I couldn’t make my ex be an involved dad, but divorce did!
While I was married to my ex, I pulled the majority of the weight when it came to housework and child-related responsibilities. Our son was born with some complicated medical needs, and it was always me attending his therapy, doctor, and special education appointments. In those times, I don’t think my children’s father could have named their doctors or teachers at gunpoint, let alone described their daily routines, preferences, and needs.
I know I am not the only woman with a wasband who was present in the flesh but checked out when it came to family life or parenting. I also know that I am not the only former wife to recognize a difference in her former spouse’s involvement with the kids following, and probably because of, divorce.
In short, divorce made my ex become a better father!
I don’t have surveillance footage of my ex’s home; but, I would imagine that when I left, a massive jolt hit his home somewhere around the time that a mountain of dirty dishes and laundry piled so high that it was no longer possible to navigate through the house or find anything to eat from or wear. I’ll admit that I have found momentary sick satisfaction from knowing that my absence surely meant that he would have to come to realize the impact I had on our home and his life and that he might even be forced to appreciate me- if only for a moment!
Although I will always feel bad for my kids because they are children of divorce, I am pleased for them that they finally have a father who is more attentive to their needs, involved in their lives, and carrying his share of our family’s load.
I was no longer there to pick up all the dirty socks, shop for and prepare all the food, and mind the kids full time. I was the one who always stayed home with them when they were sick, stayed up with them all night when they were babies, and ran around behind all three of them (him included) cleaning up all their messes and addressing every need. I was tired. I was burned out. I felt used like a worn-out doormat because I did it all with hardly ever a word of appreciation or a bit of effort to help carry the load!
Divorce, for me, was like a welcome break from always being the maid on call.
Now he had to step up and cook, clean, and parent! I feel bad that my kids had to endure the adjustment period while he was forced to transition from king of the couch to manager of his home. I know there was a spell of time when the availability of clean clothes was lacking and every meal was a variation of the only thing he knew how to cook: burritos.
As the old saying goes: “necessity is the mother of invention…” Nothing in his life needed to be invented, but he was sorely out of practice with any sort of domestic tasks. Now he had to jump in and be the available parent during his time with the kids, and if he and the kids wanted to eat or have anything to wear, he would have to make himself learn and complete a few new tricks!
I suppose I could be partly to blame. I tried so hard to be the quintessential “good wife” that I took on the burden of working a full-time job as well as maintaining our home and caring for the children. Yes, as an equal partner in our marriage and home, he should have been a more active participant in helping our house run, and less concerned with what was on TV. Perhaps, though, I should have never accepted laziness from the other adult under my roof. It was not only not okay for him to sit back and expect the royal treatment just as it was not okay that I allowed myself to become his servant!
I am pleased to say that my ex is now present at most all school conferences, he talks to their teachers, he co-coaches one of my son’s clubs, and he does what is necessary to meet their needs in his home.
His way and mine might not always agree; but, he has experienced tremendous growth as a parent and as a man since our divorce. I would guess this was one of the most difficult lessons he ever had to learn. My attempts to gain his cooperation failed while we were married, so it took losing his wife and the former life we had to jolt him awake and make him take full responsibility for his kids and his home. I couldn’t make him do it, but divorce could!
Although I will always feel bad for my kids because they are children of divorce, I am pleased for them that they finally have a father who is more attentive to their needs, involved in their lives, and carrying his share of our family’s load. They deserved more than just a lump on the couch who was more interested in the fictional characters inside an electric box than the people right in the same room sharing his life! My ex’s transformation is just one more way that my children have ultimately benefited from our divorce. They may not have the two of us in one home, but they have two parents who are stronger and in a better position to focus on their needs.
It’s strange how something as disruptive as a divorce can be just the wake-up call needed to make someone face reality and become a better person. I know that I have grown and become a better person because of my divorce. I have had to face faults, learn from mistakes, and develop new methods of living. The same is true for my ex. Divorce has also taken him on a journey of self-exploration and facing new realities. He is better for the person he has become, and I am thankful that my children can benefit as well!