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Should I leave my children with their father and move on with my life?

(32 Posts)
AragornsManlyStubble Fri 15-May-20 20:11:05

Please be kind if possible.

I have three children aged 12, 10 and 8. Their father and I split when the youngest was 18 months old. Since then I have been trapped. All three have additional issues of varying degrees. My ex has always worked in a field with shift work in which the shifts are never the same week by week. He does not attend any medical or educational appointments even if off from work and all decisions, planning and execution of those decisions is down to me.

For backstory, we got together when I was 18, 3 weeks after I lost my mother who I had been a carer for since I was 15 and 6 weeks since an early miscarriage from a fling. I had had a sheltered upbringing and wasn’t very independent, had never had a father or father figure. I feel he exploited that. He made me feel as though I could do nothing right and did everything around the house or with the children himself, complaining at every turn that he had to do it because I wasn’t capable, and over 5 years made me almost fully dependent on him, which he then ridiculed me for, often in front of people. He still maintains now that I’am useless and incapable of caring for the children despite them being almost solely in my care. I eventually found the strength to kick him out, got a job that I could fit mostly around the children and moved on. He continued to abuse me emotionally and mentally, and frequently used tricks to get his own way.

I went on to have another relationship (now ended) and child and still the constant digs, criticism and abuse continued. He has almost complete freedom to see the children whenever he wants to, and he makes the final decision, I have no real say on when, and we’ve never had a firm agreement because I have to work around his shifts. Any time he has accommodated, which is rare, it’s never been to the detriment of his work, so never time off if they were sick etc, I have always had to cancel my commitments. And it’s always with the air of him doing me a huge favour.

My eldest child has had similar issues with her father, has had nightmares about him, an eating disorder and was seen by Camhs due to feeling depressed and suicidal. Attempts to help her communicate her feelings to him were unsuccessful and he won’t listen to my thoughts on how he could build a stronger bond because he thinks nothing of my opinion on anything. I have made it clear that she never has to see him if it’s not what she wants and withdrew access to all three for a month last year while I got legal advice. She still likes to go because of the treats and fun trips he does.

So now to what is on my mind...

Two years ago he started seeing someone and they recently got engaged. Kids are happy, but my eldest is still struggling with him. Knowing he won’t listen if I tried to approach him I messaged his fiancée to ask her if she could talk to my daughter and find a solution with her. My daughter wanted me to listen in as support while she talked and listening to someone else parent my daughter and help her when I can’t broke my heart. Hearing her tell my daughter how much her dad loves her really, and excuses for why he acts the way he does. I didn’t recognise that person that was being described, I never met him, he doesn’t exist. The reality is cruel and selfish, manipulative and cold. Hearing how they are going to make a lovely home for the children and they will have their own rooms while I know our home here is an embarrassing mess because I never get long enough alone to really sort it.

I’m trying to be the grown up and not let my selfish feelings get in the way of what is best for my children but the idea that I’m not the only mother in their lives now is killing me. It’s not the fiancee’s fault, she’s doing the right thing by my children and I’m grateful but she doesn’t know what he did to me, how he really can be. The children came back from seeing them today with an anecdote where she described them as ‘my children’. I want to scream that they’re not, they are mine. But I can’t, because she is in their life now.

My whole life has been on hold to look after his children until he decides to pick them back up again, and the one dream opportunity to get on a career path I’ve always wanted I had to turn down because he refused to juggle his work in order to pick the children up from school one day a week. I have to watch him change job, go on holiday, go out with his fiancée, have a whole life while my world has been shrunk to just my house and the children and their issues.

I cannot go through life watching them be happy families, parenting my children when they choose, acting like I’m useless and worthless, judging me constantly before leaving me a dried up husk when they finally charm away my children to their perfect home, leaving me with the mess of a thousand memories. I’am terrified that his aim is to get them to want to live with them and think maybe it would easier if I just finally stopped fighting him, stopped being angry and accepted that Karma won’t get him, nothing’s going to turn around and bite him in the arse. Maybe I should let them go to him and let him be trapped alone dealing with every issue with no support and go and make a life for myself while I still have the will to. I’m angry every day.

This sounds so self pitying and selfish and it’s not meant to. I’m keeping everything inside so no one knows. I’m trying to find things I can do now that I can enjoy and get a sense of purpose from, and making plans for when they get older but there’s no end in sight. I’am just so worn down. I know I can’t really leave them with him and run but why do I need front row seats to his manipulation of them?

OP’s posts: |
Reallynowdear Fri 15-May-20 20:41:07

Ok, there's a lot going on here, start small, it sounds like you can't see the woods for the trees.

Have you done The Freedom Program?

What is it you cannot do because of your children, and why did it solely depend on a one day a week pick-up from him specifically when the children are the age they are? I don't mean to goad, genuinely curious.

