I am a child of divorced parents. AND a divorced parent of children. I guess there’s an easy jibe to be made about these things going in circles but it didn’t feel like there was cause and effect in play here.
My parents divorced when I was 6.
I would see my Dad on every other weekend, neither of my sisters (who were older and had the choice in what to do) continued to see my Dad. At first my Dad lived near the family home in the same town, but after a while he moved 100 miles away. I continued to travel to see him every fortnight for a further 6 years.
Eventually the relationship with my Dad broke down.
On reflection, as a Dad myself now, I don’t think he truly understood what it was to be a parent. Of course that could be a reflection of how the role of Dad has changed in the 25 years since, or it could be that reflecting on how I felt as a child isn’t an accurate reflection of things now I’m an adult.
I don’t want to be like my Dad.
What had happened with my Dad made me so determined that I would do everything for my children; I used to constantly say “I just don’t want to be like my Dad”. When I chose to have children I threw myself into it with such purpose and conviction, I could not be present enough.
The irony that my marriage failed and I ended up a divorced parent was not lost on me.
Location, Location, Location.
I never used to understand why my Dad had moved to live so far away. I felt it distanced him from my “main life”. He didn’t know my friends, my school or my surroundings. I’ll be honest, I used to judge him for this decision. Then, one day, following my separation, a child arrangements court hearing came to the verdict that I would only see my children every other weekend, rather than the shared parenting arrangement I was advocating. I was absolutely devastated and I could not cope; I had 18 months struggling with my mental health.
While I subsequently appealed this decision and became the 60:40 Dad of my moniker, in the interim period I had to deal with the reality of having been made what felt to me a bit-part player in my children’s lives.
Home is where the heart is.
I found that I actually empathised with my Dad’s decision. I suddenly realised I was living miles from my family, my friends, my best work opportunities and living in a town where I knew no-one for the purposes of spending 2 out of every 14 days with the people I love more than anyone in the world. Many of you are probably shouting at this post now that I was being ungrateful or can’t truly love my kids to think like this. Maybe you’d be right, even now I look back and think whether this really was sound thinking; I love these kids so much surely I wouldn’t let anything but distance between us.
Looking after me too.
However, at the time I realised that, faced with that reality I could do those two days from anywhere moderately local, there was no need to sacrifice all other aspects of my life for those two days. I would have needed to look after me in order to be able to give to my children. In short I got it, I understood why my Dad had made the decision he had made. I’m sure he’d have liked to have had everything in one place if he could, but he too was away from his family and from opportunity and likely had the same thoughts.
Back to that reflection that as the child I felt my Dad didn’t understand my life.
I really think there is something in this thought. I would advocate for any contact any parent can get with their children. But where possible and safe to do so I truly believe child arrangements should give both parents access to a range of aspects of their children’s lives.
Parents are for life, not just ‘special’ days.
Prior to my child arrangement hearing I went to mediation. Everyone is required to go for mediation these days. The mediator distinctly offended me proceeding to explain that we should not care about the mundane days (school days, doctors, dentists, hair appts etc) but should prioritise ensuring we took care of the special days (Christmas, birthdays, holidays etc). As a child this was literally my experience. Dad made me feel he didn’t understand the machinations of my life. Here I was being told “not to sweat it” and that it’s not important. As both a child and parent, I was outraged.
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Child Arrangement Orders.
I personally think that, if possible, CAOs should give both parents true roles in their children’s life. It shouldn’t be that one parent is seen as the jack-of-all-trades and the other is just there for the fun times. To make a meaningful relationship with my children I want to be there for the doctors and dentists trips, the school drop offs, the disciplining, the cooking, the homework etc. Those might not be the red letter day parenting moments but in my experience they help cement a bond that this parent is here for me through everything, and they truly understand my life.
About the Author
60:40 Dad is a father of two, separated and with his children 40% of the time. Happy to answer questions on separated parenting, child arrangements a