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What does your OH spend contact time doing?

(11 Posts)
theredhen Wed 07-Sep-11 21:57:59

Some of you know my tales of woe and how often OH has his kids and isn't even in the house with them because of work or because he spends hours and hours ferrying one child around leaving me with 4 kids on my own.

He has some issues with the eldest kids as structured contact time is becoming difficult due to their social lives and (I suspect) their need to be near their friends, public transport and shops etc. I think it's the natural kids "growing up and away" that happens to most teens.

Anyway, he has been getting upset and feeling "last on the list" because of this. It has actually only impacted on 2 overnights with one child so far confused but you would think all of his kids had abandoned him by his "upset-ness"!

I have pointed out to him that when DSD1 is here, that he rarely actually spends any time with her anyway as she is either hiding in her room or on the pc in another part of the house. He often literally only sees her in the car when he picks her up, at meal times and when he says goodnight. So it really got me thinking about contact time and the quality of it. I would say although he has a good percentage of contact time, he really doesn't spend much quality time with any of his children. He likes to try and take them out but they rarely want to go and simply moan all the way there and back and everything in between and he won't take them out without me and DS even though I encourage him to as he says it seems odd to seperate us in to two distinct families.

I have never been a very "arts and crafts" type Mum but I have always shown an interest in anything that DS was interested in, so I have spent many an hour on the Wii or playing made up cricket type games in the garden or watching Tracey Beaker, reading spy stories or playing lego. I know DP has never done any of those type of things with his kids.

His DS has some shared interests but DP only seems to make an effort with his DS when it's something he enjoys, again pretty much unable to interact with him on something DSS is interested in if it doesn't interest DP.

So I suppose I sit here and wonder if this is just a "man thing". (I have had similar experiences in the past with ex's and their relationships with their kids) or if I just have a habit of choosing the same type of guy.

I really do wonder sometimes why we are arguing about him insisting on having more and more contact time when so often he is sitting in a room on his own (or with just me) watching tv, reading the paper or being out at work.

There is a danger of course, that I would complain about him leaving me out if he was too much the other way, maybe? Hmmm...

elastamum Thu 08-Sep-11 13:36:42

My DP's son (15 ) lives with him 50% of the time, so it isnt really 'contact' time as such. Just day to day living, although they do go to festivals, biking etc together and also with me and my my DC as well. He makes a huge effort with his children, always puts them first and they are very close.

My ex has only just woken up to our children again, having seperated from his wife. He is arranging lots of stuff to do with them and hopefully moving back round the corner from us so he can see more of them. He can be a bit disney dad, and I do try to get him more involved in the homework and day to day stuff of life. I really think 'contact' should be shared parenting, with all the mundane stuff as well as the fun.

You are always going to be last on the list if you are a parent of teenagers anyway. I know I am grin

Petal02 Thu 08-Sep-11 15:03:04

Redhen – it sounds like your DP likes to have his children ‘under his roof’ whether he’s actually spending time with them or not. Which is fine in theory, but not always very practical.

When SS is with us, he’s generally in his room, surgically attached to his computer or PS3 or whatever, and only comes downstairs for meals. But DH is quite happy with this, even though they’re not having any 1-2-1 contact whatsoever. Just knowing that SS is in the house, is enough for DH. On such occasions, it renders DH and I “under house arrest” as DH doesn’t like to go out and leave SS home alone on access weekends. So I argue why are we having to spend the weekend doing sweet FA, just so that SS can fester upstairs with Grand Theft Auto for 18 hours per day. If DH is happy to be apart from SS in our house, why can’t they be apart from a few hours if we go out for a coffee? It’s bizarre.

Then of course we get silly situations whereby DH leave work early to adhere to the strict 4pm pick-up on alternate Thursdays, ferries SS back to our (empty) house, and then goes back to work. So again, no “contact” is taking place, but DH is happy because SS is under his roof. Leaving me shaking my head at the insanity of the situation.

The flipside to this, is that when DH finally decides SS should get some fresh air, he then “over-parents” (in my opinion) by providing an entertainments programme that Butlins would be proud of. You know my opinion, that a school leaver shouldn’t need to be entertained to such an extent, that he should have some of his own interests by now, but DH won’t have any of it.

So with your situation, I suspect your DP thinks rather like my DH – he wants them ‘under his roof’ even if they don’t see/speak to each other. And while I can (sort of) understand to a degree, once they become teenagers, and (hopefully) develop a social life of their own, it seems silly of your DP to try and restrict this, simply to indulge his own needs.

