Archive | January, 2011

Confessions of BioMom Gone Bad: “…and then Hell froze over.”

12 Jan

Sometimes Hell freezing over can be a good thing.

There are few divorces involving children that go smoothly (if you’re lucky enough to have had one of those, I envy you).  In some post-divorce situations, there are periods of goodness (when everyone gets along and the “shuffle” of children to and from each home goes smoothly) and rottenness (fighting between parents, threats to sue for custody, etc.).  My ex and I have been on that rollercoaster for 5 years. 

When he left, there was never any question about who would be the primary custodian of our children.  He works 6 AM to 2 PM Sunday through Thursday with no flexibility (and no sick time or vacation); I am a consultant who works out of the house and am lucky enough to have a flexible schedule.  He moved into a small house in the next town over; I stayed in the house.  It was best for the kids to stay with me and we both knew it.  But there have been times over the last few years, where outside influences (mostly of the female variety) encouraged him to fight for primary custody so that he didn’t have to pay child support.  He was under the erroneous assumption that I was “sitting pretty” while collecting child support.  He admitted that the motive was financial.  But somewhere along the way he convinced himself that he could provide a better life for our children, when he was barely scraping by.  My thought:  Yeah, you can have the kids—after you pry them out of my cold, dead hands. 

Then I’d go through reality with him:  I’d remind him that he had no schedule flexibility and that our youngest would have to have before school care, nevermind all the afterschool driving to two different sets of activities—and that was just during the week. I’d also point out that he lived in a different school district (they’d have to change schools) in a two-bedroom house (not enough rooms) with no children nearby (my neighborhood is crawling with kids).  The threat would emerge every year and then go away after the reality of the time, extra money spent and of course, the impact on the kids set in.  During one heated argument I said, “If you like your bachelor lifestyle, you better be careful what you wish for.”

And then, Hell froze over.  During a phone conversation last week in which he was checking to see if I needed help with activity pick-up and drop-offs he said, “You’ve done a really good job with the kids.  I don’t know how you do it all.  You were right, there’s no way I could do it.”  My response?  “Wait, you’re finally admitting that you couldn’t do it after all those threats?” to which he said, “Hmm, let’s just forget about that, okay?” 

Wow.  Just wow.  I can’t remember the last time he said that, or if he even said it at all when we were married.  I knew it took a lot out of him to say something nice, so I said thank you and left it at that.  We’ve said a lot of horrible things to each other over the years, but that one acknowledgement of my work as a parent (and me not giving a smart ass response) healed some big gaping wounds, for the both of us.

Has your ex ever said anything nice to you that took you by surprise?  What was your response?  Did it heal some wounds or did you feel totally vindicated and think, “It’s about time!”

“My ex-husband showed up on Christmas morning” and other thoughts to ponder after the holiday

9 Jan

This is the most drama-free holiday season we’ve had in the last five years and for that I am truly grateful.   But, we did have a couple of “blended family protocol” areas that came up this year. 

The first was the issue of Christmas cards.  This year’s Christmas picture was a formal one that I had taken of my children (two from my first marriage and one with DH) and it felt sort of weird sending it out, with my stepdaughters’ names on the card, yet them being absent from the picture.  I asked DH a million questions:  Is it okay if I put the girls’ names on the card?  Should I take their names off because they aren’t in the picture?  Did I totally screw up by not forcing the family photo issue?  In typical DH fashion, he said, “Don’t worry so much.  Just send them out!”  So I did.  It was still a bit frustrating because I’ve tried for a few years to round everyone up for a formal family photo.  The timing just hasn’t been right for my stepdaughters (my children, on the other hand, will dive in front of a camera).  So, for DH’s friends and relatives, and maybe to ease my guilty conscience, I also included a Santa picture that had all of the girls (2 his, 1 mine, 1 ours) but is missing my 15-year old son.   It just seemed like the right thing to do. 

My ex showed up unannounced on Christmas morning with doughnuts

The next interesting event was my ex-husband’s surprise visit on Christmas morning.  He showed up all smiles at 8:30 AM saying, “Merry Christmas!  I brought doughnuts!”  I was instantly annoyed because I felt like he was intruding on our family and probably because I hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee yet.  Of course we invited him in, but I gave DH a look that said, “What the heck???”  Then DH nodded his head toward the kids giving my ex his gift and acting like it was perfectly normal for their dad to waltz in on Christmas morning unannounced.  They weren’t over-the-top enthusiastic, it was just, you know, normal.  That’s when I realized what a good job the three of us have done in carving out a working relationship that puts the kids at ease.  Five years of blood, sweat and tears finally paid off. I have to give DH most of the credit though for leading the way since in the beginning my ex and I were like oil and water (or maybe more like gunpowder and fire).  He was calm while my ex and I were still trying to figure out our post-divorce relationship and kept reminding us to keep the kids first and foremost and not our own egos and agendas.  I am a lucky girl to have such a great anchor.

Did you have any blended/stepfamily triumphs or disasters this holiday? Do you share the holiday with your ex or have separate celebrations?