Today’s Parenting Perspectives post is written by a writer who’d prefer to remain anonymous.
My husband left our family home in December of 2009. At the time, our children were 18 months and three-years old. After several months of relentless friction between my husband and I which occurred out of the blue, I finally asked him to leave the house, the idea being that a separation would bring clarity for both of us.
The disappearance of Daddy from the home wasn’t as traumatic as you’d think. While he was a great dad, he worked crazy hours and of late, had been distracting himself with unending projects around the house. I was used to putting the kids to bed solo and his absence after the separation didn’t require much more than a quick “daddy’s working late” to appease their little minds.
Months turned into a year and after couples therapy, individual therapy, and every other attempt to figure it out, it was time to call it quits. We would no longer be feigning that we were a family on the weekends as we’d been doing since he left. We would create a parenting plan that worked and together we made agreed that the kids would always come first.
The kids are now almost four and five-years old. And although our older daughter is beginning to show signs of confusion (mini tantrums when I leave, slight aggression where once there was none, a display of anger from my calm, loving daughter), we have taken every precaution to ensure that our daughters grow up to be confident, secure adults even if they grow up in a split home.
First and foremost, we don’t fight in front of them. We save all discussion, arguments, and negotiations for after bedtime or phone conversations. We go out of our way to give our kids a “family dinner” about once a month or on special occasions. We talk about one another nicely, and never bad-mouth each other to the kids, even when the urge is hard to fight.
Bottom line: we put our kids best interests before our own and so far, it seems to be working out.
While my three-year old is mainly unaware of any changes within the house, my older daughter has questions sometimes. She’ll ask, how come you don’t come away with daddy and us on the weekends? Why aren’t you coming to dinner with us? After struggling with answers for a while, I finally decided gentle honesty would serve her best.
“Mommy and daddy aren’t going to be married anymore. We’re good friends instead. So you’ll spend time with daddy and with mommy, but mostly it will be alone time with each of us.”
I always tell her that even though Mommy and Daddy will no longer be married, we both love her and her sister so, so much, and they will always have so much love around them. And any time either child asks to call their dad, they are welcome to.
My almost ex-husband and I have our challenges. We’re in the middle of a divorce and we have young kids, whom neither of us want to wound. Having both come from families that weren’t necessarily all that in touch with our needs as children, we are hyper-aware of the damage and the positive role-modeling we can impart on our impressionable kids.
We make mistakes, we’ll continue to make mistakes, but the bottom line is we really try to make this as little of a problem for our innocent children as possible. Divorce is never the ideal situation and every other avenue should be explored before breaking up a family unit, but how you and your spouse choose to handle it is the deciding factor between children who are secure and confident versus kids who may feel left behind.
Your divorce is between you and your spouse. And while it affects the entire family, it’s our job as parents to make sure our kids needs come first.