Just when you think you’ve got things sorted…
Things were settled. We are co-parenting with a 50/50 split on our kids time. Well, I say co-parenting; we are parenting separately and sharing essential information about the kids, but it’s the best we can do for now. I was starting to plan out my year, was starting to get to know someone who interested (and was interested in) me, and even started looking at city breaks and hobbies. I had 183 days to look forward to, after all.
Then life reminded me that it wasn’t that easy.
My eldest daughter and her mother never really got on. Whatever the reasons, they clashed constantly over everything from an early stage. My ex expected instant and unquestioning obedience on everything, while my daughter was described by others as possessing “exceptional leadership qualities” (i.e. she questioned things she didn’t agree with). Combine some weird mother/daughter clash thing with a genetically passed on ability (probably from me) to argue effectively and be stubborn and, well, fireworks constantly flew.
This was manageable for years as I was around to balance things out. I dealt with all of the challenging discussions with our daughter as she simply didn’t react the same way when I spoke with her and backed up my ex when needed, though I then often in private told my ex when she had been out of line herself. I mediated and moderated, while encouraging my daughter to evolve and refine her leadership and critical thinking skills.
Fast forward to today and things are obviously different. They still clash, with the added issue of my daughter now being a teenager too. And without me there to mediate things it apparently escalates rapidly and wildly. That was bad enough to make things fraught over the last year to say the least, but my ex has added a further issue into the mix by starting to introduce her boyfriend into the kid’s lives.
For newer followers, this boyfriend is both the person she had an affair with (thus ending our 18 year marriage) and is also someone 16 years her junior. This puts him barely seven years older than our daughter, which she is distinctly uncomfortable with. Unlike her siblings (two of which are also uncomfortable with things to a greater or lesser extent) she is old enough to vocally share this discomfort, and has decided that she no longer wants to live with her mother.
In short, I am now pretty much a full-time dad once again.
On the one hand this is great. I would give anything – ANYTHING – to be a full-time, 24/7 dad and have my kids living with me all the time. From the moment I found out I was going to be a dad it was all I ever wanted to do; it still is. Even having one of my four with me is lovely, and is allowing me to spend some one-on-one time with her during a tricky time.
However, there is a part of me that is ashamed of being selfish and feeling a little upset as well. After a year I had finally got into a proper routine and started to enjoy my adult time. I might not have been going out as much at the moment as when I was on dating overload last summer, but that was an active choice, leaving me time to reflect, repair and grow. That’s now going to be a lot more difficult.
I’ll now need to be back at home every evening to cook dinner. I can’t invite anyone back to mine for the evening. I can’t play loud music at night, nor walk around in my pants when I can’t be bothered to get dressed on a Sunday morning. No sitting on my sofa watching Question Time getting drunk on cognac and shouting at the tele. And no popping out within seconds of deciding to go out on the weekend.
Admittedly, this is a temporary arrangement for a few months, to see how things go and to work out a way to repair things, but with my ex showing no signs of splitting up with her toy boy it’ll be tough to work out how to make progress. I’m never going to force my daughter to be somewhere that she hates and, whilst I’ll not accept or support her disrespecting her mother, it’s difficult to challenge my daughter when I not only understand her issues but agree with them.
I read many stories on many blogs about how hard it is to date as a full-time parent, and it looks like I’m about to find out first-hand if it’s the same for me. In the first couple of weeks this has already meant I’ve stepped back from one person I’d seen a few times over the last month and a half, and have also stopped chatting with someone else who could’ve been a lot of fun to meet. I’m sure I’ll find a way ahead, but in the meantime I’m having to concentrate on the “dad” part of being a single dad.
There are worse things to be.