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Separated Reflections

Posted on 29th October 2016 in children/ custody/ debt/ debts/ depression/ divorce/ ex-husband/ family/ money/ only dads/ onlydads

OnlyDadsI’ve been asked to reflect upon the experience of separation, how I handled it and if – upon reflection – I would have done things differently. The whole concept here is along a theme of ‘putting the children first’.

The questions are:

1. What did you do well?

2. What didn’t you do quite so well?

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be?

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today?

I’ve pondered this for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to look back on, and I wanted to be sure that my answers were honest and that I would only go ahead with the post if I felt it could be useful to someone else.

Here’s the thing, when I found myself in this position (out of the blue), I would have been desperate to read this kind of thing, there was literally nothing around at that point to tell me what to do, how to feel, what to think. And although, obviously no one can do any of those things for you, sometimes when you can feel the floor falling away from under you, you just need something, some shred of evidence that someone else has been through this and that they got through it ok.

So, my answers are:

1. What did you do well? Not much I don’t think. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts and so I floundered for a long while, taking advice from people who were ill-equipped to help. I did my level best to put the children first, in terms of caring for them, loving them, trying to retain some normality (some context: the house was being repossessed, my partner of 10 years had run off with someone he’d known for 2 weeks, I uncovered huge amounts of debt, my parter decided he needed to put his new relationship first, i.e. before the children). So retaining normality was hard, I was an emotional wreck with very little (almost zero) support but I tried to keep up with bedtime stories, walks, collecting leaves, play dates (while I sobbed in a supportive friend’s kitchen), and, I tried to facilitate my ex seeing the children. He would make plans, then cancel at the last minute, but I would still allow for new plans the following week and explain to my confused babies as best I could.

Actually, a better answer to question 1 would be:

It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your bruised emotions, your confusion, your pride or your finances, it is about the children. The innocents who need to be protected from as much of the impact as possible.

2. What didn’t you do quite so well? This little question is deceptively hard. I think I’ve touched upon a few things above so I am going to say that I should have sought better legal advice. I had a trainee solicitor who essentially told me I was screwed. She was no help to me emotionally or practically and as such I lost my home, my children lost their home and many possessions and I ended up responsible for a huge amount of debt. I don’t think I’ve heard of many other people who were dealt such a poor hand in this situation.

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be? Time is a healer. Have faith that your personal wounds will heal and that the best thing you can do is invest time (not money/gifts etc) but time with your children. Make them feel loved and secured. If your ex is willing to have regular contact with the children, let them! Do not get caught up with petty arguments, point scoring and playing the blame game, let them feel loved by the two people who should love them.

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today? I have a great life now but that is no reflection upon things at that time. If I go back say 6 months after he left, it is a very different picture. Then I was homeless, in debt, with very little support, even from the ‘system’. I was offered a, frankly, terrifying B&B (one room for all 3 of us, sharing a bathroom with strangers, you cannot be in the B&B during the day), which was in a completely different town to our old home, the children’s school and friends. At this point I literally couldn’t afford tea bags and toilet roll.

Now, the children don’t hear from him, he hasn’t seen them for at least 6 years (and the last time was for an hour even though he was meant to have been having them overnight). I still find that I beat myself up about the fact they don’t have a relationship with him – which is the main reason it has taken me so long to respond to the request to answer these darn questions!). I have to remind myself that it isn’t my fault he doesn’t see them, I have to remind myself that no matter how reasonably one person acts, no matter how easy they make it for another person to do the right thing, it doesn’t mean that they will. I am not responsible for his lack of responsibility.

One final piece of advice. When I was going through a particularly testing time, I decided that I needed some independent advice. Initially I went online thinking I was looking for a mums support group, or Homestart or Gingerbread, but I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to hear from a MAN. Someone who would be guaranteed not to be biased to my viewpoint, and that (along with being the reason why I am answering these questions) is how I ended up contacting OnlyDads and subsequently received some reasoned, grounded and sensible support from a man called Bob.

 

Tweet Ups: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Posted on 22nd February 2011 in Dhruv Baker/ imaginary friends/ only dads/ the cake nest/ Twitter

After a lovely, laughter filled conversation with one of my favourite tweeps, I’ve decided I’m, well, undecided, about the whole concept of tweet ups.

I’ve had lots of near misses. I nearly met @MyDaddyCooks, @TheCakeNest and @DhruvBaker1 at Harvest at Jimmy’s.

I nearly met @Kateab and @DhruvBaker1 (oh stop it, I don’t stalk him…..) at The Good Food Show.

I very nearly met @OnlyDads in London – and actually did meet @OnlyMums who was lovely (and gorgeous) although we’d never really tweeted so I’m not sure that one counts as a tweet up.

I’d love to meet @DrewParky BUT surely I would be confused to find that he isn’t 12 and he could only be disappointed that I’m not one of the glamorous mums off Desperate Housewives! (That sounded really, really bad didn’t it….)

Currently I’ve been offered a tweet up by two lovely ladies, both of whom I’m quite intrigued to meet and one of whom I’m quite sure will be nothing like her twitter persona.

