Monday, December 28, 2009

The ex, the holidays and "time to himself"

"So, the kids are out of school this week, right?" I've been asked this question several times and it's only Monday.

"Yep," is my reply... knowing what the next question is.

"They're with their dad then?"

*sigh*

No. They are not with their dad. Their dad has asked for "time to himself". He will take them Thursday - Sunday, one day earlier than normal because of my New Year's/birthday party.

This is the only time of year that he will take time off of work. He has always been this way. He works and flies around the country and travels every week, all year long. I get it. Being home and having downtime is a must for him. Traveling all the time is exhausting. I did it for 4 years.

But these are his children.

It's not like I'm asking someone, "Hey can you babysit for me tonight?"

No, these little people are his responsibility too.

Ok, yes, I am fortunate that he pays his child support and takes them one night a week and every other weekend and will take them longer if I am going out of town or something. He also shows up for recitals and birthdays and all the stuff that a dad's supposed to do.

Yes.

I am SOO grateful.... I truly am.

But these are his children. Isn't he *supposed* to do that?

Why does my asking, "Hey, don't you want to spend more time with them while they're out of school?" or "You'll take them a month during the summer, right? You know like it says in our divorce paperwork?" feel as if I'm asking for a favor?

My girlfriend says, "Of course he's not going to volunteer to keep them any longer than he has to. Men aren't made that way. We can't expect that from them. And it's our job, as the mothers, to make them spend more quality time with their children. It isn't in their inherent nature."

And I have to call BULLSHIT on that.

I've seen plenty of men that love to spend time with their children. Like this guy and this guy and this guy not to mention all the hotness here.

"Well maybe you need to take him back to court to enforce what it says he's supposed to do in the divorce decree," my girlfriend continues to suggest.

Then the mom guilt kicks in. I feel selfish thinking that I'm supposed to FORCE the father of my children to spend time with his children when he doesn't want to. I'm supposed to not feel bad that, though I will "have time to myself", my kids will be with someone who is grouchy and ignores them and puts them in front of the TV because he's so checked out that he doesn't want to deal with them.

He rarely engaged with me when we were married those last few years. The TV went on as soon as he walked in the door, before I was greeted with a 'hello'. If he wasn't watching TV, he was in the kitchen cooking... or some other domestic chore that didn't include spending quality time with me or our children. I should not be surprised.

And who knows. My kids certainly don't complain about sitting in front of the TV. Maybe 'quality time' isn't their love language like it is mine. Maybe he's lowered their expectations enough that they don't even realize it could be better. Maybe they don't care whether or not he's focused on them.

Maybe I'm projecting my own failed childhood relationship with my own father onto this situation.

I guess I keep hoping that he will want to take them to the museum himself instead of them going with teachers on their childcare field trip...

It makes my heart break.

So, instead I quietly vent to my friends and get upset, just like I did last year and the year before that. Always during the holidays when I'm working and sending them to childcare while their dad is at home having "time to himself".

Maybe at some point, I will see the pattern and have a come-to-Jesus talk with him. Because seriously, as long as I allow him to, he will do as little as possible.

Hence the reason he's called "the ex".

18 comments:

  1. My ex is the same - needing time to himself, making me feel bad if I ask for help, or time to MY self.

    He obviously needs space etc, moans about being bored when he has it. If I say anything, I get 'well you decided to have the baby'.

    The joys of single motherhood, the joys of continual resentment (on both sides).

    I hope you get some festive freedom soon.

    Enjoy your party, party like it's 1999!

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  2. I got it. I will say though, that he seems a hell of a lot more responsible than MOST ex husbands with children. You may be luckier than you realize...

    Secretia

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  3. I feel your pain. Only my ex is a horrible father, with the kind of flaws that just can't be covered up when the kids are 15 and 12. I've decided I can only be responsible for the quality of my relationship with them and focus on that. His choices are his own. Enjoy the extra time with the kids.

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  4. My situation is totally different, yet so much the same. In fact, I just posted about my ex- and his lack of time for me and my child. You always say exactly what I am thinking.

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  5. I hear your frustration but hang in there and focus your energy on your time with your children and what you can control. I only have 18 months before my eldest is off to college and I'm happy she'd rather be at home with me. Yes, my children are older and more independent but it won't be that long before your children will be able to stay home on their own.

    I know you're very careful about what you say in front of your children ... but I think your house is their HOME and if it's their HOME then they should feel welcome there anytime they want to be there. I can't imagine they think of their Dad's house as HOME.

    I'd worry that going to court to enforce the parenting agreement would send a message to your children that there are times you don't want them and neither does their Dad.

    Happy Birthday - I bet you'll be dancing the night away.

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  6. Yes, you do have it pretty good for the most part but remember; you teach people how to treat you. This arrangement that you have now (him needing his "me time" and you accomodating him) has been the status quo for a while, right? If you you want to change it you must change your behavior as well.

