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Sharing my girls with their Dad and his new partner

(6 Posts)
LadyEarth Wed 24-May-17 09:07:23

I'm in the middle of a messy divorce and keeping some of the details quiet while my DD is sitting her GCSE's. Their Dad is in the land of milk and honey, loved up with his new girlfriend, his successful career and plenty of free time. On the other hand I am a wreck, depressed and suicidal and struggling to make ends meet.

Some of the same old cliche's apply; I'm working but staying to ensure I fit around the children so I'm generally able to send them off to school and back before tea. Having supportive conversations about how tough things are for them and how cross they are that I'm not with Dad, allowing them to vent. He's making promises he doesn't keep, dumping the kids without warning to visit his girlfriend. Surprised that if he has the children I expect him to be home before 9 etc etc.

The relationship was abusive for many years (which the children don't know, yet) and there is a theme of my ex dismissing my distress/anger/misery as hysterical/sentimental/weak. This seems to be rubbing off on the children and they are angry with me (some of the time) for being upset still. (I do put a brave face on and protect them from most of it, but occasionally I hit a real low and ask them to spend a couple of days with their dad so I can wail and wallow without frightening them).

The girls are 17. 15 and 13 so they are old enough to decide where they want to be and the current arrangement is a wherever you want to go apart from Dads weekends that he as to himself, and every Wednesday that he has to himself. Sometimes they will plan to be at Dad's but come to me anyway, (maybe for practical reasons, maybe because Dads too busy). My eldest is determined to split her time exactly 50:50 between us, the middle is almost exclusively with me, the youngest is guided by her big sister (but I think would prefer to be here more). I am frightened of losing them, I feel like the divorce is taking everything else and it is making it hard for me to lay down boundaries. Because the arrangement of where they stay is so fluid I don't have the chance to plan any time alone, so when I am alone I feel abandoned and alone. I'd like to make the contact arrangements more explicit but I don't want the children to feel like I don't want them here. I'd rather they were here full time than I had a night off.

If I make the arrangements explicit my eldest will insist on 50:50 and the recent slippage maybe halted, result - I see less of her (and probably the youngest). They may feel like I am rejecting them or manipulating them, or trying to hit their Dad.

Everything I do, is for them but it is accepted as the norm, even expected. I am in the position where what I DON'T do is noticed whereas their Dad is appreciated for any small thing he DOES do. I know this is par for the course but this is now topped with a "Mum's mental again, lets leave" look even when I ask them to pick up wet towels or put their shoes away. I feel like any deviation from a sunny "Of course dear" causes them to sneer at my instability which is unbearable and I have almost no resilience left.

I worry that when they hear about how their Dad treated me the narrative that I am unhinged will be uppermost and I will be hated by everyone.

I'm not even sure what my question is..! How can I create some structure to the visiting arrangements without alienating my children? How can I challenge the "mum is mental" attitude and re-establish some boundaries without them upping and leaving? How do I support them when I tell them the real reason I left was because their Dad hurt me?

swingofthings Wed 24-May-17 10:34:04

Poor you, it's hard enough to raise one of two teenagers, let alone three at a time when you are struggling to keep your head over the water. Your needs for support are in direct conflict with what teenagers crave/need, so it is difficult to find the right balance.

I do think that your attention for change needs to be on yourself though rather than on your teenagers. What you are craving deep inside is them to return to being dependent kids so that you can be surrounded by their love and therefore feeling less abandoned.

Unfortunately, this can't happen if you want to maintain a good relationship with them. You emotional needs can be filled by them as they need to become independent to be prepared for adult life.

The flexibility you have built in the contact arrangement is what is best for them, so requesting this is changed is only going to bring in frustration and conflict. How are you going to explain it to them but by highlighting that it is so you don't feel so alone, which in their language is what they refer to 'mental mum'?

Let them go gently as they should be doing whilst still be there when they need you. Teenagers are selfish and there is nothing you can do about that. They want to be let go and treated like beings able to make decisions for themselves, whilst expecting you to be there to pick up the pieces when it goes wrong.

What you need to do is focus on yourself. Look at the situation as the first step towards YOUR independence. What could you focus on that you would do for yourself? You mention work, in a way that hints, that you are not satisfied and would like something else, but limited due to needing to be there for your kids? No you don't! Mine are 14 and 17 and they've had to look after themselves every morning for 3 years now. I leave for work at 6:30 in the morning as does my partner, so they have long learned to get up on their own and be responsible. They have not once failed to be at school on time.

I also now have my life after work. I've joined the gym and local running club. They do their things, I do mine. I do my best to take them to activities and pick them up, but sometimes, they have to make their own way. Dinner? I cook if I'm here, but they now also cook for themselves if I'm not back. They used to go to their dad every Friday evenings, back Saturday evening one week, Sunday morning the other. This arrangement has stopped gradually as their activities have changed and they now go to suit around them. Whether they are home or not makes no difference to me (nor to their dad). We make plans in advance if needed.

It's really important for teenagers to feel they are supported towards becoming the adult they will be in only a few years, so however hard it is, don't hold them back or they could end up blaming you for it. They seem to be trying to tell you that it is time to start to live your life for yourself, so be grateful for that and listen to them. I expect as soon as you do, the depression will gradually start lifting as you start to enjoy looking after yourself for once.

cdtaylornats Wed 24-May-17 14:10:52

I would start by realising it isn't my girls but our girls.

swingofthings Wed 24-May-17 15:32:39

I would start by realising it isn't my girls but our girls.
What has this got to do with the issue OP is facing? I don't experience any of the issues LadyEarth describe, no problems with my ex, but if I speak of 'our' children to people, especially strangers, I will always say 'my children'. I don't know anyone who actually goes around talking about their kids saying 'our kids' and don't even read it here, so why this comment?

LadyEarth Wed 24-May-17 18:30:47

Its interesting that I've come across so pathetic... I guess do feel disempowered.

I currently run two businesses, I'm at Uni AND college and soon to begin work experience. I'm looking for scheduled time to myself so I can fit these activities in when the kids aren't about, because I enjoy their company and I'm disappointed if I have planned to spend the evening with them only to be dumped at the last minute.

I don't expect them to prop me up, but I also think honesty is important so I let them know when I'm feeling sad.

I absolutely support the children unseeing their father. They are his, as well as mine, but sadly they are no longer ours. Despite his duplicity and the crassness in which he introduced the children to his girlfriend, I made contact wth her, discussed the children's worries with them, arranged a neutral meeting place for them all to meet. I made suggestions for conversation starters and highlighted areas of difficulty. Unfortunately this back-fired and both he and his girlfriend seemed to revel in using all of that information against the children. Several false starts later I feel that any support or advice I offer is turned into ammunition.

The "Mum's mental" seems to be my ex's standard response to any action/consequence to him that he doesn't like. I am not actually wailing, or screaming. I am not actually unhinged or mental or pathetic, I am having entirely healthy response to a traumatic and distressing experience.

Its good to have a sounding board to remind myself of that... I think I need to engage a bit more righteous anger and fight my corner a bit harder.

angelcakerocks Wed 24-May-17 19:03:12

I think you do need to find your anger too OP and stop being so nice at your own expense. There's a book called 'divorce poison' on amazon which could help if your ex is badmouthing you.
Can you get any counselling for yourself? Also can you start a hobby/make new friends perhaps? or lean on existing friends a bit more?
You sound like you're doing a great job in very difficult circumstances brew

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