"Mama’s always leaving us so she can go be with her boyfriend,” my ten-year-old son told my father during a group phone conversation we had on New Year’s Day. My father, whom we haven’t seen in two years, had just asked what we’d been up to since Christmas. I said my kids had been with my ex-husband since then but were now back with me. I’d mentioned how much I missed my kids while we were apart. In response, my youngest rolled his eyes and said what he did.
I was shocked. Sure, I’d spent a few days away from my sons with my boyfriend, but I hadn’t ditched my children for him. On the contrary, I’d gone to stay with my boyfriend because I’d vacated my place for my ex and our sons.
When my ex-husband is with our children, I let him stay in my apartment. I allow this for my kids’ comfort. I’ve bent over backward to make our divorce as painless as possible for our sons, despite making my life much more complicated.
I don’t like when my ex is in my place when I’m not there. However, the point is not to disrupt our sons’ lives. But it’s just not enough. My kids are still unhappy with the situation. My youngest still feels like I abandon him when I leave him with his dad.
What’s the solution? That’s the hardest part. There isn’t one. When I decided to leave my husband, I broke up the family. There’s no way to put us back together again.
I can’t return to my marriage. We divorced for a reason. But that divorce has affected our children. They have been hurt by it. The fact their parents no longer live together saddens them.
I’ve had to accept this.
If you're divorced and your kids are sad about it, maybe you've just had to accept it, too.
My ex and I have tried to make our divorce as painless as possible for our kids.
When my ex-husband and I decided to separate, we continued to live together for over a year afterward. The purpose, besides the financial aspect, was to keep our family intact.
We stayed together for our kids. When we did finally move apart, we did so without a lot of drama. We’ve continued to do our best to get along for the sake of the children.
Even though I have assumed the majority of the childcare responsibilities, my ex still spends a great deal of time in my home, visiting with our children during the week. This has been heightened during the pandemic because our kids have needed all the help they can get with their remote schoolwork.
My ex-husband is allowed to come over whenever he wants. Sometimes he doesn’t even call before he shows up. Our divorce is congenial and we co-parent in a casual manner.
We still go on family outings together. Just this Christmas, my ex went with us to pick out our tree. He came to my place to celebrate Hanukkah with our children. Our kids see their parents together all the time.
They’re still getting a semblance of a two-parent household. But still, it’s not always enough to keep them happy.
Our divorce has still made our sons sad. What's worse, I don't think there's anything we can do about it.
Our kids are sad their parents live separately.
Besides my younger son believing I continually abandon him in favor of my boyfriend when I leave him with his father, my older son has also voiced his discontent about his dad and me living apart.
“Can’t Dada sleep here tonight?” he often asks after his father has been over to visit during the week.
“No, he has to go back to his place,” I say, using the excuse that he has to get up early for work the next morning.
Sure, that’s true. But there’s also the fact that we live apart now. When we decided to split up, that meant no more sleeping under the same roof.
And yet, our kids can’t help but miss their father being around full-time. That’s perfectly natural. They miss him tucking them in at night and being around when they wake up in the morning.
What can I do about it? Nothing. I can’t backpedal and go back to my marriage. I don’t want to.
What’s the solution?
All I can do now is continue to explain to my sons that their father and I decided not to live together anymore because the whole family was unhappy. When my ex and I lived under the same roof, we were failing as a family. Our sons don’t remember, but they were miserable in that situation, too.
I can remind them that I’m not abandoning them in favor of my boyfriend, even if I also validate their emotions when they feel like I do. But I can also underline that even though they may feel that way, that’s not true.
I don’t ditch them to go be with my boyfriend. My sons have to see their dad as well. When they do, I stay with my boyfriend. And they regularly spend time with me and my boyfriend at his place. They love his cooking.
And finally, I can continue to make a point of getting along with my ex-husband so we can still do things as a family. But I can’t change the fact we’re divorced.
I’ve had to accept that there will be times that my kids will be sad that their parents aren’t married anymore. When they are, I have to forgive myself for this.
Yes, our divorce has hurt our children. But I can’t beat myself up over it forever. I have to keep moving forward and keep trying to bring up my sons as happy as humanly possible, under the circumstances.
Maybe you've also felt the way I do.
Photo by Wolfgang Langer.