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Dear Chump Lady, How do I protect my son’s heart?

Dear Chump Lady,

My D-day was over 3 years ago now and the divorce has been final for over a year. I have taken your advice and other than the “when and where” of our child exchange I do not engage in contact with the ex at all.

Unfortunately that does not stop him from contacting me. By e-mail only — I won’t answer a call or text unless my son is with him and he knows by now if it is not specifically about my son I’ll hang up.

Unfortunately his daughter / my step daughter just graduated high school and has moved out of his house. All the schmoopies have dumped him and since we live in a small town he’s having trouble finding a new one. Which means he’s bored and lonely. I have no worries for myself. There’s not a shot in hell of him ever getting near me again. I avoid him like I would a toxic waste dump. But he’s all about using his son to fill in his empty life now. In 13 years he never attended a doctors appointment (of which there are literally millions since my son is disabled) teachers conference, school concert or play, sports game, even a surgery (there have been multiple) — you get the picture.

Now he wants to be told of every move the boy makes so he can decide if he wants to attend — and he has been attending way more than before. Not all of them mind — just when there isn’t something more interesting to do. This will not last. This is the guy who didn’t show when his son as having surgery because “Well, you’ll be there and it’s not like I’ll be doing anything” even when we were married and skipped his kid’s ball games to go to Schmoopy’s kid’s game — because they were playing “real baseball” and my son’s was “just for disabled kids.”

How do I protect my boy? Both from getting his heart broke when he goes back to being unimportant and from the terrible influence the ex is. (Drinking, smoking, snuff, filthy mouth, porn, zero respect for others — I could go on and on but you get my drift.)

My ex calls even statements of fact like “tobacco is bad for you” or “swearing is rude” parental alienation. I never call the ex names (out loud) lest my son overhear. I never say HE is doing something wrong. But I’m sorry — tobacco IS bad for you, Promiscuous unprotected sex CAN cause disease. Excessive alcohol consumption or drinking and driving ARE dangerous. I’m not going to tell my ds otherwise. I do not bring these topics up in the context of the ex but they do come up — especially when ds starts asking the meaning of song lyrics. Besides responsible parents have these conversations with their teens.

If you can’t tell, I’m frustrated. Any “parenting when you’ve bred with a fuckwit” advice? (I won’t call it parenting with because there is no “with” going on.)

Thanks,

TooSmartforthisShit

Dear Smart,

Don’t defend your sane parenting. Not to me, and especially not to a fuckwit. You are the show-up parent. The mighty mom who is caring for her disabled son. Not only are you parenting without support, you’re parenting while being actively, obnoxiously disrespected. This shit is HARD. He’s making it much harder.

That’s tragic. Because you deserve a medal for heroism and your son deserves a consistent, loving, invested parent.

And if you’re NOT going to get those things, fine. You’ll learn to manage without them. Instead, he’s doing the worst thing — showing up sporadically (intermittent kibbles for your son) — and trying to micromanage you.

This is the crux of the co-parenting with a fuckwit dilemma. You can’t “co” anything with them. It’s all about them. Your ex’s boredom. His schedule. His whims. His impression management.

As you’ve rightly surmised, if he were actually interested in responsible parenting, he would SHOW THE FUCK UP for the unglamorous shit — 13 years of doctor’s appointments, book reports, stomach flu, play dates, packed lunches, signed permission slips, or midnight runs for posterboard.

Now he’s indicating he might attend? If he finds it sufficiently interesting? Who made him Caesar?

This isn’t discussing the evening’s menu specials with a disgruntled patron. Your child isn’t an option. A child is a responsibility. An HONOR. A GIFT. It’s not your job to cajole a fuckwit into showing up. Shut. That. Shit. Down.

We live in a modern age with parenting software. Use it. Whatever your child’s schedule is that month, load it on that Family Wizard (or whatever you choose) and be done with it. Go about your life. Give your ex what the custody order decrees and nothing more.

He doesn’t show? Document it. He flakes out again, or wants another accommodation after the last 15 accommodations? NO. Then you go back to doing it all yourself. Expect nothing. He wails BUT MY ORDER SAYS I GET THIS! Crickets. Or you reply, (perhaps by attorney letter), “Your order also said you were supposed to show up the last 15 times and didn’t.” He wails PARENTAL ALIENATION! Ignore. Because you are the SHOW UP PARENT and he IS NOT. And you’ve documented that shit on your software.

He alienated his goddamn self by being a no-show fuckwit.

Smart, what’s he going to do? Seriously? Sue you for more time with a disabled child he can barely bother to see? Call that fucking bluff. Ignore his bleating. I don’t take fashion advice from hobos. You don’t take parenting advice from him.

If he’d like to escalate this with a letter from his attorney — that costs money. Remind yourself who is in the power seat doing the showing up — you are. Can you really imagine him going to court to complain that you said smoking is bad for your health? “But Your Honor, it IMPLIED my client was a Bad Person because he smokes!”

No. Just no. Judges see real shit. Terrible cases of abuse and neglect. Do you really think if a fuckwit managed to get on a docket with this kind of pissy stuff, it would end well? Don’t let your ex intimidate you. The days of you dancing to please him are GONE.

How do I protect my boy? Both from getting his heart broke when he goes back to being unimportant and from the terrible influence the ex is.

That’s your real problem — your son’s heart. Because you’re a loving mom, you would throw yourself on any grenade to keep your child safe. I get it. It’s one thing for your ex to devalue you, it’s another thing for him to devalue your son. Again and again. On your watch. That’s your heartbreak.

You don’t control the quality of your ex’s parenting. And to a lesser degree, we don’t control family court and the orders that force us to endure no-show fuckwits for 18 years. That leaves controlling yourself.

Your son is important to YOU. And you show him every day. You’re a GOOD influence. You influence him every day.

The world is full of dangers — cigarette smoke, drinking and driving, lead in the water supply — and unloving fuckwits. We parent our children anyway. In spite of. We navigate danger and mop up heartbreak.

