Day 7: Why I Hate the Terms “Your Day” and “My Day”

Two of the divorce-related terms I hate most is “your day” and “my day.”

Regardless of my marital status, I’m a parent every day.

I may not be the point-woman today. It may not be my turn to cook them dinner or sign their agenda book or answer their endless questions about where babies come from and why people choose to smoke.

When they’re at school I’m not the point-woman either. But no one would suggest that I’m less of a parent because I’m not the one walking them to art class or opening their applesauce container at lunch.

But when you have a high-conflict ex, you are suddenly relegated to the sidelines of your child’s life for the percentage of time that your ex-spouse has custody. You miss out on major milestones, like the first time they ran a race or rode a horse or had a friend sleepover. Being willing to clear your calendar doesn’t necessarily earn you a spot at your kid’s birthday party. Inviting your ex-spouse to every kid-focused activity doesn’t necessarily elicit an invitation in return.

It should. It would if you had a child-focused divorce.

My ex is flawed. As am I. But I do understand that he is the only other person in the world who can hold the prestigious honor of being Sydney and Dylan’s parent. Our relationships with these children are special and should be revered and protected. Regardless of how fantastic our new significant others are or how involved their grandparents are, they can’t fulfill our roles when we’re not there.

We are irreplaceable.

Do I think he loves them in the same way I do? No, he’s a different person and he’s a dad and I’m a mom. But we are both their parents, and right now, we are the most influential people in their lives. For better or worse, we are the ones whom they look to for guidance and love.

My kids know that I’m worthless in their father’s eyes. Dylan has peppered me with the question, “Why does Daddy hate you?” and Sydney has said in matter-of-factly, “Well, he doesn’t like you” numerous times over the past year and a half. I think they struggle to reconcile whether they, as my offspring, have diminished worth. I mean, they are a part of me…doesn’t it make sense that if I’m distasteful, they are too?  I see it’s impact on Sydney in particular. Her self-esteem wavers and she navigates her world tentatively.

It must be excruciating to be a child and feel like you should somehow turn off your need to be mothered (or fathered), simply because it’s not “her day” or “his day.” As though parenting is a turn-taking activity, like sharing a Wii remote or waiting for someone to pass the milk.

Can’t the days just be about the children and what they need? How did their day become more about the parents and less about them?

There is never a day when I’m not 100% invested. When I care less. When I don’t want to be bothered. When I’m not willing to “share” them with their father simply because it isn’t the day of the week relegated to him on a divorce agreement.

I wish all co-parents felt the same.

I’m here. I’m mom. He’s dad. Everyday.

If only we could both act like it.

Comments

  1. Amy K. says:

    The National Fatherhood Initiative (fatherhood.org) is a great organization whose president is an applied anthropologist who has several publications on fatherhood, and is considered a fatherhood expert. In one of their featured articles for fathers I thought a quote was particularly relevant:

    In “10 ways to be a better dad” the NUMBER ONE thing on the list:

    “1) Respect your children’s mother. One of the best things a father can do for his children is to respect their mother. If you are married, keep your marriage strong and vital. If you’re not married, it is still important to respect and support the mother of your children. A father and mother who respect each other, and let their children know it, provide a secure environment for them. When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected.”

    It’s funny, there are no qualifications on that rule, like “respect your children’s mother only if she was a great partner for you in your marriage. Or respect your children’s mother only if you had a friendly, amicable divorce. Or respect your children’s mother only if you like her as a person. Or respect your children’s mother only if you think she deserves respect.” Weird huh?

  2. Jessi says:

    I’m really enjoying reading this year. Although I feel like I don’t have a lot to add because after a really rough adjustment period, my divorce has been pretty low-conflict and definitely child focused. We started out not using those terms, but the kids picked it up (from school I’m guessing) and we relented. For us, it’s the easiest terminology.

    I don’t think of it as days I’m not the mom though, just days when it’s not my turn to do the stuff. When we were married and my oldest was a baby it was “his” night to get up or “my” night to get up. For us, it’s just a continuation of that.

    But if it’s his day and they need their mom, they can always call and vice versa. We also both go to events, regardless of whose day it is. It isn’t always comfortable walking around family night at book fair with my ex, but we agree that family night means the whole family, not just the family they’re spending the night with.

    I’m not proud of the way a lot of things happened as we fell apart, but I am proud of that.

  3. Sue says:

    I just wanted to say that you are doing what is right and good for your children by being their parent and putting their needs first! I can’t imagine how hard hearing those words from your children must be, but it must feel good that they feel confident enough to ask you difficult questions. And knowing that they have you for support is the world to them.

    Prayers for all divorced parents, so they remember not to put the kids in the middle but rather first in their lives. And that they may have the strength of mind and character to treat the other parent with the respect they deserve.

  4. Stepmc10 says:

    How can you stand/trust to be in his presence? Perhaps my ex narcissist is “worse.” I can’t emotionally handle him faking as “superdad” since divorce when he WOULDN’T participate in their lives when we were an intact family and that is despite the fact I pleaded for him to give them his attention and time and he never bought in. I refuse to allow him to brush elbows with me as an equal parent while he puts on a show. Any father who truly cared about his children wouldn’t wait until he was in the spotlight to participate. He disgusts me for shorting them during the marriage. I have to adhere to the “no contact” rule to survive. I would love, however, if things were more agreeable, but in my case they are not.

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