My husband and I have just spent another hectic weekend running around after our children. Don’t get me wrong, we love it most of the time, but we sat down yesterday evening and bemoaned the fact that we don’t have any time to ourselves, and that the children are the top priority.
It must be even more difficult when you are separated. It is easy for the focus of the children to be lost. Whereas you have both had that same focus when you were together, your priorities change, and you are looking at things from different perspectives. Sometimes, that is really hard to see.
I read an article in The Hamilton Spectator, an american newspaper, the other day, which helped highlight the difficulties.
“FAMILY LIFE: Access must gradually change to respect child’s needs
Q: I have been the primary parent in my four-year-old son’s life. I separated from his father two years ago and he has been fighting me for 50-50 access ever since. I am convinced he is only doing it so he won’t have to pay child support. He never took much interest in my son before so I don’t get the sudden interest. He already has every other weekend and one visit a week. How can I keep him from getting more access?
A: It is most often the case that mom is the primary parent in an infant to toddler’s life. As such the mom develops more competencies in caring for the child and the father may not show the same confidence, which may be taken as a lack of interest.
As the child develops language and is less fragile, fathers are typically more comfortable with the child and take a greater interest in the child’s care. This is a normal process in intact families as the family grows and develops.
Along with those natural changes, the mom observes the dad’s growing interest and competency and would come to rely on him more to join in childcare responsibilities.
Separation early in a child’s life interrupts that natural process. As the process is interrupted, mom may be frozen in time, not having seen what would have been a natural progression. Dad views mom as thwarting his relationship with the child when he is ready and more capable to care for the child. This dynamic is a setup for parental conflict.
The important thing to realize is that your son is not yours alone or his alone. He is a product of you both. Now that dad is away from you, he realizes he must put in the work and time to have a relationship with his son. This is good news as it signals an interest to your son of his value to his parents, which creates self-worth and self-esteem.
The challenge for you and the dad is to develop a process where the access schedule can shift gradually to respect your son’s need to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. This does not mean that the residential arrangement has to be equal, but you both will have to find a better balance.
These matters do not resolve well if left to lawyers or courts. There you will find experts at law, but the expertise you need is different. Work with a social worker, psychologist, mediator or parenting co-ordinator who has expertise in child and family development as well as expertise working with separated parents in conflict.”
I thought this brilliantly highlighted some of the conflicts that exist between parents, and how looking at the conflict differently helps to find solutions that may not have been apparent in the first place. I am hoping to use this article in mediation.