The kids know it. They don’t always show it, because they’re kids. But they know who shows up. Sometimes the harder struggle is to know it ourselves — that we’re enough. That our sane parenting game is strong and that our cause is just.

Know it. (((Hugs))) You’re doing a great job.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Just ignore it all. He’s doing “forced teaming”, wherein he’s making you and him on the same parent team. In reality, you parent your child, and he sort of parents him. It’s his responsibility to find out what he needs to know from someone other than you…the school, etc. Refuse to respond because he’s trying to control you by using your child. He’s not being a devoted parent….he’s being a total jerk.

    • Larry,
      Unfortunately I disagree with most of what you and others are saying. No contact is one thing.
      This came up a lot here the last 2 days. steering either parent to outside sources for any information about
      any child(ren) is a major sign and the beginning of parental alienation. These little traps for contact that they set are stupid and tricky. But they are a fact of life.

      • I agree Leonidis. It is not the job of a child’s principal, doctor, dentist, day care provider, coach etc. etc. to fill in the blank pieces of a child’s life under their supervision, to parents who are in a high conflict relationship. Get your acts together parents.. You can communicate with each other through the internet, through your phones, through your paid lawyers. Leave innocent bystanders out of your messy personal lives.

        • take a hike troll. You clearly have no idea or empathy. It has never been my job to protect people, other than my child, from my ex. I just did you a favor for 12 years.

          • Sorry Gorilla Poop: I am not clear what you are trying to say? Did me a favour? 12 years? BTW – not a troll. Raised 3 kids, with a cheater ex-husband, to adulthood. Not always perfect, but took great care not to let the fall-out from our divorce spill over into places and people’s lives where it should not go. High conflict people have a incredible propensity to slop their shit into innocent people’s lives. And I won’t make myself popular here, but even chumps can be high conflict people. Not every chump is an an angel, (just like not every dead person is wonderful, even though that’s what we read in obits.)

            • Setting boundaries does not make a chump high conflict. Don’t slap the hard working parents with that label.

            • When You send your Ex a note thru a court ordered parenting app that Says “Report Card Straight A’s” and a picture of the report card.

              And his response is “She’s doing so much better than her Pig Mom”.

              That’s not high conflict that’s ABUSE! Maybe your ex was different but some of us are chumps and victims. I have to deal with this tell my children are 18 and no legal system cares.

              Other Responses to generic info include “Fuckin bejesus sucker” because after his affair he no longer believes in god. And “OK Porkchop” and “It would be funny to see you and your fat friends riding around singing in your car” and Shall I continue? I have 2 1/2 years of responses like this. Please explain how you could mentally survive that? I have 10 years to go.

              • I am sorry, Finding Peace. You are absolutely right – that is abuse. I did not suffer through such atrocious treatment. I did not have a deadbeat ex. I do apologize to all of you who have gone none-contact with your severely abusive and downright cruel ex’s to save your sanity. Very sorry.

              • Finding Peace, just the biggest hug for you. I’m hoping the nasty little crybaby will get bored soon and leave you alone. So sorry sweetheart x

              • That parenting app is so there will be a paper trail of correspondences. I would show all these abusive type responses to your lawyer. Yes there may be an expense involved but you know what, maybe it would be worth it to not have 10 more years of this. You Do Not have to put up with this.

                You keep doing things exactly as you’re supposed to, he’s showing his ass so let him take his own downfall.

            • This is such an incredibly naive comment. I’m super happy for people whose exs dont treat them like shit and lane them for everything, but that is not the reality for most chumps. Most of us have an ex who will use any interchange to inflict some sort of abuse or devaluation to continue their false narrative about how everything that happened was our fault. The only way to win that game is not to play.
              And, the fallout from my divorce went everywhere – that’s right, innocent bystanders had to suffer through a woman crying in the middle of publix once in a while among many other inconvenient displays. Forgive me for being a human being.

              • (((((Ragingmeh)))))
                If ever I saw you, or a Chump like you, crying in a store or elsewhere I would stop what I was doing, hug you and let you cry on my shoulder.
                I understand. I am so sorry.

        • @chumpchange9 Indeed, it is easy to contact the school to get a sports schedule etc. So why don’t deadbeat parents just do it? As you say, it is all on the internet. For this reason, deadbeat parents can pick up their own smartphone and find it themselves instead of asking their former wife appliance to do yet one more thing for them. Assuredly, the child doesn’t suffer in these cases because the sane parent is doing all the work to make sure uniforms have been bought, shoes replaced for school in September, play dates organized, report cards signed etc. Schools are very familiar with divided families and readily provide an extra copy of the report card. But the deadbeat parent does have to request it. In five years my deadbeat unemployed (“retired”) ex has been too busy to consistently show up to drive our children to their activities. He had some idea that I am his backup when golf, TV or porn kept him from keep his commitments and so when he could not show up consistently, I just took over the full responsibility – nothing new here. I no longer write all the letters to the children when they are at camp and sign my ex’s name, he no longer gets to take credit for family parties that I organize and pay for (always have) and on and on. Parents who want to parent, do.

        • Chumpchange9 and Leonidis, I don’t think that’s what Larry is saying–or most of the people responding to this thread. I think the idea is that the ex (who sounds a lot like my ex) is asking her to be his secretary and he can find out information like when conferences are, book reports are due, etc by signing up to receive that information from the school. I don’t know of a school that doesn’t have an online system to all parents who are on the email list of everything from the day’s homework assignments, to current grades, to school events. He can take care of that shit on his own. I’m with Larry-you don’t have to keep him in the loop if he took himself out of it. I stopped telling my ex anything, even if it is the type of information one would share with and ACTUAL co-parent. He will say something dismissive if it’s a concern he doesn’t share, accusatory if there is any way to blame shift or take over with his drinking, smoking, porn-watching, money making no matter who you step on way and pretend to be in charge while undermining everything I do. So I just don’t go there anymore. He can sign up for school loop and ask his kids when their performances are. Or get on the piano teacher’s email list. The parents who “have their act together” are not a pair where one is a philandering, porn-addicted narcissist.

