I think one of the saddest things I see on infidelity boards are the parents that ask in anguish, “Why won’t the fuckwit have anything to do with our children? How can they just abandon their own flesh and blood?”
I frequently see posts from people who are frustrated that the fuckwit won’t help out with the kids, won’t take them for visitation, doesn’t show up when they’re supposed to, and of course, hasn’t seen the kids in months or years.
I recall reading a post on a blog from someone who was irritated that her ex wouldn’t help out with his kid. At the time I told her she needed to pretend that he didn’t exist and that she only had herself and her support system to rely upon. I think she was a little befuddled because her response was along the lines of, “But this is his child! Shouldn’t he be doing this for our child? He’s the other parent; I should be able to rely on him and expect him to do his part! This is for our child, not me!”
My response to that was, “Yes, obviously he should but he’s not going to so stop beating your head against a brick wall and control what you can control.” What she could control, of course, was herself. Not him.
I spent six months living in the same house as Jerry Lee after D-Day. Not one time did he help out with the kids. I believe he asked Picasso once if he needed a ride but that was it. Then he moved 6-7 hours away and he’s never lived in the same state as his kids since then. I had no choice but to take on everything myself.
Maybe that was a blessing in disguise. I never had false hope that the other parent would step up and do his part. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wouldn’t.
Maybe I spent too much time on other boards, boards populated by single moms who shared children with absent fathers. Their attitude was primarily, “Put on your combat boots and get shit done yourself.”
I think that’s why I advocate for people forming outside support systems. It’s why I recommend not relying on the other parent. And if you’re going to rely on the other parent then make sure you have a backup plan. It’s why I recommend having everything your child needs at your house and the other parent having everything the child needs at their house.
Stop begging an uninterested person to remain in your child’s life. That’s giving the fuckwit more power than they deserve. It makes them central. If they’re going to ditch your kid they’re going to ditch your kid and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. The only thing you’ll be able to do is potentially prolong it. I have heard so many stories where once the sane parent finally drops the rope and puts the relationship responsibility on the now adult child and the other parent it fizzles out, or the now adult child puts an immediate end to it.
Stop being shocked when they flake on you. Expect it. Have that backup plan ready.
I guess maybe in many ways I was lucky that I was the one that handled everything that went along with Rock Star and Picasso. I could figure out how to get both kids to hockey and gymnastics on the same nights when Jerry Lee was at an out of town meeting. He seemed incapable, but I could do it. I was used to taking 2 young kids on a cross country vacation with no help from him even when we were married. I could figure out how to get Rock Star to gymnastics practice early and then return in time to pick Picasso up from school at the regular time. I could figure out how to get Picasso to his hockey tournament (three games played throughout the day) on the same day as Rock Star’s state gymnastics meet. I could figure out how to get a kid to orchestra and arrange a breakfast for the teacher’s at the same time. I could figure out how to arrange for childcare while I volunteered at church. And I even figured out how to arrange for childcare while I went out of town for a weekend with church friends so we could go to a women’s conference.
It involved about 16 hours of driving and leaving children in two separate states but I arranged it! I drove Rock Star from Michigan to Kentucky to stay with her grandmother down there and then I drove Picasso back up from Kentucky to Indiana to stay with my mom. From there I drove back on up to Michigan and my friends and I left for the conference the next day. And I got to turn around and do it all over again a few days later in order to pick them back up.
Is it better when you’ve got a 2 person tag team taking on childcare responsibilities? I’m sure it is. But you can do it without them. My advice, just like the advice I gave to that woman on her blog, is to stop banging your head against a brick wall. Be prepared to take on all the responsibility. Don’t rely upon the other parent. If they come through it’s an unexpected bonus. If they don’t, you’ve got this.
If the other parent is still involved and reliable I think that’s great. I’m not suggesting you attempt to oust them from their kids’ lives. But if you’ve got an ex who doesn’t take much an interest in your children then please stop giving them the power to hurt you and your kids. Your kids need one sane parent. Stop offering up your child like a lamb to slaughter. You don’t mention visitation. If the other parent shows up you send them with them. If they don’t show up they have no idea the other parent was even supposed to be there. You don’t call them and beg them to show up for birthdays or holidays. You take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to share those moments. You don’t ask if they’ll be using their visitation. You don’t remind them of the days they have. They are adults and I trust are able to read their visitation schedule. If you’ve got plans you get yourself a backup in case the other parent doesn’t show. If you didn’t have plans now is your chance to do whatever you want with your kids, whether that’s spending the evening at home, or going out and doing something fun.
Can it be heartbreaking for your child when the other parent abandons them? Of course it can be! More so I think if your child is old enough to remember the other parent being around. In other cases, if the parent disappears early enough they may not even really remember them. Just remember, this is not something you can control. You are not responsible for their shitty choices. You concentrate on being the best parent you can be.
What you can control is taking charge of your life. You can refuse to be at the mercy of a fuckwit. You can refuse to be held hostage to their whims. Put that support system in place. Make your backup plan. Have a backup for your backup plan if necessary. That way when they call you twenty minutes before pickup and let you know they can’t make it you’re not flipping out because you had planned on going out for a long overdue night out with friends. You’ve got this. You’ve already made arrangements. You’re never disappointed that your ex can’t pick up your daughter while you take your son to soccer. You’ve already got this handled.