At the risk of repeating myself (though I think it’s allowed once you get to my age) one of the things about getting older is realising life’s almost never black and white.
For this reason, I try really hard not to be judgmental about other parenting decisions. What works for my family might not work for your family, yada yada.
Still, I read something this week that stopped me in my tracks. On one of the big parenting forums a young woman was asking for advice ahead of a meeting with a solicitor. She was pregnant and the baby’s father had made it clear that, when the baby was born, he wanted to be involved.
There was no question that the man was abusive, or a risk – it was just that they weren’t together any more, the woman didn’t really want the ex hanging around, and besides, she’d find it hard to be away from her baby for any extended period of time.
Honestly? I thought this sort of woman was a myth cooked up by the nutters at Fathers For Justice. And I think she’s doing a massive disservice to all of us single Mums who recognise that when you’re a parent you don’t just have rights, you have responsibilities – to your child.
I’m divorced. And like most people who go through divorce, there have been days when I would happily have stabbed my ex through the eyeball with a rusty nail. I’m sure he’s felt the same (very rarely, though, because for the most part I am PERFECT).
But no matter what disagreements we might have had, one of the most important jobs I have as a parent is ensuring that my daughter has a close relationship with her Dad. I always wanted her to feel able to love him and tell me about the fun she’s had with him without feeling disloyal. If that means sometimes I’ve answered the door with a cheery smile when I really wanted to stick his head in a pan of boiling water, well, so be it. Because it’s not about me. Or him.
I simply don't understand why some women seem to be okay with cutting Dads out of their kids' lives. Or making it so hard that eventually the Dad gives up and drifts away. How does that make you a good Mum? So he makes you irritated or unhappy, or you miss your kids when you're not with them. Suck It Up.
I'll tell you a secret, too.
When you let go of the small stuff and suck it up – you get happier. Honest. All that trying to win every argument, punishing your ex and battling to be the ‘favourite’ parent? It's a fairly hollow victory. It means your life revolves around bitterness and negativity, and that's never a good place to be.
You know what feels good? Being able to spend time with your ex and be civil, and see how much your child enjoys that. Or watching your child come home after a visit with their Dad and listening to what a completely brilliant time they've had, and knowing how much they love sharing it with you.
After five years of single parenting what I've realised is that – for better or worse – we’ll always be family.
When the chips are down and the world is collapsing around me, I can call my ex and he’ll help out. Okay, I only call him if I’m really desperate, and I've tried everyone else I know in the entire world, but it’s nice to know he’s got my back – because I’m Flea’s Mum and he knows that helping me be okay means she’s okay too. It works both ways, of course – I don't want to see him unhappy, because that just hurts Flea.
It's family. And we take care of each other. And who doesn’t want that for their children?
And just to prove what a BRILLIANT ex-wife I am, the photo on this post was taken last night. Flea wanted to buy that t-shirt for her Dad for Father’s Day. And I didn’t let her. See? Perfect.