I live with my child. We are, what is generally termed, a single parent family. Soon after our separation a few years ago my ex-partner decided that she did not want continued contact with my son or me because it was causing her too much distress and she felt that she could best move on with her life if we did not feature in it. With that message received - passed to me via a third party - Morgan and I started a new chapter of our existence.
As I approach the time when the official decree of my separation is written in the legal records I have begun to wonder what it is like for those parents who still want contact with their children once they have separated from their adult partner.
The majority of the time when families separate the children have to stay with one person. This can cause huge problems of contact and continuity with the departing parent.
What is their life like when they leave the family home? How do they get used to the silence of single life? Is it immediately filled with socialising or does the lone alone parent spend their hours remembering the laughter and the chaotic noise of family life? Do they wander through tidy alien spaces wishing for the mess and disruption of family life?
The alone parent has to deal with the empty rooms and the desperation of planned interactions with their own family. Returning to the shared family home as a stranger having to request access must be a horrible experience. The familiar door is now a drawbridge to a past life. No keys are allowed. As an interloper they wait on the threshold anticipating and hoping for a friendly greeting. Love had brought them back to this spot. It was the loss of a different love that drove them away.
Temporarily reunited it is time to exhale. Time begins to play tricks on the mind. Each allotted moment together is like a plummeting lift. Life is suspended in fear that the best moments will be lost in the rush and the separation will begin again all too soon.
Family life is provisionally recreated as the estranged parent shares uncomfortable time and space where they feel clothed in a sense of no longer belonging in their own children’s lives. Things that they knew on a daily basis now become lists of activities and achievements that were usually shared with distant aunts at Christmas time.
When they part, again, and again, the parent crumbles as they are destroyed by the desolation of separation.
Maybe it’s not just the children who suffer collateral damage.
M and I have had our process of dealing with the separation, and we have done it together. Although I didn’t appreciate the abrupt and sudden rejection of contact that my ex partner had with M, I realise that sometimes these complete breaks are for the best. The slow poison of continual contact can be more destructive in the long run.
And I know that it was also the best decision for us. We are in a better place now. As I’m sure my ex partner is.