Advice on 'groundrules' when separating(16 Posts)
My husband and I are separating, I don't want to but hey that's just the way it is and a whole other thread in itself. I am not coping well with it and cry a lot. He has finally found a house to rent and is moving out at the end of the month. He plans to have the children 2 nights in the week and every other weekend (Friday night to Sunday tea-time). I am dreading these weekends in my own while my 3 DCs are having fun with super dad. I have two questions 1) What 'ground rules' should we discuss and agree on for the times when he has the children? And 2) any advice on coping generally with this horrible situation, for me or the children ( who are very young (6,3 and 1) What are the Do's and Dont's etc.
Thank you from a very miserable mum who is trying her hardest to try and hold it together for her DCs!
When he has the dc's keep yourself busy! Enjoy the freedom! Go out with the girls, walk to the shops on your own!! etc.. The initial 2-3 times are hard to get used to but after that you'll learn to relax a little more.
It's difficult to start with but it can be really useful having some time to do the chores in peace and socialise.
TO establish groundrules you may find the parenting plan published by the Scottish Government useful as the basis for discussion;
The Parent Connection is also a good resource for separating parents;
My 3 are similar ages to your DC's, it's hard and I cried a lot too (I still might now and again now but it's not so bad now).
I reserved the right to change/add 'rules' as we went along due to the fact that looking after x3 small ones is such hard work.
Some of the rules are very practical and save me some hard work, which I need a break from. He sees them every other weekend so I made sure that he agreed to do dinner, bath time and put them in pyjamas by the time he hands them back. Other rules were agreed/changed as we went on. I was hard over the maintenance too, which luckily he pays on time...I needed enough to be able to afford for shopping to be delivered and other things to make life easier (and I do not feel guilty about spending money on making myself feel better, i.e hair cuts, make up, meals out with friends and other treats to generally make me feel like I am not just 'mummy').
I try and distance my self from his life too, it's so hard when you don't want them to go. I try not to let him see me upset (I failed miserably at this in the beginning) and generally keep my dignity. As hard as it is I don't bad mouth him in front of the DC's. One of the very best bits of advice a friend gave me was to keep going one day at a time and never look too far back to the past or too far into the future (just for the time being anyway...).
As for practical stuff with small DCs:
Accept every offer of help from friends.
Order your shopping on line, going to a supermarket with small DC's is a horrible business.
Buy ready made tubs of mashed potatoes and tins chopped, fried onions.
Batch cook and always have an emergency 'today has gone horribly wrong' meal that you can whip out of the freezer.
Keep bread in the freezer, UHT milk in the cupboard and a good stock of medicine in case you are ill and can't get out.
Get to know your neighbours, they might be lovely and be able to watch the DC's/have a teenage daughter who could babysit.
Long post...sorry, hope it helps...good luck.
Thank you all. Especially like the advice of not looking too far into the past or too far into the future, I'm doing a lot of that at the moment and its not good!
There's a nice thread here about all the good things about being a lone parent.
I LOVE the weekends to myself. It's a good time to get things done that are a PITA with small children around. Food shopping becomes OK again!
I love being able to watch crappy TV alone and go for long dog walks. I am excited about life to come but like previous poster said - try not to look too far ahead!
As for ground rules - I just asked that there was no bad mouthing in front of the DCS and don't try and be super-spoily-dad. It's not fair for them to come home to 'bad-cop mummy'. I had to ask their Dad to stop buying them plastic tat that they come home with and fight over... and then break as it's me that has to deal with their tears.
Everything else has been sorted as we've gone on.
However temping it might be, don't ask too many questions about what they have been up to at their Dad's. A polite enquiry and then leave it up to them to tell you. Sometimes it will take quite a while for you to find out but this way they don't feel they have to edit what they share.
10 years on I now actually look forward to the time I have on my own but it has taken a long time to get this way. DO NOT cry in front of them when they go. Big smile and "have a lovely time" and then collapse when the door is shut. I always used to have a big job to do immediatly my DD had left - mowing the lawn, going to Tescos etc as it is that first 30 mins that are the hardest.
I have also learnt to be thankful for the care the OW (now wife) gives to my child. As much as I may not like her, she has always been very kind to my DD, whereas her father is an arse. It would be so much worse if she wasn't. My only stipulation here is that she isn't called Mum - my heart would break at that.
It took me a while to realise that I couldn't change how I felt about things but I could control how I responded to these feelings. I hold my head high as I know I have not bad mouthed him nor had screaming matches etc with him for the (nearly) 10 years since he left....despite feeling quite happy to push him under a bus!
You might want to think about things like how much notice you should give each other if you need to change contact days (eg to go away, work commitments, etc). Obviously illness and things you can't give notice but I've found this stops the last minute cancelling for no good reason that then upsets the dc.
You might want to talk about safety rules, things like roads, strangers, playing out etc. I think house rules can be different and kids adapt to having different rules in each house but really safety wise it helps to be on the same page.
