On childcare

A letter to my other half

This last week or so has been a tense one around this house.  Accusations have been tossed around like hand grenades, implications and exaggerations have been made and shared among family and friends, and I fear we are going to end up, once more, caught in the costly quagmire of lawyers and court paperwork.

We had a short, dismissive and antagonistic conversation regarding some childcare later this week, but during it there were a few things said that caught my attention.  It was nothing new, nothing that hadn’t been said a many times before, but maybe I just heard it differently at that moment.  After dwelling on it for the evening I felt I needed to open up to her and provide some context to my decisions. After writing it I felt it showcased some of the key turmoils that bestow divorced parents – two parents who want the best for their children, but also two parents competing for their children’s attention. So I thought I would share it here. To some, these issues will sound petty and foolish – but let me be clear: these issues are real, they are emotional, and they are raw. They strike at the very fabric holding our current lives together.

Dear __,

Our conversation yesterday was rough, as have been the last few days. We have once again fallen into the valley of mistrust, attacks, and demonization of each other in an attempt to secure our own positions. So I wanted to take a moment and open up to you, as I feel some of my stances on things may have seemed to be an attack on you to and on your role as mother … of which, has come across to me, as causing you pain, anxiety, and anger – none of which is intended.

You have implied several times now that I am intentionally withholding the children from you. To me it comes across as I am attempting to use the boys to melodiously attack you. I don’t really expect you to believe this, but my primary focus is not towards you at all … but on me.

After our separation, as you know, I had a difficult time. I felt my role as father slipping away, relegated to a guy paying a check and enjoying fleeting momentary event with the kids. Things could easily have gone that way, to be truthful this had defined much of my role as dad up to that point. I believe you had seen that those last few years I had been working hard to change that … I saw what it was doing to you, to our life, and I then transposed that to how it would impact the boys. During the divorce those changes felt like they were getting reversed, I saw myself as being replaced and my role diminishing in the eyes of the children. You insisted that was not the case, or that it need not be the case. That it depended on my actions … over time I took those words to heart.

I am not perfect; I am emotional and reactionary. Some of the decisions I have made have been protectionary in nature – especially those made early on. Our mediated agreement reflects some of that, and today I live with those lumps as I know you do.

However, somethings I still hold to, partially for my own sanity and some because I believe it will help the boys. After school care is one of those things where I believe to help the children better define their lives – the fact is they have two homes now and thus they should treat their lives as such. Their day-to-day thus needs to reflect that. I believe it would add confusion to the kids at where “home” really was.

I know you feel you provide superior childcare services than anyone else – and I know you would. However, I have to choose my childcare based on trust and cooperation and at this point that is not possible in our relationship. There are still too many wounds and scars and the added tension after a long day of work – everyday – is just not something I am willing to entertain at this time. It would add stress to my life and that is not healthy for me or the boys.

We have a few defined qualifiers in our agreement that adequately protects childcare options, and I think it does it’s job.

This issue also comes up during vacation selections. Twice over the last 12 months you have issued complaints after I have made my vacation selection – selections that are appropriate, well intentioned, and within the bounds of our parenting agreement. In both cases I have been, and am, willing to work with you on. However, when I am pushed onto the defensive due to attacks against myself and/or my friends I find it increasingly difficult to do so. This is not how I want to act, this is not how I want our relationship to be defined moving forward. In both cases, I knew my selections would not be well received, but they were within the bounds of our agreements. They were also not done out of malice but out of a desire to coordinate with work and family.

In the end I do want to work with you, to find a way where we both feel secure in our roles as parents. Which is why I feel so strongly that on my days I get to make the choices and on your days I stay out of it. I trust you to make safe and appropriate decisions, and I trust you follow the agreement in place.

The role of a single parent is not easy. I have to find a harmony between work, home, and social lives. It is a struggle, but one I am not willing to take pass on. I have defined my role as dad in the boys lives and I am standing behind those choices. I requested 50-50 custody, and I will hold to that the best I can. I appreciate the assistance you can and do provide, but I don’t think you can fault me for looking elsewhere for my initial parenting support.

Today I am fully involved in the boys life, their school, their friends, and their growth. I am pushing them, mentoring them, and training them for the world. They are better off for it, and I am better off for it.

With that all said, if you can still take Joe Thursday evening and Friday after school that would be appreciated, Owen and I are expected back in town at 8pm. We will be helping both the class trip and cleanup for Dads club movie night upon our return, I will let you know when we are headed your way (unless you want to meet us at the school).

As for Thursday after school, the boys and I have dinner plans. However, since Joe will be spending the night, if you would like to pick them up after school that sounds reasonable – though it is not required as I do have childcare available. Please let me know so I can make the arrangements.

I hope you can understand a little more of how I am tackling these decisions. It is not out of anger towards you, but out of a need for me to fully separate my life from being dependent on yours. It is what I need to do, it is what you requested.

Once we regain some of the lost respect and we rebuild some of the trust, we may be able to work once more as a team. I look forward to that day.

Sincerely, Cam

I hope this was read in the manor it was intended, not out of malice, anger, or revenge – but as part of an open and honest conversation.

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