      • I disagree. Dad can find out most things just like mom does. That is not shifting the responsibility to anyone but him, which is wholly appropriate. School and sports schedules are online. Patient portals are widely available. If he wants that info, he can get it exactly as any actual parent must. The mom is only the mom of the child, not the mom of the ex, and her wife appliances duties are over. Not her job to smooth the ex’s way. No reason to withhold anything. She can for sure inform him of the facts of any illnesses and so on, but I vote no to doing any parenting for him. He wants to be a real dad? Then he can figure that shit out as all parents must.

        • The people who pay for parents’ non-communication are the kids. Is it so hard for Dad to email his son’s hockey schedule to Mom, if he’s a coach? Is it so hard for Mom, to email her daughter’s ballet practices to Dad, if he will be involved in drop off and pick up? It takes 2seconds. It is a win – win – win situation for all participants.

          • Actually, the kids pay when the sane parent make the chump mistake to believe that the disordered parent want to have this info bc he/she cares about the child. I agree 100% with cashmere. If dad cares, he has the same power to obtain the info without harassing the mother. We’re talking about dealing with a manipulative, abusive ex not a normal, caring person.

            • Yes agree. This is me 💯. The kids suffer more emotional abuse and trauma bonding when the chump has the mistaken belief the disordered parent cares about the kids.
              I tried for a while. Informing stbxh things like school reports or teacher comments in praise of children and I get back “wow”. Or contact to inform we are in emergency department with a head injury to one of children. Child was messenging dad and wanted to call him. He lied about his location and said he couldn’t because internet shaky. Or had care of his child sick for a day and child read live messages on his tablet to OW when he went to make lunch. OW who has not met child nor stepped foot in childs country said in reference to child if she can walk she can go to school and child doesn’t deserve that lunch – after stbxh sent a photo of the lunch he prepared. Child’s father responded” I agree”. Child did not enquire with father as he gaslights both children after he moved out to a 1 br apartment after getting caught cheating for 2 years. Actually responding with people have sex, I hate women and I don’t give a fuck about the kids. Never spoken a word about it or the girlfriend or his coming and going a few months here, several months there back for 2 weeks. Random phone calls to kids once a week. When he had visitation for a period of 2 weeks he would return kids with messages such as “tell your mother to get a babysitter”. He forgot both children’s birthdays and calls them his best friends. This fuckwit earns $410k and gave lawyer his financials with $1100 in bank. I am not going to keep prentending he cares about his children. I do not bad mouth him. He does the alienation himself and that will grow when we loose our 700k house and rent with $900 child support per month he gets away with providing his children. Lawyer told me it is not worth the psychological harm to allow kids to see him without 1 week notice. People assume I am alienating. It’s not fair. They no longer say they love each at end of phone calls.

              • Annette, this breaks my heart for the children and for you seeing it happen, big love to you all and so hoping you all break free of that fw soonest xxxx

          • The sperm donor in the advice letter sounds like a dead beat. Much different then then dad who shows up and pays. For kids with sperm donors…who disappear for weeks, months, and even years from their kid’s life….very traumatic when the sperm donor shows his pokey head back into their life. There is a lot of anxiety that the sperm donor is going to run away again….which he usually does. And this plays emotional havoc on every kid. Self esteem is gone. Their own ‘dad’ doesn’t want them. I can’t imagine the pain for a kid with disabilities who the world already does quick glances and looks away from. Don’t try to transplant a ‘dad’ character to the deadbeat sperm donor. It’s like asking a sour lemon to taste like honey.

          • When this works it works well. In my case it works because my ex actually does care about the kids and he isn’t harassing me now that we are divorced. We both keep each other informed about what is going on with the kids. It’s a two way street without one doing all of the work because the other is too lazy to bother. Not everyone is so lucky, however. Many (possibly even most) of the people in chump nation have exes who will use any communication as an opportunity to harass. In those cases it is best to avoid communication and if cheater really does care about the kids, he/she will figure it out on their own because it matters to them.

            • And if they figure it out – that they care about their kids but have put them through years of psychological and emotional abuse – been physical absent and financially abusive – what then? It’s all ok? Dad’s gets to continue to abuse? My children are 9 and 11.

          • I get my child’s school schedule of activities, assignments, etc. from the school website and/or email subscriptions. Why would I need to communicate this information directly to his father when he can easily find the same information online himself? After all, “It takes 2 seconds.”

          • Yes it is that hard. Dad tells child after a loss at hockey “I thought you were good at hockey”. Dad tells child at sports activity after not making top 3 “what do you think you were doing”

      • Another fact of life is that much of the communication from schools, coaches, and even health records are electronic. I gave up the duties of serving my Ex when he decided he didn’t want me for his wife. He can get himself on the email lists and have his own conversations with doctors and teachers when and if he chooses. I’ve never asked folks to get in the middle of me and my ex and I’ve even helped THEM sort out their own issues with him (lack of payments and follow through). But if they find it tedious that we’re divorced and they have to deal with two parents separately we’ll that’s just too bad. I’m not violating my boundaries and giving an abuser any extra space to spare folks I barely know some inconvenience. It’s inappropriate for anyone to lump any protective measure under the notion of “mutual high conflict”. Keep patting yourself on the back for you magnanimity but don’t assume it’s safe for the rest of us to act just like you.

      • I don’t ask his Dr or teachers or any one else to keep my ex informed. I tell him, via email, one time. I don’t think my responsibility extends further than that. It’s not my job to make sure he doesn’t forget that it’s the first day of school and he needs to have some one lined up to meet my son at the bus on the days the judge said my boy has to go there. I told him when the first day was. He’s on the same email list I am for team schedules. If he chooses not to show for a game or “forgets” to take him to one or pick him up from one, also not my fault.

