Surprise! I'm a single parent

but I’m not bitter……
April 10, 2008, 3:48 am
Filed under: politics,Uncategorized

I touched a nerve when I blogged about what being a parent is about. I said:

“My kids also spend regular time with their Dad. I wouldn’t exactly call him a parent … but there is no doubt he cares about the kids and to a kid having someone around who says he loves them is often just as good as a real parent – as long as there is an actual parent around too.”

 Well Kim I didn’t intend this blog to be a big whine about my ex – I was rather thinking I’d use it to explore my new state on my own. I would quite like to get to a place where I don’t have to bite my tongue about him in front of my kids.  But you asked and I will tell you from my probably hugely biased point of view:

When I met my partner in my early 20s he was already a Dad and I had no experience of parenting. He told me over and over how he loved and missed his child and wanted to spend time with him.

In the early days I noticed he had the odd tendency to race off fishing on his child’s one weekend a month visit with us. At the time I stupidly put this down to the completely terrible weather where I live coupled with his passion for sitting for hours in a little boat in the cold of the ocean hauling in kaimoana (that’s Maori for seafood I thought I might try and bring in a little NZ culture). And I also noticed that all the ‘caring’ – feeding the child and thinking about their needs went straight away to me.

I became a sort of parent secretary for him:

“He might need shoes on before he goes outside.”

“He should probably go to bed now.”

“why don’t you call him?” “Why don’t you see if you can get his school reports?” “What are you gong to get him for his birthday?” “Why don’t you check he knows about safe sex?”

My husband to be had a knack of saying the right things and being very charming and I was absolutely smitten by him. Five years into the relationship we had our first child. Before she was conceived I made sure he understood we were parenting together. Oh yes yes he said I love beng a parent. Before she was born he told me how helpful he was going to be, how he knew how to change nappies and just loved babies. During my pregnancy he carefully outlined bit by bit the limitations he needed to put on the scope of his involvement. He told me he could never get up to a crying baby in the night – because he worked with power tools and might have an accident if his sleep was broken. I accepted this. Stupid me! That was the year he discovered Warcraft  and stayed up late night after night swearing and shouting and being angry as he killed little monsters. But not once did he bring me our child.

He told me it was very important he was happy and happiness for him was fishing. I said I only want you to be happy dear – you go fishing – but perhaps occasionally when you are not getting up on the weekends to fish I might have a lie in? That’s another thing he said – I’m very tired after a weeks working – try and keep the children quiet in the mornings so I can have a lie in (when not fishing). 

Then my husband remembered he always liked tramping and hunting – and soon his fishing was supplemented by these hobbies too. I still don’t really mind that he did this so much I just wish he could have thought about spending some time with his kids in the way he seemed to love spending time with boats and packs and guns.

My husband could lie on the couch sleeping while I cooked and a baby cried. I couldn’t leave the children with him and expect they would be fed – to this day if they are going somewhere with him you will see them dive to the kitchen and eat before they go because they expect they will be hungry otherwise. He was a completely unreliable babysitter. I could never commit to going anywhere unless I asked my mum or a babysitter to look after the kids. So: I hardly ever went anywhere. I became the person other people leave their kids with.

When we split he asked for shared care and I said YES! If we had had anything approaching this in our relationship we may not have split. You can have them as much as you like, I said. What he likes so far is every second weekend. He picks them up late – he drops them back early.

However: You have no idea how improved my life is now I can book a hair appointment, walk his dog, stroll at my own pace through a gallery, sit down and blog or write, and spend the morning reading the Saturday paper uninterrupted. It is such a privilege to have that freedom after the prison my life became.

I want to be fair Kim – I need to tell you the house close by he shifted to has needed work so its habitable for the kids. That is why we are ‘working towards’ shared care. But I’m also aware he never calls the kids. He was looking after them for 2 hours on Thursday nights at first but he does a sport – did I mention this? And he decided to do that 4 nights a week so gave up seeing them weekly.

I have hopes and fears about shared care. I guess I will blog about them in another entry. You made some other excellent points Kim and I hope I will be able to get around to commenting on them. Right now I brought work home and I need to look at it. I have a date with my electric blanket and some rather boring papers.

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