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Please help me - (d)h left a year ago. DDs and I are suffering. I don't know what to do.

(49 Posts)
Cristiane Mon 21-Jan-13 13:04:49

I used to be a really regular poster. But my life turned upside down last year and everything has changed. I hope you’ll welcome me back, I so need MN help.

My children’s father left a year ago and has moved to another country. He had bad depression. He is slowly getting better but he has decided he will not move back here. He is living with his parents and slowly getting back to work, but can’t financially contribute, but is now able to pay for his flights back. He’s been back three times since he left. The first couple of times were awful, he was drinking far too much and not looking after the children properly, so it was hard.

His last visit was better but I think it mainly involved watching tv with the kids and taking them out for lunch. I moved out while he was over as my house is too small for us all.

I work full time. I have little support, my mum does come over but usually when I have to travel for work (I travel within the UK, every six weeks or so will be away overnight).

I feel like I am running on empty. At first the adrenaline kept me going but I am running out of steam. The children seem to be suffering.

DD1 is 7. She has a few issues, and they just seem to be getting worse
1.sometimes she has a ‘meltdown’. She will cry, for hours, without wanting comfort from me, and won’t tell me what is wrong.
2.She doesn’t want to ‘do’ things, so going anywhere (to a friends house, museum, park) takes hours of cajoling and is so frustrating. And usually if we do finally get there, she then makes a huge fuss and doesn’t want to leave. So she is really just being contrary.
3.Insomnia. This is my biggest worry. She will not/ cannot sleep. I’ve tried so many things and it’s been going on for months. Her usual time to go to sleep is now 11pm which is just so late. Last night I lay next to her until 10pm trying to get her to drop off. Then she asked if she could read. She has to get up about 7am for school. At the weekend, sometimes she will sleep till 9am but that is unusual.

In terms of school, I’ve spoken to her teacher, who says she is enthusiastic and alert and has not spotted any problems. She finds her schoolwork too easy I think, she reads very well. We talk well about things and she has a great imagination.

Her reading is very good, she reads easily a book a night, usually stuff like Iggy and Me, or Jacqueline Wilson, or Wimpy Kid kind of stuff. I let her read at night.

I have been to the doctor about the insomnia and we are waiting to see a mental health team but please if anyone has any tips I would love some help.

DD2 is 3.5. She is ok but a bit naughty sometimes. She is very sweet but her temper is getting shorter, but she is at that age I guess. Her sleeping is also very bad. She will not go to sleep in her bed, she refuses and cries. I cannot keep her in her bed and she ends up going to sleep in mine. If I put her back into her room she wakes in night and screams until I get her and she really wants to cuddle all night long. I don’t know how to break the cycle. She gets occasionally a viral wheeze so I have never had her in a good sleep routine but now it is ridiculous.

Her nursery teachers tell me she is settled. Her routine is nursery two days a week, nanny at home three days a week.

I feel like my mothering skills are being worn away. I feel that their behaviour is owing to their father leaving and i am clearly lacking. He is not good at regular contact by Skype and is terrible at committing to his next visit – he says he can’t be sure with work and money. He said to them he might be here in February but now that isn't happening so might be Easter now. He was going to come at Christmas then didn’t, he gave me some notice on that but only because I tried to pin him down.
How can I get him to be more definite about his visits?

I feel the girls need more certainty. I need more rest. I have no time at all now when I am at home and my children are asleep so I can get stuff done, like laundry or even sit in my bed reading. As DD2 is in my room, I have no sanctuary. I am so tired. Please any advice. How can I be good cop and bad cop at the same time? How can I help them sleep? How can I reassure them?

BettySuarez Mon 21-Jan-13 13:12:43

It sounds as if your DH's continued presence in your life is doing more harm than good. His flakyness, broken promises and drunkenness will be causing untold stress for your DD's.

And I'm sorry but I absolutely WOULD NOT leave the house for a few days whilst he visits. I don't care how small your house is.

I really think that future contact with your DH should be on your terms and also on neutral ground.

Insist he finds and pays for his own accommodation and keep the contact to just a few hours if necessary.

Are your children frightened of him? Do they dread his visits because if his unpredictable behaviour or because of the effect they see they it has on you?

drjohnsonscat Mon 21-Jan-13 13:19:29

No you are not lacking. You are doing a great job and in fact you are going way beyond the call of duty by moving out to let him be with them.