        If my son needs a medical procedure, I tell the ex that as well, what it is, when it is and why he needs it. He doesn’t care as long as he doesn’t have to pay anything towards it. When he did he used to protest treatments all the time, and yes take me to court over it where he would lose. Now that my boy qualifies for Medicaid as a disabled person and his medicals are covered he has no opinion at least that he bothers to express.

        I don’t feel bad at all about how I handle communication with the ex. I am not high conflict. I hate drama. I’d be perfectly happy if he disappeared never to contact us again.

        All I object to is his jerking my boy around for his own amusement. He took me to court for more custodial time and when he got it promptly started to dump him at my mother in law’s for all of the additional time in addition to the time he already had. It wasn’t about time with the boy. It was about less child support. I didn’t bother to go back and contest that, who has the f’ ing time for that crap. I just have an agreement with my former mother in law, if my boy wants to come home while he’s with her she brings him to me. If he’s happy spending time with Nana he stays with her.
        My boy HATES to go to the ex’s. I tell him I’m sorry but his dad told the judge he loves him and we have to give his dad time to see him because it’s only fair we take turns. But it breaks my heart a little more every time I have to force him protesting out the door. My comfort is 99% of the time they go straight to Nana’s and I know my boy is fine once he gets there.

        • Actually, dad time is supposed to be with dad. Unless he’s working and it’s daycare. Dumping to anyone else is not viewed well by judges. Document when he’s at grandmas verses dad. Dad might come ask for more dad time (less child support). But glad he has a good paternal grandma.

        • TooSmart, that is hard; I’m 2.5 years out … on his one week in three with his dad, my 16 year old seems to ‘sleep over’ with one or other of his older siblings at least one night, sometimes more. One time he was left in the care of a 21 year old sibling for the whole custodial week while ex went on a school trip. When he had a fight with his dad and fled to his sisters for the weekend before they finally told me and I fetched him home, I told him straight out that if it wasn’t working out for him living at dads for the week, he should stay with me and just visit his dad. When my son responded, with tears in his eyes, that his dad told him that if he was going to be like that maybe he(his dad) didn’t want to see him at all, I can’t even begin to describe how I felt about the man I once loved so deeply. The ‘fight’ was actually my brave kid telling his dad to stop denigrating me. My son wants a relationship with his dad and is worried that he might not be able to have that if he decides to live with me all the time and just visit his dad. As a 16 year old in Australia he gets to decide where he lives so there’s really no legal recourse for me. Like you, I just make sure he always knows he can come home to me any time he likes. Tossing up whether to tell the siblings to stop the sleepovers – its kinda like the poor kid is couch surfing to avoid too much contact with his dad for the week he’s not with me. But I don’t want to make the last year before he turns 18 more difficult that it needs to be.

          As for the rest – TooSmart, you are generous to keep email contact open. I have no contact with my abusive ex-spouse and I put all relevant events on the shared calendar. If he chooses not to access it and thus is unaware of upcoming significant events in his child’s life, that is his problem. In addition, the school website has a term planner on it where anyone can find out what events are coming up; the school distributes newsletters anyone can access to find out what is going on at school; any custoial parent can phone a school to ask for information; if I forget an appointment date of course I can phone a doctor or dentist etc to find out when it is – just like ex can if he chooses. He can also talk about such things and follow them up with his child. That’s not burdening other people with our shit, that is simply part of managing any life.

      • I disagree. If you want to know what is going on with your child, you need to be a fully engaged and actively involved parent, not just someone who shows up when it is convenient for you. You need to be at the parent teacher conferences, school events, at the doctor’s appointments, surgeries, sporting events and other very important areas of your child’s life. In other words, you need to show up, whether you want to or not. It is not the other parent’s job to keep you informed, if they do, it is a courtesy. They are obligated to tell you when these things are occurring but if you were as involved as you should be, the ex wouldn’t need to inform you as the school, sports coach, doctors, etc, would be in touch with you. Being divorced or separated does not absolve anyone of the responsibilities of parenting. You are either present or you are not. Not showing up just because you don’t feel like it isn’t acceptable.

        Your ex does not have time to sit down and explain everything to you. They have a job, they have children to raise, they have a million things to do. Every once in a while is one thing, but every single time because someone can’t be bothered is different. The one exception is the parent who lives too far away to be there every time. Having plans with Schmoopie or because they don’t feel like it is not acceptable.

        Kids know who shows up and who doesn’t.

    • Mainly, pay attention to your divorce decree. Even if you are the sole custodial parent, you may have to get permission from the cheater for big medical procedures, and even permission for the child to attend therapy. FAILURE to do do may result in contempt cases (trust me; I write letters for chumps facing parental alienation suits and some of these family court judges are nasty and will fine/jail parents who violate divorce decrees).

      If possible, get majority custody of children and SOLE discretion for medical, therapeutic, travel- and school-related decisions. It will save you a lot of battles with cheater.

      As for school- and sports-related activities, if your decree specified you must let cheated know of these things, use Our Family Wizard so that you can document compliance (because the disordered may make wild claims against you).

  • I, too, struggle with this. “Mom” is a deadbeat who couldn’t even be bothered to participate in back to school events this year, or the first day of school yesterday. She left the kids with me in June after minimally participating for the previous 6 months.

    Yet I know she’ll finally decide to show up in a few weeks when there’s no place else to go. And I’m powerless to stop her. At least you don’t still have to pay yours child support.

  • And save those emails until your kid reaches an age where the co-parenting relationship doesn’t legally matter. I love when they send their BS in writing, not because it’s worth reading (it isn’t), but because it’s their own words commemorated in an evidentiary medium, which is gold for a lawyer building a case.

    • Yep. Because of my ex’s lack of self control in the email rant department, my lawyer had a nice lil attachment showing a judge why sanctions were warranted.

  • Hmmm, everyone in town avoids him, his daughter moved out the second she turned 18…. I think his community has his number.

  • Google calendar works great too. I created a calendar for each one of my kids, and then I share it with the Ex. I don’t have to talk to him about anything. He can see when everything is for himself. My ex only shows up for those things that interest him and fit in his schedule.

