Co-parenting when one parent is often absent

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Co-parenting when one parent is often absent
26
Fri, 08-09-2013 - 3:23pm

I wasn't sure which forum was right.  Parenting or relationships.  However, relationships clearly wins out on this issue.  Kids are part of the problem, but the issue is between her and I.

I'm a stay-at-home dad.  My wife is out making the big bucks.  Classic story in a sense.  She works about 70 hours a week (at night, on weekends, while on vacation).  She is a key player at her small company and things would fall into shambles without her constant guidance and input.  She's a brilliant engineer and I can't say enough good things about her in that regard.

I'm at home with the kids.  I help out in their school, meet with the teachers, go on field trips, sit down with them while they do their homework, prepare food for them, do the shopping, laundry, etc...  My wife helps out where she can, but between work and travel, she is not home enough to really be counted on to keep things running.  So I end up making the rules for the kids and keeping things running day to day.  Anyone with kids can tell you, it's a moving target.  Times change, needs change, desires change, kids change.  Rules need to change to keep up with the current state of the family.  I am constantly re-visiting what works and what doesn't.  If my wife is around and we have the time, we will discuss it and come up with a plan together.  However, it's impossible to keep her informed of every thing that happens day to day (I don't have the time to communicate it all, and she doesn't have the time to absorb it all).  I stick to telling her things that are really stumping me.  Such as our 8 year old daughter who appears to be turning 13.

Here is the issue:  When she comes home she feels left out.  I'm juggling it all, and she feels like an outsider.  Even her making simple decisions for the kids, such as "Can I have desert?", can break "my" rules and vex me.  She feels like she doesn't know the lay of the land and can't "be a parent", because she might make a decision in opposition to one of mine.  Then I will take her to task for it and the kids will figure this out and play us against each other.  Neither of us want that.  This "lack of role" in her own family, has been pushing her farther away.  Such that coming home to be with all of us is viewed as a source of conflict.  So she begins making a concious choice to spend her time elsewhere to avoid the conflict.  Since she is not needed/wanted, why bother coming home?

I have been proud that I can juggle so much and keep everything running, freeing her up to work/travel as needed.  I often give her permission to go out and socialize and enjoy her hobbies, because it reduces her stress and keeps her happy.  I have a saying at home "If mamma is not happy, no one is happy".  What I haven't realized is that mamma is giving up and becoming estranged from our family.  Lately her absence has become obvious and has led to a growing internal resentment on my part.  I am left feeling more and more like a single parent.

Any advice on how we find a balance?  How do we keep the family running like a well oiled machine during her long work days and travels, yet make her feel wanted/needed when she is home?  How do you step in and take over running the family, when you aren't up to date on all that is going on and how the house is being run?

This could tear our marriage apart if we don't start reversing this trend ASAP.

Brokk...

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Wed, 08-14-2013 - 2:22pm

So what were her suggestions about how she could become more involved in the day-to-day family life?  I'm only hearing what your suggestions were?  And I completely agree with the others here about her spending more and more time away because she feels left out.  She needs to spend the time at home, as much time as possible, so the kids get used to her being there and get used to her being their mom.  Whether this means helping with homework, making a meal together, or just sitting watching a movie and then talking about it after.  If you don't engage, then you disengage, and you find your outlets elsewhere (and you know how that can turn out!).  The two of you agreed that you would stay at home and she would work, now the two of you need to come to an agreement about how she can be part of the family once again. 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 08-13-2013 - 10:52am

I do think that each person should be able to have some time alone to be with friends or pursue their own interests.  The issue is that she feels that she's not connecting to the kids so she needs to spend more time with them & not stay away from them in the very limited time she has that she's not working or sleeping.  You're with the kids every day so if you go out with friends once a week, it's not going to affect your connection with them.  Unfortunately I think that when someone works so many hours per week that they basically have given up on activity time because there is only so much time in a week.  I mean that's why I chose to work fewer hours & make less money because I don't want my whole life to be work.

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Mon, 08-12-2013 - 7:31pm

Hey Brokk, I read through the thread and just another quick thought.

I really don't know that you can do anything different.  Granted, the idea of meal planning wasn't what your DW was referring to, but you are trying.  Your DW can't have it all. Period. 

Or as Jane Fonda says, "we can have it all, but just not at the same time." 

In my line of work, females always quit when the have their first child.  We did take a chance and hire a gal with two children and after two weeks we had to let her go.  By the 3rd night away from her family it was clear it wasn't going to work.  That was even with her DH working from home. 

I also thought from your first post that she owned the business.  Working 70 hours a week for someone else is fine, if you are okay with it and the pays supports that kind of time.  But the problem is that your DW isn't okay. 

