With my lovely Christmas 2012 experience with my kids now a distant memory, and the New Year well and truly in progress, I’ve come back to my reality as a single mother with a crash, bang and a wallop:
Breaking News Guys – EVERYTHING COSTS MONEY!!
We’re in a recession so serious, that supermarkets and fast food chains have taken to stuffing our meat with horses! What’s next?! How far will retailers go to saves the pennies?! If even the multinationals are trying to save every expense, how much more difficult is it for the rest of us, especially us single parents!
My girls go to a local grammar school that places a lot of emphasis on cultural experiences for their students. There’s always a school trip abroad, or an after school club lessons that I have to pay for; on top of uniforms that need perpetual replacing (my eldest has big feet – enough said!) Notice I've highlighted ‘have’. Some might say it’s a choice to pay for these expenses, but I refuse to let my children feel penalized because their father walked out on us. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this. It’s hard to tell your children no, especially when they’re not really asking for unreasonable things.
I as their mother should be able to pay for school trips. I should be able to afford to treat them to things now and again. I have two wonderful daughters, who've had to grow up quite quickly, and they damn well deserve to be treated like the princesses they are.
If only their father knew that.
Navigating the parental landscape as a single parent is tricky enough, but throw in a fair-weather ex-husband/father and things get messy and complicated rather quickly. Obviously we no longer have a joint account; which means I pay for most things concerning OUR children.
It’s not fair, but I’m keen to keep some form of amicable relationship between us. I know that sounds contradictory to the title, but I really hold no ill will towards him.
Although I get far too much of the bills, tears and tantrums, I also get the smiles, the laughter, the fun memories and most importantly, genuine quality time with my girls, that’s worth far more than any financial aid he can give me.
So how can you maintain a good relationship with your ex-spouse and also receive the proper financial aid you need to look after your children. Here are some helpful tips:
- Leave your ego at the door and let go of any animosity towards your ex-spouse - love your children much more than any feeling you have towards your ex, whether positive or negative!
- Even if you only communicate via email or text make sure to always be polite; say please and thank-you. You don’t need to like your ex but you should respect them and treat them cordially.
- If you get stuck and cannot work through an issue; consider receiving help from a mediator
- Co-parenting with your ex is a PARTNERSHIP – don’t turn it into a competition
- Make every joint decision in the best interests of your child/children
- Maintain good boundaries – if your kids have an issue with the other parent, don’t take it as an opportunity to begin bad mouthing him/her to them. Make sure they direct their frustration back to the other parent and are able to resolve the issue maturely
- You and your ex-spouse will not always or may never agree on issues concerning your kids. Pick your battles wisely and keep the discussion amicable. Let go of pet peeves.
- Recognize that there may be times where you have to go it alone financially. Have some savings in place or set aside a little every month that you can use towards treats for your kids.
It’s also very important to find some way to compromise with your children. You can’t always give them what they want, but that doesn't reflect at all on your abilities as a parent.
What’s helped me great deal, has been thinking of my relationship with my ex-spouse as being completely new – outside of him and I, our relationship is purely about the well-being of our children. Our marriage is over, but like it or not, we’re still a family and for me anyways my kids are now my priority.
There will probably always be a small part of me that may laugh hysterically if I saw my ex trip over, or have some righteous indignation if he were to do something wrong – but I refuse to let ill-will consume me to the detriment of my children. Forgiveness is difficult but it's a lovely legacy to leave your children when God decides its your time to come home. Co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being. Really, what’s more important than that?