By Marin Dahl
Surrounding yourself with an awesome circle of other divorced and single moms helps us all get through life. I’ve built a great group, luckily our kids get along, so we hang out often. The other day at the park I was chatting with one of my divorced mom friends and she mentioned that her son asked her if he could see his dad more.
“I said ‘yes,’ so Parker’s going to spend Wednesday nights with his dad now,” she told me in between sips of the iced coffee we all need to function.
“Wow, and you’re okay with that?” I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel if my kid asked me to see his other parent more, and thus spend less time with me.
She shrugged. “Yeah, I think Parker needs the dad time.”
Tune in to our podcast episode “Can A Bad Ex Be A Good Dad?”
It’s incredibly hard to give up time with our children voluntarily. It’s already hard enough to fight the loneliness when they’re at your ex’s! But our children’s needs change. Girls going through puberty might need mom more, whereas boys struggling to identify their role as men in a split family could want to hang out with their dad.
My friend’s son is older than when they split, and he wants to go camping and fishing with his dad. He needs male bonding time and feels secure enough in his bond with her that he knows she won’t take it personally or be upset if he asks for it. In a way, the fact that he felt comfortable asking her if he could see his dad more is a sign of how much he knows she loves him.
One of the reasons she initially requested and received more custody, was related to substance abuse. It’s a familiar story for many Worthy women. Her ex has gone through treatment and got sober since they first split, so her initial concerns have been addressed.
She admitted that it had been hard to hear, and I think all of us divorced moms struggle with wondering if one parent will “win” our child’s love over another. But it’s not a competition, and it’s our children who win if they have two loving, involved parents.
If you’re hurt in the moment, take a deep breath and try to respond tactfully. “Let me think about it” is a good way to give yourself the time to remove your emotional reaction. Go somewhere else to cry, or be upset, before you evaluate their request.
Think about the reasons why your child might want to go over to the other parent’s more, and talk to your therapist if needed about why or why not it could be good for them. Unfortunately, sometimes divorced parents do play games and manipulate their children, so it’s a good idea to delve deeper and make sure it doesn’t relate to an ex’s unsavory motives (such as wanting to pay less child support).
If the decision to give your ex more time with the children rests with you, try to approach it rationally and with your ducks in a row. If you’re still a little worried, you can ease into it by inviting them to more sports events or letting them take your kids for a few extra hours on the weekend.
Ultimately, always make your choices with your children’s best interests in mind, even if that means letting go of your ego. Your child may eventually thank you when they realize how you sacrificed time with them for their emotional needs.