The early days and weeks into my separation, it felt so strange to not have my husband in my life. Granted, I wasn’t in love with him anymore, but for years I was the one responsible for managing the family, getting the kids to and from their activities, managing play dates, cooking dinner, etc.

We both had full time jobs, but his office was an hour away, and I worked locally. So newly separated, and on the days he had the kids in his custody, I STILL picked the kids up at school, took them to his house, and get this… I even made dinner for him!

For five days a week, I was the one leaving my office at 4 pm, taking the kids to their practices, and made sure they had everything they need for school the following day.

At one point my boss said to me, “If you’re getting divorced, why are you helping him so much?”

Well for one, I felt guilty. I didn’t want the kids to suffer, or deal with a different routine now that I was no longer seeing them every day. I also felt bad that he had an hour commute, where I didn’t, and adding more to his plate seemed like the wrong thing to do.

At the same time, he was going after shared custody. He made sure I had as little of “his” money as possible. He wasn’t paying child support. Not to mention that I CHOSE a local job (with less pay) so that he could follow his professional dreams. And because I was helping HIM out, I had to make up the lost billable hours by working at home, late into the night.

Doesn’t this sound completely insane?

But I bet you completely understand it, right?

It took me a while to realize that I was enabling him, and that the mental control he had over me still continued way after we separated. I was the one who always helped, sacrificed for my family, and went that extra mile. The word “no” wasn’t in my vocabulary, especially with him.

I finally sent him a text, just like that, out of nowhere:

“The kids have karate at 4 pm on Mondays. Baseball on Tuesday. Game this Saturday. Those are your days, so you will need to assume responsibility for them.”

His response:

“You know I have to work and I can’t get home that early! Please, I work so hard to provide for the family, you know I can’t do this.” (I’m pretty sure I heard violins in the background, playing along to his pity story).

My response:

“Figure it out. This is the life of shared custody. Welcome to my world.”

Truthfully, it pained me to hand this responsibility to him – I didn’t think he would pull it off. It also took away my importance as that “sacrificing mother.”

But if child support was based on the number of days I had them, and he was making sure I had a limited financial award, why on earth would I make it easy on him?

It wasn’t about making him “pay” or getting him back, it was about standing up for myself.

When you are separated or divorced, you are in charge of YOU. You are no longer anyone’s care taker, unless you have children.

You don’t have to negotiate. You don’t owe any favors. You aren’t family any more. There should be consequences for everything your ex does or doesn’t do – and they are his consequences, not yours.

You shouldn’t have to remind him of events that the kids have. He owns a calendar, so he must use it. You no longer need to buy his mother a Christmas present. If the kids have a day off from school, and it falls on his day, then HE must take the day off, not you.

Of course – and this is a BIG footnote to all of this – if you have a healthy, trusting relationship with your ex, then by all means, work as a team and do things for each other. In fact, maybe just quit reading this because it doesn’t apply to you – kudos for working things out!

But, for most of us, we tend to let things slide. We say, “just this once,” or, “If I don’t remind him of the recital, he may forget, and that will hurt my daughter’s feelings.”

If he forgets the recital, then you teach your daughter the importance of expressing her disappointment with her father. You are also teaching her the reality of her father’s less than perfect attendance rate, and because that’s how HE is, you don’t need to protect his image or reputation.

Don’t overcompensate your ex’s inability to be an adult just to please or protect your child. It’s exhausting, and you will never win. So stop doing it.

Your ex is your ex for a reason. Live your life, learn to say no, and make your own rules.

And then… imagine what you will do with all that free time.

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