When a relationship has ended, it is never easy for all involved. When children are involved it can be even worse. But how should you continue to act to ensure that you can maintain a level of consistency when being an ‘absent’ parent?
The initial disappointment for both parties can be horrible, especially when one party doesn’t fully understand the other’s decision. But, when this passes, we should be able enough to deal with the problems that will inevitably come along, such as new partners or money issues.
We have always tried to maintain a decent relationship when SJ (our son) was younger. The arrangements were at times one way but on the whole, amicable. Yes, there were some arguments or moreover, disagreements but none of them were too much to handle.
Working together to ensure SJ was not too affected during the initial period was working. Happiness was maintained and questions were answered as best as possible for such an inquiring mind. The school was approached to help understand from a child’s point of view by talking via a counsellor and this helped as the schoolwork continued to be ok.
With everything else in life, things can get in the way. My work when SJ was born was as a printer, earning relatively OK money. This changed due to the company I was working for went into administration which had a massive impact on the relationship. And also my state of mind.
Losing a job is never easy but for a man, or rather for me, it was more than this. It felt as I was useless and not worthy to be employed. This had a knock-on effect on the relationship which went from OK to bad in a very short space of time.
Trying to obtain work as a skilled man was difficult but not unachievable. However, the main work was in a different location from the north-west and quite possibly in London. I had a toddler and no money with little chance of a printing job near home. This situation ultimately leads me to consider a return to education to study computing. A decision that in hindsight, should have been discussed further with the partner at the time.
It wasn’t. And money fast disappeared and they decided that they couldn’t maintain the relationship and we split up.
The decisions as parents should be discussed in relation to their kids. The difficulty for me was that I was too trusting in what was right. There was never any real consideration (from me), as to what I wanted from my life. The thoughts of being away from SJ was heartbreaking enough. But not to be included in every decision of their young and innocent life was tough. To be fair, most decisions were taken with my consideration taken but it didn’t stop me wanting to be full on in the everyday responsibility. This had an impact on how the relationship continued as it became an expectation that I would do the ‘right’ thing to bring SJ up in a happy environment. This was to the detriment of my life – retrospectively!
I don’t blame anyone else but myself for this. But, I should have listened to friends and family when they were noticing significant changes in me where SJ was involved. They stated there were no established boundaries in place where I was always putting others first, and not me. As I write this it sounds incredibly selfish but let me explain…
As my dad was of the generation where the pub was calling first, and family came second, I didn’t want this to be my child’s memory of me when they looked back. This meant that I would always think about the effect it would have on them if I wasn’t there for them, even if it meant rearranging plans that had already been cemented. I guess my logic at the time was the fear of not being able to see my son which was grating away at me because women seem to hold all the power when it comes to children.
Yes, I could have done this a different way but in my experience, I find it really difficult to trust women and their actions when it comes to men and children. It seems that there is a massive shift in personality which renders the man in effect, useless!
There are valid reasons behind the reason why some women can literally hate the ex such as they were violent, cheaters, drunks etc but when they’re not, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of support for the male side of things although this is now changing (parental rights), and rightly so.
What’s gone wrong…..?
It seems that when you all of a sudden realise that you have a life too, people can be less understanding and a little aggrieved as they may feel you have betrayed them. Although it has taken a long time for me to get to this point, SJ is old enough to understand that people argue. Parents argue and don’t get along at times.
Understanding on both sides
For me, I believe that they should be able to understand that they are able to make their own mind up in relation to their parent’s arguments. Not to take sides, but to understand. Over recent months the relationship between SJ’s mum and I has deteriorated and I don’t believe it is what we want if I’m honest.
We have had text wars which have resulted in a collection of messages that I can only describe as vicious and angry from both sides. But how much of an effect do arguing parents have on their children? Are we too focused on gaining the moral high ground or are we capable of working together when things don’t work out between mum and dad?
There has been substantial research on this topic. However, I am far from qualified to question their conclusions but the blog post below is quite an interesting read. It makes me wonder why conflicts cannot be resolved. My feeling I have regarding unresolved arguments is similar to research findings that are quoted below. We should as the ‘grown-ups’, think of our children first and not scoring points on the moral compass.
‘Shared parenting, therefore, is only suitable for parents with little or no conflict and who get along well as co-parents. Again, research findings challenged this viewpoint: in actuality, an adversarial “winner-take-all” approach to child custody exacerbates parental conflict, leading to adverse consequences for children, whereas conflict is reduced in shared parenting arrangements where neither parent feels marginalised from his or her children’s lives. Further, research demonstrated that children do better in shared care arrangements even if there is conflict between the parents, and that sustaining both relationships is a protective factor for children in high parental conflict situations. Not all conflict is bad for children. Ongoing and unresolved conflict, however, is harmful to children’
As men, we tend to hide behind silence or shouting and I personally don’t think either helps. My option would be to mediate with the mum et.al., and try and work your way through. But I suppose that everybody’s situation is different so I must really count myself lucky as his mum still lets me have him to stay. For this, I am eternally grateful.
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