Father Figure

by mssinglemama on April 8, 2009

Maybe I gave up.

Maybe I just didn’t want to hear another “I can’t” or “I’ll try” – each one cutting a bit deeper than the last.

But somewhere along the way I just stopped.

I stopped asking my ex-husband to spend more time – time outside of his 36 hours a week – with our son.


So I’m not sure why, when Benjamin refused to let go of his father this afternoon, I said, “he needs you now, more than ever  – maybe you should spend more time with him.”

And then, the reply came that I’ve been wanting to hear for three years, “Yeah, maybe I should keep him two nights a week. I’m working the night shift now on Thursday so I could keep him Wednesday night and bring him to day care on Thursday morning.”

“But if you do that,” I said, “if you commit to spending more time with him you have to be around. You can’t be moving, to Chicago or anywhere.”

“You say that,” he said, “But I think you’ll be the one who moves.”

He had a point.

We’re both transient spirits and even though I have no intention of moving right now, there’s no predicting what the future holds for either of us.

Who am I after all of these years of daydreaming for him to take Benjamin more often to deny them that time together? He may not be the most supportive ex-husband financially or emotionally but he does love his son – immensely – and he’s always loved him as best as he knows how.

“I’ll think about it, okay. I’ll let you know.”

So I’m thinking about it.

Thinking about what it would be like to have an ex who steps up more often and wondering if he was really serious. I’m also, of course, hoping some of you will make sense of this for me.

Can men, as fathers, change? Could it just be a lot easier for my ex because Benjamin is a boy now, not a toddler or a baby?

For more posts on my ex and my take on our relationship as co-parents read on:

{ 3 trackbacks }

The Easter Man
April 12, 2009 at 5:20 am
April 15, 2009 at 5:46 am
The wow factor.
April 26, 2009 at 7:47 pm

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey G April 9, 2009 at 1:30 am

I think it's a great thing (as long as he's a good father) that he wants and is willing to spend more time with your son. Hopefully it all works out for the best!

Love your blog girl! Thanks for sharing your life with so many!


pgoodness April 9, 2009 at 1:44 am

I can only tell you this: my dad didn't much like us as toddlers, liked us less as babies. As we got older, he wanted to be with us more. So yeah, I think they can change. Not fully, mind you, but yeah, it can be easier now that he's older – easier to relate to, not so needy, etc.

Good luck with whatever you decide. If he's willing to make the effort, it can only benefit your son.


mssinglemama April 9, 2009 at 11:33 am

I think it's pretty common with men, they just don't know what to do with babies. Makes sense he wants to spend more time with him now that he can do all of those boy things.

Thanks for the comment.


Sheila April 9, 2009 at 1:44 am

That is a great thing. I'm not sure what the answer is, and I wonder what my ex will be like as our baby grows up. He isn't very responsible in general, but maybe one day the reality of fatherhood will occur to him.


SingleWorkingMama April 9, 2009 at 1:59 am

I realized quite some time ago that I should never rely on a "certain someone" to be what I think is the perfect daddy to his kids. Once I realized this, it was suddenly very apparent to me that the only control I have over the feelings they have, their perception of family, and their security as people in general is to be the very best mom I can be.

As far as what the future holds? One day at a time, my friend… I find that trying to plan without an actual plan only feeds and harbors anxiety that is needless… For today, at least!


Speedgirl April 9, 2009 at 2:00 am

I am hoping that your ex is the type of guy who just doesn't know what to do with babies and toddlers, and now that Benjamin is growing up and can "do" more, his dad will want to be more involved. Hopefully having a younger playmate will appeal to him, and he will realize all of the great boy things they can share together. (You know, those total GUY things, like peeing standing up, armpit-fart noises, and spitballs…)


Roxanne April 9, 2009 at 2:01 am

of course, none of us have the answers for you. but I can say from personal experience that I've never NOT believed my ex when he says he adores his son and does everything he can to be in his life as often as possible. sure, he may never live up to MY expectations, and he's definitely never going to spend as much time with our son as I do. but when it comes down to it, it's a good father. I can say that without blinking an eye. a good husband? no. a good friend? sometimes. a good father? absofuckinlutely. if you can say the same, then you need to just trust yourself and your instincts about it.


