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Divorce and Children - guidance from an amateur
Children & Divorce
Member Name: Nolly
Children & Divorce
For those of you who do not know me, I have been a member of this site for 9 years now, and I used to be a frequent contributor. I used to think I wrote with occasional insight and a liberal dose of irreverance. You may agree. You may not. That is not at issue here.
In 1998 I met a lovely lady who agreed to become my wife. She used to be a contributor on here as well, a much-respected and erudite one. In fact her opinion writing is some of the best I have ever seen, in all these 9 long years.
Anyway, we married in October of 1999 and, in March 2000 we celebrated the birth of our first daughter, E (not named after a class A drug, actually, but I don't see the need to give her name, or that of her sister). In October 2002 she was joined by a sister, R (named after a US movie certificate).
In May 2003 we moved across country to the rural Welsh Marches, so that our childen could grow up nearer to their grandparents.
All was progressing smoothly, I thought, until in October 2004, on a sunny Sunday morning, C (the former Mrs Nolly), told me that she thought we should separate, as our interests had diverged, or some reason like that.
This isn't the place to go through the feelings I had then, as it is not relevant to this article, but you can rest assured that I thought my life was at an end. What was left for me? What could I do? What should I do? What should I have done? Well, that is irrelevant, as that is all ancient history now.
The important thing well, the only thing, is that I wanted to make sure that my girls were okay. At the time E was only four and her sister had just turned two. The first thing, the only thing that mattered in fact, was that, no matter how much latent upset and, perhaps, hostility there was in the house (my seemingly idyllic domestic life was in tatters), it should not materialise in front of the girls. I am an extremely easy-going and affable chap normally, so the main concern for me was not to be upset in front of them. Sometimes it was not so bad, but at others it was the hardest thing I have ever done. In time it was explained to the girls that mummy and daddy still loved both of them with all their hearts, but they didn't love each other enough to live together any more.
Eventually, in February 2005 (3 months after the split!) C and the girls moved out and went to live in a little cottage up the road. I would still be able to see them regularly, and we would still do things 'as a family'. At first it was so, so hard but, with time, it became easier. Well, not easier, less painful. I suppose you could say that one of the hardest things in the world is to say goodnight to your children in the knowledge that you are leavign the house in which they live to go to your own.
The next stop along the line on this (un)magical mystery tour was when my ex-wife entered a relationship with a man and he moved in. Milestone (or should that be millstone) number two is when you hear your own children call their mother's new partner daddy. It hurt, but I got over it. I did, of course, never show the girls my hurt.
Step three - how do you cope when, when you have your daughters with you, your mother starts to slag off your ex-wife and her new partner? Well, if you have any sense, I think, you have words in private. I politely told mother that she was entitled to entertain any opinions she wanted but, in the presence of my daughters, I would appreciate it if she would keep them to herself. Mercifully for me, she has.
Step four (this is becoming an instruction manual, I am sorry) - emotional heartache. I mean that for the girls, not me, as I am big enough and ugly enough to look after myself, or at least I think I am. In January 2009, after living at their house as their stepfather, my ex's partner walked out - just walked out, went missing, and has not been seen in the locality to this day. My ex was distraught, and turned to me for help and support, and the girls, of course, needed their daddy. At the time I was working in South London, and commuting at weekends. That weekend I stayed around and saw the girls, and put them to bed and drove to work at 2am! So I guess the moral to that tale is to try to be there for them when you need them.
So now we are in 2010, it is a glorious March afternoon and the sun is shining. Where am I with my girls? Well, I no longer work in London, and one day a week I pick them up from school and take them for a milkshake. I also see them every other weekend. They know where I am and that I will drop everything if they are in trouble.
I know, and have no worries, that E and R know that I am daddy and that will never change. No matter what they do, no matter how they wind me up or become troublesome tearaway teenager, I will offer them unconditional love as ever.
I would like to add at this juncture that my ex-wife and I are good friends. I do not harbour grudges and prefer to forgive, even if I do not forget. The girls are happy in their life with mummy and their new stepdad who, in my view, is a vast improvement over the old one. That is the important thing.
So, after all this waffle, how can I boil my advice on this situation down to a few pithy points? Here goes...
If you are going through separation and divorce:
a) Never let any children become the focus of an argument
b) Try to keep any heated discussions to times when the children are not around
c) If your split is not amicable, your beef is with your ex, not the kids, so keep the split out of any time you spend with them
d) Be there for them
e) Love them
f) Do not beat yourself up thinking that you are a poor parent - so long as you act reasonably they will love you as you love them and no matter what is going on in your life they must not and, perhaps more importantly, you must never forget that!
Look after yourselves
Summary: remain sane and do not let things cloud your relationship with your children