I’ve heard it many times: “My ex doesn’t see the kids anymore because he/she is too involved with his/her new family.”
The explanations might vary. Perhaps distance is to blame… maybe Mom and Dad’s relationship was so volatile that one of them felt it necessary to disappear… or I guess it’s possible that the new tribe is just more fun/engaging/nice/etc.
In one family, this person is celebrated for his/her love and devotion. In another family, the same person is cursed for his/her lack of the same.
So my question: What’s your opinion? Is Little Johnny’s super stepdad really such a great guy if he hasn’t talked to his own flesh and blood in 2 years? Is Young Suzie’s absent mommy a forgivable soul because she’s a Girl Scout leader for her stepdaughter’s (or new daughter’s) troop?
I know there aren’t any easy answers to this one… I’m just wondering how others feel. Do any of you have personal experience with this kind of situation? Does anyone else think about this?
My ex is a great parent to his step kids and a terrible one with his own. He does see them, but less and less and he is not hands on when he has them. They fend for themselves. My husband divides his time between my state and the state where his children live. He tries to be a great dad to his kids, but they are angry and bitter that he left their mother. He is wonderful with my kids though.
I think when you live full time with children, you are automatically more hands on…how could you not be?
Good question – I suspect that a “new” family offers a chance at a fresh start and there isn’t the baggage from the divorce preventing you from being the parent you want to be. I think sometimes it can be too hard to keep trying that it’s just easier and more emotionally rewarding to focus on the new family. That being said, I would urge parents to stay involved and even seek the help of a counselor to mediate the unresolved issues with your children.
I’m going to admit, right off that this is not something I
can discuss objectively. My opinion on the subjected is tainted due
to the pain I’ve seen in my children after their father chose the
easy way out. Some parents disappear because there was
conflict…no excuse, unacceptable. Some disappear because the
“new” family offers comfort, love and a celebration of who they
are…no excuse, unacceptable. As for the stepparent who parents
your child better than his/her own…one should not be blind to the
fact that if he/she can turn their back on their own children they
can also do the same to your children one day. NEVER encourage
children to trust a man or woman who has dismissed then needs and
wants of their own children. How could it ever become too hard to
keep trying to parent a child? I know both mothers and fathers who
have experienced severe adversity in an attempt to remain a part of
their children’s lives. Giving up and looking for something more
emotionally rewarding is not an option for them. It isn’t about
being the parent you want to be. It is about being the parent your
children need you to be and to do anything other is unacceptable. I
think there is an easy answer. When you have children they come
first. We can all get what we need out of life without trashing our
children in the process and there is no excuse for doing
Excellent comments, thank you! You make a good point about not being blind to the fact that someone who can turn away from their own children could turn away from others too. And I love your comment about “being the parent that children need you to be”. It’s quite a strong statement and speaks well to a plethora of issues that result from divorce.
I know firsthand how painful it is to be without your children. Physical distance – no matter how few the miles, chews away at the relationship because as the first commenter noted, being there automatically makes you more hands on. Not being there, except on scheduled days or nights, creates blindingly painful gaps.
That being said, it is unacceptable to fill the gaps with a new family. It only leads to a feeling of rejection for the first set of children.
And the idea that if one could leave their own (first set of) children what makes you sure they wouldn’t leave the second set is spot on.
I have some distance from my children, I have feelings that I’m unloved and unappreciated some days, and I have many, many dark and lonely nights without being able to stand in their doorway watching them sleep and breath under the covers as I always did, but they are MY children. I strive to be what they want me to be (hard as it is) and try to keep remembering that it is for them.
And, I’m not sure, but maybe that’s part of what causes someone to expend more energy towards the ‘new’ set of kids – a perverse and cold loneliness for the first set that becomes so acute that all functions of parenthood are pinpointed onto the second set that are there and able to be held and cried over?
Right or wrong, just an alternate view I hadn’t thought of. Although, not that it abdicates responsibility.
Great input! Thanks for introducing your perspective in your situation.
When my dad moved in with his first girlfriend, her daughter lived there fulltime and I visited every other weekend. Looking back, I don’t recall feeling like my pseudo stepsister had taken my place in any way.
DE, I have seen this enough to conclusively state that there is NO excuse for a father or mother to bail on their genetic children for step children or possible step children, NEVER, and I’d love the opportunity to verbally duel with anyone who can justify a different position.
More often than not it isn’t the disdain that one parent has for the other, it is the new relationship, especially for men, that causes them to virtually disown their flesh and blood children. In an effort to ‘keep the peace’ with the new wife/girlfriend he will turn his back on his children. I have seen this situation more often than I can count and it sickens me.
Kudos to the step parents who fill in where daddy/mommy failed to step up. While I understand this may have come across a bit too direct, divorced parents should realize that sacrifices are required. I have given up more than I care to admit and it has been worth all of it. I do so because it’s my responsibility and my joy.
Thanks for the input, it’s always appreciated 🙂 I think “keeping the peace” is likely a HUGE factor for many second unions and efforts to do so can leave many friends and family members feeling shorted.
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One of the big surprises of post-divorce life for me is how little my ex wants to see his children. He was awarded quite a bit of time with his children in the divorce–after a short struggle, he handed back a good chunk of it to me. It was just too hard for him. He was used to working long hours with no worries about children. Taking care of the children was my job. Now he takes the children in the old-timey Every Other Weekend schedule. He doesn’t see them, call them, or email them in between. I can’t understand his distance. He is involved with a childless woman who is beyond childbearing age, so perhaps there is no room for his own children in his new Childfree lifestyle? When he announced that he wanted a divorce, he did say that he wanted to have more fun, go nightclubbing and such–that he didn’t want to feel old.
My own father was disinterested in his own (seven) children while he was married to my mother and also later, after she finally got the courage to stand up for herself and ask for a divorce. He was selfish and demeaning to others. Other people were not real to him as individuals; he never considered another person’s feelings. As a child I always had an eerie feeling that he would not recognize me if he met me anywhere but inside our house. The cautionary tale is that he fell sick and died alone in his solitary place; nobody will ever know how long he lay dying, unable to rise or summon help, because his body was not discovered until about three months later, at which time it was impossible to tell what had actually occurred.
To me, that sounds like a poetically just ending for a person ignored his own children and made sure everyone knew that it was All, All About Him.
Wow… I’m sorry to hear that.