Ann Brampton April 9, 2009 at 2:11 am

I learned a very valuable lesson many years ago… my ex was always ditching my kids and/or breaking promises all the time, it was horrible and time consuming, I was constantly making excuses for him with the kids and trying to help him better his relationship with them. It had been years of this, weekend after weekend and nothing was changing. My mom stopped me one day and said "You know, your kids will never learn to stand up for themselves if you never allow them to get hurt"… she was so right!!. After that day, no matter how much it hurt, I allowed things to flow naturally… no matter how he messed up with them, I didn't step in. Days, months and years later they slowly made him adapt to their schedule and stood up to him whenever he messed up. Needless to say, they don't see him anymore… which sucks, but it was their call, never mine… and that is priceless!!


Caragh April 9, 2009 at 2:57 am

This must be hard for you, the wish you had for your son has come true.
of course you stand to benefit as well with a little more time to yourself.
But obviously this is about Benjamin and how it will affect him.

Your definatly right to think about it, but im sure you know in your heart what the right thing to do is.


TsQuest April 9, 2009 at 3:41 am


I know that personally, me, as a mother, I enjoy my daughters more as they are maturing than I did as babies or toddlers. I adored them that small but I enjoy them SO much MORE now. My girlfriend whose daughters are the exact same ages? She can't stand it. She was always better at the baby/toddler stuff.

So yes, I think it is possible.

And its sweet to hear you write about your ex's love for Benjamin. That was really nice to read, Alaina.

Good luck.


C Lo April 9, 2009 at 4:02 am

Mama, I will let you know I am bitter and jaded and horribly scarred from my experience, so I fully admit that and warn you with that.

But no, I don't believe men magically change. Especially a man who is what you have described your ex as in the past. I would say to you if you were my friend (and I want you to be) this………
Do not forget the past and do not make plans on what you THINK should happen and do not make plans based on what you feel like someone SHOULD do. All you have is is pattern of behavior. I don't believe it's wise to base these choices on what ifs.

You know him better than us……….does he have any pattern of behavior in the past of saying these perfect things but not following through?

I don't know what your legal situation is, but I hope you have a formal custody agreement. And if so, I would propose to amend it officially. See how he feels about that. If a balks, it's a sign, to me.

Your FAQ says his visits have been sporatic………..still true? I'd say he needs to be consistent first.

I know I sound like a petty, bitter bitch and in a way I totally am. But I am because I've been dealing with this shit for 10 years. Even becoming a dad and even claiming to love their child doesn't change dudes. It just doesn't. Just don't make your decision based "maybe"s that haven't proven themselves to be likely. If that makes sense.

lots of love to you, mama.



mssinglemama April 9, 2009 at 11:31 am

Yes… he had a sporadic go of it during January and February due to car issues and health issues. Since he's been consistent for six weeks now maybe I should edit that? Ha.

I'm not sure but that's exactly why I raised this here because I don't want to lose sight of the big picture. I know you'll all be honest with me and give me fabulous insight.

I like your idea of making a suggestion to change the custody agreement legally but I don't want to go that far… because well, I don't want him to legally have more time yet.

I go back and forth on his presence in Benjamin's life. And I can't forget issues in the past – but maybe my ex just isn't good with babies, but since Benjamin's boyhood has crept up on us it's clear that there's a difference.

I'm thinking the best suggestion I've read yet is to play it by ear and let him stay an extra night on some weeks (but only if Benjamin is requesting it). Again, this is assuming my ex follows through on his offer next week.

Thanks so much for this awesome comment and I don't think you sound like a petty, bitter bitch at all.


C Lo April 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Not to sound all horrible and shit but………6 weeks versus 18 years of life isn't a proven track record in my book. Just saying.

But I agree……..take it slow and take your cues from Ben, I think.

I just go back to the post you wrote where you said "I know he will leave one day"……..only you know your situation, just don't gloss over that feeling. If you truly believe that to have changed, yay. Do what you can do. If, deep deep down, you still have that same nagging feeling…don't ignore it.

