I’m never going to be the Stable Parent. First of all, there is no way to compete with my ex. He is stability personified when it comes to All Thing Stable. Second of all, he is the King because he’s making the list of the things that you are supposed to do or be to be called Stable so of course, he has more (all) of those listed attributes and I have maybe 2 which are a) be a human being and b) be alive.
When he knew me, when we were married, I was vacillating between Super Mormon Mom and complete wreck so it’s understandable to some degree that he has a hard time seeing me as something else, someone New & Improved, Edition 7.7. And it’s not that I care what he thinks about me but I totally care how his perceptions create his resistance to me being as much a mom as I can be to our kids. The way he speaks about me to his family, to his wife, where the kids can hear; casually disdainful of me. Every time he says something unflattering about me where the kids can hear they are faced with a decision about how to digest that information. They can’t really agree with him, because they don’t feel the same way, but they can’t really disagree with him either because then they would feel dumb. So they don’t know how to feel. They love both of us and don’t want to hurt either one of us. How sucky that they have to worry about it at all.
I don’t subscribe to his list. I don’t think that working 20-hour days year after year is the only answer to creating a home. It works for him. Awesome. For him. But I can create a life that is just as viable for my children and not have to have the same income. I can talk openly with them about how they and I are feeling and not pretend to be stoic if I don’t feel it organically. I don’t believe it’s healthier to make sure that the kids are in activities 24/7 all year round. It’s fine if they want to. But I don’t want to make them join every sport or convince them that they want to. Some of the kids might like to try having some down time or join a different kind of class besides the ones he thinks are cool. Because no matter what he thinks, those kids want to impress him and so they choose to join the things where he’s going to think they are the coolest. I think it should be the other way around – let them pick what they want and then think they are the coolest for doing what they love. And I don’t believe in making them go to a church that they don’t embrace purely because that is how it’s done or ‘what is right’. I want them to pick for themselves what spiritual avenue they will take and find what speaks to their souls.
My opinions are just as viable as his. They are equal and different. And as adults, I guess I never learn that he doesn’t think the same thing about me and my opinions and feelings. Because I’m the ‘crazy’ and ‘unstable’ one. If I could set things up to be more balanced, I would create conversations where we could talk about the kids and what they wanted/needed without it turning into something about us. I want to take out all the selfish motivation, even the ones hiding in the dark corners where neither of us can see them.
I don’t believe that being stable = never having problems and/or talking about issues. You can be stable AND have issues and problems. One of the greatest gifts I have post-integration is being able to cope with problems and irritations in a healthy manner. And I share that with my kids as much as I can. If you can problem solve, you can figure anything out. Not talking about the elephant in the room doesn’t make it go away. It just makes you have to walk awkwardly around the room while the shit piles up, all the while pretending not to smell how bad it is in there.
My daughter does imitations of all four of us, her parents. Her imitation of me is done in a silky-smooth voice and a slightly turned head: ‘Can we talk about this? How are you feeling? Let’s just all sit down together and TAAAAAAALLLLK.’ I have to cap that last word so you can say it with lots-o-feeling like she does. It’s pretty cute. And it’s true. I’m all about the talking. But I’m also all about the shutting-up if you don’t feel like talking, which is a totally viable choice as well, if you are doing it on purpose and with intent. It’s one thing to ignore, blow-off someone or stomp away from the situation or even be so overcome with emotion that you feel like you can’t talk and shut down. And it’s another thing entirely to consciously say to yourself or others that it just isn’t a good time to talk right now, you need a break, but when you can you’ll pick it up again after you have a chance to figure out how you are really feeling. I don’t always know right away. I have to think about it. I imagine others do as well. I don’t think these are unstable things to teach our kids.
When he and I talk about the kids sharing equal time at each home by switching week by week, he can’t exactly (or won’t) explain what his reasons are for not wanting it to happen beyond I’m not stable and he feels like his back is against the wall if I push the issue. We live about 10 minutes away. They would go to the same school and have the same friends at both houses. They have their own rooms. It’s really quite equal in those regards. But, he wants to be the provider because as the father, that is what he does best – provide. I get that. I hear that. I want to support that because I can see that it is important to him. So, when I tell him that I’m their mom and I want to do the mom things like fixing them breakfast in the morning and making sure they do their homework and hearing about how their day went after school driving home and tucking them in at night, why can’t he hear or understand me and support my role as their mom? He argues and tells me that I currently have almost as much time with them as he does, (or maybe more because he works long hours and doesn’t see them often, which means the person they see the most is their step-mom, who incidentally I like very much and appreciate all she does and have nothing against) he can’t hear me when I say that the hours I have with them are not the Building Hours. If you think back on your childhood, do you remember those hours that were tucked in here and there when you got up and went to bed and came down after a busy day of school? I want that. I want to be there. They need that. It’s important. I see them for an afternoon during the week and from the hours of 3:30 to 8pm when I drop them off, 2 hours of it is driving and 1.5 hours of it is sports practice. That doesn’t leave us much time. I have them every other weekend, which is Friday night to Sunday night. They don’t want to think about school or what’s going on with friends. They want to relax and hang. (I’m not like the other moms, I’m the cool mom. – Mean Girls) I miss out on all the meat of their lives. We do have fun. We totally do and I’m very thankful for how much I have them in my lives.
I could push the issue. It’s within my rights. It would mean going to court. He threatens to move out of his house where they live and take a backseat in their lives. Move into a small apartment because there is no reason, he says, for him to stay in that house if the kids don’t live there most of the time. And if he isn’t living in that house he can’t see why he’s working so hard to pay for it. But then he says changing jobs when he just got a promotion would be nuts. His existence is tied up in providing. And his reality snowballs from there until all he can see is that I’m taking away his stability and his job in life. If he’s not that person, doing what he does, providing, maintaining, then he doesn’t know who he is.
I’m lucky in that regard. I had to fight hard to figure out who I am but now I know and no one can ever take that away from me. I yearn for the things that come naturally to me when it comes to my kids but whether or not I am lucky enough to be able to perform all the mom stuff with them, I’m still Me. I don’t feel smug that I have it all figured out, because I don’t. I feel openness to the universe and however it unfolds. And sometimes that is damn hard. Because there is no way that I want to stress the kids out by creating an environment where their dad is even angrier in my direction and decides to make knee-jerk decisions that will affect the stability of the kids’ lives. He may be bluffing. He might not do a freak out and move, become a wreck and tell the kids it’s my fault etc. It’s true that his decision is purely his own and I wouldn’t really be forcing him to do anything. But I don’t think it’s worth the risk. And that is what the Universe has for me today.