Do you have 4 children now?

AragornsManlyStubble Fri 15-May-20 20:49:26

I haven’t done the FP no.

It was a full time college course, I had the other days covered with childcare until I finished, it was just that one day to pick up and have them for a couple of hours at most. That was two years ago so children were younger.

Yes, 4.

OP’s posts: |
Reallynowdear Fri 15-May-20 20:57:37

Ok, your eldest is 12, is it possible to get on the course this year, or next?

If it is only 2 hours of childcare, is there a childminder available?

Is that something that you can look to as a positive way forward?

AragornsManlyStubble Fri 15-May-20 21:03:28

Due to her issues, she’s HE, which I organise alone so I couldn’t do it now.

Realistically I’d be looking at trying to do it in the 2-4 years, the course was 2 years, then higher education after that. I’m so worn out I don’t think I could do it. Two years ago I had hope and energy.

I’m trying to find things that I enjoy but it’s hard to make a plan when there’s no easy way to commit to anything due to child care.

OP’s posts: |
Wing1ngit Sat 16-May-20 00:55:27

No-one will take your children away. You are their mother and nothing will ever change that.
Who gives a crap what their house is like. When we grow up and look back, we don't judge whether our parents loved us on whether the house was messy and what material stuff we got.
We remember the relationships with our parents and how they made us feel, what they taught us and see the sacrifices they made.

Your ex has been with this woman no time at all, only 2 years.
Many people try really hard with their new partners kids and the shine wears off in time. Many people can hide the nasty edges of themselves in a new relationship. Im sure sooner or later she will see him as you do.

Maybe once you have a plan of what you'd like to do, you can take advantage of this amazing man he has temporarily become in front of her. Explain to them both what childcare split you need to work towards your own goals.

AragornsManlyStubble Sat 16-May-20 06:57:13

The thing is the children only know how much to love him by what he buys for them. That’s their only real measurement.

Despite being the ones who make the mess they don’t like it any more than I do. They have little jobs to do around the house but none of them would cope with a bigger attempt to sort it out. Their dad is very good at organising and getting things done even with the kids, the fact that I’m not is one of the things that frustrates him most about me and he gets nasty about.

I fully believe that it’s his intention to have them choose to live with him, after I’ve done the hard work of raising them. It just feels less painful for me if I give them up and try to move on.

Career wise there has always been one path I’ve wanted to take and it feels impossible now. I have no idea what to do with myself for a job. I’m just trying to find hobbies I can enjoy that give me things to look forward to as otherwise one week just bleeds into another.

OP’s posts: |
LeftFeelingHelpless Sat 16-May-20 08:11:26

OP, I understand how you’re feeling because I’ve been there. Do you honestly believe that they would be better off with your ex full time? A man who has never really done any of the parenting? A man who can’t stick to a schedule on when to have then? One who picks and chooses when his family is convenient for him? I don’t think you do.

You know they need you. You know they appreciate everything you do regardless of how you feel. Because being a mum is more than just having organisation and a clean house. Being a mum is about truly being present in every single moment. Doing everything you can to be there for those little lives you created, listening to everything they have to say regardless of how you feel.

I think you’re just stuck in a rut right now, you feel you don’t know which direction is best for you and your children. I 100% understand where you’re coming from. Everything seems unfair because he seems to have it ‘all’ but what does he really have? We could all live a great life if our family wasn’t our priority. He has children that only care because he buys their love. He hasn’t got the memories of the little things that children have to offer.

He wants the children because he knows it hurts you. He wants them because they’re no longer little enough to be a ‘burden’. He couldn’t cope with them full time. It would be the new girlfriend who bore the brunt of it. Which in turn would show her his true colours.

I’ve been through it, and I’m still going through it. Parenting isn’t easy, we learn on the job. But at least you can look each and every one of your children in the eyes knowing you’d do anything to see them smile. Kids don’t remember material things when they look back at their child hood. They remember who was there when they truly needed them and loved them unconditionally.

Have faith in yourself and know that, you may not be mother of the year in everybody’s eyes but you’re definitely mother of the year to your 4 children. Mistakes are made, we don’t always make the right decision but you’ll get where you need to be. Let go of everything else and be the best version of yourself. Once you start putting yourself first things will fall in to place.

I believe in you OP, please believe in yourself as well. flowers

34steps Sat 16-May-20 08:19:07

I don't know if this helps at all, but don't forget your children are their own people, and the eldest certainly just coming to an age where she will start to understand adults in greater detail - I guess my initial thought reading your post is that you must be overwhelmed by life and feel like nothing you do is good enough, but your kids do need you and while they aren't yet at the age that they can tell you that- or even articulate it to themselves - you are the most important person in their lives right now and no matter what 'happy family' stuff their dad tries to do, none of it will change the fact that you are the person who has always been there for them and who cares most for them. They do need you and you are important. Please be kind to yourself, you seem like a strong and brave person struggling with fear - nothing will ever change the fact that your kids are your kids and need and love you

AragornsManlyStubble Sat 16-May-20 08:49:49

I think one of the hardest things is he seems to have changed completely since being with her. Her and I have the lack of father in common but she was older and more independent when they got together, though he described her as needy and she has a medical condition which makes her more vulnerable. He has real issues with needing to feel needed. He will step in and do things for the children that they can do independently just to feed that need.

