I left my husband when my children were four and seven. We always did 50/50 custody, so half the week and every second weekend with one week each in the school holidays.
My ex and I both then started new relationships, both our new partners not having their own children, so it worked quite well.
Then, after six years (including 12 months in a house we bought together) my new relationship ended and although the kids never really spoke about it, I think it did really affect them.
Both my children started counselling around that time, which was a big help as my youngest suffers from anxiety attacks. The counsellor was a divorced mother too so she really backed my side.
Yet over time, both my ex and his partner would quiz the kids about what they ate, what they watched on TV, where we went and what we did together.
As I trust my ex, I would never call the kids when they were with him. I naively thought I would leave them alone to spend time together.
They encouraged the kids to write me letters as a form of expression. One of the letters from my youngest, 10, said I should be “providing organic fruit and vegetables” and “to not worry so much about the cost of things”, but being a parent on one wage, I kind of have to. Equally, I want my kids to learn the value of money.
Although I didn’t take the break up with my new partner well, I still cared and provided for my kids. I love them dearly. Around that time I lost my job, but was back working on a contract (at a job I hated!) all in four days.
I also took time out of the workforce when they were small to care for them both, getting back to work once my youngest was in prep.
I had always enjoyed a wine of an evening (some nights a little too much!), but when I could see my ex and his partner “coaching” the kids, I gave up and still have to this day.
Around 12 months ago, my kids said they wanted to live full-time with their father and his partner.
I remember driving in the car with them and wanting to discuss it, but it just made them feel uncomfortable. Now, as a result, they won’t go in the car with me and haven’t done during this whole time.
Now, I only see them for an hour and half a week. They are constantly looking at their phones to see the time and saying to each other “we need to text Dad soon”, which was not discussed with me, and my youngest always constantly asks for the time.
When I reply, “Does it matter, do you have somewhere you have to be at a certain time?” they always reply “no”. Then an hour and a half comes up and on the dot, they are texting their father to pick them up, or if we go for a bike ride, they need to be home.
“I remember driving in the car with them and wanting to discuss it.”
I called my ex-husband recently to chat to him privately around supporting me and saying positive things about me in front of the kids, which I had to convince him to do. He said, “I’ll try”.
They all blame me, especially him because it was me that left. He also told the kids I’d called him, which they were both angry about, saying, “Don’t ring Dad, talk to us, it’s not his problem”.
I spoke to a lawyer to see what my options were and she advised that if the judge asked my eldest who they want to stay with, the court would count their opinion and I would most likely lose, as well as making everyone more angry and spending money I don’t have. I appreciated the realistic advice.
We are all having group counselling, which seems to make the kids angry. Their main complaint is that I don’t listen to them, but I try to. Equally, I think, if that’s the worst I am doing, it’s not that bad in the scheme of things.
They know I left their father and desperately want him to be happy and want his attention, so I just think it’s good for them to feel something, whether it be good or bad. Hopefully, at some stage, the anger will run out.
To be honest, I am just happy to speak with them on the phone every night and what little time I do see them, I now really enjoy. I was not great at the start and would either be angry or walking on eggshells around them, which is a self-perpetuating cycle, so I have come to accept the situation and am just trying to get on with it.
One of the kids’ teachers once said to me, “It’s the mother that always suffers as kids know that she will love them unconditionally, no matter how much they hurt her.” That saying keeps me going and for many women, is so true.