Why would anyone in his right mind babysit for his own kid on his free weekend while their mom, who collects alimony and child support, goes out on a date?
There are, it turns out, several reasons. When my friend Ned was newly divorced his ex-wife and he decided to stay on friendly terms. This meant that they could have a glass of wine together during pickup and drop off of their 5 year old daughter CeCe without it creating problems. Truth be told, they could not have two glasses of wine without getting into arguments, hence the divorce, but one glass was fine and dandy. So they would have an occasional fine and dandy glass of wine, wish each other the best, and go on with their lives.
One Friday afternoon, Ned stopped by his old apartment to pick up CeCe for the weekend and had a few minutes to spare, so he and his Ex poured a glass of wine and talked about their plans for the upcoming weekend. Ned was taking CeCe skating, to a movie, and some other father-daughter bonding moments. The mom, Agatha, had a date scheduled with a guy she knew from work. She was nervous and excited to begin dating again. But, this was a guy she had known for a few years, so she thought it would be okay.
Ned encouraged her to relax, have fun, and make the best of the weekend. He coached her not to expect the first date to be perfect, but it was great for her to be dating–good for herself-esteem. If anything, Ned sounded more like a supportive girlfriend than an ex-Husband.
One week later when Ned brought his daughter back to Agatha’s house for the regular visitation rotation, he asked her how the date went. Sparing you the details, it did not go well. The new guy was a reminder to Agatha of all the things that she still respected and admired about Ned. Not the “I made a mistake; I still want you” respect; but the “I am so lucky this is the guy who is raising my daughter” kind of way.
They had a laugh about it and moved onto other topics. But the lingering feeling of having a team-mate when all else looks bleak stayed with each of them. It makes the other decisions of their day-to-day balancing act that much easier. Like so many exes, they are better friends than they were spouses.
Here is the kicker. Ned confided in me that he is grateful he is there to help smooth the rough edges of Agatha’s dating life. It not only keeps them more civil with each other; but he also protects his daughter, an only child, from the hazards of a single mom’s dating life. He feels he is being both a good ex-husband and a great forever-dad in one stroke.
I think Agatha and CeCe would agree.
And THAT is why, although it is easier to miss a visitation weekend, or skip the occasional glass of wine that goes with it; the “hard work” of showing up is almost always worth it.
What We Love: People who place their self-respect on who they are for others; not just for themselves.