I can't advise on the health or sleeping issues particularly but I just wanted to let you know this is not your failing. I am a single mother of two and it is exhausting - there is no time off. But it helps me that this was my decision and so I know I am in charge and the buck stops with me. That means being good cop bad cop is not a problem - it's just what happens when you are the responsible adult in the house. It sounds as though you have not come to terms with being a lone parent and you need some emotional support. Can the GP help you with some counselling or something just to get some of this off your chest?

And do not give up your house to your husband again. You need your own base and your girls need you around.

cuggles Mon 21-Jan-13 13:20:14

Oh dear Christiane, what a difficult situation. I am not sure what advice I can offer to be honest but didn't want to read and run. The only thing I can say wrt the mental health side of things, sometimes schools can get referrals to CAMHs (Child and Adolescent mental health) quicker than going through GPs so it is another route you can try. You could also ask school if they have counsellors or similar that your DD could chat with, sometimes just an impartial ear can help...she might not want to upset you. Having said that, if the school feel schoolwork/behaviour is unaffected they might not be able to put the resources into her (sad fact but of course time/funds are limited). I am not sure what your school can offer but worth a go maybe. Both girls sound insecure perhaps (very understandably) so wont be alone at night, have you tried a night light, leaving the door open etc so tjhey dont feel abandoned? Or even letting the younger one fall asleep listening to a story cd. Does their father know how much the uncertainty is affecting them? - Can his parents help him see this? - very hard with his depression I guess. Do your dds have a favourite auntie or similar they could spend time give you a break but also someone (esp. for dd1) to chat to? Finally...can you take a week or so off work to just rest? Good luck X

defineme Mon 21-Jan-13 13:30:06

I second Betty's comments: he's totally taking advantage of your wish for your kids to have a proper father, but he's not a proper father and he needs to respect you and the dds.

I'm sorry it's so full on- I hear the same thing from single parent wohm s that I know. All I can say is it will get better as they get older and your 3 yrold will give you more space.

I think the co sleeping thing is something I would go with for a little while-if she sleeps well and you sleep ok-if it helps her be secure? The living room is my sanctuary when kids are in bed...I always make sure it's tidy and toy free-same can't be said for my bedroom!

I think you're referral is great news with your older dd, I know kids who have a good reaction with melatonin and others who do ok on much less sleep than the average child. If she is reading quietly then I think you're doing all you can at the moment.

Is there any way you can lighten your load? Work from home on a day your dd is at nursery? Condense your hours? Any holiday owed? Any housework you can send out/pay nanny to do? Perhaps have very quiet weekends at present-you've all been through such upheaval.

There are many positives in your post(kids doing well at school and nursery) and you're doing a brilliant job supporting them.Sorry it's so hard, I honestly don't think it will be forever.

Cristiane Mon 21-Jan-13 13:34:19

Thank you all so much for kind wishes.

betty The girls are not frightened of him, they love him. When he has been useless (the middle time he was over he was out till 4am, i was home then and going out to work at 7am - he slept all morning leaving DD2 to her own devices - i know because a friend went round to check, and slept through pciking DD1 up from school. I went mad about it - he said he spoke to his therapist and his behaviour was normal!)

He can't afford to rent somewhere. if i insist on it he might then say he won't come over and see the girls and they miss him. I am not sure what to suggest

drjohnsonscat you sound so strong! How do you do it? How do you remain firm and fair when you have to pick up the pieces? How can i learn this? i feel they can see right through me!

cuggles thank you. yes a week off would be good. I will speak to the headteacher

I think it's an idea for pushing for a counsellor cos DD1 probably doesn't want to upset me you are right. And i guess i should speak to h's parents.

any other tips and ideas please help

drjohnsonscat Mon 21-Jan-13 13:59:01

Cristiane, I'm not strong. I'm not dealing with what you are. I chose my life and all I have to battle with is exhaustion. You are dealing with loss and sadness as well - your own and your children's. It sounds like you are the only one behaving like an adult in this situation and you are also trying to compensate for your husband's failings so your daughters don't feel too hurt. No wonder you are running out of emotional energy for this.