Curiosity: I encourage DS to keep the tat at his Dad's house, he has enough here already and then has stuff to play with in both houses. His dad is the opposite though and hardly ever spends money on our ds - he would rather spend it on beer.
I agree that it can be really useful to have that child free time, especially when the dcs are little. Sometimes it's nice to go to the supermarket without it being an ordeal, watch tv for half an hour in peace, or drink a hot beverage while it's still hot! If I am feeling really adventurous I go with a friend to the cinema, for a meal, or some drinks at home or out!
bored I think that the tat does still get purchased, but it stays at his house. When stuff creeps in (another princess handbag ) I have to remind myself it's done with love and not malice
or to deliberately piss me off
Others may disagree but I would question if the 1 year old is ready for this pattern. My 3 year old was distressed greatly about leaving me at first. I feel one night may be best at weekends to start with moving to the 2 nights in due course. The childrens feelings and interests need to be considered.
Hadn't even considered that! Will give it some thought. She sleeps over at her nans sometimes and is pretty easy going. Is it bad to try it and see how she copes? She is attached to us both equally I would say. DH wouldn't like that though, she is his "princess" and would think I was just being petty
Perhaps that should be part of your plan then Ria, see how it goes and review the arrangement after 3 or 4 weeks, so that you can all see how it feels.
I was devastated the first time my 3 went off to their dad's and cried myself to sleep, but now I relish my nights off (no packed lunch to make, watch what I want on TV, nights out without needing a babysitter, lie-in in the morning
with my sexy new man )
There are plenty of bonuses to our situation, so much so that many of my married friends are a bit envious of my free time and new life!
It seems really hard now, but with time you will all settle into your new routines and make the best of the situation you've been given.
I think the most important thing is to try and keep communicating about the children. Despite the sad break up of your relationship you still need to work together as parents. I saw one poster recently say that they and their XP had days in their diaries when they met up and discussed dc related stuff. That sounded like a good idea to me.
You may need to pick your battles and accept that your XH may have a slightly different idea about things here and there. And I think it's not about agreeing ground rules for when he has the dc, it's about ground rules for both of you. I'm sure you meant that, but it may be better to phrase it as what you both need to do iyswim.
The mundane things I communicate with my XP about are things like if dd has been sneezing or the state of her poo, what she's been eating ( or not ) , when she went to bed / woke up, things I might have discussed with her like road safety or what to do if she ever got lost, anything particularly funny she's said or done etc etc etc.
And lastly, sad as it is there is nothing to gain by going over and over the break up of a relationship, it can become self destructive. That was then, this is now. I believe every cloud has a silver lining, often hard to see at the time, but try and be positive. Do stuff just for you, the crazier the better !
Agree who is dropping the kids up or picking them up, and what time.
Agree what will happen if your ex wants to have the kids at additional times, or you want him to have them on an odd extra (eg if you want a night out, or work late)
Agree what will happen if he doesn't want the kids on one of "his" weekends - ie do you want to agree that you'll try to swap for a different one?
Basic rule we've found works well is that we can each ask to change agreements whenever we like, and the other person can say yes or no without pressure and choose whether they want it to be a swap or just a one off change to the routine. We also expect the other to help out if at all possible if the change is to support work comitments.
Work out what belongings your ex should provide for the DCs when they're with him, and what things will travel with the DCs. It's easier for everyone if most things are provided in both houses, and that's easy enough to do when they're little.
We agreed a monthly meet up to discuss which nights ex was having kids over coming weeks, and also discuss anything else to do with parenting. It's less frequent now (maybe every 2 months) but it's still good to have a little bit of time set aside to be parents together. We discuss things relating to schools, behaviour, friends, etc.
In terms of is your 1 year old ready - my DD started doing overnights at her dad's when she was about 9 months and that was fine, but we did 1 night a week for the first year or two and only switched to alternate weekends when she was a bit older. You might want to try one night at a time at least for the first few weeks to see how she goes. She'll probably find having the older siblings with her a big support, so may cope fine once she's used to his new place. If she's attached to her dad, she may find nearly 2 weeks away a long time too - could he have them for the evening or for a night in the week?
Having been through the start of this in July though I only have one DC I can tell you the first few are the worst. I make lists of jobs to do and tick my way through them to give myself lots of little senses of achievement.
My pets have been my salvation they give me company when DD is not her. ExH has DD at half term they are going to the IOW and he has asked to take my dog (the one he didn't want) I drew the line there,
In our situation rules don't work as he does exactly what he please and as far as I can see DD lives a virtually lawless life there. She is only 8, but in only 3.5 months she had got used to the difference in rules though I did have to say 'I don't care what happens at Daddy's house this what happens here" for it to sink in.
So sorry to hear that your marriage has come to an end. It IS hard to cope with being alone on those weekends but know that you're doing the best for those children. I would certainloy make sure you agree time and place to conduct handover. You can't tell him what to do on "his time" but you could request that you call the kids at a designated time. I am sure you would reciprocate. Then.. go and have a life. This is a positive and now would be good time to find a hobby, get a cat, see friends and start smiling again.
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