As a dad, my blogs are generally written from this perspective, however I am also a son. Like all parents, I have had past experiences that have shaped my own behaviour. The way my parents brought me up has influenced my parenting behaviour, both good and bad.
Today, I want to talk about partners, or should I say new partners.
Partners with divorced parents can bring past issues and problems into a new relationship, but many of these issues can be avoided with honesty, openness and consistency. I was brought up by a single dad in the seventies and eighties and had more aunties than I can recall. Some of these aunties were dad’s friends, others were his lovers. A childhood peppered with weekend trips to see this auntie here or that auntie there were inconvenient and had no real value to me as a child. My mother was always more direct about her boyfriends and never tried to sugar coat things. First names only, and whilst she was living with them, there were times together as a group and times alone. This approach of honesty I take with my boys.
When considering my boys, I would never want a partner to replace their mother. In turn, my partner has always been open with me about things; there have been times when my children would be none-the-wiser of a fourth person in the house. Understandably, my partner will want her own space. I am a firm believer that having a new partner is great thing, but the emphasis shouldn’t always be on them becoming part of a new family. There needs to be time for parent and child to be just that parent and child. I joke with my family about some people (your partner) being like a shadow, you never see the one without the other, and can be destructive, even if they are just in the background.
I have colleagues who talk of being thrown out of the family home because their mother’s new partner didn’t get on with them, or because dad’s latest girlfriend was a bit of a control freak, or a parent putting a new partner before their children, with the children not being considered.
As a separated parent and a child of separated parents, I can see both sides of the coin; both crave emotional support and relationship security.
I am honest with my boys about my partner, who I am pleased to say they like (may change as they age) and we have an agreement that if they just want time with me, all they need to do is ask. Given I now live with my partner, this can mean a day out or we do stuff without her. My partner is understanding and is appreciative of the space sometimes. We take the approach of her being a friend to them; with our home being as much her space as it is mine. I have never taken a ‘just friends’ approach with the boys. Being honest with everyone is key, if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you should let your children know in a nice way. Your ‘new’ partner is not a stick to beat an ex with. It’s important you are consistent though, a friend, an acquaintance or lover doesn’t matter as long as they are presented that way to everyone. “My dad has a girlfriend-great”, but if she is introduced as just a friend to my sister, an acquaintance to my aunt, a lover to his drinking mates and just someone my dad knows, it creates mixed messages to everyone, and causes problems.
As a father, I don’t want to present a clinical whiter than white image to my children. I am human, I have my faults. I want them to see me as honest and open, I don’t offer white lies about their mum refusing mid-week contact or breaking a court order, nor do I lie to them about my partner.
If you can get agreement with an ex to be consistent, that is great. A friend of mine had an agreement whereby no new partners where introduced in the first 12 months of a relationship. This worked for them. However, I have seen this back-fire… non resident parents not being able to introduce a partner for 6 months is workable as they have lots of time without the children, but for a resident parent it could become a millstone around their neck.
Children pick up how we treat others and imitate that behaviour. If you cannot be open with your children about your partners when they are growing up, how can you expect them to be open and honest with you when they become teenagers?
Partners are wonderful, they help, support, love and care for us. Finding someone is a great joy, but they can also bring issues and problems not of their own making. Always remember children need one on one parent time, not always family time. The last thing you want is you children resenting your partner.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of Dad.info.