I do wish that structured contact time was becoming difficult in our house, on the grounds that SS had some sort of life of his own, but nothing seems to be changing. He’s just as clingy as he was when I first met DH (SS was 12 at the time).

However it concerns me that your DP is upset at being ‘last on the list’ with his teenagers. Surely this is normal teenager behaviour? Does he really want his kids to be like my SS, clinging lamely to Daddy and the access rota, with no life, friends, outside interests?

brdgrl Thu 08-Sep-11 15:31:47

DSD (16) and DSS (13) live with us full-time, so I admit it is not the same thing. But I think there is a natural growing apart process that is "supposed" to happen with teenagers. In our case, we have two extremes! DSD is IMO overly clingy to DH and needs his attention constantly when she is in the house (she does have a social life now, and when she wants to go out with her friends, she doesn't need DH at all and wants to be an adult to come and go as she pleases, but when she is bored around the house, it is a different story!). DSS is the opposite - spends all of his time in his room with the xbox and tries to keep his life a secret from DH as much as possible.

Not coincidentally, I guess, DH has always favoured DSD quite a bit. They have more in common (although that is a 'chicken and egg' thing, I suspect) - so between DSD sharing interests with DH and just generally being more willing/insistent on doing things with him, DH has always spent more time with and done a lot more "quality" things with DSD. DH has become quite aware of this, and has been trying to rectify it and spend more time with each of the kids separately as well as more time with all of us as a family - but it is tough when DSS puts up resistance. And both DH and I agree that the answer cannot be, as Petal02 puts it, "providing an entertainments programme"! I mean, we want DH to spend quality time with DSS, but when the only way to get him to participate is by offering more and more exotic and expensive treats, that just isn't right. So DH has started just insisting that DSS join us on some activities, even when he kicks up and tries to get out of it.

Maybe I am not really answering your question! I guess what I would say is that your DH needs to accept that the teenage years should be a time of more independence, but also needs to balance that with spending time with his kids both as a family and alone. I see what he's saying about not wanting separate families, but I do think that kids (in any kind of family) need one-on-one time with each parent.

I also wonder, and maybe I am reading between the lines here based on your other posts - but is DH sort of relying on you to fill that 'quality time' need with his own kids, instead of doing it himself? Maybe because he isn't sure how to handle it himself??

Petal02 Thu 08-Sep-11 16:06:02

Brdgrl, I don’t think that Redhen’s DP is trying to get her to provide the ‘quality time’ that he can’t always provide; I suspect it’s more a case of him wanting to have the children at his house, regardless of whether they’re holed up in their bedrooms, or regardless if he’s out at work – and he fails to see the pressure this puts on Redhen.

I’ve often suspected he wants them to stay as ‘young children’ to make HIM feel wanted and needed. And trying to stop teenagers from becoming independent surely won’t help anyone. Also, if he encouraged the normal growing up process, this would ultimately take pressure off Redhen, as they start behave more like young adults than needy small children.

I know only too well that having a young adult living an infantile lifestyle creates a VERY strange dynamic - regardless of why it's ended up like that.

theredhen Fri 09-Sep-11 10:16:47

I think Brdgrl does have a point. I think DP wants to go out to work and come home to a pink fluffy life with roses around the door, his children playing gaily, his partner cooking him a lovely meal and everyone welcoming him home. lol. I think he knows it's not a realistic expectation but I think it's one that deep down he would like. But then again, I would like to come home to George Clooney, but hey ho. wink

I think it's actually very simple. He feels the more he has his children, the more they will think of him simply because they are at our house more of the time, they will automatically have a better relationship with him. In reality this isn't the case at all and often the children comment on how they only spend a bit of their time with us or how their "main home" is with Mum etc. They spend 40% of their free time with us, not to mention the extra running around and phone calls from my DP and yet they talk as if they spend a few hours every other weekend. I think they want to be seen to be the same
as their friends who have that sort of contact. We buy them expensive toys, decorate their rooms again and again and yet they only ever sleep in their rooms and leave their toys and playthings unused preferring to spend the whole time they are here in the "communal room" as I am now calling it. My DS bedroom! I sometimes think they could have sleeping bags on his floor and they wouldn't care. I wouldn't mind but DS doesn't even have the biggest bedroom!

