Continuing the previous posts here are some humble suggestions for any Leaver and I emphasize any. Many of these the Leaver in my particular case has followed, others she hasn’t and others, she has adopted with time. On the whole I can imagine our whole process being much more damaging than it has been — so I am grateful.
Make a Home for Your Kids.
Kid – it – out.
Look at it honestly and do the best you can to make it comfortable for them.
This will take creativity and doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot of money, but it takes consideration. They want to be with you. It doesn’t take much for kids to be happy.
Think about when you travel with kids or even the relief you probably felt in shedding yourself of all the detritus you had accumulated for years in the process of becoming the Leaver — it doesn’t mean spending a lot of money on stuff. It’s why we love our cottages/boats/trailer/camping/empty hotel room. Don’t think you have to make a replica of their other bedrooms, with all the same comforts. Kids have no problem sleeping on the floor when it’s a sleepover. But you do want to give them space to be kids, to be comfortable. A space that is their own.
Take games with you from the other home. Take art supplies or Lego or model stuff — anything they used to use. Dedicate a wall for their pictures or things they do with you or pictures of your outings together. Put up photographs. Make sure they have a drawer with their basics at your place — underwear, socks shirt etc so that you don’t have to disrupt everything if someone forgot pyjamas. Leave some of their stuffed animals there.
If you have the wherewithal, dramatic bribery ain’t such a bad thing. You and your spouse screwed them over after all, make it up to them a bit. Buy a gaming system. Maybe you don’t care about watching TV but have one there anyway, or some super amazing books etc.
You don’t have to bribe them every time you seem them with stuff. But one or two grand things that makes them thing “Mom/Dad’s new place maybe it’s small but they’ve got….” will help you out.
You know this. You’ve been a parent for years. Kids (and really adults and that means you, too, in these new circumstances), need routines and structures. Stick to a bed time for the visits, a get up time, an outing a whatever. Stick to it or the kids will, see your weakness, fill the power vacuum and just try to get what they want.
Just be With Them
It doesn’t have to be vacation and outing every weekend. Try to make it normal. If that means doing some errands or them just sitting and doing nothing — watching TV, drawing, reading, — that’s okay. But that means you have to stock your new home, so that you’re not scrambling for materials, books etc when you want to stay home. Again that doesn’t necessarily cost any money — take the good stuff from their home. The Leavee may protest, but this is accepted best practice in this situation. They are with you a good chunk of the week, doesn’t the Leavee want them to be happy for that time?
I suppose that seems like pointless advice and I’ve offered it before, but I’ll say it again — reconsider the whole leaving part. Make sure it’s absolutely the thing you have to do.
But if you have to Leave — make a plan first. Of course I’m not talking about folks who are in an abusive relationship and the such, but if that were the case, you’d leave with the kids. If you know you’re leaving, set aside arguing about whose fault it is — it doesn’t matter, it’s a done deal after all — and plan out carefully.
- Where you are moving to — have you found the best circumstances. Get lots of advice, research a lot.
- How you will divide assets over what period of time.
- Time allotment and commitment to the children before you physically leave the house.
There are only two ways to end a marriage — divorce and death. Both are, by definition, traumatic. But you have a lot more control over the former circumstances compared to the latter. Take advantage of that fact. But realize that because you are in a traumatic experience you are being buffeted by a maelstrom of emotions and instincts. Do anything it takes to get control over the biggest project of your life that you are facing alone. Make lists, a budget, read books, seek advice. If you tend to deal with just the emotional stuff, set aside a specific time each week to plan and deal with the practical stuff. Consider doing it in a specific place — coffee shop, desk, at work when everyone’s gone, or first thing in the morning. As much as you don’t want to think about it, that is the physical manifestation of all that is happening — deal with it.
You have to do all this because as soon as you depart the house the Leavee, will be left in a much better position than you. I can’t speak to any other jurisdiction, but in Canada there is definitely a legal preference to keeping the status quo. i.e. if you move out and the kids are doing well with the Leavee parent having primary custody it is very, very, difficult to get that situation reversed. Sometimes people have a trial separation and are able to get back together — but you better frame it that way right from the get go with your partner and make sure they’re on board with that definition.
If not, if it looks like you’re ending a marriage, assume that the circumstances the day after your departure are in fact the way they are going to stay. Don’t assume they are in flux until you adapt and sort your life out and then revisit. If the Leavee is in the house, they will try to keep the house, if they are the primary care giver that is the way it will probably remain etc. etc.
But more importantly it is harder to change back to a different way emotionally. A big wrenching change was imposed on the whole family. Once everyone adapts to that, it is difficult to contemplate shifting to something else. You will find you have defined yourself in a specific way, the kids adapt to you being out of the house. They will miss you, absolutely, they will probably want things to go back the way they were (especially if they are young, they will forget the fighting, they’ll just know you’re not there), but they will adapt and function.