The truth about co-parenting

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. 

A leopard doesn't change his spots.

A leopard doesn’t change his spots.

http://www.reflectionsfromme.com
And then the fun began...

25 Comments

  1. October 20, 2015 / 9:21 pm

    It is so hard to make that decision to cut your hours and therefore your pay but I think it is really important at this stage in your child’s life and especially as you are being regularly deprived of quality time with him through the childcare arrangment with your ex. I always feel so so sad when I read about how little time you get to spend with your little one. I still so urge you to let your lawyer negotiate a decent and reasonable maintenance payment for you – the courts are often willing to underline the importance of the mother/child relationship – use that to your benefit and don’t worry so much about being ‘fair’ to your ex – he is wealthy compared to the average working man, he will survive just fine. #thetruthabout Xx
    thenthefunbegan recently posted…The Truth about… #48My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 24, 2015 / 8:58 am

      Hi, I know you are right and that I do need to get a lawyer to negotiate on my behalf but I really don’t want to escalate this and get a lawyer involved. I know that my ex would get really angry and I know that I would find it really stressful. I am just placing my faith in karma. Good things happen to good people right. I don’t think my ex will ever be happy whatever good things happen to him. That’s the sad thing really. x

  2. October 21, 2015 / 7:29 pm

    What a poignant post. It must be so tough to juggle family dynamics in this situation and I really feel for you having to miss precious time with your little one for your job. Saying that, just because he is crying for his dad doesn’t mean he’s attached to you any less. Don’t beat yourself. I’m sure you’re doing your best and will continue to shape how your parent him with that in mind. #thetruthabout xxx
    jude recently posted…Do you argue in front of the kids?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 24, 2015 / 8:56 am

      Thank you! It is strange. On Sunday he cried for his Dad, but on Tuesday when my Mum dropped him off at his Dad’s house in the evening, he didn’t really want to go in – he just clung to my Mum’s leg. I don’t know. I wish he could talk and tell me what he is thinking. x

  3. October 22, 2015 / 8:36 am

    A really tough decision, but if you can cut back without it meaning a huge financial strain then you should go for it. You need to do what you feel is best, but don’t do anything out of mummy guilt as we all have that and we just have to do things we wish we didn’t need to. Our children will still love us, it is about the quality of time and love they receive after all. So sorry it’s so bloody tough! Hugs xo Thanks for linking up #mummyandus
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…walk your own pathMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 24, 2015 / 8:54 am

      Thanks. I am going to cut back. Thanks for the reassurance about the Mummy guilt. I don’t know how much of it is guilt. or whether it is just that I really really miss him. I count down the hours until I next get to see him. 7.5 hours until I collect him from his Dad this afternoon. Thanks for your comment x

  4. October 22, 2015 / 5:53 pm

    Sounds really difficult. 🙁 But just as long as you do your best for your child that’s what really matters and he will come to know that as he gets older. #mummyandus
    K’s Mum recently posted…K’s Mum Poem #5: Trick or Treat!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 24, 2015 / 8:52 am

      Thank you. That’s really nice reassurance. x

    • thesingleswan
      October 24, 2015 / 8:44 am

      Hi Anya,

      Thanks for your comment. You are right, there is no right answer and everyone’s situation is so very different. The only person with even a bit of power to make things better is myself, so I am going to start doing so. Thanks for your comment and the virtual hugs – I’m feeling them now 😉

  5. October 23, 2015 / 9:33 pm

    These are increadably difficult decisions you have to make when you face life as a single parent. I agree with what thefunbegan says above, get some official person involved to determine how much your ex needs to pay.
    My personal opinion (for the little its worth) is you are making a good decision and one that will emotionally benifit you both. Good luck with it all, I hope it does work out well.
    Thanks for linking up, Tracey xx #anythinggoes
    Tracey Abrahams recently posted…Why I Want A Coffin In My Bedroom!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 24, 2015 / 8:32 am

      Hi Tracey,

      Thanks very much for your comment. I appreciate it. You are right, the easiest thing would be to get someone official to decide over how much he has to pay. I fear I should have done this at the outset – we have already settled finances over the house. Unfortunately, CMS guidance doesn’t state whether nursery costs should come out of the money that he is paying me or whether they should be on top.

