My former father in law created a family life that was in constant upheaval because of his moodiness. They never knew what his mood would be or why. He was unpredictable and the family lived in chaos as a result. He finally left the family and went away. My ex-husband grew up catering to his father’s moods. I thought that our family life would be different because he could talk about it and see how erratic moods destroy a family. He tried to be different with us, but it was all he knew. Our kids could never trust that a good mood would last or when a bad mood would take over. He finally left in the early spring just before the lockdown. I feel like it is life repeating itself. I am trying to put our lives back together. He hurt me, he hurt our kids until there was nothing left to our family. Even now I wonder if he realizes that he did that. We are trying to sort out the childcaring, but my kids are reluctant to spend too much time with him. I am living on emotional overload.
You are dealing with many emotional issues at one time. It is no surprise that you feel you are living on overload.
First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself. Self care for several reasons is especially important right now. Take some time just for you in whatever way that can happen. It might be a regular long walk, or a yoga session or meditation but make time for yourself.
When people separate, they are faced with many decisions and that can be overwhelming. On a practical level begin by listing the decisions in order of priority. It is helpful for a few reasons. One is that you see what needs to be done and as you check things off the list there is a certain satisfaction. If you have not already, keep a journal. It can be your best friend in difficult times.
Your children will need to see their father and spend time with him. Their reluctance creates more stress for you. However, with some planning they can learn to manage. It is quite reasonable to say to your former spouse that if he gets moody, the children will want to come back to your place. If that is arranged before then if it does happen that he gets moody, there is no surprise. He knows how his father’s moodiness affected him, and he can be reminded of that fact.
Remember, the problem is his moodiness and not his affection for his children. You said he did try to not be like his own father. In language they understand, help your children to separate the behaviour from the person. His behaviour is the problem.
It does not change the fact that what they worry about is his moods. Help them to notice triggers that might lead to a bad mood. If they can identify it before it happens, there are ways to de-escalate such as changing the subject or going outside for a time. If that cannot happen, then they call you.
If he could identify his father’s own behaviour, then chances are he knows when he is behaving the same way. If he did not like the way his father behaved, he probably does not like himself much in those times either. He has a road ahead to get to a better place. Moodiness and anger have their roots somewhere in his life and he will need to commit to finding and facing the reasons for his moods and his need to escape his family.
Right now, your life should be about creating a safe and secure homelife for you and your children. As much as is possible at this time, put his moods in the background of your new family setup. Your children may need to talk about their father but monitor their talk and gently move the conversation on to other topics.
We are living in uncertain times and there is not much that we have control over until our world stabilizes. You can create some security within your home by being the parent your children need. There is a certain freedom now because you do not have to deal with your former spouse’s daily mood swings. Concentrate on creating warmth and security and a stable home. You and your children will benefit.
If you are in need of a place to seek some advice on a way forward during separation and divorce please write to firstname.lastname@example.org – Reaching out is the first step.
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.