    • I’m with SMT.
      Those dating profile sympathy photos don’t take themselves- they’re shameless.
      Also a possible slow Hoover for maintenance kibbles move.
      Addicts with the kibbles, because being alone leaves only that one person in the mirror for daily torture sessions.
      Deep breaths, someone will swipe right soon enough, and he will vaporize again.

  • Hey toosmart – CL is 100% right you are the mighty and have all the power- and he’s afraid of that fact – chances are his son will NOT want to be like his father. I believe your son will realize all this and he’ll always look to you for advice, etc. You’re also doing a really smart thing by not trashing him in front your son (that demonstrates your power right there). And your story (especially all you’ve been through alone) on this forum gives others in the same boat inspiration!
    You deserve the best.

    • My heart aches for you reading your letter. It is so hard and the person who claims to be a father makes life even harder.

      Please take the advice of ONLY communicating thru parenting software. There are so many examples on this site about how helpful the software is with lawyers and ex’s showing their tru colors. Just make sure you remind him via automatic email response that all communication must be thru the software.

      While I do not have a disabled son and all that comes with that reality, I can address the heartbreak that comes as your son realizes who and what his “father” is.

      First, you assume he doesn’t already know. Any child who has been through school, doctor appointments, sports and surgeries already knows who has been there and who hasn’t. Kids see things better than we do although may not express it.

      Your son will do great. While there are no guarantees in life, I would be that this will come to be.

      My sons are now men (technically but they will always be my kids). They know who to call to share successes and problems…me. There is zero doubt who supports them and has their backs. Even my daughter-in-law knows I’m the sane, supportive parent who shows up big time.

      Does it hurt them? Yes. Do I make up for the loss of a fuckwit in their lives? YES!!!

      Stand your ground with the family software. Keep every email he sends (but don’t respond). Block his texts and calls unless there is a court order to keep that communication available.

      You’ve been doing a great job until now and you will only get better and stronger. The love you and your son share will grow and expand and he won’t feel less that because he will have the toughest mama in the world.

      You have this one!

  • Total image management. He just wants points.

    Disclaimer: I mean no offense with the following comment to the good dads out there, especially the ones on this site that have had (and choose) to do the lions share of parenting and adulting.

    Our society seems to set the bar really low for what makes a man a good dad. I recall being at one of the first newborn checkups and cheater dad went with. The nurses and 2 separate women commented to him on how wonderful he must be because he came to the appointment. He took kid to the grocery store once and came back with tales of how many people commented what a good father he was to be out shopping with his boy.

    Ladies, you ever get a high five and worldly props while out with your kid at target? Yeah, me neither.

    Men get adulation for doing the simplest of parental tasks while women are still expected to do all the mom things and now the career thing too without any hurrah.

    • 👍 The worst is when they get the “good dad” props right in front of you for doing much less than you are doing. You, on the other hand, might as well be nonexistent. The thing that bothers me most is that it’s invariably women who do this. My own mother used to do it. Let’s not forget the “good husband” props they get for taking out the trash, as you slave away doing everything else and nobody notices. I worked two jobs, did all the housework and most of the childcare (one disabled child, the other with ADD) and nobody patted me on the back. Several people kept telling me how lucky I was to have him. I suppose that’s because he didn’t beat me and at that point, hadn’t cheated. Nobody said he was lucky to have me doing all the adulting.
      A very low bar indeed.

  • Thanks CL and commenters. I needed this this morning. I got a call as I was leaving for work; he lost my son’s medication and ” You need to go to the school and give it to him”. It’s maddening.

    • What a total douche. It’s infuriating having to entrust your child to the care of someone who struggles to care about anybody but themselves. I hope you’re noting this down in the register of douche-ness for future reference.

    • LOST? Perhaps there is another reason your son’s medication is gone? Any drug addicts in his acquaintance?

      Is it possible to leave his medication with the school? Just bypass the fuckwit as much as possible. Document this negligence on your EX’s part through e-mail with the school.

      Hang in there, Mama. You got this.

    • You must document this! Every move he pulls this stuff. When he is blowing off his visitation you must document! This is important. He is still trying to control you. Use that software and documents for every time he doesn’t show up.

  • My kids (teens/in their twenties) are heart broken that their dad has nearly disappeared from their lives; he only sporadically emails/calls and almost never visits. Last time he was here it was January and when he comes, he brings schmoopie (new wife) and insists on everyone being together.

    I can’t do a damn thing about it except be sympathetic to their sorrow and encourage them to have a great life – despite a dad who has totally bailed.

    • @Cloud, I feel for your kids – it’s so difficult for them to process that rejection. Especially when you can’t tell them the real truth ie. “It’s not because there’s anything is wrong with you, it’s because there’s something wrong with your father – he’s just a selfish dick.”

      My five year old still struggles to process the fact that her father just disappeared from her life. After we split he took my to court to get an order for contact, visited for a few months. Then I had to cancel one visit because she got really ill, so ill we had to go to hospital.
      I contacted him to tell him I couldn’t bring her to the contact centre because she was in hospital, he didn’t even ask what was wrong with her, or if she was ok. He never asked.
      After that he just faded away from her life. In many ways I feel it’s for the best, because if he’s not going to be a reliable regular presence it’s better if he’s not a presence at all rather than coming and going but… I know it’s a cause of sadness for her. But what can I say to make it better? Not much.

  • Smart,

    I feel for you. My husband, when he filed for divorce, had no idea how long our kids had been in Scouts, did not realize that one of our kids had been in Special Ed for 1.5 years, although I had informed him when I was informed that this kid of ours had been put in Special Ed, and didn’t know my height, weight, major in my doctorate, which I worked on for several years, etc. My husband was too absorbed in his ‘other life’ to know his own family, the family he voluntarily created.