      Anyway, I will let you all know how it goes. thanks again for the comment.

      Pen x

  6. October 25, 2015 / 8:35 pm

    So much of this resonates with me. Working part time isn’t an option for me. My ex isn’t providing any support at all at the moment.

    I think it helps that I was working full time even during the time that we were married, so I know that the short amount of time I get to spend with my daughters is offset by the wonderful mentors they have at school. It is so hard, though, to take the high road when there’s such a clear inequity between the efforts I make to be with our daughters and the efforts he makes. Despite having legal rights to monthly visitation, as well as holidays, my ex won’t see our girls for even an hour in all of 2015. He blames work, of course.

    One of the hardest things apart co-parenting after a breakup is that you’re stuck with someone in your life forever because you share children with them, no matter how much he is harming the children. The legal system tries, but it’s so broken.

    Thanks for linking with @TwinklyTuesday.
    Sadia recently posted…Twinkly Tuesday, October 20, 2015My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 28, 2015 / 10:07 pm

      Hi Sadia,

      Thanks so much for your comment and I am also very flattered to be your favourite #TwinklyTuesday post this week. Despite our difficulties at the moment, I think I am still optimistic, possibly naively that we will be able to make the co-parenting work, with the odd hiccup and obstacles to overcome obviously.

      I am not sure I understand how and why your ex is not providing any support. If he is working all of the time he must be able to afford it.

      You are right. When you separate and have children together your lives are forever entwined. Even once the kids are older, married themselves, and have their own kids, you are still both grandparents. You will always be linked. It is tough.

      Good luck xx

  7. October 26, 2015 / 8:56 pm

    Aah good for you lovely. It’s a tough decision you’ve had to make but you’ll manage and I think you’ll be much, much happier for it too. If it makes you feel slightly better — my boys went through a phase (at about the age that your son is now) where they just wanted daddy. And I was with them all day!! It cut so deeply — I was gutted.

    I guess, what I’m trying to say is, they don’t mean anything by it and even if your circumstances were totally different, he STILL might be wanting his dad at the mo. Babies are fickle!!!

    Well done for taking charge — good luck with everything xx Thanks so much for sharing and linking up with us at #TwinklyTuesday
    Caro | The Twinkles Mama recently posted…A Mini Treasure | The Wonder Garden by Kristjana S Williams & Jenny BroomMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 28, 2015 / 10:00 pm

      Hi Caro,

      thanks for your encouragement. My Mum has been trying to reassure me and has been telling me not to read anything into it (that’s what Mum’s are for hey?). It is nice to hear it from someone who is not biased though. I appreciate it. #TwinklyTuesday

  8. December 21, 2015 / 8:01 am

    I totally understand your decision, it is a simple matter of priorities but when you have financial commitments it is not simple is it? When my eldest was diagnosed as autistic, hubby changed jobs to be home more. This had massive financial implications and we have had to seriously rethink our lifestyle but it has definitely been worth it. Good luck!

    • thesingleswan
      December 21, 2015 / 8:26 pm

      Hi Catie,

      thanks for your comment. It is a difficult decision but definitely the right one. thanks for your comment and have a lovely Christmas. x

  9. N
    March 28, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    I know that this – the third post I’ve read – is being read late in the day so what I say may be out of date… but please look into getting the child support agency to sort out getting the appropriate amount of money for your son. I went to mediation with my ex. He is giving a bit less than he should but it’s in the ball park. Your son needs this and deserves this – it is for his benefit. The csa can explain that the money is for him, not you, if that’s what your ex requires.

    • thesingleswan
      March 28, 2017 / 8:06 pm

      THank you. Pen x

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