My son cried when his Daddy left after dropping him home on Sunday. From the balcony window of our first floor flat, he watched his Daddy come out of the front entrance to our block of flats, walk down the steps and onto the pavement and he cried. My son didn’t want to be with me. He wanted to be with his Daddy. My son is only fourteen months old. This tore my insides out.
I cried after my son’s Daddy left on Sunday…but for very different reasons.
There is context to this. Isn’t there always? We had been splitting the weekends. Cygnet (my son’s name on this blog) spends a day and a night with Mummy and a day and a night with Daddy at weekends. I think this is in his best interests. Cygnet gets to see both of us regularly. It is also fair. When Cygnet is older, we will alternate weekends.
When a child is young, they have no real concept of time. ‘You will see Mummy on Sunday night’ means nothing. ‘You will see Daddy in two days time’ means nothing. Mummy or Daddy could be leaving for an eternity, or they could be leaving for ten minutes. There is just no way of conveying this to a fourteen-month old child.
Even when a child is older, say three or four, they still count down the number of ‘sleeps’ till a key event. ‘There are four sleeps until Christmas’. ‘Christmas is on Saturday’ means very little. It is only when we have the ability to work out what day it is today (tuesday) count wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday on our fingers that we can work out that Christmas is four days away. In a very roundabout way, what I am trying to explain is that I believe that arrangements for children need to be age appropriate. I believe that our fourteen-month old son needs to see both of us regularly and frequently.
Last weekend, Daddy had an ‘extended weekend’ with Cygnet. This ‘extended weekend’ meant that he collected Cygnet from mine at midday on Saturday and dropped him back at 5pm on Sunday. This enabled Daddy to go and see some friends overnight on the Saturday night. The weekend before, Cygnet had spent most of the weekend with me because Daddy wanted to go on a golf weekend. Quite a lot, no actually most, of our co-parenting arrangements revolve around Daddy’s social life. This weekend Daddy is going sailing…
I work full time during the week. The ‘extended weekend’ with Daddy meant that I have not spent any quality time with Cygnet since last weekend (the golf weekend). Let’s count it on our fingers: monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday, sunday, monday, tuesday. I have tomorrow (wednesday) off work and will be spending the day with Cygnet so the cycle ends there. That’s nine days when Cygnet and I haven’t spent any quality time together. Our time has been a hurried hour in the morning when I get ready for work and I get him ready for nursery, or a tired hour in the evening when he is grumpy after a ten hour day at nursery. I give him a snack, bath him, breast feed him and he goes happily and enthusiastically to bed. It is probably worth saying that in this nine day period, Cygnet has spent three nights with Daddy.
I made a decision today. I made a decision to take a pay cut and to reduce my hours at work. This isn’t an easy decision. I have a mortgage, which, expressed as a multiple of my salary, would take your breath away and Daddy gives me the absolute minimum because he doesn’t want to ‘fund my lifestyle’ (as if!)
My ex is always going to be a little bit controlling, extremely demanding and quite often manipulative to get his own way. He was like this when we were together: when we had carefree career-focussed lives; then when I was pregnant; and then when we got engaged to be married; and then when we became parents. It was when we became parents that it became a problem.
I could blame him and resent him (and I confess that I do a bit) but a leopard doesn’t change his spots. I can’t change my ex. But I can change myself. I am not being the best mother I can be at the moment. My work (and of course the associated finances – money certainly isn’t growing on trees, and his father’s whims) means that I don’t spend time with Cygnet. I am not there for him. This is why he cried when his Daddy left. His Daddy had been with him last weekend. I hadn’t been with him for seven days…
Parenting means making sacrifices, tightening the belt, putting someone else first. Going forward, I need to define and enact the parent that I want to be. I can’t let a controlling, demanding, manipulative leopard define my motherhood journey for me.