    Based on many years of trying to ‘co-parent’ with an abusive husband/now ex-husband who is rarely around (due to his work schedule out of state/country) but consistently publicly claims that I and the legal system have screwed him over (he’s an activist in the Men’s/Fathers’ Rights Movement) although he is the one who frequently breaks the law (he’s a master of DARVO), I would advise Sane, Responsible Parents to Know Their Worth and try not to get upset by the outrageous attacks on them. We cannot control unethical, disordered people or even much of the narrative and what people think of us. The best we can do is live our lives according to our principles. Ideally, our children will realize that we are trying to live ethical, responsible lives, we are encouraging them to do the same, and we love them.

    Regarding the Men’s/Fathers’ Rights Movement, I believe that some men are treated unfairly by their partners/ex-partners. However, some men use the Movement as a vehicle to harass their partners/ex-partners who they have abused and continue to abuse. My ex-husband tells people, including our children, that I cheated, abused him, filed for divorce, and tried to prevent him from seeing our children–he projects his behavior onto me–he cheated, abused me in various ways over the years, filed for divorce, and tried to prevent me from seeing our children. He won’t stop until he dies. Unfortunately, some people readily believe good image managers who bear false witness.

    • “We cannot control unethical, disordered people or even much of the narrative and what people think of us. The best we can do is live our lives according to our principles. Ideally, our children will realize that we are trying to live ethical, responsible lives, we are encouraging them to do the same, and we love them.”

      This sums it up nicely, RSW!

      It’s not our shame. I’ll add that living better is how we define ourselves and how we live our lives. At some point their lies catch up with them and the narrative is so laughable What meaning can one attach to what a drunken stoned asshole who is so far removed from his children’s lives matter to anyone? Consider the audience. They aren’t applauding.

    • I’ve encountered a number of men in the “men’s rights” camp and without exception, they were virulent misogynists and whiny little bitches. I understand the father’s rights thing (or more correctly, non-custodial parent’s rights, because the same injustice can happen to non-custodial mothers as well) but “men’s rights” is as laughable as “white rights”. I’m sorry you had the misfortune to be abused by one of those creeps.

    • This is 100% my Ex’s story, that I was a horrible wife, kicked him out, took the house and all his money, and alienated his kids from him. Only he’s too lazy to join the men’s rights groups!!!! He accuses me of being bitter and nasty, and that I’m teaching our kids to be the same. Total projection.

      He moved to another city, and had no contact w/ANYONE in our circle once I kicked him out for his second time cheating. So that allows him to control the narrative. I hope he enjoys that self-righteous anger, the self-pity, and the sympathy it gets him from others (temporarily, anybody who sticks around for long figures it out, I’m sure!)

  • Toosmartforthisshit, you are amazing. I salute you. It takes incredible personal strength and determination to control your reactions to his continued manipulations.

    You can’t control him. You continue on as you have done. You know he will get bored and something more exciting will come along. He will bail on your son. You will be there to comfort your son.

    I wish you could protect your son from the heartache of dealing with a fuckwit. All you can do is what you are doing. I think you are handling this dilemma with grace and dignity. It just feels as if you could do more.

    None of us can protect our darling children from the pain of disappointment in their disordered parent. You are doing everything I know of to protect him. You are a good Mama, he is a fuckwit. You will rise.

  • Smart,
    Another thing to consider–we cannot completely protect our children from our exes. I stayed with my husband for several years to act as a human shield to our children. After my husband filed for divorce, I asked for supervised visitation of my estranged husband for our children to protect our children but did not get it. Once I realized that my ex-husband could (1) expose our children to drunk-driving mistresses and illegal drug use (among other illegal behavior), routine suing of people he does not like; (2) take our children to a brothel; and (3) abuse our children and I could do virtually nothing to stop him, as sad and as worried as I was, I started to relax a bit and became a stronger parent. All I can do is talk to our children about how to protect themselves from their father and encourage them to be honest, kind, loyal people. The legal system has done more harm than good in my case. On the bright side, perhaps people exposed to the ‘dark underbelly of life’ while still children will not be as naive as I was and thus not become chumps.

  • Sane parenting is all about consistency. Sadly, you can’t control how your Fuckwit decides to parent. It’s evident that he’s the kind of parent who will swoop into your son’s life when there’s nothing else going on, and will drop out as soon as he gets distracted by Strange.

    The heartbreak for your son will be in the intermittent kibbles. I don’t know the nature of your son’s disability, but it is entirely normal for children to want to look up to their parent and feel loved/wanted. Now that his father is more involved (for a given quality of “more”), your son may start to feel as if his father loves him and wants to be with him.

    I think that open communication with your son is paramount. You can’t stop his heart from being broken, but you can stress that this is about his father, not about the son. You can remind your son that his father was absent for quite a while, but then dropped back into the son’s life, and has now dropped out. This is the normal pattern. It is okay for your son to enjoy seeing his father when his father is around, and it is okay for your son to feel sad when his father drops out again. But this is all part of a larger cycle, and your son can expect this to happen again in the future.

    As your son grows older, he can decide how he wants to manage his relationship with his father. He may decide that he doesn’t appreciate his father’s attempts to insinuate his way into the son’s life after being largely absent, and therefore opts to keep contact to a minimum. He may decide that his father is okay, but that he can’t be depended on in the long term and so the son will enjoy him for the short time he hangs around.

    Providing emotional support for your son–and appropriate therapy–will help your son deal with the relationship.

    • Excellent comment. “Intermittent kibbles” equals “trauma bond” for the children. It might be a good idea to start ongoing therapy with or for your son now, to help him manage this abuse.

    • Oh RSW, I get it, I really do. You are so busy trying to make a living, just survive. Yet there is help, I can recommend this book, “The Journey from Abandonment to Healing” by Susan Anderson. You might be able to order it at your local library.

      You could need more help than a book. If you are of a certain age you might need hormonal therapy. You might need a short course of antidepressants. There is no shame in seeking medical help for pervasive feelings of hopelessness and depression.