If the two of you agreed to this for a certain amount of time to reach some kind of goal, that is fine.  Your DW will have to accept a few things.  I do hope though, that you two talk and come to agreements about how to parent the kids.  If you agree to things, then she doesn't have to say "go ask dad."  I don't want you think that I don't think she should parent.  Hope that makes sense.

Can you and the kids go have lunch or dinner with her on the days she works?  I don't think you ever said how many dinners she misses, or weekends.  I hope you all at least get an uninterupted Sunday!  I mean, unless you are a police officer or firefighter, or 911 operator, how important is it really? 

I occasionally work late to get something out that is important, but it is the exception and not the rule.

Hang in there and keep us posted. 

Serenity CL making a second marriage work

Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 12:22pm

I agree that more family time together is important.  No argument there.

You say she is wrong to want to spend any time away from the family.  Would it also be wrong for me to spend time away from the family?  I ask because a couple of comments thus far have said pretty directly that I should be doing that for my own sanity and the health of the family.  However, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  Why doesn't she have the same rights? Does she give them up by being the breadwinner?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 11:50am

I agree that more family time together is important.  No argument there.

You say she is wrong to want to spend any time away from the family.  Would it also be wrong for me to spend time away from the family?  I ask because a couple of comments thus far have said pretty directly that I should be doing that for my own sanity and the health of the family.  However, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  Why doesn't she have the same rights? Does she give them up by being the breadwinner?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 11:46am

No semantics.  Permision means she can't do it unless I OK it and vice versa.  That is exactly how it works.  She can't go out unless I OK it and I can't go out unless she OKs it.  Not sure where the confusion came from on that one.

Perhaps I am confused and you are saying "she is physically capable of going out without your permission".  Yes, and we are all capable of breaking the law, yet there are consequences to doing so.  In this case it would be a broken trust and perhaps a broken marriage.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 11:23am

Semantics!  "permission" implies that one can't do something unless it's okayed by another person.  Of course one should check with the other before just going off on ones own........"do you need me?" is common courtesy, not asking for permission. 

Regardless of what you call it.......the fact that she "checks out" and prefers to meet with friends instead of being a parent.......isn't right.  And it surely doesn't help her with her perceived parenting problems.  What she (and you) need to do is plan some family excursion..........a park, a museum, a visit to some place they've never been......where the "rules" can be relaxed, and the family can spend some quality time together.  She really needs to try harder to be a partner to you as well as a Mother to her children. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-06-1999
Sat, 08-10-2013 - 9:32pm

About the bone.  Every family runs differently as does every relationship.  We agreed that we were both investing our time/money/energy into the relationship and the family.  If one person decides to withdraw some of that investment and spend it elsewhere, that that takes away from the family.  You do need permission to do that.  This is a joint venture.  What  you put in, you need permission to pull back out. Think of it as a joint checking account.

If she is spending her time elsewhere, rather than supporting the family, she calls/writes and asks if it is OK.  If I need her to cover for me for a night, because I have a meeting at the church/school/soccer club, then I need to check with her and get her commitment before I can say yes.  It's a two way road and the rule applies to both of us.  We each work hard to do our best to say "Yes" to every request, knowing the other one would only ask if it is important.

When our kids were infants, I used to work and she used to pick the kids up from daycare.  If I wanted to go out after work, you can be sure I checked with her first. I wouldn't dream of leaving her alone with the kids for the evening without "getting permission". I think I'd find my pillow and a blanket on the front porch when I got home! :-)

Now going out for lunch? No impact on the family.  Have a party.  No permission needed in even the vaguest way. Going in early for work, when normally you help get the kids ready in the morning?  Yup, you should check first if it is OK.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Sat, 08-10-2013 - 3:16pm

Without reading every single word in the replies you already have......I see a few people touched on what I saw immediately:  You are going thru what women have gone thru for years.  Not so much now, because most Moms are out working in various kinds of jobs.  For lack of a better term, you're the "househusband" that does what "housewives" have done forever.  You run the household, you clean, you cook, you see to it that the kids are clean, happy, well educated, taught responsibilities, taught manners, taught to respect their elders, so many other things I can't think of that are the responibility of a caring parent, in this case, their father. 

The "bread winner's" responsibility is to do just that.......provide the financial security for the family.  If, unfortunately that requires long hours, travel, etc. then their responsibility is to spend quality time with their family.  Particularly regarding "rules", they should abide by the rules that the other parent makes.  Of course, there will be times when they're not aware of the particular rule, then it's up to the rule maker to inform them immediately, as the infraction occurs......simple as that.  Example:  Can I have dessert?  If there's a reason they shouldn't get it according to your rules, such as, they didn't "clean their plate"....then if she says yes, it's up to you to step in right then, and say NO!  And explain why, if necessary.  That kills two birds with one stone.......she hears the rule, and the child knows they can't play one against the other!!!!

