Thursday, January 31, 2008

What if you can't get along?

What if you simply can not get along with your ex but you still have to see them and communicate with them on a regular basis?

Mom's advice is still the best "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all".

Eliminate the snide comments. They really aren't helpful. If you must point out your ex's flaws and failures buy a notebook and write it in there. Your ex already knows how you feel you don't need to keep sharing it.

On the flip side try complimenting your ex. It can disarm them very effectively.

If you end up arguing or worse using abusive language or even use violent behavior then use a facility such as a Safety Center for the exchange of the children. This way you don't need to see your ex at all. Usually these places are used by people with restraining orders but they can be used by anyone as long as both parties agree. There is usually a fee involved and it isn't always in a convenient location but it can make pick ups and drop offs much more peaceful for you and your ex and especially your kids.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where are all the single dads?

I ran across this post today and he makes a good point. I started to a comment and found that I was not saying what I wanted to say the right way and was coming off as if I were patronizing him. That was not my intention. I wanted to give props but it kept coming out wrong. What I meant to say was that it seems that most men don't wear the title of single dad like the single moms do. The dads I know are just dads. They don't put emphasis on the single status that they have. I am not sure why this is. I'm thinking out loud so again I hope to try to get it right.

I'm in my forties now and grew up with mom at home while dad worked. All of my friends mom's were at home when they got home from school. The dads worked and retreated to the den or study with the paper and a drink before dinner. Dad's were not involved back then as they are today. And that is a great thing. I think of my generation as the transitional one. It was our parents who really took to divorce with abandon. If a family divorced on the block it was talked about in whispers. The mom, if she was able to stay in the neighborhood, continued to take care of the kids and the father pretty much disappeared from their lives.

Imagine having little contact with your kids while married to find that for a weekend or longer time during the summer you (dad) had to interact with your children on a 24/7 basis. I think a lot of dads fell by the wayside. So fast forward to where these children are now parents themselves, the ones who promised never to divorce and put their kids through the pain their parents did and you have this new generation of dads who want to be as active in their kids lives as possible. The gender roles in marriage are still however pretty rigid except that more women work outside the home. Guys are involved with their kids. They are much more nurturing and involved in all aspects of their kids lives.

I hate to admit it but I think there are women who are threatened by this. The men I know who are single dads seem to do it effortlessly. I know that isn't the case but women are much more likely to vent about the challenges of parenthood whether single or coupled. Men still keep their emotions to themselves and are still less likely to admit that something is challenging. Calling attention to men's marital and parenting status such as "single dad" says that the marriage didn't work. Again I am generalizing here but I don't know any man who is proud or even relatively at peace with the fact that his marriage didn't work out. Calling attention to their perceived failure is not something they are likely to do. Women on the other hand have thrown out the feeling of failure or brushed it aside and held on to the perceived strength in being a single parent. This didn't happen overnight. It took generations and lots of legislation to get rid of the shame of being a single mom but it did happen and now its just a matter of time for the dads to catch up.

So...if you know a single dad give him a high five or an atta boy just for being who he is... a great dad.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Talking Nice

My ex owes a lot in back child support. For the first two years following our seperation he refused to pay any support even though the judge in our divorce determined that he would be responsible for child support. When the county finally caught up with him he had severe arrears. So much that they suspended his driver's license and he can't get a passport or take out a student loan. If he has a tax refund theoretically it is to be applied to child support. Of course he owes back taxes as well so the IRS gets the refund but I digress.

Because he owes back child support and does not want it reported on his credit report anymore, my ex and I have been trying to come up with a way to repay the debt. He does not have the cash so all he can do is give me labor. He is a contractor and I recently moved to a new (old) home that needs some repairs. We have been working on this idea for about six months. Meaning he wants a contract that states what work he will do in exchange for me removing or forgiving the arrears. We set forth a contract last November. The work has yet to begin.

There is always some excuse for why he can't get over here to fix the garage door or replace my sump pump. He has been making excuses for the last six weeks and I finally gave up. I told him that I was going to hire someone to come in and fix the problems since he was not able to do it himself. He went ballistic. Why can't I wait? Why do I need everything right now? Why am I so demanding. And those are the nicer things. So he had his attorney send me a letter asking if we could resolve this. He was now willing to start the work in two weeks. Mind you he has been laid off since before Christmas and is likely to get called back in the next month if not sooner.

