I’m in my late-30s, divorced with two school-age kids. My ex isn’t a total jerk or hostile to me, but he’s inconsistent about his responsibilities as a father.
He doesn’t always show up for his scheduled access time, leaving the kids hanging around waiting for him, worried, then disappointed and hurt.
This also prevents me from keeping any plans I may’ve made - upsetting if they were appointments or my chance for an important break from mommy-duties.
Also, his child support money only arrives as scheduled, sometimes. Otherwise, it’s late so I can’t pay my bills on time. Or, I have to find and bug him to pay me.
I can’t afford to keep taking him to court, which I’ve done a few times.
Recently, I heard through friends that he now has a serious girlfriend and that they’re going on vacation. I also heard that they bought a new condo and are moving in together.
He’s told me and the kids nothing about this woman and their plans.
Short of going to court yet again, how do I assure that my kids don’t get the brunt end of this man’s selfish, thoughtless behaviour?
There are things you can do about other people’s traits, and things you cannot ever get them to change.
However, in a divorce which stipulates access times and support payments, you can revisit the court regarding enforcement, and should once more.
Yes, it’s as costly, time-consuming and frustrating for you as it is for him. And, inevitably, it affects the children who feel the frustration and irritability of you both.
Ask your lawyer and bank manager if there’s a way for him to set up his payments that works better for you both – e.g. automatic transfers, so being busy or away can’t affect delivery. Or, if penalties can be imposed if his payments are late.
As for his schedule with the kids, everyone has sudden valid distractions from time to time.
But now, a new relationship will bring many more opportunities for his being too busy or distracted from seeing the children when they expect him.
Sadly, frequently disappointing children is a set-up for them acting out, feeling unloved, losing self-esteem, alienating from the parent when in their teens, and worse.
As soon as possible, gently suggest that he get some counselling on how to best manage his relationship with his children while his personal life is undergoing major changes.
Tell him what you’ve heard – remember, he has a right to move on – and explain that it’s best if he accepts that the children and you need to be kept informed so you all know what to expect.
No sudden surprises about a new step-mom or major moves.
The world of divorced parents with young children is complicated, but not that unusual any more. Most parents still try to provide the best circumstances for their kids, even if they had to undergo a move and some lifestyle changes.
If your kids’ dad is by nature selfish and thoughtless, that’s not new. Having children doesn’t necessarily change people. He might’ve still behaved that way had you two stayed together.
But a divorce that includes good counselling can shed some personal insight on how much more impact bad parent behaviours have on kids who only see you part-time.
Suggest to your partner that counselling can help him, to build a better relationship with his children, which is what you, he and the kids all want.
I’m 40, and my long-time friend’s become cynical, jaded and negative. She can still be great fun, but her conversation often turns very sour, especially when discussing mutual friends or issues with her kids.
She seems to always see the glass half-empty. I can’t believe I’m the only one who notices this.
Do I just accept it, or say something?
You’ve known her long enough to have some idea about what circumstances may’ve soured her attitudes.
If the background causes are obvious – a death in her family, a nasty break-up, bad relationships – encourage her to talk to a professional therapist to get a healthier perspective on the present and future.
But if this is her personality hardening with time, it may cause you less desire to get together.
Gently say that you prefer to enjoy some fun and good times together, without the negativity. Get together to see comic films, or go bowling… no long-winded walks or dinners.
Tip of the day:
A good, secure parent-child relationship should be the goal of both divorced parents.