      You take care of yourself too. I try to treat myself like I would a beloved child; I get me to bed, go to the park, try to eat good food, cut myself some slack because this is the hardest time I’ve ever lived through.

      I am sorry this is such a bad time in your life. Hang in there. You are going to make it. Look how far you came.

  • I’m convinced this kind of bs is merely entertainment inside their warped mind. Sometimes it goes beyond image management. They just do it because they have nothing else going on.

  • Smart, you’ve documented his absence already. I’d suggest you speak to your attorney to have physical custody. Once you do this you will be able to make all medical decisions for your child.

    He doesn’t get to make those decisions. This is the real issue. And it doesn’t impact his visitation.

  • My fuckwit involvement with our sons and their families has been one of the saddest outcomes of his cheating and our divorce. As children my he was a stay at home daf as I traveled and worked hard to build a life for the family. my career was what supported our family. He was a good father, he was a baseball coach, everybody thought he was just amazing an father. And then after they left home he stopped work and I don’t know what he did during the day but at the end he had an affair and my sons rarely see him rarely, hear from him. Suns don’t know how to handle that. I feel really sorry for them that they have to go through that and I carry guilt about marrying somebody who ended up being this disappearing father figure. so I get how you fee.l it’s the hardest thing but I can’t do anything about that I just continue being the best mom I can be. i hope they find other role model to help them in that that missing part of their life

  • He wouldn’t go to his son’s games because they were “Just for disabled kids.” What an absolute MONSTER!
    As a mother of a disabled daughter, I’d like to disable him with a ball peen hammer to every joint in his body.

    CL is right. Document everything he does, including what your son reports to you about seeing him smoking, drinking, doing drugs, using porn, etc. Do not deal with him directly.
    He will inevitably create a picture of himself as what he is- an unfit parent.
    I figure it’s either that or move far away and change your names so he can’t get to your son.

  • I lost a lot of sleep and harbored a lot of anger over how my ex treated his sons. At one point it was all consuming.

    I read a lot here from Chump Lady and CN about how I should be the sane parent and just let the ex develop a relationship with the kids, no matter what it turns out to be. I heard the same from my therapist and my lawyer. The relationship was out of my control and I should just let it go. As hard as it was, that’s what I did. As much as I could see the disappointment in the kids, I let him do what he wanted to do. I was always here to pick up the pieces. They knew I had their backs and I could somehow make things right.

    The boys are 18 and 21. Neither of them want anything to do with him. I took them for new phones so they could get off of his girlfriend’s plan. One of them gave the ex his vehicle and went and bought himself a new one. They want no ties to him at all. They don’t answer his calls or texts.

    So as tough as it was on them, they have seen for themselves what kind of person their dad is. Obviously he’s not someone they want to associate with anymore.

    I can tell you from experience that doing this is hard. Being the sane parent is hard. Parenting with an idiot is hard. There were times when I thought I would have a break down from all of the shit this jerk put us through. Keep yourself surrounded with good friends/family, CL and CN. You will get through this because you love your kids.

    • Your sons have built good boundaries Margo, and I bet it’s because of your example. You’ve given them one of their most valuable life skills, excellent Mom work! X

  • “Now he wants to be told of every move the boy makes.” Listen to CL’s advice on this–use Our Family Wizard, even if SadX refuses to. Keep a calendar with the pertinent dates, load copies of receipts, etc. But don’t forget–your X can sign up for information from the school just as you did, to get the bus schedule and calendars and so on. When he “he wants to be told of every move,” you email him back ONE TIME: “See the calendar on Our Family Wizard. You can also sign up for the email/texts from these activities: [list].” Then don’t respond after that. Just stop. He’s not just using your son to fill his time; he’s triangulating to get you to pay attention to him, too.

  • Is anyone here in what feels like a permanent depressive state, for years just dragging one’s knuckles, mentally, emotionally, physically exhausted trying to do what is necessary to keep kids alive. Five years since my husband left and two years since last partner left, I feel as though I am in a permanent funk, powerless, despairing. I don’t expect justice—I just wish that I did not feel angry, sad, hopeless, afraid ALL the time. (I don’t want to be alone (without a decent partner), especially as a parent, for my whole life, but it looks as though how life will very likely go.) If I could feel not so angry, sad, hopeless, afraid, at least I could help my kids more.

    • RockStar,
      I feel most kindred to you on this board, and often see myself on your posts.

      You’re not alone. I’m not as far out from d day as you, but I feel all those things ALL the time too. Every minute I am consumed by what has happened. How much I’ve lost, and the future I no longer have. Some days my biggest victory is getting dressed. I get the pain though. It’s actual physical pain and I can’t run or fight it, so flight or fight response is constantly on.

      And I’ve done ALL THE THINGS: therapy, EMDR, the whole codependent Amazon reader list, gratitude journal, journal journal, vision board, meditation. NOT helping.

      What’s the saying, “if you have a why, you can suffer any how.” Well, I realize I have lost my biggest WHY in life: my family and my hope. I was the most hopeful peraon around which just turned me into superstar chump.

      But, I have a small child that needs me to recover. That’s the WHY I have to hold on too. Some days, some very scary days, even that WHY doesn’t seem like enough. I just tell myself I have to be curious enough to try out one more day, and some are just a bit easier than others.

    • I hear you. I’ve been in that state since before d-day because I was being treated so callously. Our kids are grown but the fallout from his cheating managed to destroy my relationship with my eldest, thus no contact with my grandkids.
      I attach no personal meaning to life anymore and am just hanging on by my fingernails for my daughter and my dogs. I tend to doubt that will change significantly. I hope it does for you, RSW.

