How Do You Make It Work?

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I moved out in August 2000. At that time, we had lived together for 6 years in his parents home. When I got pregnant with our second child, we looked into purchasing a house. Ex is an only child. His parents immediately jumped on the bandwagon and convinced me (Ex needed no convincing) that it would be a perfectly wonderful idea to have them build an in-law suite onto their three bedroom, huge house - give us the house and have them move into the in-law suite. Essentially this would allow us to have the bigger home we needed, rent/mortgage free (sounds like a dream, right?) while allowing them to have their grandbabies nearby. The reasons not to do this are endless and a post onto itself.

So in August of 2000 after three months of bitter bitter arguments with Ex, I moved out. The arguments were not over the house (I didn't want it), or alimony (I didn't want any), or child support (I didn't want any). He wanted me to stay. He could not understand why I was leaving. The fact that we could not speak to each other in a civil tone was not a reason for ending a marriage. The fact that we never slept in the same bed together was not a reason. The fact that I was critisized anytime I wanted to do anything outside the house (see friends, go out with the girls, have a life) was not a reason. The fact that we had grown so far apart and wanted completely different things from life was not a reason. He loved me, even though we fought constantly and in his mind that should be enough to hold a marriage together.

When I think back now on how damaging those three months must have been to my children it makes me shudder....

So I left....with two of the children. Two you say, but Dual Mom you have three kids? Yes I do. Monty, the oldest refused to come with me. He was 8. He was and remains to this day, his father's son. He loves his Daddy. I (foolishly I admit) believed at the time that it would be the right thing to leave Monty with his father, taking the other two with me. We had agreed that this would work, we would alternate weekends with all three kids. Fuck I was so stupid back then. It was awful....Monty was being spoiled by his father and grandparents, and the other two children felt like second class citizens. It lasted for three weeks when I put a stop to it. I told Ex all three kids needed to be together, we were out of our minds batshit crazy to think that seperating them would work. He reluctantly agreed. Monty hated me for six months after. He missed his father so much that he would sob in my arms when he was with me. I have never asked Ex if he cried like that when he was with him........I don't think I could handle it if the answer was no. We finally agreed all three children would stay with each of us two days a week and would alternate weekends.

Some facts: At the time of the break-up I moved into a two bedroom apartment in the capital city. This was a 25 minute drive from Ex's house. It was also out of the school district. I did not want Monty (who was going into grade 2) and Jimmy (who was starting kindergarten) to have to switch schools. My office was located 45 minutes from my new house - and Ex's house was halfway between. So it came to be that the children were all together, they shared equal time with both parents, they had the security of continuing in the school with all their friends.

Was it hard? It was so hard. Keep in mind Ex and I had been together since I was 17 years old. I got pregnant with Monty when I was 18. We moved into an apartment together before Monty was born. So here I was, not quite 25 years old, and alone for the first time in my life, with three children, half the household income I was used to (oh when I think of the glorious days of disposable income) and a child who hated me for tearing his family apart. I had no family, my mother had died 3 years earlier, my sisters and brother all lived in other parts of the country. I survived, we survived, and eventually started to flourish. For anyone out there that may be going through this right now, all I can say to you is keeping getting up in the morning, try to keep smiling, laugh when you can, cry when you must, but just keep going because I can swear on all that I hold does get better.

So our week looked like this: If the children were with me on Monday and Tuesday, they were with Ex on Wednesday and Thursday, then back with me on Friday for the weekend. Then reverse the order the following week. It worked. It worked because I was able to drop the two older kids off at Ex's in the morning on my way to work, where they caught the bus for school. Nora was dropped at the sitters. In the evening after work, I would pick them up at their father's and continue on home. I could have demanded that they change schools, forcing him to do the travelling, but to what end? I was driving by his house twice a day anyway. It made sense (except to those who like to judge me for not being a full-time mom). Did I miss my children? There were days I would come home to the empty apartment and sink to the floor and cry I missed them so much. But it did not matter, I did not matter. They were adjusting and happy and that is all that mattered to me. Over time I learned to keep myself busy when they weren't with me, I worked alot, made new friends and eventually started dating (again, keep in mind, I had never dated as an adult...alot of fun, I highly recommend it). The times when I would completely break down because I missed the kids became fewer and farther between. To this day I miss them when they are not with me, but I know they are being looked after, they are being loved by their father. The proof that what I was (and am) doing was the right thing was in the glee I saw in my children's eyes.

Neither of us has ever spent a cent on lawyers fees. We have never seen the inside of a courtroom. We have no "official" custody arrangement. Threats of lawsuits and custody battles have never crossed either my or his lips. He has never given me a cent of support. I have never asked. I left the house, taking a couch, my clothes and a few of the childrens things. I borrowed beds for the kids from a friend. we have a house, bought by me and me alone. They have everything they need and much more. Do I say that with a touch of're damn right I do.

Today, the kids spend one week with me and one week with Ex. They are older and it allows them to feel settled. There are issues, I can't stand his gf, he thinks I should be more of a "helicopter" mom, he thinks I'm too hard on Monty with regard to his school work, I think he's small minded. I changed jobs two years ago which now sees me having to make the 25 minute drive out to his house so the kids can go to school when they are with me, 25 minutes back to the city to go to work, repeat in the evenings. It's a pain in the ass. I admit...and expensive. Will I change the arrangement? No. My kids are happy. Monty and Jimmy will both have their license soon. These issues rarely cause undue acrimony between us, we have learned over the years to accept the others flaws (the irony of this does not escape me).

Holidays are spent with whichever parent has them that week. Except for Christmas. Christmas eve is spent with whichever parent has them. They go with the other parent at noon on Christmas Day. I will admit to getting very very inebriated the FIRST Christmas eve they spent with him. It made me physically ill not to have them with me. They had a blast with him. The proof is in the puddin as they say. All this makes me sound like an angel right? No, I'm not. I do shitty things like saying "You're father shouldn't have done that" to the kids. I shouldn't do that. I catch myself bitching about SWSNBN sometimes and have to make a concentrated effort to just bite my tongue and say nothing. I let the fact that Ex and SWSNBN(who do not pay a mortgage, heat, or hydro) are able to buy the kids whatever they want, bother me. I hate that it bothers me. I let SWSNBN pull me into this sick, dysfunctional type of competition because she has a pathetic need to prove that she's on par with me. There's alot of things I do that I know I should not.

I'm sitting in the living room watching the kids outside on the front lawn throw leaves at each other. I can hear their laughter from where I sit. We must be doing something right...


theotherside said...
October 26, 2009 at 5:40 PM

Hi there. I found you blog through a stepmom blog (I have 3 stepkids). I am one of those "other" women, but I am about to be on the other side of that as my ex is seriously dating someone (I have 2 kids with my ex). I so want to get that relationship right. I appreciate your honesty with your feelings and your effort to see both sides. I can say it's hard to be the other woman too -- I try so hard not to cross certain boundaries that will upset my stepchildren's bio mom (don't think it's appreciated, however), but the kids expect and want me to do certain things and act a certain way, and it is often hard to find the right balance. This is in response to an earlier post really -- know that I would NEVER cut their long hair short, though I have had to resort to taking them to get their hair trimmed when the kids have begged me to because their mom hasn't taken them in 6 months. See, the boundaries can be hard. looking forward to your other posts.