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When Your Kids Prefer Your Ex-Husband, even on Mother’s Day

When Your Kids Prefer Your Ex-Husband, even on Mother’s Day

My ex-husband’s first weekend with the kids post-divorce was Father’s Day. “How apropos”, I recall thinking to myself. Of course he bought the most adorable Welsh Terrier puppy for the kids. I remember how their faces lit up, how ecstatic they were. He also invited his new girlfriend to spend that first weekend together with them, because...why not?

I found all this out when I arrived at my son’s soccer game. The kids couldn’t wait to introduce me to their new puppy and daddy’s “really cool” girlfriend. She approached me with an outstretched hand to introduce herself and my ex-spouse practically ran over to share in the moment. It was all I could do to smile politely and walk away.  

I initiated the divorce. There was no infidelity.  I was not jealous of her. I was scared to death that the kids would want to be with daddy and the puppy and the “cool” girlfriend. I drove off alone, brokenhearted, fearing I had just witnessed the moment that I lost my kids.

Dad’s house was our marital home; the house our children grew up in. The house with the inground swimming pool their friends would gather at every summer weekend. The house with the great playroom, with the latest video games, with all the junk food. The place you could stay up late and play with Jasmine the new puppy while joking with the cool, funny (did I mention she was funny now?) girlfriend. I had moved into a small converted garage. No playroom, no pool, not even an outdoor space for the kids to play. How could I possibly compete?

After a cathartic cry, okay, it was more of a sobbing meltdown, I was able to compose myself enough to have a few moments of clarity. During one of those moments, I asked myself, “if I could choose between the kids wanting to be with their father and enjoying their time or feeling tortured coming to my new ‘house’ and hating it, which would I choose?”. I doubt I have ever arrived at an answer so quickly. If my kids are happy, then I am happy, at least happier than I would be if they were miserable.

So what do you do when your kids prefer being with their dad?

  • Ask them about their time with their dad and enjoy their joy and experiences.
  • Celebrate that they are happy and comfortable with their father.
  • Take comfort knowing that you are both helping your children become fully formed, well-adjusted human beings.
  • Don’t compare your life to his, you didn’t enjoy life with him, be glad your children do.
  • Know that it is not a competition and they love you both, just differently.
  • Be their rock, the one they can get ‘messy’ with and lean on during times of trouble.
  • Use the time away from your kids positively. Take up a new hobby, learn a new skill or just binge watch funny cat videos on YouTube.
  • While nothing can replace time with your children, you’d be amazed at how happy you can be with good friends, discussing a good book (or the latest celebrity gossip) and great wine!

Fast forward 12 years, my then grade school children are developing into amazing young adults. Unfortunately, their relationship with their father is now as difficult as mine was. My heart breaks for them as they navigate how to love someone who can be so hurtful. At different times and for different reasons, both of my adult children have apologized for taking me for granted. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy that they realized that on their own. “To everything there is a season”. I know it does little to mend the hurt you feel now, especially on Mother’s Day; but take comfort knowing that having an unselfish, ‘what’s best for my child’ centered approach is worth it in the long run.

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