It was the end of a another very long but satisfying week at Dads Unlimited and as I settled on the sofa with a much-deserved beer, the successes and challenges of the week began to sink in.
At that very moment, my phone made that all familiar vibrating sound on the cushion next to me. It was late, not that late that this call would be a family emergency, but late enough to be urgent or a cry for help.
As I looked at my phone, I immediately read the name flashing away on the screen. My sister-in-law!! I recognised this type of call! “I’ve run out petrol, I have a flat tyre or there’s a light on my dash”. I don’t have any experience with the faults and break-downs of modern cars but I seem to have picked up a few pointers over the years. Sometimes from owning very unreliable cars in my early days and the remainder from paying very high garage bills, where every replaced part is listed not only by the code but with a description and a price tag next to it that often looked more like a telephone number!
I answered my phone, and was about to say, “I will be there shortly, give me the postcode, what do I need to bring?”. Not this time, I had totally miss judged the incoming call.
“I’ve met this guy and his great but…..” I interrupted her and fast, “do you want to speak to your sister?”. There was no way I was equipped for this call. My sister-in-law is twenty years my junior and dating advice and issues are definitely not my forte!
“No, it’s you I think I need to speak to”. Oh boy, here we go!
She told me with excitement and joy the story of meeting this wonderful guy and the great times they had shared over the last few months. Even with the restrictions of Covid, they appeared to have formed a good relationship and had already had some good times together. She seemed happy and they sounded good for each other.
She went on, “He’s got a past, but who hasn’t?”.
“By past, what do you mean?” I asked tentatively? “He has two beautiful little girls and an EX!”.
My sister-in-law went on to explain that her new acquaintance had split from his wife a couple of years ago. Unusually he had stayed in the family home and his Ex had moved out. Until recently, the girls had stayed overnight with dad at weekends and he often had them for one night a week on Wednesdays. All seemed to be working out and although there was still some frosty conversations and exchanges taking place, on the whole, communication about the girls was working.
It all seemed fairly straight forward and I was beginning to wonder where I might be needed? But it was not long before I understood why she had reached out to me and more importantly Dads Unlimited.
He had recently reached out to his Ex to suggest they looked at discussing and sorting out their finances. Was now a good time to sell the family home, talk child maintenance and decide who should take what from the family home?
All too often, I just knew what was going to be said next! “And now she’s stopped him seeing the girls”. Sadly, this is an all too familiar theme that our Dads Unlimited Mentors hear at least once a week on our Helpline.
Some parents separate and things are a little rocky at first. Communication is awkward, sometimes hostile and often never child focused. Plans get changed, moved and even forgotten but over time it settles and the parents work together, co-parent and a natural status-quo is formed.
But, if ever you wanted to throw a metaphoric “hand grenade” into the mix, why not bring up unresolved issues or even a new one? Finances, holidays, Christmas and even a new partner will all have the ability to create mayhem and often, access to a child/children is used to gain the upper hand in the negotiations by one parent or the other.
As your mentor at Dads Unlimited will tell you, remove the grey areas, resolve as many issues as possible, show respect and understanding for your Ex, their family and even their new partner. Because sadly, these issues can lead to conflict and the conflict will often mean your children suffer and ultimately so will you.
This is why we try and work with both parents through our Co-Parenting Programme to help reach an understanding that the most important person in all of this noise is your child. With the common goal that you want what is best for your child, putting your personal lives to one side, it is a good foundation to build upon and work towards building a positive co-parenting alliance between both parents whilst having the support service of Dads Unlimited to enable you to better navigate a way through to better times ahead.