    • RSW

      I went through stages like that. Where the only reason I got out of bed was because my son needed me to. What changed was that I also decided my son needed a mom who could be fun, happy, and lighthearted too. If I want him to truly have a good life, I need to model what one looks like for him. I don’t want him to grow up thinking life is nothing but dragging yourself through one day to do it again the next.
      So I got myself to a Therapist and I took the damn antidepressants even though I didn’t want to need them. When my boy was at his Nana’s I forced myself to volunteer or go try a new hobby even though I didn’t want to do that either. It’s been a tough 3 years. I lost my job and struggled along on $300 a week unemployment until I found a new one. There have been health issues and other things that just happen in life. But it HAS gotten better. Some of those things I forced myself to do at first I really enjoy now. Turns out I’m not half bad at painting, and even though I don’t enjoy board games I LOVE setting up and running a game night for the local disabled community.

      You CAN do this. You’ve already done do much. Don’t settle for just getting by. You deserve better (and if the only way you can motivate your self to reach for it is your child’s wellbeing like me, well use that. You will both end up better off for it).

      • TooSmart, I love this. You came here for help and here you are helping. I’ve been helped by you and RSW. This is a beautiful circle of love and support. My life is infinitely better for this site and chumps like you two. Thank You Chump Lady and Chump Nation.

    • RockStarWife–Don’t forget the moniker you chose… you must feel you are a rock star somewhere underneath the shit life has heaped on you. I do feel that way sometimes, and I walk around being triggered by things and in need of someone to tell me every day that I am not unlovable in order to love myself. For most of us chumps, family/companionship/marriage are a huge chunk of how we define happiness. I think it’s sometimes hard to take the advice about rejoicing in how much better off you are without the fuckwit, because we chumps have so invested so much in our failed marriages. It’s like you paid millions of dollars for something that was hurting you, and you finally got rid of it and everyone wants you to be happy you got rid of it but….you kind of want your millions of dollars back. And if you’re older, it’s harder to find that life you are supposed to gain when you lose the cheater. There are so many reasons to despair, no question. But, but, but…there are also reasons to be happy. Sometimes it starts with acknowledging that you are having a good day. And then stop there…don’t try to link it to losing the cheater or expect it to stick for any length of time. Just take it in as it happens. You are watching a good show. Drinking an awesome cup of coffee. Taking a nice walk. Reading a good book. It’s so easy to forget the moments of happiness because one contact from the ex, one accidental word from your children, one rejection from someone new–all momentary jabs of pain no bigger than the moment of happiness–they can take on this monstrous significance in our minds. Then, suddenly, it’s as if the moment of happiness never existed. We’re standing on the slippery slope of trauma and shame all over again. So my advice is to start small, and acknowledge the moments of happiness. And if you aren’t giving yourself those moments of happiness, start doing it. Hope this didn’t sound too trite–it seems obvious, but it was actually granting too much significance to the small setbacks, and too little to the good things, that made me feel stuck in perpetual depression for a while.

  • Unfortunately, you can’t protect your child,’s heart from these assholes, truly. Because you can’t change how the turds are. So make yourself the best you can be, hopefully your son will realize his father is the turd.

  • too smart…..
    you are amazing! do not let any fuckwit ever make you feel less than. I know how hard it is parent in spite of a fuckwit. Narkles the Clown attended only one performance out of over a dozen last year for son, no parent teacher conferences, no meet the teacher, no open house, no meet the administrator when the kid acts out, no hug (only screaming) when child had a near death experience.

    Unfortunately, I know how hard it is for my son to become me in his father’s house. He is blamed for all the wrong doing in the world while there. It hurts to hear about it. It hurts worse when he tells me that he understands that he is filling the role of me now that I am not around. The difference is that he pushes back. With zero support I gave up and just let it happen. He has my support (all I do is believe him and let him tell me all about it) and its great to see how that makes a difference. He stands up for himself and comes to my house to blow off steam or hang out or just get away from the madness.

    Keep your son close. Move all communication to software. Don’t let the fuckwit’s random desire to look good get in the way of your sane parenting. Mine likes to be involved when he is between girlfriends because he is bored. A friend’s fuckwit is only interested when he starts a new relationship with a new woman. Please know you are not alone. It’s a roller coaster of WTF? Eventually a new schmoopie will be found and he will slink back into his cave. Hang on tight, that day will come.

  • Document, document, document, and once you have a list of questions about how to manage routine problems, pay for another conversation with your lawyer and learn some legally acceptable strategies. For example, my EX had a habit of not picking up the kids from school or sports when he had custody, but when I went and got them (after the school or coach called me), he would threaten me with kidnapping charges. My lawyer advised me to tell any coach or school that called to document the missing custodial parent on their end, and to let them know I could not retrieve the kid until my EX was an hour late. I apologized profusely to many adults who got stuck holding the bag, but all of them were gracious to me and my kids, and at the 60 minute mark, I’d pick the kids up. Once the EX realized that his absences were being documented by everyone, he stopped the threats (he never did start being reliable). Refuse to engage in drama, and keep good records–these approaches will protect your rights if you end up back in court.

    In terms of protecting a child’s heart, there just is not much you can do except model resilience. Some kids will pine for the absent parent, others will make a hero of the parent, others will be angry. Many kids shift through different coping strategies over time. All you can do is provide resources to help the child manage and keep your opinions about the absent parent to yourself (or at least vent at a friend not in the kid’s earshot!)

    • @Eilony, “In terms of protecting a child’s heart, there just is not much you can do except model resilience. Some kids will pine for the absent parent, others will make a hero of the parent, others will be angry. Many kids shift through different coping strategies over time. All you can do is provide resources to help the child manage and keep your opinions about the absent parent to yourself (or at least vent at a friend not in the kid’s earshot!)” Well said. I wish I had you to give me this same paragraph when I was spinning around my first you post discovery.

  • As a chumped son, I will only comment that we as sons (daughters) see and hear more that you think. Be the PARENT, not the gene donor. We appreciate the stability, we know the sacrifice, and believe me, we take notes .

    • AnonEmousse thank you! As mums and dads we probably underestimate our children’s ability to do this sometimes. Especially when they’re ragy teenagers and we are the only target within reach!

  • Finding Peace, just the biggest hug for you. I’m hoping the nasty little crybaby will get bored soon and leave you alone. So sorry sweetheart x

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