How do I comfort my children because their absentee father isn’t around often?
As I comforted our youngest tonight while he sobbed “I want to see Daddy,” as he often does, I thought “why?” I also had an overwhelming urge to rage at my ex-husband to my heart’s content.
I wasn’t questioning why he left me; I don’t care about that anymore. And I certainly don’t want him to come back.
But why did he leave our kids?
More importantly, why, after he did leave, hasn’t he been there for them? Why am I the one comforting them when they miss him at night or when they want to spend the day with him instead of going to school?
I know he’s a fine dad when he’s with them. He’s fun, giving them all the junky, frivolous things I won’t, and sensitive to their needs. But the visits are always brief and they spend most of their time in front of the TV or in the company of another adult. Rarely do they enjoy one-on-one time with him.
If I figure out the actual amount of time he spends with them, it averages to not even 10% of their lives.
Not once has he asked for more time. If only he knew, cared about, or appreciated all the moments that he has missed.
He misses putting them to bed at night, kissing their sweet faces and knowing that he will see them again in the morning to start a brand new day of love and life. He misses the chance to help them when they are sick or scared in the night or wake up to the joy, wonder, and innocence in a child’s face.
Their delight when they master a new skill or build a cool Lego creation is not seen.
He doesn’t get to be silly and laugh with them or watch the world through their eyes. There is no comforting them when they injure themselves, helping with homework, or cooking for them.
He’s not around to show them what a good role model looks like, all day and every day, and feeling good about that.
Sure, I suppose those things come up – occasionally – during the couple of nights a week the kids have dinner with him and the one overnight a month they have at his place; but it’s not the same as every day or even the more typical 50% custody arrangement.
My own heartbreak over the end of our marriage pales in comparison to what I feel about our kids’ dad leaving them. And while he’s been there in a smaller capacity since then, it doesn’t even begin to compare to when he was here, being their Daddy on a daily basis.
A stay-at-home dad turned absentee father; who could have predicted that? I realize he got fed up with the whole “family life.” He wanted more freedom and less responsibility. I know being a stay-at-home parent can wear on a person, and I guess it precipitated a midlife crisis for him.
Fine, he wanted to leave me; he wasn’t “in love” anymore. My quirks became annoyances, and that greener grass with the blond hair and hot bod seemed like nirvana (a nirvana that lasted all of 2 months).
But our kids? They didn’t have anything to do with it. Even if we’re not a family unit anymore, he’s still their dad and they need him!
I waver between wanting him to come to his senses and decide he wants 50% custody, because I know that would be best for them, and hoping he doesn’t see the light. I love them so much and I ache when they aren’t with me. I don’t want to be apart from them and I can’t quite grasp how another parent couldn’t feel the same.
But if he changes his mind, I would selflessly let them spend more time with him. They want that and they need that. I will always, ALWAYS put their needs first.
I wish I could say the same for their dad.
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Oh, I could have written this myself! My husband left too for greener pastures, only sees the kids every other weekend and doesn’t call during the week to check on them. It sucks. I am trying to do my best to be there for them, but I am completely alone–and they are so small–two and five. I don’t know why it’s so hard for my husband to just turn around and make a choice to work on the marriage and parent with me rather than leave. And yeah, OK, his response would be “I don’t want to be married to you anymore.” Fine. Then let’s have the “happy divorce” our society seems to embrace–a concious uncoupling–whatever you want to call it and effing BE HERE ONCE IN A WHILE. I am at my wit’s end. But tomorrow will be better. I love my kids so much and I know that at the end of my life this is the person I’ll want to be–the one who STAYED. The one who was THERE. But man, is it stressful sometimes… Oh well. Tomorrow is a new day, right?
Oh, Jenna, i feel your pain!! My kids were 5 & 2 when my ex left, and they are 6 & 3 now. It’s so hard! I just can’t wrap my brain around how someone can up and leave not only his wife but his young kids, and just call it good. It sounds to me like you have a good head on your shoulders – something that is necessary when you’re thrust into this position. You have nothing but commiseration from me.
I’ll never understand the walk away parents (It’s not just Dads, I know a couple of moms who fit the bill). I went through a full scale custody war with my exwife to ensure that I could continue to be a parent for my kids.
It’s nice & refreshing to hear from a man who has done the right thing!
One thing I’ve learned is that there are all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. My ex’s idea of our parenting future was me visiting three Sunday afternoons a month as a precursor to her eventually her moving away with the kids. We opened Pandora’s box, resulting in me having sole custody. We are in a good place now. Not where I expected us to be, but it’s all working out. Now that all of the restriction are out of the way, I do my best to remember that the schedule is there to ensure that she see the kids, not limit their time with her. Sounds like you are doing the same. I’d recommend being blunt but kind about it. For my ex, she knows that I don’t ever say no to her requests do do things with the kids and I’ve gone out of my way to facilitate in the past.
His schedule does make it difficult. He is a musician and often has rehearsals and gigs in the evenings, so it’s hard to plan for regular evening/overnight visits. I still think he could find a way to be with them more often, though. I think every parent should make that a priority.
Make sense. His work/parenting pattern was great for being there during the day, but now that he’s moved out, not so much. I still think that it’s OK to say to him that he’s not putting enough time in and explore ideas on how to keep their relationship solid. It’s going to be a bigger problem when the kids get to school. Work life balance is tough when it comes to kids.
You don’t say where you are in the process or if there are other contributing factors like where he’s staying isn’t good for the kids or if he went back to work and is struggling to balance his new life and work schedule, or anything else.
When my parents divorced, I had what was standard for the day. I went to dinner with my dad every Wednesday night and spent every other weekend with him. My mom was kind of an a-hole about the schedule so he didn’t really ask for anything more. I assumed that the schedule would be the same for my ex, but he would have none of it. He gave me 50/50 three plans that worked for him and told me to pick one or propose and alternative. If I thought 50/50 wasn’t best for the kids, make sure I was the one with less time to show my commitment to my convictions. Unsaid was or see you in court. Unlike yor ex, he wouldn’t move out until he had a signed agreement. We tried a 2/2/3 at first, which is suposedly better for younger kids and then switched to alternating week with dinner in the middle of the week for the other parent. It’s less packing and handing over and generally works well. Definately better for kids in school.
There’s nothing wrong with you emphatically insisting that he step up to the plate parenting wise. If there’s an issue, like he’s living in his parents basement, fix it (or put a plan in place to fix it). He’s a guy, so the plan can’t be a promise to come around more or call more. Insist on a schedule to get him rolling. You can adjust it later. If I had it to do all over again, I’d still do the 50/50. It means the kids are away from me more, but it also ensures that they have two parent, which is more important to me.
My ex sister inlaw is kind of like your ex. She gets the kids Monday’s and Tuesday’s at least three times a month. She complains about it, and I know she misses her kids, but she works from 3 to midnight! It’s the same life she lived when they were together. The thing that disapoints my brother is that when the kids are not in school, she could have them every day. She just has to make them be a priority and to get up and get them. They only live three miles apart. But she sleeps til noon and even on her days with the kids, my brother still takes them to school. If she makes it to an 11AM soccer game, we get to hear all about how she’s not herself until she gets her second cup of coffee. The disapointing thing to me as an aunt is that the two of them get along well now. There’s no fighting. They do Birthday’s together and can go for pizza after the game and all of the nice divoreced parent stuff so there’s no reason for her not to spend more time with their kids. He’s not keeping them from her and there is no confrontation to avoid. He doesn’t ever complain, but he’s always on, even when she has the kids he’s always on call, and I know that he could use a break or two.