‘Learning to Share THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY’
This week a piece of mine was published in the above mag under the above title. You can now read it here. There’s plenty of advice, stories and theories, for those of you who are divorced, who want one, or are bloody rapt you don’t need one. My piece is meant to be FOR share parenting and a chap-writer-single-parent called Jesse Fink is meant to be AGAINST. I know, I know…nothing is ever as easy as for or against when relationships are breaking up.
When I signed up for marriage and parenthood there was nothing in the contract about share parenting let alone another maternal-figure in the mix when my ex remarried a year after we separated.
50:50 shared parenting is on the increase and if the so-called traditional nuclear family is not a goer then shared parenting can be. So forget the picket fence and embrace the swinging gate.
My ex left when our son was 5 months old and from the outset wanted equal, or near-equal time with his son. So by the time our child was 8-months old he was already spending 2 days a week at his father’s place. I had post-natal depression and somehow recognized amidst the fog, that my ex was as good, if not a better parent than I was back then. I grew up only seeing my father every second weekend; I didn’t want that for my son.
After the initial shock subsided I was consumed with fury – Where is my child and who is that other woman living my life?
Eventually things started to get better. Eventually on the days I had to say goodbye to my child, I no longer cried. Eventually our share parenting became a routine and our son appeared to be doing well.
Ten years later our family still negotiates two homes and two languages – his father is German and my son bi-lingual. There are clashes. They have always thought I dress our son like something out of Diary of a Wimpy Kid whereas I reckon they’d like him to audition for Benetton if they had the chance.
When he was seven he came home from his dad’s sporting a buzz cut. I like his hair longish and wooly, his father likes it clean and neat. I said nothing. Better to save it for the big stuff. Recently, he’s nearly 11 now; he came back and announced he was going to live in Germany when he was older because education is awesome over there!
It’s confronting when something goes down during your ex’s ‘time’ to which you have been neither consulted nor privy. His father is stricter then I am, so I’ve been seen as too easy or my boundaries toot inconsistent. But then I am my own and there have always been two of them to share the parenting their end as well.
Our son has two homes, not one home and another place to crash. But some days the guilt of having a ‘failed marriage’ and, by extension, of having ‘failed’ our son, nearly kills me. Other days I am grateful I have the child I always wanted and an ex who wants him just as much. It’s better for our son to see his parents living contentedly apart than miserably together.
Time with my son is my ‘time to shine’, even if it might include mind-numbing arguments about computer time and waking up next to a small person who sleeps sideways. Also, I get to give him a Feminist brainwash. I taught him how to spell misogynist the other day and to put it into a sentence. Really.
Today when my son goes off to his father’s I no longer wait in a state of suspended-grief until his return but focus on work, friends, dating (argh!), half-marathons or just staring idly out the window. I get to invite people over to a tidy house or to have a bloke sleepover.
I have not re-partnered, although my son suggests I find a man with kids his age. There have been boyfriends, just no one I’ve felt sufficiently sure about to include in my son’s life lock, stock and barrel.
Yes our son has had to witness some adversity and tension. But I no longer worry that this will irretrievably fracture his sense of self but that it may teach him resilience, adaptability and open-mindedness.
His stepmother believes in God and I don’t. I believe in therapy and they don’t. But we all believe in our 11-year-old. Ours is not a ‘broken family’, just one trying to do the best it can. My ex and I have nothing in common these days other than a mutual interest in our son. That’s enough. It has to be. It is.