He treats her with kindness and respect because he cares about her enough to listen to her. I gave him three children and he doesn’t respect me. He never did. He manipulated and abused me to make me what he wanted then hated me for it. I stood up to him every time, I never stopped fighting him but it wasn’t enough to stop him.

I will have nothing when they grow up and find their own way in the world and I’m so angry that I have to watch his life change and get better while I’m trapped by his selfishness and inability to put his children first because he sees helping them as helping me and he can’t bring himself to do that.

Thank you so much for your replies, I’m already pretty tearful and they made me cry. I’m sure I’ll feel better soon, and can get planning some way to achieve a little dream of my own.

OP’s posts: |
mamascorpio Sat 16-May-20 18:49:03

He is the same person that he was with you. It just looks good on the outside or he hasn't got to the point of revealing the nasty parts of his personality to her yet. As you said she has the lack of paternal figure in her life and has the added vulnerability of her disability. Just he is the same person. You on the other hand got out, are raising your children and can actually do something with your life that you aren't being dragged down by him. I would strongly advise you get over to Chumplady, she is so helpful with parenting with him. Let's face it he is abusive, and will always be, your children need you as chump lady would say to be the sane parent, he is uncle Daddy with all the present buying but your kids will work all this out in the fullness of time. Xx

searchaway Sun 17-May-20 06:41:27

I really feel for you. What a crap position to be in but you have 4 kids who adore you. That’s a positive. You are raising 4 kids on your own. That’s a lot on your plate. Home educating is hard and means you’re never getting a break. Is there any school she can go to? Have you spoken to your LEA? It would also help her make friends which would boost her self esteem. Do you ever get a day to yourself without the children? I think finding something for you to do for yourself that you enjoy is the key. How old is your 4th child?

Confusedaboutthis01 Sun 17-May-20 08:59:04

I would highly recommend you go to counselling to help you through this OP. I have felt similar to you and feel like my ex partner takes the glory for absolutely everything and everyone sees him as an amazing doting father because he’s amazing at controlling his image but actually he cancels all the time and enjoys our child more to show off - he’s a fair weather parent. It really fucking gets to me. I’m the same as you, always putting myself out to accommodate him because the back lash and how he makes me feel isn’t worth the battle. But you must remember you are in control. He’s manipulated the dynamic and made you feel worthless but that doesn’t make it true. Your children love you, you are irreplaceable as their mother. They have nowhere near the emotional intelligence as adults and therefore their preference for the shiny new cool step mum and the ‘better’ house is cruel and hurts, but it’s nothing like that deep rooted love they will have for you, always. I am still going through counselling now but my god, it’s given me some balls back. You are an adult in this situation and you know your kids better than him or the step mum despite her good intentions (from what it seems).
You can do this OP. You have to fight, and you need to find the fire.
Good luck.

AragornsManlyStubble Sun 17-May-20 10:59:35

There’s no school that will suit my eldest. She just can’t cope with it. I’ve just spent a year fighting the council to be able to HE after they threatened court. It took a lot of work to persuade them. She’s been HE for over 4 years.

No day to myself ever as I always have the youngest. His dad only has him 1-2 hours a week when I have still have the others. He’s three.

Thank you all for your replies. It helps knowing others feel the same and I’m not making a lot of fuss. I feel better but still rather hopeless. He’s just so much more powerful than me. I had 3 years of counselling after we split and had it from age 14 all the way through the marriage too.

OP’s posts: |
Bestof7 Sun 17-May-20 11:12:12

One thing that struck me is the lack of set times that your ex has the children. You really need consistent times when you know he will have them, so that you can plan to get things done, for your home, for a job, whatever.

Was there no court-ordered plan for contact?

mamascorpio Sun 17-May-20 11:36:40

You could go to court when they reopen for normal business and then ask that the court assist in setting down set times for contact. I would really advise you read the leave the cheater get a life book by chump lady as she is excellent on having to parent with narcs/ those with personality disorders etc that your ex has. But one thing I would advise is to refuse to engage in any conversations in which he comments on your parenting. You aren't together so he doesn't have the right, you have to build your confidence in your parenting. I have had counselling at various stages in my life. I would say that it has been helpful on every occasion. Despite having it before it doesn't mean it would assist you through this crisis at the minute.