She comes home and feels left out???  That is HER problem, not yours.  If she hasn't got enough interest to keep up with her family while she's too busy to be there, such as phone calls, web cams, etc., that's on her, not you.  So she chooses to spend time elsewhere.....again, on her.  She doesn't want to put out the effort to be a parent.......not a co-parent.......a PARENT.

I have one bone to pick with you!  You do not give her "permission" to go out with friends.  She is an adult, and she doesn't need anyone's permission to do anything.  How about "I don't MIND if.........."  Also, it's a rare family that runs like a "well oiled machine".  If it did, all families would be perfect, wouldn't they? 

If the sexes were reversed, you could be any woman in the world, in the same situation, with the same problems.  Not unusual to hear about a MAN checking out, is it?  She needs a wakeup call.  If she wants to be the breadwinner, and you're ok with being the homemaker and dominant parent, then she also needs to realize that she's not in the loop 100%, and she needs to understand YOUR day-to-day problems.  The two of you need to work together on the kids playing you against each other.  If your daughter wants to wear heavy eye make up, and you won't let her (GOOD for you) then your wife needs to understand that when her daughter comes to her and asks HER for permission, she needs to say........"Let's talk to Dad about it".

She is the one who needs to change her ways, and her attitudes.  Again, reversing the sexes, she may very well be saying to herself (as many men do if they are the primary breadwinners) "He's got it made.......throw some food on the table, put clothes in the washer & dryer, get them off to school. Like the house cleans itself,and the school takes care of itself, and he's probably sitting around half the day watching TV......while I'm out SLAVING my fingers to the bone trying to make a living!"  Your wife needs to wake up!

Your story could be my story........with the sexes reversed!  And in the end, I divorced him.........because he wouldn't TRY!  He didn't care about my rules......his only rule was to jump when he said jump!  His work was demanding, too.....and he chose to stay away when he could have been home.    He preferred bars!   I raised three boys on my own, and I did very well thank you! 

You need to sit her down and have a long talk with her.......and I wish you good luck!!!

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Sat, 08-10-2013 - 12:37pm

Forget about the meal planning--what she needs to be involved in are things that make her an emotional part of the family not a servant who gets tasks assigned to her.  Of course I'm exaggerating.  I'm sure you don't treat her like a servant and of course when she's home, as an adult she should be able to pitch in with things that obviously need to be done--cleaning up, putting things away, etc.  Homework is a good thing cause it keeps her involved with the kids.  I also think it's good if she takes time off from work to go to kids' activities--they will remember that a lot more than whether there was a home cooked meal or whether they ate take out pizza.

I think what I was getting at before is kind of the emotional thing that a lot of women get like we know all about the kids and the dads are clueless.  And we were all moms who worked out of the house, yet somehow we also seemed to get most of the responsibility for doing everything for the kids too--arranging the doctors' appts, knowing the kids' schedules, etc.  Like I remember my friend saying she had to go on a business trip for a couple of days so she had to make a big list for her DH of everything that had to be done, pick out the kids' clothes, etc.--it was a view that dads are generally incompetent.  Now I know this guy too and he's a good involved father--I'm sure he could have figured things out himself if she didn't make the list, but I think a lot of moms really don't want to give up the responsibility of being the "one in charge."  So if your DW is in charge and she does things a little different from you, is it going to be something that has long term consequences?  Probably not--so what if she lets the kids stay up too late or gives them ice cream if they didn't eat all their dinner?  With men I find that they don't know how to dress their children--so maybe the clothes don't match or they aren't dressed appropriately for the weather.  Now that I'm writing this I think it's important that you get out & do some things that you are interested in by yourself even if it's just going to the gym for an hour so that she gets to spend some time alone with the kids.  And you should do this even if you have to get a babysitter, just to save your sanity.

I also agree with I think it was Redmamma, who said that sometimes people just have to decide that it's not worth it to have a job that takes up so much time even if you make a lot more money.  I'm a lawyer and I never got one of those big firm jobs where you have to work tons of hours--I got divorced when my kids were little and I"m the custodial parent so it was impossible.  But I also noticed that my women friends who did get those jobs out of school all ended up giving them up for a job that had more reasonable hours once they had kids--and they were married to guys who weren't SAHDs.  So at some point you might discover that it would even be worth it for her to take a pay cut & you to go back to work to make up some of the money because then at least you will both be home at night & on weekends & be able to do things as a family.  My income has really suffered because I worked in a low paying job to be able to take care of my kids--I won't lie.  But my kids are now 24 & 18 and they have turned out to be really good kids and well adjusted despite the divorce.  I'm sure that your kids would turn out fine too with you taking care of them.  But years from now, will your wife really regret the fact that she missed out on a lot of things from their childhood?  And I'm saying that some people really don't because their primary focus is work.  But it seems like she's regretting that and really the solution is to find a job where she can work normal hours.