I've no doubt your children would miss their father hugely if they couldn't see him but at the moment you are prioritising his relationship with them over yours. If you are too tired and drained to be the parent you want to be then something needs to change and the most obvious thing is the way your husband is being accommodated and facilitated.

I can tell you that there is a lot of good news in being a single parent - but that's not for now. First you need to recover your strength and your belief in yourself and then you can start bit by bit tackling the other things like the sleeping.

SwimmingLikeADuck Mon 21-Jan-13 14:21:18

Christiane, your situation sounds such hard work, my sympathies. You have already had lots of great advice but I just wanted to add something that recently helped for my 3 year olds problem getting to sleep. Its a meditation cd for children and is very soothing and relaxing. I play it in her room and leave straight away. I think the sound of it helps her to feel less lonely. I also bought a night light.

relax kids

Ps I don't work for them or anything!

TreadOnTheCracks Mon 21-Jan-13 14:28:08

How about giving this a try for the sleep problems.

Cristiane Mon 21-Jan-13 18:39:28

defineme thank you. I think i will just go with the cosleeping. I don't want to battle over bedtimes until i'm feeling a bit stronger

I hope the referral helps for DD1. When i picked her up from after school club we had a wee chat (helped along with a chocolate eclair), just trying to let her know that i am here for her. She keeps claiming she is 'nocturnal' hmm.

I don't think i can lighten workload. When i took the job i had no idea DH was going to leave, and last year i was promoted and I am pretty sure I can't change it. They are quite understanding though if I need to leave early.

I think perhaps a few day's holiday would be good. Just with them at nursery and school and me with some time at home to sort through things. I am still rubbish at being alone though, I find it quite bleak [pathetic but i am sure i'll improve)

drjcat i think you are right and i hadn't thought about me prioritising Dh's time with kids over my needs. He hasn't replied to any of my emails about his time over him. I think i will need to be much more prescriptive and say 'these are the times when you can see them'. He always wants to come over the holidays which is fine for him but not good for me if i don't then get to have my fun relaxed time with them not rushing to school and nursery and stuff.

swimming i've got a book by relax kids - perhaps a pink princess cd would go down better though! DD2 going through a v pink phase

tread i think i have that CD... need to go and look

Thank you for your support everyone.

BettySuarez Mon 21-Jan-13 20:01:01

Did I read that right? He was left to look after the children but slept through most of the day leaving your youngest unsupervised?

That is NOT acceptable. His therapist may well have described this as normal behaviour for someone who suffers from depression and has an alcohol problem.

But it is absolutely not ok for your DD's to be put at risk.

You are trying to make allowances for DH's behaviour as well as trying to work round his needs.

I strongly suggest that you stop doing that and prioritise yours and your DC's needs only.

Give him a list of dates that are convenient for you and make it clear that you expect him to work round them. If he doesn't or can't or won't, then tough luck.

I can't believe that you would leave this man unsupervised with your children given his past form. Insist that if he comes to the UK, he stays in a B and B.

If he can afford the flights, he can afford the B and B too. Chip in if necessary but don't leave your own home to make way for him.

What else are you expected to do? How does he get from the airport to yours? Are you expected to entertain and feed him too of does he make a financial contribution?

lizandlulu Mon 21-Jan-13 21:57:52

I think you are doing a wonderful job regarding the kids, you are putting them first and are worrying about them like any Normal parent would do. well done for keeping it all together.

I agree with some of the others, you need to dictate to him when he can come, give it more structure. Partly so you know where you are with it, partly so the kids are prepared. And I would also not leave them alone. I would probably arrange a cheap day out, like country park or lake? Feeding ducks? Something simple.

Do you have friends who could come to you for fun evenings? You might find just watching a girlie DVD with a couple of friends makes ŷou feel uplifted? Even if it's just every couple of weeks, it's important to find your time for yourself x x
I hope the situation improves for you x x

Cristiane Tue 22-Jan-13 09:46:49

betty I thought he would manage to look after them with a hangover. I felt absolutely awful once I heard what had happened and I got my friends to come and help. Yes I gave him money when he was here, he turned up with £25 to last him 4 weeks (together with 3 bottles of wine...). I had to give him £400 in order to be sure he would actually look after the children. Of course then he went and filled the fridge with vodka and beer. I told him it was utterly unacceptable and the last time he was here he did pay his way. I know I must sound an absolute idiot writing this, but I do think last time he was here he was capable of taking care of them and I had my nanny on standby.

