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Separated parents, parenting together

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We live in the modern world and a considerable percentage of us are not with the mother/father of our child. This is the case with me, but I have 2 ex’s and 3 children. My eldest two from my first marriage, and my youngest from a relationship after that. Having to deal with ex partners/husbands/ wives can be a nightmare, especially at the beginning, but what I have learnt along the way and what I am still learning is that having a “bad” relationship is unhealthy and destructive to your child, but also for your own well being.

When I was going through my divorce I never thought my ex husband and I would ever be friendly again, we couldn’t talk to each other and used (very expensive) lawyers as go between, by the end of the divorce and child residency I alone wracked up a bill of £30,000. It is such a ludicrous amount of money, but when I look back at it now do I regret that cost? no I don’t, because through it all, through all the courses and meetings, mediation and solicitors letter, I learnt a great deal and I am proud of my relationships that I have with my daughters fathers. I learnt from my first break up how to deal with the second and a lot of it is quite simple.

There was a stage where, during our court process, the only words that were passed between my daughters’ father and I were via a ‘communications book’, now thinking of it it seems awful but actually it was a very sensible way to ensure that no bad words were ever passed in front of the children, also this communication book could be called into court at any time so it made us be think before we wrote (this was a valuable lesson). It is something that both the court and CAFCASS would recommend if needed. In fact the suggestion of a communication book came about because we were both sent on a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) course by the judge. You go separately but I wasn’t sure about it but knew I had to, and I am so pleased I did. We were shown a heartbreaking film which demonstrated the impact that poor communication between separated parents has on children. As a group and with the teachers we discussed the film, one point that was reiterated and is very common in the modern age were messages sent via texts and other apps, due to not having to face the person, nor hear the voice it is easy to let the situation become angry and words can get typed that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face (obviously this is the most common way to communicate, but while things are fraught its most likely the worst approach). If an argument happens in this way, the parent who has the child in their care will be affected by it and that will impact the child, it made me realise how destructive it was. Sometimes now, when I am in a conversation with either Dad and I can feel it veering towards bad vibes the conversation stops for another day. 9 times out of 10 nothing more needs to get talked about, it was all in that moment and could have easily escalated.

Whether it’s in the early stages, or further along (when new partners are involved, or house moves happen), it is sometimes very hard to come to an understanding of what is going to happen with decisions to do the children, it is easy to always find fault in the other parent’s suggestions due to anger you may feel. What was reiterated by SPIPs was the fact you cannot control the other parent (whether straight after the separation or 5 years down the line) and you can only be responsible for yourself. What I also found very true was that up until recently you had been in a relationship with this person, you had loved them at one point (most probably) and you had chosen to have a child with them. So to then change your tune after breaking up and conclude that the other parent is incapable or has faults will not only seem insincere but also will be projected onto your child/children as perhaps a feeling they did not come from a loving relationship. Your job as a parent is to be the adult, and the best thing for your child is to support the other parent.

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After our course we came up with a child residency order which was agreed on but then was altered a few years later. During the second round of the court process we were sent to CAFCASS and we had meetings with a team who spoke with great insight into co parenting and the benefits for children. We covered many topics and made ‘contracts’ about the upbringing of the girls, they helped us open up communications and taught us that it was imperative for our kids to make decisions together. I am not saying it was all easy, but due to the fact we were not in the midst of our own break up, it allowed us to be productive rather than blaming each other. Some relationships, even years later constantly blame and have a power struggle, but I will talk about that next). The point that was very evident was that we were not in a relationship anymore  and so though we could make it hard for the other person and throw words at each other, the only person it will ever hurt is the child.

When my next break up happened, things could have been very difficult and I think that our relationship and break up could have ended in a high conflict situation, but I am really proud at the decision from both of us to to have a unity for our daughter. We knew she was and is the only thing that matters and once you come to terms with the fact you are not together there is no need for anything other that parental duties.

High conflict parents will be the first to tell you that it’s not their fault, I have met many people like this, and it is not a criticism (I absolutely understand how it feels, its where i was many moons ago), but it is hindering themselves and their children. They will always blame the other parent and I can clearly remember a judge in court one day telling me that once you get in to a situation where you are constantly arguing it is only with mediation that you will have some calm. To quote The Happy Family Lawyer “They will be so far involved in their own conflict that they won’t be able to see the ‘wood for the trees’. Only with specialised professional assistance can these parents improve their parenting techniques.”. It is also key to remember that it doesn’t matter who started or didn’t start an argument, you are not in control of anyone else but yourself, it takes two to tango and I am sure when these explosions occur between two ex’s the starting discussion is a distant memory.

