Pushed to the limit

It’s the school summer holidays. I expect that most ex partners who co-parent probably have a discussion a couple of months in advance to agree on which dates the non-resident parent will take the children over that period. I’ve been told that it’s not uncommon for the NR to have the children for two weeks, whether all in one go or split.

I long ago gave up trying to get dates out of the Husband. I took matters into my own hands and made other childcare arrangements for the period that they will be off school and I will be working. My parents agreed to have them from Sunday night through Tuesday afternoons for the first three weeks and I booked and paid £72 a week for them to be enrolled in a local Holiday Club for the Wednesdays and Thursdays of the first four weeks.

I knew that the Husband had booked a two week period off work mid-August – he had even phoned at one point (albeit after I had already paid for the holiday club) and told me that he might want to take the children away somewhere on one of those weeks but he refused to say when or where. He also told me that he wouldn’t refund the money I’d paid if that happened.

The children have just spent their first Sunday-Tuesday period with my parents and lo and behold he has decided to bemoan the fact that he actually could have had them instead because he wasn’t working.

He texted me today asking to have them when they were returned this afternoon and hassled me to get my mother to bring them back earlier than planned. I asked him what times he would like to have them and he told me just for one hour because he was going out in the evening.

When he arrived to pick them up the five year old refused to go with him and he accused me of “poisoning” the children against him which is extremely ironic as I never bad mouth him to them and he is constantly bad mouthing me and my family to them. I know this from things like my seven year old asking me “is the word B-I-C-H a swear word Mummy? Because daddy says it about you all the time”. Fortunately he was mature enough to add “He shouldn’t do that because it’s setting me and [my brother] a bad example” without any prompting.

I had to pull out the big bribes to get the five year old to go along today but not before he had called me ‘scum’ in front of them and said some derogatory things about my family (he knew my mum was inside the house and would be able to hear).

He has been texting me almost non-stop whilst they have been with him – being very antagonistic – the children must be having a ball!

He wants to know if he can have the children next Tuesday which happens to be my birthday and keep them until Thursday. Any other time I might have agreed but I do have plans for a birthday celebration and my parents are very kindly looking after the children whilst I go up to London for a few hours during the day with a friend.

I’ve told him he can have them Wednesday and Thursday without having to compensate me for the holiday club and overnight on Thursday instead of Tuesday as that would simply be easier and more practical.

He is desperate to ruin my plans – it wouldn’t be the first time he’s ruined a birthday for me – when we were still together in 2014 he got himself in such a rage about something that he refused to talk to me and went out to a pub in another town for several hours in the evening with his friends leaving me at home alone with the children who were then 2 and 4.

He has just dropped them back to me – over an hour after he said he would. I asked him again to give me a list of dates for the sake of the children who need to know where they stand and have some kind of stability and not the shifting sands they are on when he asks to see them at short notice on a whim. He once again equated my request with a selfish desire on my part to plan my own social life.

Of course I want to be able to have a social life – I don’t think that is unreasonable – however I gave up expecting to be able to use his contact dates for that purpose some time ago instead preferring to get either babysitting from family members or paying for a sitter. When he has the children he always appears to be absolutely obsessed with my whereabouts and movements calling me controlling if I decline to provide that information and working himself up into a rage. I’d almost prefer to be at home alone doing nothing at those times if it means he remains calm during his time with the children.

I definitely felt pushed to my limit earlier despite all my best intentions of remaining calm and not letting him and his words and behaviour unnerve me and crank up the anxiety levels.

I will stand my ground about the contact dates for next week and he will simply have to comply with my request for dates in advance. When he has given me a list in the past it has kept our relationship civil as everyone knew where they stood. I just wish he could open his eyes and see that civility between us is the way forwards – however I know that this is a complete daydream on my part – he has undiagnosed mental health issues and until and unless he addresses those issues, his behaviour will remain the same and he will never be able to take responsibility for the failures in his life, including eroding his own relationships – every one.

*Update*

It’s a couple of hours later and I have received an email from the Husband’s parents accusing me of depriving them of time with their much loved grandsons and telling me that my behaviour is not very mature for “a woman of my age, let alone a mother”.

