Yes, we got divorced. Yes, we got angry and bitter and had some tussles over child support and entitlement. And yes, I still have fond feelings for the mother of my children, in spite of all that we’ve been through. It’s not the same as wanting to be in a romantic relationship with her. No, that’s not it. That part was done before our marriage was done.
But the relationship, once you have kids, is not about what’s gone wrong between you, it’s suddenly about what can go right between you as you support your children. Together. The fall and slip of one parent equals a fall and slip of the entire family. We’re still a family, both emotionally and financially. The sooner you come to realize that after your divorce the better.
You Take What You Get
Whatever the “deal” was you struck with your ex-partner, that’s what you’re going to have to live with. Over time, you may both ask for flexibility and forgiveness in various aspects of the decree, but for the most part, you can always revert back to the “schedule” if things start getting too squirrelly.
So then, as a divorced dad, I had access to my kids 70% less of the time. That was a huge blow. From full-time to fractional-time. And that’s where the compromises begin.
- I don’t always discipline my kids the way others might
- I want to hear them more than I want to hear almost anything in the world
- I adapt my goals and plans to make room for their ideas and agendas
- I am looking for ways to connect and support them in everything they do, even when they are with their mother
- I don’t raise certain issues with their mom, because I’d rather focus on my time with the kids, not arguing over some detail about health insurance billings
- I give my kids the benefit of the doubt on almost everything
- I assume that they are honest and good kids, and I give them leeway in managing their own time
Were I still married to their mom we might work together more closely, to enforce and build healthier boundaries, better manners, more respect for other adults in their lives. We might be more strict about things like picking up their clothes, letting us know of their weekend plans *before* the weekend. And we might have more collective influence and bargaining power over their decisions. But we aren’t and so we rely more on the attachment parenting ideals that we used when they were little.
I love my kids with all my heart and soul. I still love their mom, but primarily for the way she has navigated this divorce trip, and how she has never stopped putting them first as well. We are aligned in parenting. We’ve been aligned on most of those things since the earliest days. So our parenting discussions and negotiations are usually pretty easy.
Where things have always been hard is around money. When there’s not enough, on either side, the tension gets high and things get wacky. It was that way when we were married too, but today things have fallen into disrepair. I am happy to say, we’re working on it. Talking about it, at least.
In the compromise that was my divorce, I opted to not fight. I decided to accept my dad role as it was outlined by the state of Texas and do my best within that structure. I miss my kids every day. And I know there is no getting back the time, the 70% of the time, that they are not with me.
So as a single father I work really hard to make my time as authentic and honest as possible. At this age, (14 and 12) I can hope to have several real conversations with each of them over the course of “my weekend.” And then they are gone. The house, though wonderful, orderly, and clean, is less of a “home” without my kids.
And it’s within this compromise that I am also bringing in my new relationship, my fiancé. She’s not privy to all the kid bringing up that we did. She wasn’t part of the tenderness that has grown between me and my kids over their entire lifespans. And of course, her relationship to them is exclusively through me. She’s finding her way within this “new home” with us. It’s like we’re all dating again. Me and her and the kids. We’re having fun.
The other morning she was essential in getting me and my two kids off to school on-time, which happened to be very early. She packed lunches, made breakfast, and did all kinds of parently things. Later that evening she expressed how it had felt warm, and fun, and right.
I am so honored to have her in my life, and so honored with everyday that we are able to play at being parents together. She’s an amazing partner, and she shows me the light at the end of my single parenting tunnel to be the twin flames of LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. Fortunately for me and my kids, and even my ex-wife, her warm LOVE affects all of us.
Afterword: So while I unload and vent on this site from time to time, know that my intentions towards my kids are pure and my relationship between myself and my ex-wife may be in the “it’s complicated” setting for now, but we’re working on it. And that’s also why this site is anonymous.
The Off Parent
back to Single Parenting
- I Want To Thank You for the Divorce
- Things Broken and Unsaid
- My Urban Fit Uber-cute Couple Bias
- Evolving Single Dad: Failure to Hopefulness Again
- What I Need To Tell You: Take Heart. It Gets Better.
image from friend Darren Smith on Instagram, used by permission
Off as in wacky. Off as in when you don’t have your kids after divorce. Off as in batshit crazy. What is an OFF Parent?
Divorce sucks. And in the end, divorce may have been the most liberating and creative thing that ever happened in my life. I have certainly been transformed in many unexpected ways. And the decision of my then-wife that wrecked and the reshuffled my family life, might have been the event that set me in motion towards the next true love of my life.
But getting from married with children to divorced with children to dating with children to whatever-you-want-to-call-next with children… Well, that’s the tricky part about being an off parent. I’m here to offer hope.
I’ve been through:
- major depression
- financial disaster
- dickish ex-wife moves set to hurt me
- complete loss of my identity and home
- rebuilding and reassessing
- creative rebirth
- establishing relationships with my kids during *my* time
- losing a best friend and partner in planning and future visions
Through all of it, things get a bit rough. Things might even get so bleak that you consider dark and harsh alternatives. Hope is hard to come by at times.
And I arrived at:
- creative freedom
- effortless and inspired writing about my experience
- creating my own parenting style, not burdened by my ex’s OCD
- establishing father-son and father-daughter bonds in the time that I did have
- a rested state of living (naps whenever I wanted, instead of a fight)
- redefining *my* needs and passions
- exploring and learning from what went wrong
- setting sail for a new kind of relationship
- finding the love of my life
I’ve been married twice. And I can tell you the divorce from both of those relationships was difficult. With kids, however, you never fully get divorced from your co-parent. And as I have begun to reemerge as a happy dad I have paid careful attention to who deserved my “off” time. I went through a few test relationships, learned some powerful lessons along the way, and arrived here: madly, passionately, and freely in love with a new woman, a partner unlike any I have ever imagined. Better. Stronger. More passionate. Much more compassionate.
