Friday, January 25, 2008

What? Am I the biggest idiot yet?

Oh, I was reading my blog rolls and arrived at this one inquiring about co-parenting support groups. I'm pretty sure that I understood what the person was talking about, so I informed her about an organization called "Parent's Without Partners". As the name suggests, it's a support group for adults who's spouses have flown the coop and moved on to "find themselves".

It gives the adult left behind a chance to have some fun now and then (let's say on the weekend they have "off"), and also a chance to do fun things now and then with their child and other people's children (let's say on the weekend when they're the "parent in charge").

Not to be mean to the one who left the family behind, it's been my experience that the one who leaves the home (especially if it's the man) leaves to escape the responsibilities--and instead of taking those responsibilities (and by consequence, becoming the parent who is "no fun"), often this parent will attach to another partner quickly, if only to foist the responsibility onto the newcomer, maintaining his role as "fun guy", leaving mom with nothing but "parenting responsibility when the child returns home to the custodial parent.

Not only this, but when the custodial parent is on the "off" weekend, they sit at home, missing their little one, because that little one is the ONLY one left that their lives revolve around. That little one is their sole purpose in life. The last link to the love they once knew. And being that sort of alone on the weekend is rather like Eleanor Rigby--the worst sort of lonliness.

Parents Without Partners takes care of the alone-ness. You have other parents who "feel like you do", and fun activities (remember dancing?) to chase away those blahs and bluedoms. Suddenely, while you don't have a real date, here's somebody who will take your hand out to the dance floor and spin you around for a few whirls--EVEN IF YOU'RE A BRAND NEWBY! Let me tell you, it is one special feeling.

And you can talk to the other spouse until you're blue in the face, my friend. Co-parenting is a myth until the other party grows up and realizes that they need to accept responsibility for this cute little bundle they've participated in creating--that means picking them up from school--but not just that--it's also important to be on TIME, and not always at the last minute to call YOU and say "I can't make it--(insert stupid excuse here)", making you change all your plans at the last minute to rush over there, pay the sitter the extra money that you don't have, while the other one gets off scott free.

My old boyfriend and his ex-wife had an arrangement that seemed to work out well. The first 6 years, mom and her boyfriend had the baby, and she spent her summers with her dad. The next 6 years, she spent with her dad, and summered with her mom. At twelve years old, she was asked who she wanted to be with, and daughter chose her mother. This upset dad quite a bit, but he had to accept it, since it was her choice, which she could change in a week if she desired. But when she was out of his home, he was desperately lonely. For a while, he turned to me, but then, when he thought our relationship was getting in the way of his relationship with his daughter, he would throw my son and I out of the house.

Well, you can guess that after three times of that sort of thing happening, I told him to take a flying leap. A week later, he came to me to tell me that his daughter was moving to California. I didn't feel the slightest bit sorry for him. He needed to "own" that lonliness, and I wasn't about to take the time to sugarcoat his day for him, when I knew that it would never result in a permanent position in his life.

And so, when he tried to convince me and manipulate me into meeting him halfway, I simply told him that I wouldn't do it anymore. It made me cry (hard), because I did love him, but it was a decision I had to make in order to maintain my sanity.

Co-parenting is a great vision--but there needs to be a MISSION STATEMENT and how you're going to arrive at "predicted outcomes". On the other hand, it might be more of a pipe-dream--a vastly unattainable goal that is perpetrated and maintained the the selfish "other" parent who has cast off his or her role in order to fish for something more suitable to his/her tastes and selfish personal "needs". If by Co-parenting, you're thinking that both maintain their responsibility to the child, while at the same time, living with the knowledge that the "other parent" is having all the fun, while you're doing all the grunt work. This is the rule, not the exception--this is where Parents Without Partners comes in. It bridges the gap between the parent who was left behind with all sorts of responsibility to work outside the home to put food on the table and roof over your heads, and all at a far lower income level than that to which you are accustomed. Now you have an outlet where you can safely "date", but not really DATE. It also provides a place where you can do fun stuff with your child, so that you're not hearing "I'm going to DAD'S HOUSE. It's WAY more FUN over there!" which is SO freaking hard to hear.

I can say all these things, because I've been on both sides of the coin--having been in Parent's Without Partners--having dated a man with a child who was completely responsible for his child, and having become a step parent myself. I can say that while I am an accepted part of my husband's family, I do my level best to keep my nose out of family matters, and care for my husband and his family as if they were my own--however, I still consider myself on the "periphery" where his kids are concerned. Partly because they were much older and pretty much on their own at the time, but I am still involved in their lives as adults with children of their own.

My step daughter needs to get her family of four healthy! It seems like every time we call, someone is sick. I have to tell you, though--the greatest compliment I ever got in my life, and the one that told the story, was when her mother came up to me in the hospital, as we were waiting to hear word about the new grandbaby born preemie--my step-daughter's mother came up to me, took my hand, and said "congratulations, grandma!"


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