It is hard for OnlyDads to introduce this article. In many ways it speaks for itself. It is brave and caring and honest. It does demonstrate that family break-up is seldom easy. We are always honoured to post articles from Mums.
I am mum to one and step-mum to two children but have had two very different experiences of separating families.
My son lives with his dad – completely his choice and with no legal intervention whatsoever. I know what you’re thinking “she must be an awful mum, what did she do to make him not want to live with her?”. Well I have often wondered that myself but you know what after 2 years of worrying what others think of me I’m now re-building a life for myself and have come to terms with our family decision. My story starts here:
For around 18 months my son spent 50% of his time with me and 50% of his time with his dad although looking back I’m not sure that this was right for him. That doesn’t mean that it is not right for other families though, after all isn’t much of what we do for our children a bit of trial and error? Work commitments for dad changed how we dealt with the split with dad needing to move out of the area for work. Whilst it didn’t affect me my son, who had been used to having dad around whenever he wanted him, went from seeing him all the time to hardly seeing him at all. He missed him terribly and would often yell at me simply because I wasn’t “daddy”. Although I took this on the chin for a while it did eventually take its toll and, after also being made redundant, I was prescribed anti-depressants. The pills just made me numb, unable to empathise and completely useless when it came to looking for work, not good when you have a mortgage to pay and you are the only one bringing in money.
I had assumed that my son’s yelling was just an adjustment period, unfortunately this adjustment period went on for another year before I finally plucked up the courage to voice my biggest fear, me: “do you want to live with your dad?” son: “Yes”. I admired his courage, it couldn’t have been easy for him to say this as he knew it would hurt my feelings. I waited a few weeks before speaking to his dad about his wishes but I needn’t have worried, we have always remained amicable for the sake of our son and this situation was no different. There were many discussions between the three of us and, after much heartache, it was eventually agreed that our son would go and live with his dad starting in the summer holidays. Please don’t judge me, I didn’t abandon my own son, I really didn’t. I just did what any parent should do… I took my son’s wishes and feelings into account, without him having to endure countless CAFCASS reports, which I don’t believe work anyway, and without a lengthy and drawn out Court battle. I didn’t make the decision lightly and I didn’t want him to go but this wasn’t about me at all it was about the happiness and wellbeing of my very brave little boy. I was very lucky that my son’s dad wasn’t a deadbeat dad and whilst he was a shockingly bad husband he was, and still is, a fabulous dad who would do anything for his little boy.
Who says mum is best? Where is it written that we have to stick to what society believes is the best for our children? Sometimes society is wrong.
Of course a family split can go the other way and my partner has to suffer the consequences on a daily basis:
I met my partner over three and a half years ago when we were both invited to a friend’s barbecue, I think she thought we were lonely, you know the sort she’s in a happy relationship and believes that no one else is happy unless they are part of a twosome. Neither of us seemed that interested in being set up but we eventually got talking and found that we had quite a lot in common, mostly a wicked sense of humour and a Dyson fetish, maybe I’ll explain more about the Dyson fetish another time…
During those first few weeks our romance blossomed and I heard lots of stories about the “ex from hell”, secretly I wondered how much salt I should take with those stories although it would later become apparent that I needed no salt at all, not even a pinch.
The first time I had a real experience of “ex from hell” came a few months later when the children were due to spend half term week with their dad. I received a frantic call to say that phone calls between Solicitors had been going on since about 4.00pm because “ex from hell” was going to withdraw the weeks contact. She was allowing the weekend contact to go ahead but this was on the proviso that the children would be dropped off at the local Police Station at 8.30 on the Monday morning – bugger the plans that dad had made for the children she had changed her mind and that was all that mattered to her. We were, of course, over a barrel and could do nothing but agree to her demands. Later I would get the opportunity to ask what dramatic event had taken place that she had felt the need to withdraw contact. The answer was simply “I can’t remember that long ago but there must have been an issue”. To my mind this issue was purely that her own plans for the week had drastically changed and so she was now able to have the children herself. Selfish? Most definitely but who missed out? The children of course.
She has often accused my partner of being aggressive toward her but following that incident I can honestly say I had no doubt that the “aggression” was actually frustration. Sheer frustration at not being able to be a part of the childrens’ lives, sheer frustration with the lack of help that appeared to be available for fathers who want more to do with their children and sheer frustration that the Courts regularly take the mother’s side despite a willing father. How many other fathers have been labelled as “abusive” toward the mother when in fact the mother is using the children as a weapon of mass destruction?
CAFCASS were called in on a couple of occasions but the one that really sticks in my mind is when a report was carried out and they did actually bother to come and talk to us. Previously no one had bothered and we had felt let down by the service. Finally we felt that we were making headway and weren’t going to be ignored. The CAFCASS officer sat himself down in our living room and appeared to be on our side so when we later received the report we were horrified to read its contents. The officer had blatantly lied to us, obviously we hadn’t known that he was going to stiff us but it became very apparent as we read the report. The officer had told us that he thought the mother “wasn’t wired up right” and led us to believe that this would be contained within his report. It wasn’t. Apparently she was the best thing since sliced bread and wasn’t doing anything detrimental to the children. Hurt? Hell yeah!
We have learnt some valuable lessons from all of these things. We don’t tend to trust officials who say that they have the best interests of the child at heart. They don’t know how we operate as a family, as much as we can be every other weekend, they don’t know that the children are always laughing, happy and free when they are with us and they don’t know the children like we do. Children will often say what they think you want to hear so depending on whose care they are in when a report is carried out this will surely influence what they say and who they indicate they wish to spend time with. They also know that they will upset one parent and I think this is probably the heaviest burden to be placed on a child. We are supposed to be the adults so why can we not behave as such? Why should one parent’s feelings override those of the other parent?
The fighting has been ongoing for the last 6 years but where has it gotten us? Nowhere. We still only see the children every other weekend, we are still goaded with “as resident parent” (not for want of trying to change that love!), she tried to remove parental responsibility from their dad and give it her new husband, we are still threatened regularly with withdrawal of contact if we do not do as she wants and whilst the police visits may have stopped for now I wonder how much of that is down to the police finally realising that she is simply wasting their time?
Mediation has been offered, and refused, four times. Whatever we do is wrong in her eyes and we are sick of defending our actions and what we choose to do when the children spend their “authorised” contact time with us. We have given up on requesting that they spend their dad’s birthday with us, we are always refused. We could ask to have the children when it is my son’s birthday but as that is so close to her birthday she also refuses this. You see it is okay for her to have the children on her birthday yet she cannot show the same courtesy to their dad.
We have officially given up “the fight”, that is not to say that we do not wish to see more of the children or that she has won we are simply saying that we will not put the children through it anymore, it is simply unfair on them and us. We have made them aware that we want to see them more, we have told them that they are welcome anytime, we have also told them that if they need us they can ring either one of us and we will go and pick them up. Now all we will do is fend off the accusations and just be there for the children, after all what more can we do?