I need to define dates with him so that I can sort out my childcare, I am aware of that. I finally got an answer from him to my emails where I had explained my worries about the children and them needing some more certainty. Not a single reference to them just says 'sorry just back from long weekend with Chris (his best mate). I think it's fine with those dates, give or take. I'll be back in the office tomorrow and will put in for those dates to be away over the next few days. I'll not be able to book tickets until the end of the month as am broke from paying back loans'

Not one word about the girls..

lizandlulu that is a good idea about asking friends over. I did that at the beginning after dh left and it has kind of fallen by the wayside. It would really help. Thank you for your support. Cheap days out - I listed them last time for him. He took them to Yo Sushi instead... It is silly. I know that. I am a mug. I have paid for everything, he refused to give back his iPhone etc because it was 'essential' to his working life and so he could stay in contact with DDs but it hasn't worked out like that...

emblosion Tue 22-Jan-13 11:43:02

Cristiane so sorry about the situation you are in. Your children's father sounds like my dad, unfortunately. Flakey, self-centred and far too willing to take advantage of the fact that you want him to have a relationship with his daughters.

I think for your own sanity you've got to stop accomodating him. He left you all. He can't expect you to subsidise him financially or put him up when he visits - if he can't afford it, that's his problem. If he misses out on seeing his daughters, that's his problem and his fault.

It must be stressful for you and your dd's, but also quite an upset for them if you move out every time their dad visits. I definitely think you should stop doing that. Have you thought of getting legal advice about formalizing contact?

Sounds like you are running yourself into the ground worrying for him and for you, but you can't make him a better dad/person - he is who he is iyswim. You sound like a fab, caring mum to your dd's & trying to do right by everyone. Don't forget yourself!

I agree that he needs strict boundaries over being in contact with them, at the very least he should be skyping them once a week at the same time on the same day ifyswim.
Also on the sleep issues, it might just be easier for all of you if you all sleep in your bed at least for the near distant future, this w

I agree that he needs strict boundaries over being in contact with them, at the very least he should be skyping them once a week at the same time on the same day ifyswim.
Also on the sleep issues, it might just be easier for all of you if you all sleep in your bed at least for the near distant future, this wOuld also free up a bedroom for when he comes to stay.
Also perhaps your three year old would deal better with just one kind of childcare setting, rather than 'the nanny and nursery, have one or the other.
From the sounds of it you are coping well with a very stressful situation.

Cristiane Tue 22-Jan-13 14:15:55

emblosion thank you fro your post. I'm sorry your dad was like that. Did you understand it when you were younger? Did he leave and you stay with your mother? How did you feel about it? Did you blame your mum?
It's hard because I am not quite sure what to say to the children, they do say they miss him and want to know when they will see him. I don't want them to be disappointed. Eurgh.
He refuses to see a lawyer but disputes the agreement I had drawn up so every time I change it it costs loads so I have given up for the time being.

maggie it is a good idea to set a firm Skype time. I have kept the nany/ nursery combo as I think it suits her and it reduces my childcare bills. All nursery is a bit too restrictive for me in terms of times as sometimes I work late/ travel quite a bit. And DD2 loves being with other kids so it's nice for her to have that mix as well as having a nanny. Having a nanny three days a week gives me flexibility on working hours and also saves me the nursery/ school run/ breakfast club/ after school club madness smile

I am coping OK, in fits and starts. I am trying to keep healthy and strong, my insomnia was dreadful but getting better, and I try to exercise at home if I can (doing the shred).

I hear what you say about being there when he comes, however I also feel so uncomfortable when we are in the same space and I think the girls pick up on the strain. We don't argue. I just find it hard. That might be selfish of me but I do feel he can look after the girls now and I would never be far away. But maybe I'm being a gullible idiot. I just need a break - but I don't want to upset the DDs or put them at any risk. OF course.

emblosion Tue 22-Jan-13 16:08:18

I was v young when my dad left & saw him sporadically til I was about 6 or 7. I've never blamed my mum in the slightest, or him really - its just who he is.