    I'm so with you that it's not your responsibility to "force" him to spend time with his kids but like you said, he's doing as little as he can get away with - so don't let him! He may surprise you and rise to the occasion when challenged to do so.

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  7. It's funny, my ex is the total opposite. He would gladly take the kids the majority of the time if I'd let him...which I absolutely don't want to. The 50/50 arrangement that we have means that I don't see my girls nearly as much as I would like.

    You're not responsible for "forcing" your ex to see his girls. If you ever do have that heart to heart with him, though, you should make it clear that whatever relationship he ends up having (or not having)with them are because of his own choices, that he's been making consistently for years.

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  8. Well, you can't change his behavior for him, but you can change the way you react to it. Your girls may eventually notice that he doesn't see them as often as he could. Really, this is to his own detriment. He's missing out on a lot.

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  9. Luckily my ex has been fairly good as well. However, I completely relate to what you are saying.

    I remember the emotionally checked out behavior and I think it still goes on to some degree as he is so focused on me and "fixing us" that he cannot even see her and her needs.

    I know that no matter how many times i had a heart-to-heart with him, he would agree and then continue the same behavior. I never pin-pointed exactly what it was that I needed to change in myself.

    Going to court - fixes nothing. It establishes a false control where, in relationships, there cannot be -in my opinion. That being said, I agree with MindyMom. Accomodating the "me time" is something you could change! Conflict definitely will follow somewhat but it will be a good road for growth and perhaps some more compromise on his part.

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  10. I have been lurking on your blog for a long time. i feel compelled to speak up. This is going to be a bit of a ramble but reading this has me so mad.In my mind he is a selfish pig. I too am a divorced Dad. My son lives with me half the time. i don't know what to do with myself when he is not here. I have coached soccer, been PTA president gone on most field trips . I freelance so I have had more time than money the last couple years so I make sure that i pick him up from camp or school so my ex wife doesn't have to rush from work. Your children are only young once they need you now and you need them. I get so much joy from being with my son. We both love to cook spend time rifling through food magazines to find things to cook together. We play xbox together clean the house together. We are family!!! If you want time to yourself you should not have had children. It is not just a oblgation it is a joy. My life has been so enhanced by the wonderful friends I have met as a parent. Your ex is a fool he does not know what he is missing.He gives divorced fathers a bad name. Sorry to ramble

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  11. Ugh, I feel you! My ex has been doing drive-by visits lately. Literally meeting in a parking lot to exchange gifts or taking him for what was supposed to be a week and returning him three days early and right in the middle of my busy workday. Nice... You'd think he'd want more time. Guess not. I don't get it either. :(

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  12. I offered to give Scorpion his kids on Christmas morning, but he opted for two hours on the Wednesday before so he wouldn't disrupt his new wife's time with her family, his new one. Sometimes you just have to know that their choices can't be your issue. Sorry. I know how it feels and it sucks.

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  13. Thanks for the props T. That's a tough one. I understand wanting your Ex to spend more time with his kids. That's how it should be. Maybe think of this though...at least he has enough sense to realize that if the kids aren't with him, they should be with you. My Ex, takes her 50% and then pawns my daughter off on daycare or baby sitters. It's within her rights to do so, but how in the world is that best for my daughter? We have a balancing act for sure, but at least your children are where they are best off...with a Mom who loves them and wants to be with them. I'd take all the time my Ex pawns my daughter off on others. Unfortunately, she views Miss M as property to be "divided equally" instead of a little girl who only wants to be with her parents. Sad.

    Happy New Year sweetie.

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  14. I am right there with you on this T. My ex has no concept that what he is doing is neglectful or irresponsible. He would say he's a great dad. Thankfully, my girls are getting a truly great step-dad. Unfortunately, I still have to deal with the Ex being their father.

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  15. Well maybe this is wrong thinking, but do you think that when a man pays child support he feels like he's partly paying the mother to take on more of the child rearing responsibility? Would equal time with the kids and equal splitting of costs, with no one paying each other anything, be a better approach in some situations?

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  16. Hmmm Anon, you make an interesting point. Its no different from being married then, is it? I stayed at home for 3 1/2 years and he made the bacon. I was the primary caregiver. That was MY JOB.

    But gosh, that's so 1950's!

    And if he thinks that, which he very well might, then that's no different than how his father raised him.

    And hey... you may be on to something.

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  17. Anon, don't you think that it's about more than just "looking after the kids"? What about having a healthy, solid relationship with the children? Aren't fathers equally responsible for that?

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  18. Momma Sunshine - sure, I agree. But having a healthy, solid realtionship doesn't necessarily mean spending equal time with the kids. As I think T kind of pointed out, a divorce arrangement where the man does the paying and the woman does the majority of childcare may just be a continuation of a traditional marriage pattern they had when they were married. So, to change that, if the couple can and want to change it, may require an attitude adjustment on both sides.

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