Simon was scarred by the trauma of his parents separating. So, when his own marriage broke down, he was determined that his own young daughter should not suffer. With the help of our supporter, we provide parents like him with resources, peer support and courses – and they really help, as Simon explains.
‘After years of conflict between my parents, my mother took myself and two sisters and went to a women’s shelter where we then lived for almost two years. It was a horrific time, the memories of which still haunt me. I only saw my dad once a month after my parents divorced, and I found it very difficult being in a wholly female environment. The only male role models I really had were teachers at school. I do now have a positive relationship with my father but the journey was challenging as my parents didn’t embrace co-parenting principles.
‘Years later, when my own marriage broke down, I wanted things to be different for Emily, our six-year-old. I wanted her to be able to look up to both her parents as role models, for us to have equal custody and time with her. I wanted her to continue to have a relationship with her mum and have that consistent female role-model in her life.
‘Emily didn’t know all the facts around our separation. But it was clear she wasn’t her usual happy self. When she was with me, she would cry for her mum, and vice versa. One time, she asked, “Daddy, if you and mummy aren’t together does that mean you won’t live happily ever after?”. In her mind, either mum and dad are together and happy, or they’re separated and unhappy.
‘Emily didn’t know all the facts around our separation. But it was clear she wasn’t her usual happy self. When she was with me, she would cry for her mum, and vice versa.’
‘Without placing blame, I explained to Emily in child-friendly language that her mum wanted to be with someone else, so we couldn’t all be together anymore. You could see the penny drop – she said, “I understand that…”
‘I came across Spurgeons’ Dad.info website and took their free online Parenting After Separation course. It introduced me to co-parenting and gave some really useful insights into how it should work, such as focusing on being good parents, so the separation was more amicable and better for our daughter. I learned to become better at communication with my ex and a more responsible parent.
I especially agree with what the course says about not using children to obtain information about ex’s. I don’t ask Emily who her mum has been seeing.
I tried to respond reasonably when I heard Emily had met the man I suspected her mum was seeing whilst we were married. I wanted her to be able to talk freely. Sometimes I’ve had to bite my tongue, but I’ve learned to hold back my emotions until Emily’s not around and find other healthy outlets for them such as exercise and talking to friends.
‘Now, after almost a year of living as a separated family, Emily understands that we can be happy and separate. My ex and I avoided legal conflict by using the ‘No Fault’ divorce law 3. We managed to divide our assets amicably and have a 50:50 co-parenting arrangement where Emily’s well-being is our priority. Emily is healthy and happy and is doing well at school. My ex and I make a big effort to strike middle ground and avoid conflict in front of Emily – it’s important she sees we’re working together.
‘I’m grateful I can see my daughter as much as I do, and I cherish our shared experiences. Moments that are truly important to me are when we have a laugh together, and I can be silly with her.’
DAD.info, now part of Spurgeons is Europe’s largest advice and support website for fathers. DAD.info was established in 2008 as a new generation men’s lifestyle channel and the leading voice for Dads. DAD.info aim to celebrate the changing role of Dads with engaging, helpful, practical, entertaining resources and content for every stage of their journey. It is home to the largest connected community of active, involved Dads through its interactive forum, providing great peer to peer support and advice for what can be one of the most challenging and rewarding life experiences.
Head to DAD.info to access our free ‘Parenting After Separation course.