"Where did that man go?", I wonder, only five years later. That man, who breathed through contractions with me, and proudly helped me through years of breastfeeding and advocated to his work buddies how awesome cloth diapering was. Did I have him wrong all along, or can a person change so much, so fast? This man loves his children, no doubt, but he is not the man I envisioned as a father to my children. That man would never childishly mock me in front of, or even to, my children. That man would have always given his last penny to make sure all of their needs - not just wants - were met. This man I know now refuses to pay child support, instead dropping cash on yet another toy, or Happy Meal, or trip out of town. He is the good guy, the fun daddy, and I get to be the mom who constantly must say no to another doll or dress, or to eating fast food, or to buying expensive snacks at the grocery store. I get to regularly hear, "But Daddy ::insert whatever wonderful, expensive thing Daddy does here::
My ex husband tells me I should be paying him child support, in spite of the fact that my kids spend at least 4 (and usually more like 5 or 6) nights at my house per week... Or the fact that my income is a considerable amount less than his... Yes, in spite of these things, he feels I should be paying him child support.
Generally speaking, I don't take time with my kids off for any reason, except work. On the rare occasion, like when I took a night off because I was in a wedding, I am always sure to pick up any extra time I can to make up for lost time. I do not give up nights with my kids weekly for date nights, or trips out of town, as has happened on the other side. No, my date nights consist of a couple of drinks shared on the patio with my boyfriend, after wrangling the kids into bed, and soon after, crashing into bed to start all over again the next morning. That is my life as a mommy, and I accepted that when I chose to bring little lives into this world. When things come up, and my ex cannot, or will not, watch the kids during times when he is supposed to, it is my family to which this burden falls. Time and again, my family takes on the extra time, despite what they may have going on in their own lives. I am so grateful for this, and yet, bear so much guilt for all of the help they provide.
It is hard to co-parent because of the times when I must completely let go and trust that he will provide the attention and love that I know that I provide. When my daughter tells my boyfriend, "did you know my daddy doesn't love you or [your son]?", I cringe and wonder what else her innocent, little ears are hearing. I find comfort in her following up with, "but that's okay, because I love you and [your son]", and I silently pray that she will always have the confidence and fortitude to have her own opinions.
I know that, from experience, kids are very much aware of the negative things that one parent says about the other, and I know that all I can do is continue to express my frustrations into an outlet that my kids do not have to witness. My hope is that one day, this will all become easier, for my kids, for me, for everyone involved.