One of single moms’ most common frustrations — and by frustrations, I mean ENRAGEMENTS — is dads who don’t show up for scheduled visits, or cancel at the last minute.
Dads, if this is you, this is why this is totally, absolutely unacceptable:
- Parenting is not optional. You have a responsibility to your kids, and blowing them off is irresponsible, unethical, and just generally crappy.
- It breaks your children’s hearts. They will remember.
- Being lackadaisical about seeing your children sets a horrible example for your kids, and any other children in your life (e.g., your new girlfriend’s kids, or children you now have with another woman).
- Even last-minute cancelations are horrible. This lets down your children, and shows a total lack of respect for their mother, who is doing the majority of your work in raising them. You are 50 percent responsible for your kids. Every minute more than 50 percent that their mother takes is a favor to you, since you cannot or will not step up. Blowing off your time with your kids is so disrespectful of this service she is already providing for you. When you don’t show up, that means that she has to cancel her plans — including a quiet evening alone with a nice, uninterrupted meal, her shows, and the dog by her side. Or, a date, because she is an adult and she is no longer your wife or girlfriend. Or a workout, or work. Her time is valuable, and you are messing with it and that is wrong.
From my podcast, Like A Mother:
When an ex’s visits are unpredictable
- Everyone needs a schedule. Kids thrive on schedules. Moms need schedules so they can organize their lives. You need a schedule. Dude, you need a schedule. I understand that your work may be unpredictable and harried. But work with your kids’ mom. She probably wants you to be involved.
- If you do have to miss a visit, IMMEDIATELY offer to reschedule. YOU suggest the new time. Your ex is not your secretary. Say: “I’m really sorry but work called me in this weekend and I can’t see the kids. What do you say that I take them Wednesday through Friday instead? Or, is there another time that works for you?” That shows her that you are serious about your children, that you recognize the value of your time with them — and the impact of missing a visit.
Moms, if this is your family’s story, this is what you do:
- Make sure you have a visitation schedule, and have it authorized through family court. Even if you were never married, you need to get this legally formalized.
- Get honest with yourself: Do you contribute to the situation? You and I might make sure we see our kids, no matter what asshole tries to get involved. But, ask yourself:
- Do you help create drama at pick-up or drop-off that might discourage your ex from showing up?
- Do you try to micro-manage his time with the kids, creating a situation in which it’s very stressful for him to parent?
- Do you otherwise not support him in his parenting? Remember, especially if you have the kids the majority of the time, it can be really hard for even the best-intentioned dads to find a parenting groove, and confidence.
I agree that it is not your responsibility to teach him how to be a good dad, or manipulate him into showing up. He is an adult, a parent, and that is his responsibility. But see what you can do to facilitate visits, even if it means doing more than you already are (which is no doubt a lot).
- Document everything. Keep a calendar and note all the times he is late, doesn’t show, cancels less than 3 days in advance, or cancels for reasons that are not reasonable — he has a date, is tired, not in the mood, had a fight with his boss, wants to go out, has a friend visiting.
- Go to court and get his visitations reduced. Bring your documentation, explain the affects this has on the kids and your own life, and ask the judge to reduce the number of times each week or month you have to be disappointed and your life upturned.
- You may need to call your lawyer — or find one via a friend or a site like Avvo, where you can get free- and low cost legal advice from local attorneys.
- In other words: If he wants to see his kids, make him fight for it (as it stands, he takes visits for granted. Switch it up).
- Be open to or even ask the judge for therapeutic visits. This means the court orders the dad, the kids, and maybe even you go to therapy.
While I work on my legacy of mandating that every custody discussion and hearing start with the presumption of 50-50 custody and visitation, we are stuck in a very sexist society that presumes that dads suck at parenting and moms are by default the superior parent. It can be hard for dads to see their value to their kids (especially since you likely make all or most of the money that supports the kids). It can also be hard for everyone to see through their anger, and focus on what is really best for the kids:
Two, actively involved parents, both committed to a civilized relationship with each other.
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