I have replied to them with the utmost dignity and let them know that I have been expecting dates from the Husband for months – and expect him to liaise with them although in the absence of that happening I have suggested a date for them to spend time with the children this coming weekend.

I remained gracious in thanking them for the gift they gave the five year old for his birthday and pointed out that the arrangements for the summer holidays would have been more inclusive if I’d had a pre-agreed schedule from their own son.

I’m hoping that they are a bit shamed by my reasonable and reasoned response, but at the same time I currently just feel like curling up in a ball and crying my eyes out. It’s hard enough to deal with him without his parents going on the attack. Some days I wish I’d never met any of them.

I need to keep telling myself that this is a particularly awful moment in the whole break up/divorce scenario – even after nearly 18 months things are still so raw between all of us and it seems to be pushing it to expect even civility despite the fact that I am desperate for a bit of kindness and understanding from them.

Somewhere over the rainbow, childcare works…

Another day, another stressful phone call with the husband. I’ve been asking him for a list of dates for child contact for the last 2 weeks since the old list ran out. In that time he’s seen them once – for one afternoon before depositing them with his parents for the night and not returning til the following morning.

The only date we had talked about and agreed upon a couple of weeks in advance was this coming Thursday – a school holiday day when I’m at work and out 9-5.

His attitude to me (which is never exactly good) appears to be on the down swing. He has no respect for me or understanding of what it’s like to be responsible for keeping the children fed, clothed, entertained, healthy, morally sound and well behaved, supported in their education, looked after when I’m not around, and just generally alive and safe and content.

I asked to confirm that he was still having them on Thursday and he just casually mentioned that he can’t any more because he’s got to work now. There was no apology, no sense of dismay for having forgotten to tell me as soon as he’d found out himself. Then to add insult to injury he implied that the there was something unfair about me asking him for a list of dates and told me that I am trying to use him for childcare. I tried to point out that as their parent, the childcare analogy is moot but he talked over me repeating the phrase “because you’re a little bit of a bitch” a few times before hanging up on me.

He had spoken of getting his mum and dad to have the kids on Thursday (his dad is 80) but I would be happy if I never had to see his father ever again after his rude and aggressive behaviour towards me each time (even after over a year of separation). I sent him a message telling him not to bother asking his parents, that I would make other arrangements.

I have sent a message to his ex wife asking if she would be able to have them for a half day as she lives in the town where I work, doesn’t work herself and has mentioned in the past that she could cover for me if I ever needed someone and she has willingly agreed which is a big relief as it is too late to book a holiday club now and I really couldn’t have afforded it anyway.

I’m trying to let it wash over me and take it in my stride. Having coped alone with this same kind of “help” (or lack of) and bad attitude from him for the past year at least I know I can juggle through, just about have enough leave from work and can just about afford to pay for childcare.

One thing is certain – I need more help from him financially, particularly if he is unable or just unwilling to care for the children himself when I can’t. If I can’t rely on him to make firm dates to have the children and stick to them then I need to make childcare decisions which leave him out of the loop for my own peace of mind and sanity.

I know from experience that he will get angry and belligerent if, closer to the time, he finds himself free and asks to have the kids last minute when I’ve already made prior arrangements, then of course I’m the bad mum who refuses to play the co-parenting game in the “best interests” of the children. Essentially I can’t win.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s simply a case that he hasn’t heard the children speaking about the (ex) boyfriend recently but he appears to have been pumping them for information.

He knew that the boyfriend was a smoker (although he’s given up now) and he’s been asking our eldest if the boyfriend has died. Today as my son was shutting the door of my car when I picked them up (they spent four hours with husband’s family) he actually shouted “find out about [boyfriend’s] funeral “. My son tells me “Daddy doesn’t like [boyfriend]” to which I reply “how does he know, he’s never even met him”. There’s bitter and resentful and then there’s selfish and hateful.

The people he calls friends don’t know this about him. They think of me as “Cruella” – as though I’ve not only wronged him by daring to walk away whatever the personal cost to me, but continue to wrong him by trying to control his relationship with his own children. I see myself more as Dorothy, caught up in the raging whirlwind, doing the best I can and trying to hold onto the belief that there’s a mystical portal of peace and tranquillity from all this insanity, somewhere over the rainbow.