Dear Chump Lady,
I’m having a hard time with the concept of co-parenting and “what’s best for the children”. My STBX (would have been 21 years this month) left via an exit affair ten months ago. We have two teenaged daughters who have always thought the world of him. He is a good dad, just not (IMO) a great parent. He was always the fun dad and I was always Chief No-Fun of the Idonwanna Tribe – I let myself be chumped into being a parent to all three of them for entirely too long.
My question is this: How much shit sandwich do I have to eat now that he has chosen to rip our family apart? He chose to leave for good three weeks before Christmas and then was dismayed when I informed him that he would not be welcome at the family home for Christmas morning. I just didn’t feel like I could keep a happy face plastered on and pretend that everything was okay. If my girls were tiny, I could justify swallowing my bile and excusing myself to cry, but they know all about his betrayal. I know he’ll continue to push for “family” activities (birthdays and such) and will probably kvetch to the girls about how Mom “won’t let go of being angry long enough to just enjoy an occasion together”.
I feel like I spent years being portrayed as the wet blanket during my marriage, and now that the marriage is over, I’m somehow expected to continue playing the supporting role to his Peter Pan Neverland Divagasm. Do I really need to grit my teeth through a restaurant dinner watching him be a buddy to our children for their sake? Or do I get to be a real parent and model what I feel: being a healthy grown-up woman means not sacrificing yourself to provide ego kibbles to a narcissistic man-child.
The cakes stops when you say it stops. No (nonononononononoNOOOOoooooo HELL to the NO!) does he get to play happy Family Man to your shit sandwich. Who in God’s name told you letting him enjoy family dinners and fucking Christmas day was “good” for your children? Because it’s not. You know what’s good for children? REALITY.
See, when they grow up, they’ll live in this place called Reality where they have to clean up their messes, and wash dishes, and keep their promises, pay their bills, and do all matter of Responsible Things. Oh, and in the realm of Reality, we have this concept called Consequences. That when people do really shitty things to you, you choose not to associate with them. Bad Things that sadly lead to divorce, for example.
Peter Pan lives in Never Never Land. He traffics in fairy dust and wants children to believe they can jump off their roofs and fly to enchanted places.
Here’s what happens when you jump off your roof in Reality — you go splat.
It’s much better to model Reality to your children than Never Never Land. Otherwise they grow up thinking they can do shitty things and people should still be “friends” with them. Or they grow up thinking when other people do shitty things to them, they have to eat that shit sandwich and smile (i.e., they become chumps.) Children must exist in Reality, as much as they like Never Never Land. It’s the job of a good parent to introduce the ways of Reality to them, so they don’t grow up confused, or living in your basement writing screenplays.
Mzmama — now is your chance to cast off the shackles of the No Fun Parent role. You know why you were a buzz kill? You were eating shit sandwiches. You’re going to be a much happier person and mom not putting up with his bullshit. This is what you do — if you haven’t already — you get a lawyer. You get a visitation schedule. And you stick to it. You give him the kids on his holidays and weekends to see the kids, and during that time you do Fun Things You Enjoy. Even if that is Netflix and a glass of wine. You go fill your life with nice people, maybe do a little dating, and experience life without compulsory shit sandwiches.
You’ll glow! You’ll relax! You’ll enjoy reality so much more! Your happiness will be infectious. Your children will see you navigate this difficult time and will respect you (eventually, they are after all, teenagers).
Oh, and here’s the other wonderful thing about being divorced from a fucktard — you get to parent YOUR way! Your house, your rules! Yes, they can go visit dad in Never Never Land, but I promise you that shit gets old pretty quick. Dad won’t be so fun without his cake. Without responsible you to make his home life pretty for him and manage his relationships with his kids.
Co-parenting is stuff like “Make sure Molly gets to her orthodonist appointment at 11 a.m. today.” It’s not sharing Christmas day together after he’s had a three week fuck fest with his whore.
You only have to text or email him (document all communication). And then, blissfully, go no contact with him. His relationship with his daughters is HIS responsibility NOT YOURS. Nope. You got fired from that job when he cheated and left. You go enjoy your life mzmama and leave him to his.