I think you should be honest, in an appropriate way, with your dd's. Tell them that their dad knows he can call/arrange to see them whenever he wants to, that he loves them. If they ask q's you don't know the answer to I think its ok to say you don't know. Sadly, you can't really protect them from the fact that he's being a bit useless/not putting them first & you can't force him to have regular contact. All you can do is be there as a stable, supportive parent yourself which it sounds like you are.

My ds is a baby still, so I'm not sure about the sleep issues etc but I know when I was little I was v aware that me being upset would upset my mum, so I used to really go out of my way to not say what was bothering me & try to act like I was fine. So someone independent to chat with your dd might be a good idea, as someone else mentioned up thread?

All the best x

fromparistoberlin Tue 22-Jan-13 17:38:48

Look I just want to say well done

you sound amazing, and espite all you should be very proud about your DDs doing well at school

Look it sounds to me like their are greiving his loss, and thats soo normal.

I also think things will get easier in time, and that their reactions are kind of normal and par for the course?

I think you are an amazing Mum, but you need to look after yourself too. To be honest. the better you are, the better they are

I know its hard but a long bath/face mask/walk partway to work/massage/might out--something to recharge you, even tak a day off when they are at school

the stronger you are, the better

STAY STRONG, really you do sound amazing I take my hat off to you

lizandlulu Tue 22-Jan-13 17:58:00

That email would really pee me off to start with, just back from long weekend? Must be nice hey!!

I know it's a totally different situation, but I do have a little experience of what your going through. My dH has had depression in the past, could cope th current working life and left me and our dds for a week last September. It is hard. Ŷou don't know what to do for the best. He's done it a few times, gone and disappeared for a few days, then coems back tail between his legs. At first I was worried sick ,and wanted to try and help and understand him but after the 3-4-5th time I am past sympathy. A lot of if is his own doing and brings it on himself, so I said if you want to go then go, don't let me stop ŷou, which he did for a week, then came round and came back. But I said hat is the last time he does it, when he feels himself getting down, he needs to sort the situation, not hide in a corner.

So I do know a little of how your feeling, and you don't know what to do for the best. But if it was me, I would be thinking long term. Make decisions tht suit you, you call th shots.

BettySuarez Tue 22-Jan-13 18:10:45

Your really are doing an amazing job OP.

Just remember that your DH's relationship with the children is HIS responsibility, NOT yours.

You shouldn't feel the need to have to cover for him or to make up for his failings.

By doing this you are just enabling his behaviour and I suspect that this must be very draining for you.

BettySuarez Tue 22-Jan-13 18:24:34

I have just read your previous posts and this man is totally taking the piss. He can afford a long weekend away with his mates but not to pay accommodation or food when he comes to visit.

I don't know who is worse, him for behaving like a totally selfish arse or you for putting up with it and letting him walk all over you.

I think that this on/off flaky relationship he has with your daughters is probably causing them more harm and distress then you realise. They really wouldn't suffer as much as you think they would if you reduced contact to an absolute minimum and they certainly won't grow up blaming or resenting you.

You feel uncomfortable in his presence? All the more reason to insist he sorts out his own accommodation when he visits. Arrange to meet up in neutral space like an indoor play area and he can pretend to be a lovely 'daddy' to his hearts content angry

This man left you to raise the children on your own. He pissed off to another country and only contacts the kids/visits when it's convenient for him.

He expects you to bankroll him when he does visit and is completely unable to behave as a grown up or to put other peoples interest ahead of his own (even his children)

WHY do you put up with this? WHY do you let him treat you all so appallingly?

lizandlulu Tue 22-Jan-13 21:17:34

Maybe OP is hoping one day in the near future he will decide he wants to come back and be part of the family again? She does sound like she's trying to figure out what's best for everyone. Not that I agree she should carry on, as I said in my pervious post, she needs to call the shots, but it's awful to decide what to do if you think deep down there might be a chance of reconcilliation

fromparistoberlin Wed 23-Jan-13 08:35:50


go easy on her

"I dont know who is worse". OK you kight think that, but to chastise a mother who is dong her best is v unsuppotive

fromparistoberlin Wed 23-Jan-13 11:01:31

spelling blush

just think she needs support not a guilt trip

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