The second love of my life took over 52 years to arrive. We had been looking for each other for 5 – 7 years. And when we connected the sparks flew, the inhibitions evaporated, and our hearts began to sing in harmony, the big “Yes” from within minutes of our first kiss.
“That was the most auspicious beginning I’ve ever experienced,” I said to her a few days after we’d spent the first weekend together.
The exhilaration has not stopped. The continuous effort on both of our parts to find the time, find the space, and find the way to connect both in an out of the bedroom. And of course, the sex is amazing. And how could I have imagined, as my known world was collapsing, that I would be having the absolute best sex of my life at 52? And more sex than I’ve ever had? How could this be possible?
When you embrace the loss of your marriage, you can begin healing yourself and reestablishing your relationships with your children and yourself. As you burn through the pain and frustrations, you may find yourself stronger and more self-assured. You may find yourself unwilling to settle for half-ass. And with the compressed amount of time you have, you will value both the ON parent time and the OFF parent time.
Today I begin a new journey with my girlfriend. (That term seems so weak compared to what we have established.) Today we begin building OUR relationship WITH and AROUND my kids. The parenting plan I defined with my then-wife spelled out a 6-month waiting period before introducing the kids to a partner.
The new relationship is between her and me. My kids, as important as ever, will be building new connections with the WE, rather than just the me, Dad. She won’t ever be Mom, but she can bring a new idea in to their young lives.
In the next 4 years of my son’s life, and the next 6 years of my daughter’s life, I can show them what a healthy and happy relationship looks like. The last time they saw my then-wife and I in respectful partnership was when they were about 5 and 7 years old. What a gift I imagine in this new, re-envisioned partnership, with the next love of my life.
The more amazing thing about finding love again, is when you find the flow of energy and affirmations is easily expressed by both partners. In my marriage I was the “emotional” partner. My then-wife was more logical and excel/task/budget based. This new connection is stronger and more pure than anything I’ve experienced in my life. (I know this sounds like puppy love, and I’m not afraid to admit we are still in the honeymoon glow.)
Where we go from here is together and up as a newly formed family unit. The three of us now have a co-pilot. I now have a collaborative partner to reason things out, to make joint-decisions, and to reflect on the demands and requests of my ex-wife. Not to mention, the most exciting partnership I’ve known.
Today, I have it all. I’m still rebuilding. My kids are still adjusting. Perhaps we will be readjusting our entire lives from the fracture that changed everything. Today, at this moment, I can say, “For the better.” By a long shot.
The Off Parent
back to On Dating Again
- Dating Time Out: Swiping Left or Right is Wearing Me Out
- Gentle Catch and Release
- Unadulterated Love: What Is Joyful Sex?
- Reversing the Flow: Putting Women in Charge of Courtship
image: dance, vladimir pustovit, creative commons usage
I’m back in my old neighborhood, after 4.5 years of divorce. I’ve been traveling through some rough places. I’ve had some wins and more losses than I care to recount here. But over the course of the last 6 weeks, I’ve landed a new job, rented a house (since my credit and cash are lacking) and returned to my old neighborhood. And for the first time, yesterday, I hit a moment of sadness.
I don’t know exactly what it was. I’m certain my body and spirit is still adjusting to the full-time corporate job again. I’m no longer able to nap and play tennis during the day. I’ve got new bills and new expenses and my ex has begun the cash-rattling dance that she has become known for.
And this morning, I’m sitting in my new place, dog and cat back in my care, girlfriend off to work, waiting for the plumber to come fix an anemic shower. It’s been a while since I wrote. The hyper-angst of the ex’s continuing actions against me while a week or two back, are just part of the landscape now.
And my reset, collapse, rebuild is complete. So why am I not bullet proof?
As much as I craved alone time in my temporary digs I might be better at being alone while together. Maybe someone to push back against is part of what gives me my drive to be alone. I don’t think that’s it, but I’m voicing the meandering thoughts, rather than the resolution.
So I’ve returned to full-time work. It’s what we’re supposed to do. My ex and thus my kids are already feeling the relaxing of austerity brought on by the failure of my business dreams. And maybe I was postponing this inevitable requirement. Maybe a full-time job was really the only solution. IF I wanted to get a place of my own to live. IF I wanted to have a relationship. IF I wanted my kids to be proud of me and their time with me, rather than something to be endured.
Or maybe it’s all me. Maybe the change in venue and responsibility will just take a little of time to get used to. Maybe the exercise that was such a big part of my recovery and rebuilding needs to be reinjected into this new place.
And in my personal life I have a new relationship. A rich and exciting connection. Maybe the connection and relationship I’ve been hunting, praying, and writing about. But again, that’s an unknown and a new variable that I have only limited control over.
This morning, in my new place, I give back the confusion and worry, and return to the beginner’s mind. I’ve never been right here before. I’ve got a lot of things in motion. A ton of changes. Sure there are going to be moments of “wtf” but that’s expected. It’s not the WTF that takes me down, it’s the paying too much attention to the fears and not enough attention to the details of my own journey.
- Good food
- Exploring this new relationship – kissing a lot
- Giving myself time to adjust without criticism
And the kids return tomorrow, so this moment of reflection will quickly be consumed with errands, breakfasts, logistics, and love.
I like myself in relationship. I like myself with a job and position and a house. I like myself alone. I can ease up and give myself a moment to catch up with all the changes and just enjoy the moment.
Now, more coffee.
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff