The Struggle of Doubt

I’ve been thinking about what on earth to write today. I continue to be in a strange mood, grappling with hormones as well as basic self-esteem issues. Typical garbage, you know.

ETA: I should warn you, I hadn’t intended it to be this way, but this post ends up a bit raw so if you’re not up for that kind of thing right now, you might want to go read something funny instead.

This weekend was very unusual. It was the kids’ weekend with their father but Eldest’s dojo had a field trip to a water park so I asked Ex if he could stay with me so I could take him and he said sure. So he had the two little ones and I had the big one.

It is seriously, a completely different world when it’s one adult and one child aged 7 to 8. I spoiled Eldest rotten this weekend. It was just me and him. Neither of us could remember the last time the stars had aligned to allow for that sort of thing.

See? There are major perks to divorce, too. Let’s not write the whole thing off as a disaster, ok?

And yet…

Daughter has a best friend whose birthday party was Sunday. As soon as I received the E-vite, I checked with her father, told him it was a spa type of party and he insisted to RSVP yes. Either a female family member would take her or he’d go. After all, he knew Daughter adored this girl and she adored her right back. He told me knew how important it would be to her to attend.

She didn’t go.

I felt devastated. I felt really bad for Daughter missing this. It was a huge deal, at a little girls’ spa, and she was really looking forward to it. Not to mention she is yet to grasp things like time and dates so it was hard for her to really understand when it was—and that she’d missed it.

I was so angry. But there was more than a simple missed party that had me so wound up.

The way I saw it was this: this is such a small, simple thing your daughter would have absolutely loved. I mean, she would have had a smile from ear to ear and would’ve been thrilled you’d taken her. But you didn’t do something so simple for her.


For the cherry on top, I found out Baby and Daughter were taken to a birthday party the day before for some child I don’t know—either a friend of the family or the girlfriend. So, a stranger’s party was a yes because he’d have lots of help but his daughter’s best friend was a no because he’d have to endure it by himself?

I thought more about what the heck I was feeling and realized something else. I still desperately seek signs that, to me, demonstrate Ex is a loving father and that perhaps I wasn’t a complete and total freaking idiot being with him, bringing his children into the world, etc.

He fails to prove me right again and again. As a matter of fact, when I vented this idea to my mother she said, “No, no, no. You were ‘a total freaking idiot’. The only good thing you did as far as he’s concerned was have those amazing kids.”

Thanks, Mom?

Friday night, Ex didn’t have the kids call me as they usually do when with him. Friday night, he was at a strip club. Don’t ask me how I know, just accept the fact I do and there is indisputable evidence.

What Ex continues to prove right is my decision to leave him. And he makes me worry.

One of the things I was determined to do was take advantage of the fact Ex cares about how people view him and so I wrote up a parenting plan that involved frequent visits with the children—every Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning and every other Friday afternoon to Monday morning.

I knew there’d be no way in hell he’d turn that down because it’d be enough time to show people what an “awesome” dad he was but it was also more than enough time to live the single life he coveted so deeply.

Now, I worry if maybe the kids have too much time with him.

If this is the kind of guy that can’t be bothered to take his daughter to her best friend’s birthday party, who always manages to have a pack of people around him watching his children for him, who can’t go a week without overdrafting his bank account– is this really the best thing for the kids?

Do I have a choice?

We so want to protect our children from hurt and pain and heartbreak. But, we can’t.

Then again, maybe, I’m over-thinking things. Maybe, Ex is good enough a father to the kids that they are satisfied with him. Perhaps, whatever things he is missing are fulfilled with contact through my family and friends.

It is, after all, with my brother MutantWino that Eldest has an amazingly close relationship. And it is with my Friend that is a Boy the kids get insanely rowdy and physical with. My father provides them with a social worker’s ear backed by major grandfatherly love, concern, and affection.

When I took the court-mandated divorce class, it stressed children never need to know the complete and whole truth about a divorce.

This annoys the hell out of my mother. It makes sense to me but I know it’s going to be a potentially bitter pill to swallow.

I know because of women like Co-Worker. She was with a man who enjoyed spending nights out, drinking, womanizing, etc. He had affairs and she eventually left him. The man never takes their children even on the days he’s been scheduled to do so. He hardly sees them, hasn’t paid child support ever, and yet…

When he does drop in to see them, they are ecstatic, overjoyed, and worship him. They will tell you what a great dad he is and how he’s totally awesome. They’re teenagers. Co-Worker has done an excellent job of keeping her lips sealed and as a result the girls have only seen their father in the most wonderful, golden light.

They never saw through the bullcrap. They never questioned things. They swallowed the honey whole.

The standards for him are low and easy to fill. They are satisfied. The standards for her are much higher and more difficult to fill. They are satisfied but prone to anger, jealousy, and frustration she must deal with.

My mother is convinced Daughter will “avenge” me so to speak. MutantMom just knows Daughter will not be fooled nor is she so mild to simply swallow the lies whole. She will question. She will call him out. She will know. She will reduce her father to dust.

I’m not so assured. I don’t really want that either. Why? What good does it do me to have a Daughter who is angry with her father- unsatisfied and empty?

The class also shared a bit of information I wasn’t aware of: A child takes an ill word about their parent as badly as if the ill word were about them.

That’s why when they protest the prospect of going home with him, I fight the bile in my throat and assure my children their father loves them so very much and wants them to be happy and enjoy their time with him.

I assure my children their father has their best interests at heart.

And maybe he does, but if he does, it’s obviously expressed in ways that I just can’t wrap my head around.

It’s precisely the problem I had with him directly. I never felt completely and truly loved by that man. I never felt my feelings, desires, wishes were every truly considered and weighed. If he loved me, he wasn’t showing it in ways I could pick up on.

Maybe my children can pick up on it, though, and I’m worrying about a pain that doesn’t exist, a potential for hurt that is unlikely to happen.  As strange as that would be, it would be the best thing, no?

I hate that I doubt myself so much. I hate that I second-guess everything I do with respect to the children. I hate that I seek assurances from other people– including their father. After all, isn’t that what was behind my real anger and frustration? Disappointment with myself as I was faced with more evidence that holy crap did I choose a bad man to father my children.

Forget trusting others, I don’t trust myself.

I remember when I was struggling with my decision to divorce or not, I was so conflicted.

In the end, it wasn’t the belief I was doing the absolute best thing for my family. It wasn’t the belief I was doing the absolute best thing for myself. It was simply this: I would never, ever, want Daughter to live the life I was living and if it wasn’t good enough for her– it wasn’t good enough for me.

I had to remove myself from the picture to see clearly.

Once I did that, I was able to understand more deeply, embrace my decision completely, and move on. But it didn’t come from inside me right away. I had to pull it from somewhere else.

Sometimes, that bothers me. Sometimes, that encourages me.

I wish there was an endless, internal supply of strength, confidence, and self-assuredeness to draw upon. I wish I had all of the fuel I needed to keep myself going forward clearly, determinedly, passionately.

I’m not sure if that sort of thing is possible. I want it to be, not just for me but for my children also and for everyone I know that’s gone to the well for another boost and found it dry.

I want it so that there aren’t days where I’m looking in the mirror and I know, on some level, that I look quite pretty today but I can’t accept it because no one’s really said anything to me. And by the time someone does, it rings empty and false in my ears because I’ve convinved myself that no, I look quite ordinary today and that’s all and that’s good enough, I guess.

I want it so when my children tell me of the latest thing their father did or didn’t do, I can laugh at how silly and off this planet he is and yet I can know in the deepest core of me that it doesn’t really matter because my children are just fine, better than fine, because they’ve got me looking out for them.

I want it so I can sleep well at night, even if I’m all alone.

I want it so I don’t feel I have something to prove all of the time.

I want it so I can be calm inside and steady on the outside– reliable, steadfast.

I want it so when I hear the line on a really cheesy song that says, “God looks after children and fools and you’re not, so who’s going to look after you?” I can answer, “Me” without missing a beat.


33 thoughts on “The Struggle of Doubt

  1. I *think* what happens is that when we take our jobs seriously as parents of children and care for their wellbeing, it’s hard to fathom how someone else cannot give as much or care as much as we do. They literally cannot be as responsible. Period. Once we accept that they just don’t have it in them to give, some (probably never all) of the anger goes away.

    One thing that I always tried to explain to my kids was that their dads were not EVIL, they were weak. They lacked character and the desire to even try to live with some kind of integrity.

    Once you stop expecting as much, it’s easier to let go of wanting to control how they are with your kids and what they spend their time doing with them. It helped for me to see that my kids’ dad was more like an uncle or a big brother than what my perception of a *father* would be. And he was willing to go along with that, since he saw himself as our son’s “friend”, not his father, despite my explaining that a 7 year old didn’t really need a BFF that was 40 something years old. Honestly, I would let go of wanting to know what he does when he has them, it’s just crazy making. Kids are amazingly resilient. I do believe that they just need that ONE person who cares about them more than anything.

    Even with my own childhood, most would say my father was fairly abusive – and they would be right – but I let go of my anger when I realized it didn’t affect him or change him at all, it had only made me miserable. For my own happiness, I had to let that go.

    • You make so many very valid points. It is really hard to let go, but it’s what has to happen– for my sanity and theirs. I try not to ask many questions when they’re with their dad but they talk a lot about what they did. Maybe i should pick different questions and just keep the conversations quick and on silly things. It is just really hard to fight the instinct to want to know what they’re up to, you know/ they’re my kids. I want to know what they’re doing. And I guess to let go, I have to trust him to some extent. It’s there I fall short. Thanks for your input. It is SO valuable to me.

      • I totally know where you’re coming from since I had the same thing going on. I drew the line when he would leave him alone for hours to go to work. That, to me, was unacceptable because it was dangerous and he was 7 y.o..

        Think of it this way – if they were spending the weekend with your brother and he left them with a sitter to go out or to the strippers or whatever, you would probably have just said something like – “for goodness sake, if you want to go out, call me and I’ll take them”. You wouldn’t have this mental script saying “he *should* be spending all that time with them because it *should* be valuable to him since he doesn’t get them all the time, he *should* not be wanting to see naked girls, he *should* only go out to see the strippers on weekends he doesn’t have them…” All of those things are totally reasonable things to expect from a real father IMO. But unfortunately not your ex – or mine. But the hyper-responsibility that we feel is probably also exactly what makes us good parents ourselves. It’s kind of weird that way – and a little hard to twist your head around and tell yourself that it’s okay to have a parent be irresponsible – because it goes against everything you believe and the standards you set for yourself. Not making promises that you don’t follow through on – and all that jazz.

        Re. worrying about your own parenting, that seems to kind of disappear slowly over time. Once they turn around 10 or so and more into their own little people and you see all the stuff that just didn’t seem to matter as much as you thought it would – even those missed spa dates etc. 🙂 What does matter to kids is that their primary parent is happy I think. And if the price for that is letting go, then that’s what you’ve gotta do. So I don’t know that you have to trust him as much as have to trust that in the big scheme of things, it probably doesn’t really matter that much.

      • Yeah, that’s a good point. He’s leaving them with their grandparents on his side so it’s not even that bad as far as who’s watching them. And I think you’re really onto something with changing the standards I have for him as a person and how he relates to our kids. You’ve nailed it with the twist of the standards– it’s ok for ME to be ultra-responsible and ok for YOU to be responsible-enough.

        And yes, I think you’re right. Having faith in the big scheme of things is key– for them and for me. They’re good kids, with an extremely supportive network. Many kids turn out wonderfully with far less than that. They’re loved and supported. Not every person in their lives can be the epitome of awesome. Some are just ok and some are going to be lousy. But with the love and support they get, I’m pretty sure they can work through all of that and figure it out on their own. Love him how they need to and I need to be ok with that.

  2. I can’t say that I know what your situation is like, but here is what I do know: You are a great mother, you have your children’s best intentions at heart, and it is a good thing that you are not married to this man. Children are resilient and perceptive. It may take years, but they will begin to see him for the man he is. Children also crave dependability and protection, which they have with you.

    The questions you have are tough, but your kids are so lucky that you are asking them.


  3. It is nice to spend time with one child, when you have multiple children. I think they like it too.

    I also like what Morgan said about how your children will realize that their dad wasn’t always around and maybe didn’t make the best decisions where they were concerned, but it will take time. Maybe even as late as adulthood, but they will figure it out. You are doing the right thing by not speeding up that process, they may just resent you for it.

    I have only been reading your blog for a while, but you sound like a wonderful mother. I know life can suck sometimes and I can’t imagine how much more so for single motherhood, but you have a very good head on your shoulders and your children are very lucky to have you in their corner.

    • Thank you 🙂

      Yes, one on one time is definitely rewarding and I think for both involved.

      Like I said, part of me doesn’t want them to figure it out and if they do, I’d rather they be ready for that kind of thing. Jacq makes a good point of letting him slide more into an uncle or family friend role than holding him as a father the way I understand fathers to be.

      It’s crazy how much letting go is involved in divorce when kids are involved. It’s a never ending process. You think you’ve let go of everything only to find you haven’t even done half of it

  4. My sister has been very good to not talk badly about her exes (not sure what the plural of ex is…she was married and divorced twice, and had a child with each) around the kids. As the children matured, they figured out the faults of their fathers on their own. And my niece — who is now in her early twenties — has even gotten to the point where she pretty much forgives her father for being the way he is. I think the teen nephew hasn’t quite gotten to the forgiving part, but I’m sure it will come.

    “I wish there was an endless, internal supply of strength, confidence, and self-assuredeness to draw upon. I wish I had all of the fuel I needed to keep myself going forward clearly, determinedly, passionately.”

    There is. Sometimes it just takes a little while for it to surface. You’re doing amazingly well as a parent and a human being.

    • Thanks Linda 🙂

      I’m glad I only have ONE ex to deal with so it’s just ONE personality I have to contend with. I think you, and other commenters, are right. Children DO figure things out even if it’s into adulthood. And then you get to have the fun experience of getting through that whole debacle. My oldest shows signs of awareness. He loves his father but he seems to have a very mature understanding that his father isn’t exactly Mr. Responsible. We’ll see how it pans out. Each kid will handle things differently I’m sure. My daughter had just turned three when we split but she has an acute memory and so she’s going through that back and forth. The baby had just turned one so he’s never really had the memory of us together. Only time will tell and I just have to figure out how to make it through I guess.

  5. Geez its like reading about my life haha! I have tried soo hard to force my ex into being a good dad and I’ve come to the realization that he isn’t. And my boys have come to see that. And it’s very VERY hard not to speak ill towards him in front of my kids, especially since they come back and tell me what him and his new fiancee say about me (generally REALLY harsh and untruthful to make him look better). But I’ve had to come to the realization that I am better than that. And I’m going to let them come to their own opinions. But I do have to say that it feels good when they start asking if they can stay home with me instead of going with him. So I say tough it out. They will see him for who he is…even if it takes them forever to do so.

    • I’m gald you can relate (and sorry too because it’s not like we’re relating to like chocolate or something LOL).

      If the other half does speak ill about me in front of the kids, I haven’t heard about it but I seriously doubt it. Then again, I can’t put anything past him or his family so who knows? It’d definitely make for an interesting situation though. Yikes. Talk about learning to keep my patience and plaster a huge smile on my face.

      Right now, they’re young enough that they mildly protest going to their father’s house but they go with him when he gets them at school. Sometimes there’s a protest while he’s there, and sometimes they’re overjoyed. I don’t know how I’d handle more firm protests but I’ll cross that bridge when/if I get there. He may very well start rolling back the amount of time he wants to have them anyways. I sort of have a feeling of that in the pit of my stomach.

      • Well they sound like they are adjusting well from what you blog, so thats always a good thing. It has been by far the hardest thing for me to explain to my kiddos why they “have” to go with their dad at times. He’s slowly letting me keep them more and more weekends though. Maybe it’s a good sign? OR he got the point that when they are screaming and crying not to go with him it means they really don’t want to go. Eesh hard stuff this is huh!
        I’ll keep my fingers crossed that things go as smoothly as possible smoothly for you!

      • I think they are too. There’ve been no major disruptions and we’ve been separated for two years this June. Thanks for the well wishing! I can only hope for smoother roads for you too!

    • I think kids also feel uncomfortable hearing bad stuff about their mother and will recognize that they feel more comfortable spending time with the parent that *doesn’t* speak negatively all the time of the other. I promise, it’s much more relaxing to be around someone saying nice things.

  6. sigh—> “I know because of women like Co-Worker. She was with a man who enjoyed spending nights out, drinking, womanizing, etc. He had affairs and she eventually left him. The man never takes their children even on the days he’s been scheduled to do so. He hardly sees them, hasn’t paid child support ever, and yet…

    When he does drop in to see them, they are ecstatic, overjoyed, and worship him. They will tell you what a great dad he is and how he’s totally awesome.”

    …story of my life. This blog hits to home.

    • 😦 I’m sorry it did in that way. It is so disappointing to me to know how many people go through these things. It’s sad and even sadder the only recourse left to us is to just keep trucking. How NOT comforting. :/

  7. I’ve been thinking all day about how to respond to your post because I really want to. I think really what I want to say is this: The fact that you are stressed and worried about this says to me that you’re doing everything right.

    Right now the kids get excited about seeing XH because he’s not in their lives every day, but as time goes on, they will see the difference in the way you are with them and the way he is. They may never say it, but it will register with them.

    And you know, I do think it’s possible to love your children and still be a lousy parent. I have no doubts that my father loved me in his own way, but he was a god-awful father. I never needed my mother to tell me how bad he was at a lot of things … I could see it. I just kept hoping it would change.

    Babble, babble. 🙂 I don’t have kids .. but I date someone who does and who goes through a lot of the same anguish about wondering if he’s making the right choices, saying the right things, etc. I know he struggles with that every day. And I think this says it all (and I’m going to share this whole post with him, btw): “I can know in the deepest core of me that it doesn’t really matter because my children are just fine, better than fine, because they’ve got me looking out for them.”

    I think your children will be fine. Because you are looking out for them!

    • Thank you so much for your words. You’ve made a lot of raelly good, helpful points. I think anyone can relate to the idea that you may love someone but are god awful at filling a particular role for them. I’m touched you’d share this post with your guy and it makes me smile he goes through a lot of this. That’s the most amazing apart about the blogosphere– the signs of life: we’re not alone!

  8. When I was younger, my dad always manipulated things so that my mom was the bad guy. He made her discipline me and beat me. He was always my favorite until I spent a summer with him alone an I realized that all the negative stuff in our lives was not coming from my mom but from him.

    He even told me he never wanted children, that it was my mom who wanted them.

    I was actually glad I learned the truth about him. I felt so bad for the way I treated my mom because I didn’t know or realize the truth before that.

    Your kids will do great. I’m sorry your daughter missed the party, that sucked, but it sounds like they have plenty of loving people to fill the void. Good luck.

    • Your story is similar to a relative of mine. I think she didn’t really come to terms with her dad until she tried living with him. She had some concepts of what kind of person he was but wasn’t sure about things really and had to find out for herself.

      I think eventually we all see our parents for what they are– good and bad. And we learn to really appreciate the good and accept the bad. It’s riotous and I’m sure a very different experience for each person, but it’s likely something universal.

      Thanks for your support 🙂

  9. I’ve come out of “hiding” to catch up on a few of my favorite blogs, and I was moved by this post. Probably because I’m about 15 years ahead of you in this particular situation. The result of my ex being a jerk is that my daughters no longer have anything to do with him. His wife had verbally and emotionally abused them while they were with him, and I didn’t know anything about it. As soon as the older daughter went to college, my younger one fell apart and all of this came out. At the time of the divorce the kids spent 50% of their time with their father and stepmother and 50% of the time with me and my husband.(a single dad judge decided that one). The girls were told never to divulge anything that happened while they spent their time with him. In the end, both daughters will have nothing to do with their father or stepmother. Althought it was heartbreaking for me to find out what was happening while they weren’t with me, they were smart enough to figure things out. My point in telling you this is that your kids will figure all of this out. Hopefully, they will not be subjected to a wicked stepmother, but heed my warning. Pay attention to how they are when they are with him, ask questions, be concerned.

    Above all, know that you are a GREAT Mom, and truly no one will love your children the way you do….and they will know that.

    Sending prayers and hugs your way….


    • Sharon! I’ve been thinking about you! Thanks for popping in on me and especially with such an awesome comment.

      The story of your daughters is amazing to me. I really hope there’s no wicked stepmother in store but one never knows. The girlfriend is supposedly quite nice to them and they like her so that’s fine for now but I appreciate the heads up. I do try to get a general vibe on things but don’t want to risk prying either. It’s a tight-rope situation I tell you.

      Thank you for the encouragement, prayers, hugs, and everything. They mean a lot.

  10. How does holding into your anger serve you? Does it make you more right? Does being right make you happy? They say ‘Misery likes company’ who are you keeping company when you stay miserable? You are allowed to be happy, you deserve to be happy and your kids deserve a happy mom. It’s time to let go.

  11. Pingback: Telling me to let go « MutantSupermodel

  12. Hi, I followed a link over from nicoleandmaggie, and for some reason I feel like I have to leave a comment. Maybe it is the beer I’m drinking.

    I have no direct experience to tell you about- my parents aren’t divorced, and neither am I.

    But, as much as my heart broke for your daughter reading about your ex’s dickish behavior, I have to think that she will be OK. Kids are pretty darn resilient, and she clearly has a mother who is putting her best interests first. So she will be fine. She may or may not figure out what an ass her dad is. For her sake, I hope she doesn’t figure it out until she is old enough to also start on the path to forgiving him.

    Oh, and I am also completely freaking out about the fact that my daughter may soon be going to a spa more often than I do (which is pretty much never).

    • I’m glad you came on over and with beer! 🙂

      Thanks for reaching out to me. And for your input. I think you’re right– they are super resilient and more so than we comprehend which is funny considering we were all kids once and we thought we were SO tough. You’re right though, it’d be best if she came to terms with things when she’d be ready to forgive and forget.

      Isn’t it crazy about the spa thing? I never go either!

  13. Pingback: The 7 Links Project « MutantSupermodel

  14. Like the last commenter, I don’t have kids and my parents aren’t divorced… but even with two loving, responsible parents, there are always family issues. And I don’t know that I believe that building a perfect, protected life for them will necessarily make them happier in the future, where they will invariably have to deal with relationship issues anyway.

    I do have a half-sister who is older than me, but doesn’t follow our typically family model of work-your-butt-off and be super responsible. My parents get upset with her money management when they have to pay her gas bill in winter sometimes (she’s 35), and I get to hear my mom say stuff like “She’s *always* this… bad stuff… blah blah…” and I totally understand why they told you in class why the kids feel put down when you put down their dad. My sister is someone I look up to, and I have a lot of characteristics in common with her. Same if mom ever gets upset with my dad and complains “Oh he’s so sensitive… he talks too much….” etc. I have the same sensitive side and talkativeness as him, so… it’s not fun to hear.

    I have learned on my own that I don’t want my parents to be paying my heating bill when I’m 35, and I don’t want to be as negative and hard on myself as my dad is, but associating with my big sister (I absolutely LOVED hanging out with her as a kid) didn’t cause any bad side effects.

    It sounds like as long as he is responsible enough to leave them with a sitter when he goes out to the club, and to make sure they’re fed and not verbally abused, etc (things people have told stories about in the comments here), then he won’t cause any irreprable damage. Maybe they’ll just grow up thinking “gee, I just don’t enjoy going to Dad’s because I miss out on seeing my friends and he never spends time with us anyway.”

    Okay, this comment is way too long, but in high school I had a friend whose dad just wasn’t interested in her and her sister. They went to his house for one weekend a month or so, and he and his (much younger) girlfriend were always nice, but he just didn’t seem to *want* anymore time with them. Now he is 63 with a 2 year old son, who he seems finally ready to spend time with. It sounds like a recipe for hurt and family issues, but instead my friend spends more time than ever enjoying her new brother, and bonding with the step-mom. She doesn’t have any hard feelings about her dad not seeing them much as kids (I think I was more upset about this than she was, really.) So…. you never really know what effect things will have, but everyone’s family has their issues, and as long as no one is in serious danger here, I’m sure your kids will just absorb this and have more depth because of it.

    • Thank you. I think that’s what it comes down to in the long run. Letting things unfold and helping with what you can while letting go what you can’t. The story of your friend’s dad is crazy but not too much. I see that happen a lot here. It’s a shame but hey, I think as long as they figure it out before they’re dead, they have something to contribute.


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