One of the best things I have done was to be friends with my ex husband.
We aren’t the kind of friends who sit down for a meal but who knows, it’s not even been three years since we separated. We are the kind of friends who call the other a couple of times a week for ten or twenty minute conversations to catch up on news about the kids and relay what the other is doing in their life. We troubleshoot difficult behaviour between the kids together. We discuss how best to integrate our respective partners into our children’s lives.
This is not luck. We didn’t fall out of a relationship and just magically become pleasant to each other. Many times in the beginning one of us hurled mean words at the other down the phone, words designed to cut and sting. Frequently one of us was angry or upset. It is difficult work to untangle your lives when you have been a team for 13 years. We were not lucky to get along. We worked at it.
It was a case of being careful to keep your emotions in check around your children. It was important to remind them that the other parent loved them and that we were both there for them. It meant one of us frequently going out of our way to make the four hundred kilometre round trip so that the kids didn’t miss a visit when one of us couldn’t do it.
It was over a year before we could discuss things without just sticking to basics. It was a slow progression from painful conversation to pleasant.
When you separate and you have children it can be difficult to maintain the equilibrium. Holidays are hard. Birthdays are hard. It’s hard to know another woman is taking your daughter to buy bras or watch your kid open Christmas presents. And you have to just swallow that down because at the end of the day, I would much rather my kids have a step mother who loves them and cares for them than a step mother who resents them. It’s bittersweet.
And slowly, over time, you truly do wish them well. I am thrilled he is in love with someone and she truly seems to love him back. I use to say he wasn’t an easy man to love. I have come to realise that maybe that was because I was the wrong person to love him. I am thrilled she hugs my children when she sees them and that they run into her arms. Why would I wish my children less love and more conflict? This is what is best for them.
For my children – being friends with their father is one of the things I know I have done completely right.