THE OFF PARENT: I write anonymously to shield my ex-wife and children from the anger and pain that are all part of this process. You cannot avoid the hurt. But you can avoid hurting others. The goal is not to be bitter or vindictive. If I can provide some ideas that will help others with their pain, or perhaps point them in the direction of self-recovery, that is great, but that is not my goal. Let me be clear about this: This is not a self-help blog. I am not a daddy blogger. I am the *off* parent and I blog the song of myself from both dark and light rooms.
These posts are being republished by The Good Men Project in a sequence to reflect the three-year process of divorce recovery. The story continues…
Tonight was one of those nights when you see your ex, and you think, “Thank god I have been released.”
It’s not that she’s suddenly become unattractive. Or that she’s doing a bad job at being a co-parent. But there’s a hardness that I hadn’t noticed before. She’s gotten too thin. And kinda mean looking. (This is not meant to be a rag, sorry.)
She also looks very professional, and I am grateful that she seems to be thriving in her current job. As we no longer combine forces, she no longer has my sympathies, but I respect her hard work. She’s always been a dedicated worker.
But tonight, watching our son perform in orchestra, I was glad she came to sit next to me and then decided, “I need to be closer where I can see,” to move towards the front. I had a nice side view of her intense face. She was staring into her phone. (Seems to have become more and more the mode for her.) Perhaps she was exchanging chats with her lover. Perhaps racy emails with her girlfriends. Who knows. But what I saw was a complete disinterest in what we were doing at the school. It was a check box. A task that needed to be completed at the end of the school year, like so many other tasks. And it was the last event that was keeping her from her night with her lover, before a weekend where SHE HAS THE KIDS.
It really must be odd, and I don’t know the feeling, of wanting to be elsewhere when your kids are around.
My daughter said something tonight, about how there was never any food in the house. “L the babysitter always goes to the store for dinner stuff, and there’s never any left overs.” Now, my daughter, who was saying this, has a tendency to be dramatic. But she was sharing a glimpse into the life that my ex-y has constructed.
I know it well. When she got on the work train, while we were married, there were many times when it was assumed I would feed, read, and put the kids to bed. I was being her “wife.” Well, I was grateful again, that she was employed. And I would do whatever I could to make a nice house, a nice leftover plate for her, and a bunch of smiling (from bed) kids for her to return home to.
And, god knows, there were even more times when she was performing this type of 100% parenting for me, while I was working late. But there was some different tone about the entire thing.
For me, it was more acceptable. Like the man at work, the wife at home making dinner. While I spent a number of years at a large corporation, it was a lot easier for her to work less than full-time, and spend a lot of extra time with the kids, at their school, doing projects at home.
When she was working late, by contrast, it was kind of dramatic. Like there was some great urgency that was keeping her at the office. And some sense that it was quite unfair for her to have to be working so hard.
WAIT A MINUTE!
That was MY INTERNAL VOICE saying those things. It’s dawning on me — right this very minute – the resentment I was feeling was not about her attitude, it was about mine! WTF? Seriously? I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.
Maybe she played into my shame, a little. I don’t know. But I can now see this was MY SHIT not hers.
I’m wondering if my scoffing at her taut looks tonight is also a product of my shame. I’m asking myself, “Sour grapes?’
I don’t think so. BUT, she was the best thing I’d ever had up to that point. She stayed with me through the toughest times in both our lives. And then she gave up on me. No, for that I won’t be forgiving her. For the release from a sexless and joyless marriage, I have to thank her. I won’t be putting up with that again either. Ever.
And that’s the wonderful thing about the story. Even if I don’t know the ending, what I do know is the possibility is out there. GF #1 showed me what it feels like to really be adored. I CAN HAVE THAT AGAIN. And I actually deserve it.
In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter. I am always complemented on my POSITIVE ATTITUDE. “You’re so positive.” or “So much positive energy.”
It’s not exactly the same thing as irresistible, but I’ll take positive right now. And that’s the side I’m showing my kids.
The ex-y also asked me if I would let the kids know about the money shortage as well. As if she needed me to fess up to my own contribution to whatever struggles they were having about “stuff.” I spoke to them tonight about my current situation. I said we could not go to the BBQ place for dinner, because I didn’t have the money for it, and I had plenty of food at home.
“Why don’t you have any money?” my son asked. It was just a point-blank question, no real emotional inflection.
“I have three clients that owe me money right now. And it’s not like I don’t have any money, it’s just that when things get low, I really don’t spend money on stuff like eating out, when I have food at home.”
That satisfied both of them. My daughter, who has become somewhat obsessed with Starbucks, was quiet.
I am positive. I am certain I will continue to dig out of the financial hole the divorce and my subsequent low-times wreaked on me. All systems are go, the work is ahead, the clients are happy.
And I am positive I will find a more compatible mate. Now that we have this kid thing sorted out, there is only the relationship between me and this new person to sort out. I don’t need anything from them but adoration and the opportunity to adore them back.
The Off Parent
the story continues…
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image: creative commons usage – medusa