make me acutely aware of how alone I was.
It was not until my ex and his wife bought their current home that I truly felt like it was no longer about me. They bought a log home out on a farm in the country and my kids wanted me to come see their new home. I called my mom en route to the house and told her what I was doing and she said, “WHAT are you thinking??? You know that will only upset you!” She was right… I knew that it would upset me, but I knew it would upset my kids even more if I did not show interest in their new home.
I drove up the long gravel driveway and let the kids walk me all around the house and the pool and the gardens. It was absolutely beautiful. Their rooms were cute and well decorated and even though some of my old furniture was in the home, it didn’t feel at all like it was mine anymore. I hugged my kids good-bye and I got in my car to drive out the long driveway.
I remember thinking, “Here we go… the tears will come now,” as I pulled away. Instead, I realized that I had a huge smile on my face. I was seriously grinning from ear to ear. It was in that moment that I realized that I could never in my life be happy living out there, no matter how beautiful it all was. I am a city girl and I would have been miserable for the rest of my life. At the same time I recognized that my ex finally had everything he had always wanted…
In that moment, the switch flipped. I knew that he was where he needed to be and I was where I needed to be…
AND I WAS HAPPY FOR HIM.
From that point on, I never thought any more about custodial times and schedules and questioning his intentions. If I needed a night to myself, I would ask him if the kids could stay. No trades, no calendar negotiations. We just did it. I tried to establish a friendship with my ex’s wife, which has been positive since that time. We are even friends on Facebook! I would have never dreamed of that back when I thought he was “out to get me.” We always try to sit together at games and during football season we would even all go out to eat together after the games. I would ask the kids if they had talked to their dad and have them call if they had not.
After that point, I think life improved for all of us. And I know in my heart it is because I stopped thinking about how all of this was affecting me and I stopped protecting what I considered to be MINE. We started living life as one family all in support of and focused upon those amazing children.
And the kids are better for it too. There is no playing one parent off the other in our family. It used to be that the kids would tell me something about what happened at dad’s house and I would automatically believe the kids at their word. Now I pick up the phone and call their dad, because most of the time they are trying to pull something over on us.
We may not be married, but we have a successful business partnership… and our business is making sure our kids grow up to be happy and healthy. There can still be stability in a family, even if the family resides in two separate homes. We are proof of that.