So to conclude on my journey, most of the time I have a calm and steady “friendship” with the Dads of my daughters, I have learnt that they will ALWAYS be in my life, so why would I waste my energy feeling any anger for them (not that I do), but when something annoys me, I don’t rise to it, as long as my children are safe and well that’s all that matters. I also always try to be respectful, so always including them in decisions about the girls, for example which school they go to or whether to have certain immunisations. No matter who the children reside with the majority of the time, it doesn’t give you the right to be sole decision maker. (That being said it is not the resident parents job to inform the other of when events are happening or school choices are being made, both sign up to school emails and both keep upto date with the milestones of your children).

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I have summarised a few important factors that I learnt so far on my journey and I am always interested in hearing feedback from my blogs, or just any other information anyone has about successful co parenting.

I will attach links to a few websites that I found very helpful, especially the programme booklet for the SPIP course I went on.

  • Respect that your children may have different feelings to your own
  • Do not use your child as a messenger
  • DON’T make it a power struggle
  • Think about what you can do, not what your ex partner should/ shouldn’t be doing
  • Make small steps towards the end goal
  • Look after yourself and be the best you can for your children
  • Have faith in the other parent, no matter how they treat you don’t fight fire with fire.

CAFCASS

SPIPS

THE HAPPY LAWYER

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adventures, blogging, child, children, family, health, help, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, school, self love, toddler, Uncategorized, writing

And Then There Were None

Is your child starting school in September? Are there nerves on your part? Here I discuss my feelings and how they are not as straight forward as just seeing my baby taking the next step.

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In 6 months time my youngest baby will be starting school and I am not entirely sure how I feel about it. Having been through this process twice before I know what to do and I know the process involved, the dilemma of whether its too early to get the uniform in July (they may grow a whole metre over the summer holidays!!!), the mad trip to Clarkes to get a generic pair of shoes that you have to prize from your child’s feet so the patent stays intact come their first day and the dreaded visit from their teacher to your home where all of sudden you come over all Kirsty Allsopp, baking bread, buying soft furnishing and lighting candles (and then blowing them out pronto as you don’t want said to teacher to think you would ever have a flame within a 100 yards of your precious 4 years old, bad mummy).

No, I am okay with the starting school prep and so I was unsure what this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach was all about.

Frankie is definitely ready for school (and that’s not always the case, especially as she is a June baby, but with 2 older sisters she wants to move upwards). I have no doubt she will be a child that clings to me at the door but eventually it will get easier, she is definitely my cheekiest child, partly due to encouragement from her siblings but her preschool tell me she is one of the quieter ones so hopefully school will bring the balance of cheeky and quiet to a level. She is ready learn, she wants to write and read but with all the kids it’s hard to give her enough time but she copies her sisters and knows letters and small sums (I think this is genius but I am sure its not!!), she has also taught herself to get dressed in preparation for PE (its bloody handy for me too in the mornings!). I mean this all screams of a child counting down the days to September, yet I am not counting them down, I am wanting them to slow right down so I can savour having a little person at home a bit longer.

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I know now that there is a double edge to this sword that is reception class. Not only am I going to be passing my final child over to the institution that is education (which is not a negative, just that it’s hard to swallow that she is no longer “mine”) but, and this is not as easy to admit, I also have to work out what the hell I am doing?

Up until now I am a full time mum, I have 3 daughters, 4 step children, 2 dogs and a husband… but in september though I will still have those things, I will also have 6 hours free (apart from a house to clean, washing of the masses, cooking, shopping, dogs etc), but to the outside world those hours are free (Monday to Friday). So basically if we cut  the crap here, I need a job, I need to do something, I need an income. Of course with that will bring the changes to our household, potential breakfast and after school clubs (bloody expensive), the fact the housework, cooking, cleaning the toilets etc will have to be split between myself and my husband (will it work?) and that I may not be there for the school runs nor have as much time with the girls full stop. It’s impossible (almost) to find a job that fits in with school hours, but, the positives would be that I am contributing financially and feel equal in the household which is not something I have felt, well I did when I was a single mum (and I am sure many of you understand where I am coming from with this). What fills me with dread is that I don’t know what I can do, nor who the hell would want me! I have been a mum for so long I feel useless as a fully fledged adult, I will have to get used to being Jo and not Mum (how very odd).

So with this I realise that while my 3 year old (4 in June) is making all the necessary and natural changes and progression into school life, I need to take note of her actions and apply myself too, I have 6 months to sort this shit out. It’s an exciting stage for our family and I need to grow some balls and get on with it, if Frankie can do it, I can do it too.

The next journey for Frankie and myself is a positive one, and though daunting on a maternal and personal level, there are so many joys to come. In myself it’s the start of letting myself grow and the restraints of small children becoming looser, and for Frankie the joys of the first nativity, learning to read and I can’t even imagine her little twig legs at sports day (but if she is like me then competitiveness will be ugly). I know lots of you out there will be feeling something similar (or at least I hope you do) and whether it’s your first, second or fifth child to have their very first day in september, good luck and take your tissues.

I will write a follow up blog to this with the outcome, it may not be pretty or it may be bloody glorious, who knows???

Thanks for reading

Jo

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