Mr. Smug was in Paris to visit Hidalgo last weekend. Even though he pays only 250€ a month in child support (and his family is generationally wealthy, aristocratic even), I let him stay at our place and sleep with Hidalgo in the twin beds. He flies in every six weeks or so and stays for a couple of days, the dates are not fixed in advance and he gives about three weeks notice that he’s coming.
He has told me repeatedly that unless he stays at my place, it won’t be feasible to come often since it’s expensive. He’s also summoned me to court, in Ireland, at the end of April for joint custody.
My supportive and protective friends took me out for dinner and bar hopping the night he arrived so we could get drunk, hook up and/or just have fun together. By the end of a dinner, we had consumed a bottle per person and the night had just started. Somewhere in the middle of dinner, the topic of Mr. Smug sleeping in my home became a topic of conversation. It seemed no one was supportive of the idea that he was saving a buck and making me feel uneasy, for his own convenience and I was letting him do it.
Maybe it was the alcohol, but the advice of single women without children telling me to “grow a back bone” and stop letting Mr. Smug get what he wants made me angry. They were attacking my decisions. I’m doing what I think is right for my child. Hidalgo loves his father and he’s also still having a hard time adjusting to our new home. We’ve been back in Paris a five months and Hidalgo remembers everything about our life in Ireland and still calls it home. He cries to go back. He misses daddy.
By letting Mr. Smug be the cheap SOB that he is and stay at my flat when he comes to visit does have benefits for me. Well…not me, at all, actually…but Hidalgo. They can play with his toys: the train set, the puzzles, the little bike with training wheels I bought him for his birthday. Visiting in some stuffy hotel room with a backpack and a lazy father would be so sad for him. We live minutes away from some beautiful parks so at least I know Mr. Smug will take him out…even if it’s partially to avoid being inside with me.
Seeing Mr. Smug eat, sleep, shower and playing with Hidalgo in the apartment I had to find in a hurry since learning I was not wanted, needed or appreciated by my ex is not fun for me. However, it is fun for Hidalgo and I’ve noticed him accepting our new life more because Mr Smug is part of it, even just occasionally. I’m not nice and I’m incapable of looking at him in the eyes but I’m polite and civil enough to keep Hidalgo from noticing. Making eye contact would be making a connection and that’s not what I’m trying to do. I am trying to begin our foray into positive co-parenting by giving what I can, right now, to make it easier on both of them.
Yes, I’m still angry about a lot of things. I gave up a life I had dreamed and built in Paris based on a dream he promised me. It cost me financially and emotionally, plus the time and lost opportunities of a now single mom, who’s almost forty. I currently don’t have a job, I spent a good portion of my saving while being a stay at home mother still paying half the bills in Ireland and if I don’t find a job soon, I might not get my residence card renewed in three months and I will have to leave the country. I don’t even know where we’d go if…
And yet! I focus of remaining calm through my anger.
Anger is natural. Being angry is a protective mechanism, biologically driven and triggered in response to a perceived threat physically, to property or identity.
Anger is healthy. It sparks change and challenges the status quo. Being angry can be standing up for yourself and standing up for others (children, family, social injustice).
Anger isn’t the problem. It’s the expression of anger that gets me into trouble sometimes. Being angry about the situation doesn’t change anything. Expressing that anger by shouting, yelling, cursing at the ex would solve absolutely zero, looks terrible in front of a judge and restricts any possibility of communicating in a productive way for our child. Instead, I try to keep in mind that I must deal with him for a long, long time.
Not just until Hidalgo is 18. There will hopefully be graduations and weddings and grandchildren in the future. Mr. Smug should be apart of those life events. It would be a heartbreaking shame if those celebrations are one day darkened because we couldn’t let the anger go. It would be a waste of energy to focus on the hurt, betrayal, and pain which has been caused. It is better to accept that I have every reason to be angry, channel the energy into change and do something positive.
In my case, it’s enrolling in an MBA course in France just so I can get a student visa to stay in the country and see where that goes.
We have a long road ahead of us and that guy is not standing next to us anymore. But if he’s still standing next to his children, in some way, even misguided…he is not all bad. You once loved him. He once loved you. You chose him to be the father of your children. Promises were made and broken but divorce with children requires we behave as real grown ups. Put the anger aside when communicating and if the ex starts to pick the fight, remind him why you’re still even talking to him.
In Mr. Smug’s case, it has been working so well that now when I get even slightly snarky, he calls me out. It’s really annoying and pisses me off but I did manage to get him to come to see Hidalgo for the specific week I wanted. He doesn’t know that when he get’s here, I’m going to go on vacation with friends!
Patti O'Rourke says
Well put Parisienne! It’s a rough line to walk and it’s not easy, but if we can put our kids first that’s all that really matters. Our feelings about the loss of the relationship will fade in time, but our kids are forever and if we ruin the opportunity to find some kind of middle ground with our ex it only hurts the kids.
Erica Quantum says
Thank you for your comment! It’s been nearly a year since I wrote that article and it’s a good reminder that I should follow my own advice. Six months ago, I stopped allowing Mr. Smug to say at my apartment (lots of reasons I haven’t written about – yet) and he didnt like that so it got a bit ugly. We barely communicate but he still visits ( while changing every single one of the last four months of court ratified visitation days) and calls his son. I don’t create any barriers to that relationship and agree to all the changes… but I thought we’d be in a better place by now. Unfortunately, he and I are not 🙁