I sometimes wonder what he thinks of my DS and his Dads relationship. My ex isn't a great Dad but DS has a healthy relationship with him and openly shows affection to him, which all comes from minimal contact not the everyday contact that DP insists upon with his children. I honestly can't say that DP has a better relationship with his kids despite all his efforts. Yes, they know they can just ring him up and he will cater to their whims, (whereas DS would never think to ring his Dad for anything) but they don't show any great love for him, to be honest. I've never seen any affection from any of them to him and they have to be nagged several times to write even a birthday card for him etc.

I think DP thinks quantity is quality and for my sanity, I wish it was the other way round. If I could see the kids thriving on the limitless contact, the freedom to come and go between 2 homes, the love and pride they have for their possessions here, their enjoyment of their time with their Dad and with me, but I don't see any of that at all. sad

DSD is allowed to grow up and away by her Mother when it suits her and DSD is still coming to us on a rota that co-incides exactly with her Mother's boyfriends work rota. hmm

DP was so angry and upset about his DSD not coming to visit and despite my reassurances that it's part of the process of growing up he simply fails to see it as a natural thing. I actually asked him if he expected there to be a magic date in the future when contact would cease? 18th birthday, day driving licence obtained, day they go to uni?! He feels better now because contact has resumed again with DSD but for how long?

I suppose when I moved in, I did think that as his kids moved into their teens, that contact would lessen and the pressure of having 5 kids 40% of the time would ease, but it seems it's not going to happen easily.

Petal, you and I have such a similar situation on this and we too have the suggestions of the most extravagent days out / holidays to entertain the little darlings who just moan and whinge and drag their heels. I think the more they moan, the more he ups the stakes and spends more and more. Just like I think the more they don't want to come to our home, the more he pushes for it.

slimbo Sun 11-Sep-11 16:02:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

chelen Sun 11-Sep-11 18:20:19

I have followed this thread with interest as we have issues like this from the other side, we are the resident family and when my SS goes to mum's he often spends the whole day doing nothing.

This is causing quite a bit of upset for SS and I think he is starting to feel quite remote from his mum, he plays upstairs a lot and they never seem to go out together. It feels like they are not building many shared experiences.

It also causes issues for us as we get a seriously bored and under-exercised boy returned to us!

I wonder if its hard for the NRP, maybe they feel a bit distant so don't know what to do? It must be almost impossible not to make the time at the NRP's house like holiday time, but I agree it shouldn't be like that because it doesn't help the relationship be a real one.

theredhen Tue 13-Sep-11 09:50:47

chelen - we also have the same issues. DSC mother never ever does anything with the children apart from one weeks holiday once a year where kids all sit in a caravan in front of the TV and only leave the caravan to go swimming a couple of times in the week! They will literally spend all day indoors for days on end, more often than not being allowed to stay in PJ's and not even bother to draw the curtains back. To be honest, I think Mum is also frightened of upsetting her children and doesn't make any real efforts with discipline or boundaries and has very low expectations of them even though she will boast about them at the school gate. confused

I do understand as doing anything with all 4/5 kids is a nightmare and they are very reluctant to do anything we offer. However, as all DSC seem to be "home types" I don't understand why DP doesn't want to get involved with what they are doing at home. Sometimes DSS asks him to play football in the garden etc. and DP more often than not, refuses. confused

It seems to be there really is a "block" in some NRP's heads where they insist on and fight and argue for more time with their children, but when they get that time, they don't use it to spend time with the kids at all. Whilst I accept that "normal" life goes on when the DSC are here and I wouldn't want some over-inflated ridiculous disney scenario going on, surely it's just the simple everyday things that we can share with our children that are the important things. DP wants to do expensive holidays (which DSC don't enjoy anyway) with the kids but won't spend any quality time with them at home. He even insists on having them when they are ill and then going out to work and leaving them alone in the house simply because it is "his" day. All very strange.

Petal02 Tue 13-Sep-11 10:07:12

Redhen, you raise two excellent points; “the NRP fights to have time with their children, but when they get that time, they don’t use it to spend time with the kids at all.” And “he even insists on having them when they are ill, and then going out to work , and leaving them alone in the house, simply because it’s ‘his’ day.” (This happens with us).

You’re right, it’s very strange indeed. And the frustration of having to live with this bizarre behaviour is extremely difficult. You and I should go out and drink wine together!

theredhen Tue 13-Sep-11 10:12:41

Yes, let's do that. wine. grin

We had DSD1 all weekend recently after his big upset with her not coming for 2 nights. DP drove all round the county dropping her off at boyfriend etc. The only time he spent with her was in the car and at the dinner table. She spent the rest of the time, in bed, on the pc or with me while he was out with other kid/kids.

But as long as DP feels better, that's alright then!?

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