I told his attorney I was not interested anymore in trying to work with him on resolving his problem. It wasn't worth the bickering to me. I don't appreciate being yelled at and I don't appreciate him yelling at me in front of our daughter.

This is not the end of this matter. Eventually he will have to do something to pay off this debt. I would prefer he just pay the amount owed but I understand that he isn't likely to have that kind of cash at any time in his life so I realize if I want to collect on this debt I will have to take what he is offering.

The thing is, he needs this more than I do. It is affecting him in ways that hurt him financially. He can't buy a house or get a credit card. He can't leave the country to go to even Canada or Mexico. So if this is so important to him why is he acting like he is doing me a favor? If you want something from someone doesn't it behoove the person to ask as nicely as possible? His attorney keeps sending me letters about what he intends to do. So far he has not intended to apologize for being such a jerk to begin with. I don't know what he is paying his attorney but it seems to me a sincere "I'm sorry" would be far more cost effective.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gift Giving

Do you purchase gifts for your ex? No? You should rethink that idea. If you have children, especially smaller ones, it is imperative that you purchase gifts for the children to give to their other parent. The gift does not have to come from you and it certainly doesn't need to be expensive but it should be done. This is important for children, they learn that A. you are getting along or at least trying to get along. B. the children learn that holidays and birthdays are about other people not just themselves and the importance of giving. As the children get older they can be reminded that the gift event is coming up and should plan accordingly. They can save their allowance or do some chores to earn money. They could even make a gift themselves.

When I was first divorced my son was not even a year old. We divorced before christmas. It was my son's first christmas. I went all out and bought everything for him I could find that was appropriate for his age. I couldn't afford it but didn't care. He actually fell asleep opening presents and I ended up saving the unopened ones for his birthday. As you can imagine there was nothing for me under the tree. Frankly, at that point I didn't think much of it. It wasn't until he was a little older when he noticed that there was never anything under the tree for mom that it started to bother me. He would ask my why Santa didn't bring anything for me. I didn't have much of an answer as I recall.

I didn't buy gifts for my ex. I should have. I don't think it was on my radar but if it was I probably reasoned that he was already remarried and was having a jolly christmas without my gift. Of course the gift wouldn't have been from me or even about me. It would have been a nice gesture on my part. The same goes for his father, my ex. He should have taken our son shopping for a present for mom. If the ex doesn't someone else in the family should.

I don't know if my parents or brother ever thought about this. It would have meant so much if one of them had taken my son out to buy a gift. Being a single mother is hard. It is a lonely job with little appreciation. I already felt pretty shitty about myself having been divorced so young but to repeatedly feel shunned at christmas or my birthday was horrible. For years I dreaded the holiday season. I never knew if I should ask my father to take this on for my son. I never did, I thought it was like begging. I had too much pride. Looking back I never expected my ex to take care of this, hell he couldn't get me a gift when we were married why expect one now that we were divorced? I did expect it of my family. They were supposed to love me. I felt as if they were punishing me for getting a divorce. I know that wasn't the case, I know now that they simply didn't think about it, but that is almost just as bad.

If you are divorced or seperated take your kid out to buy your ex spouse a gift. If you have a family member who is divorced or a single parent take the child out to shop for a gift. It will mean the world to the parent but it will make the child feel wonderful knowing he remembered his parent and learned about giving.

I still don't get gifts for christmas or my birthday. Now I buy myself something I want and take the kids out to a nice restaurant for my birthday. I get what I want and I don't have to clean it up, and I get to have a nice meal with my children. What could possibly be better? I have tried to push them in the direction of gift giving. I gave my 14 year old son money to buy presents this year for christmas. He bought his little sister a gift which I was grateful for and then he bought gifts for his friends and enjoyed the process. He still forgot mom. Maybe next year?

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Divorce With Style or Take The High Road

Divorce for most people is a messy, ugly affair. Navigating the seas of divorce after the legal tug-of-war has ended doesn't have to be messy or ugly. It does take work and it takes thought. If one is to have a happy divorce one must be willing to suck it up and to shut up. That doesn't mean one must curl into the fetal position and be stomped all over but it does mean that one must stop the knee jerk reactions and put some thought into actions and especially words.

This blog will try to show the way to the high road which is imperative if there are children involved. It may not be easy but it can be accomplished.

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