AragornsManlyStubble Sun 17-May-20 11:44:08

No, because of his shifts. There’s never been any rhyme or reason to them so I’ve always just had to fit in around them, and since he has had a relationship his free time has mostly been doing relationship stuff. He takes on a lot of extra shifts too so I can never call on him in an emergency as he refuses to compromise his work or social life on any level. He once left me with our daughter after she sustained an open head wound in his care and I had to take her to hospital to be glued while he went out. I had just done a 12 hour long trip to Great Ormond Street with one of the other children.

mama thank you for the recommendation, I’ve never heard of it before but will certainly take a look.

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Bestof7 Sun 17-May-20 12:19:58

I would also encourage you to go to court and establish set times. The court will insist on him organising his work and social life around his children, not the other way around.

LannieDuck Sun 17-May-20 12:22:24

You need stronger boundaries, with both fathers (why does your youngest's father only have him/her 2-3 hours a week?).

You need to agree set times for your Ex to have the kids - his shifts are his problem to manage. When you have the kids and can't physically be there to look after them, you have to arrange childcare. He'll have to do the same with his shifts. I suggest:

- Go to court (or mediation), and get dates/times agreed in writing. (At this point he might refuse all contact because he can't be bothered with the kids when you're not facilitating it.)
- Then change your phone number and just give him an e-mail address that you check once a week.
- No changing of childcare days by either of you for any reason.

You'll never be able to rely him him actually taking the kids for his turn - to begin with you'll always need to have a backup arrangement in case he dumps you in it. But if the children know when he's supposed to have them, they'll start to see for themselves how unreliable he is.

LannieDuck Sun 17-May-20 12:24:25

why does your youngest's father only have him/her 1-2 hours a week

Sorry, got the timings wrong.

AragornsManlyStubble Sun 17-May-20 13:16:10

We’re in the middle of divorcing now and he’s planning on having his solicitor write up a solid contact agreement. He will never agree to any terms I try and set, he never has done. Work always came first, now it’s fiancée and work. It’s not lack of boundaries that are the problem.

I learnt a long time ago to never try and force him to do anything, that just means he uses the children as weapons.

Youngest’s agreement is just how it’s worked out since we split. His father isn’t very confident and has no support other than me. We have a good relationship though, and he at least respects me.

OP’s posts: |
LannieDuck Sun 17-May-20 15:03:20

he’s planning on having his solicitor write up a solid contact agreement.

That sounds promising? One the contact agreement is set in stone, stick to it like glue. Allow no deviation. (If he was more reasonable, of course you could be flexible, but not with a taker...)

He will never agree to any terms I try and set, he never has done.

I believe the court will set dates/times if he won't. Perhaps someone else can confirm that?

Youngest’s agreement is just how it’s worked out since we split. His father isn’t very confident and has no support other than me.

You seem to be managing well with no support other than yourself. Why can't he cope with 1 child for 1-2 hours when you have to cope with 4 nearly full time?

Isn't the child 3 years old? So his dad should have had 3 years to learn? It sounds like learned helplessness to me.

AragornsManlyStubble Sun 17-May-20 16:29:29

He’ll have the agreement drawn up in his favour and if I don’t agree then he’ll just keep things as they are.

I don’t have the energy to try and legally force him to be reasonable. Any time I ask when he’s next seeing them he gives a vague answer that depends basically on when he feels like it. His shifts mean that there would be no way for him to commit to certain days or times as they change weekly. At least if they’re here I know they’re safe.

My youngest’s dad has always been a little bit hopeless, his strengths aren’t in parenting because he had no one to show him how growing up. He really wouldn’t know what to do for any length of time with his son. He adores him. They see each other weekly and have a good relationship which is more than the others have with their dad.

OP’s posts: |
LannieDuck Sun 17-May-20 20:41:18

He’ll have the agreement drawn up in his favour and if I don’t agree then he’ll just keep things as they are.

But that's why you get the agreement sorted in court (or at mediation) - when there's an impartial third party. It takes the pressure off you - you don't have to get him to be agreeable. A third party will decide for both of you.

His shifts mean that there would be no way for him to commit to certain days or times as they change weekly.

That's his problem. He needs to arrange childcare, or speak to his work and request better shifts / flexitime. It's not up to you to manage it for him.

He really wouldn’t know what to do for any length of time with his son. He adores him. They see each other weekly and have a good relationship which is more than the others have with their dad.

I'm glad you have a good relationship with him. But you also have a really low bar for how much you expect of your ex's. He's had 3 years to figure out how to look after his child. If he can do 1-2 hours, what's the problem with taking your son for a whole day? Did you have anyone to show you, or did you have to work it out for yourself?

LannieDuck Sun 17-May-20 20:42:09

At least if they’re here I know they’re safe.

I missed this bit. Do you feel your DC are unsafe with your Ex?

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