And I think that is where the reticence lies for me. I like all my imaginary friends. ALL OF THEM. I like the ones that are nuts, the ones that are serious, the ones who are often a little melancholy and the ones who seem to have insane lives. But I do have a tendency to romanticise things – including people – so would meeting them break the spell?

I’ve spoken to 4 tweeps on the phone. All of whom, without exception, have been wonderful.

So – tweet ups – have you had any good/bad experiences?

Am I being a pansy or am I right to keep my imaginary friends in my head and on my screen?

Sex education – a dad’s perspective #guestpost

Posted on 7th February 2011 in guest post/ only dads/ sex education

Guest Post – from @OnlyDads

I think Bob has touched on an issue here that a lot of us hide from. Where do you even start? I think Bob’s 4 points below are very true – but like Bob I do wonder if I’m brave enough to answer them. Particularly number 4!

Please let Bob know in the comments section below what you think. Any suggestions? How did you tackle it?

I know P, my eldest daughter (13) thinks grown women are totally obsessed by menstruation. I know this because she told me. “Dad”, she said, “why does every woman I meet start talking about periods”?

Both Grandmothers, three Aunties , three female neighbours, two mother’s of friends, four or five ad hoc  female friends and  even a couple of ex-girlfriends got in on the act. All have told me they have had a conversation with P “just to make sure everything is OK on that front”.

It is interesting that they all tell me after the event. “I’ve spoken with P” Note the past tense.

I’m not knocking it – I am sure the desire to help with this aspect of my parenting comes from a good place…what was it @coffeecurls told me over twitter one evening when we were discussing periods…(we just were, OK) ”there are things about periods that as a man you won’t even know!”

That phrase “you won’t even know” struck me. It serves me now as a reminder that there really are things I simply couldn’t comment on with any degree of confidence. That said, I thought I actually knew loads about periods – they come once a month, they hurt, you need hot water bottles and tea, you can use tampons or towels (best to experiment to see what works for you), they alter hormone levels and you can become tearful and maybe even a bit shouty, and they also have something to do with the moon or tides. I think. Um, that’s it.

Come to think of it – thank you ladies one and all.  You were right in your assumptions. Like most men, I guess I do know next to nothing about menstruation.

What really strikes me though is that this small platoon of women, while seemingly falling over themselves to talk about menstruation, are not pushing themselves forward to talk to my daughter(s)about sex. Do they really think that this is a subject best taught by their Dad or school or mates or that marvellous life lesson of trial and error?

It’s an interesting question – and one answer might be, if we are honest, for the majority of us (and I know I can speak for many Dads) this whole area of sex education just feels a bit uncomfortable. I will use the word “embarrassing”.

I’ll share a story with you. In our house the subject of sex education was first raised when P came home from Primary School (year 6) and asked me outright:  Dad, is it true that girls have a button and that if you stroke it, it makes you feel nice?”

Once I picked myself up from the floor and finished choking, I simply asked in an effort to divert the direct questioning,  “who told you that”?

“My teacher, Miss N…” came the reply.

Quickly putting all thoughts of Miss N’s “button” to one side, I replied, rather sheepishly, that I am sure Miss N was right. At that precise moment I had rediscovered belief in God and was praying nineteen to the dozen that the conversation would stop right there.

I have been thinking about writing on this subject for some time, and it strikes me that there are four levels of sex education that could really be taught best at home as well as in school:

1 – the basics – the actual mechanics.

2 – sexual health  – avoiding unwanted pregnancies and STI’s etc…

3 – the fun bits

4 – insight into the deeper emotional and relationship perspectives

Thinking this through, I am on safe territory talking about levels (1) and (2) to my own kids. Get me onto level 3 (the fun aspects of sex) and I am, very suddenly, completely out of my depth. I am sorry to say that I am one of those parents who will provide their daughters with what @venaramphal describes as the “good girls script”. It’s depressingly true – the sex education I will deliver to P and A will extend to something akin to “Here’s how to do it, be safe, and try not to do it until you’re much older”

Half an education!

And the saddest thing of all is that as their Dad, I feel unable, incompetent, and unqualified to talk through the emotional issues that will arise when they start sexual relationships. Not just because they are girls and I’m a man, but as with menstruation there will be things I just won’t know, but it seems to me that like most men, talking about relationships and emotions does not come as second nature. Couple that with the fact that I have already admitted that sex is not really something I want to talk to my girls about anyway, and my inarticulate ramblings would become well, just that. Inarticulate.

And the thing is…all of this I have just written – well I think most Dads and maybe some Mums will be able to relate to at least some of it…but for me, I have this feeling that it just might not be good enough. I know much of this is taught in schools (probably a much better education than we had at school), but look at any UK statistics in this area and the picture is one of rising STI’s, especially among women under the age of 20, and ever rising numbers of unwanted pregnancies.

As they get older I want my girls to enjoy healthy sex and have fulfilling relationships. Of that there is no doubt. But, against this worrying statistical backdrop I have this growing, rather unpleasant feeling, that if I am to do my bit to help them achieve this, I may need to shake myself down, find the right words and the right time and work my way through some difficult conversations!

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