You seem to have a good head on your shoulders. Trust your gut.


badmuthablogger April 9, 2009 at 6:58 am

I think people can and do change, especially if you give them the space to do so. God knows, I've changed over the years, and your ex sounds like he is growing up little by little. I also think that men form stronger relationships with their children as they grow older, and that it is harder for them to relate to babies and toddlers, because at this age they are so bonded to mama. As your baby grows, he has more room for his father, and I think it is wonderful that you are open to this change, and encouraging your ex to get more involved. It's a brave move, and I applaud and admire your strength and conviction. Trust your instincts, and stay in a place of compassion and openness. Positive and lasting change happens when we are open. I believe in the goodness of life. And I believe in the power of love. Your ex's love for his son will grow, and your son's love for his father will grow, and these things will intertwine and transform both your ex and son, and you aswell. Parenting is a path of healing.


mssinglemama April 9, 2009 at 11:32 am

True that. A path to healing. How right you are.


YouKnowWho April 9, 2009 at 7:38 am

I think people can change but being a fellow mother who's done nothing but pray for the day "daddy" steps up I can say after so much time I have spent holding my breath. Saying to myself some day he will wake up. Wishing, wanting, dreaming -I felt like if we didn't have a happy intact "typical" family (ha) that at least she should have two loving parents. But it wasn't too long before I stopped poking, asking, gently suggesting and even nagging about it. And now that I have accepted things for what they are I would lie if I said that I wouldn't have total mixed feelings when/if that day comes. Fear that he is going to get her hopes up only to crush them. Scared of her being out of my arms and care (lets face it she only been out of my arms for a full day twice in her life.) Happiness that this day has finally come. Madness and down right anger that it took this darn long! Seriously you know the feeling of wanting to hug then pop them on the back of the head lol! And probably even some things I haven't even thought about.

Personally if I was put in your situation (you know how much I like advice. This is not advice this is just what I think I'd do..) I would follow my daughters lead. If she wanted more time with him one week then great. If next week she wanted mommy then great too. And go from there.


Laurie April 9, 2009 at 1:02 pm

this sounds too familiar. i went through the same thing with both my kids after i left their dad 20 months ago when our youngest was just 6 weeks old. only recently, since we've each entered new relationships, he has stepped up and decided to keep them overnight on his nights off. he still never asks to have them; i'm always the one that suggests he keep them because i see how they are when they miss him, and when they ask to talk to him before bed every night it breaks my heart. he HAS changed though, but i think it has to do with his new girlfriend helping him feel more like a family and less like a single dad.

it's hard, because you want to let him be the best dad he can be for your baby, but at the same time you are so scared he'll break his heart. ((hugs!))


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Shannon April 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm

I think that its worth a try. Especially since Benjamin wants to spend time with him. B's Daddy wants lots of time with her (which I let him have, when she's willing) but often she doesn't want to be away from ME. It's hard on her Dad. I have had a hard time accepting that just because B's Daddy isn't the kind of Daddy I want him to be, doesn't mean that he isn't being the kind of Daddy she needs. And he really does try and put forth the effort. So as long as Benjamin is safe and happy, it's worth a try. And hey, you'll get a little more free time to do whatever you need to do. (More time that is bittersweet-it's a nice break, but you miss the little ones horribly).


Victoria April 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I'd do everything in my power to facilitate it. I'd take baby steps to ensure that my kiddo(s) were ready for the bump in daddy time, but I don't think you can ever be faulted for trying to make sure your kid(s) have the best relationship possible with the non-custodial parent.

Yes, there are risks – if the n-c parent steps out of the picture later the kid(s) can be hurt. Possibly badly. But if someone said to you – "hey, here's a chance at something that could make you very happy and improve your life on all fronts. You could end up being hurt, too, who knows." would you pass it up or take the chance?


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Kiki April 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I have to say as a child of divore, it happened with my dad. Not the sam situation but he was a diffrent father to me and my brother then to my sister and her brother. Was it because the situations with our moms were diffrent sure. But none the less, he was diffrent time changes things. People do change so are you willing to see if that is the case ( and it may not be) or risk it? Either way sister I do not envy you. Good luck Hugs and prayers. K


newsinglemama April 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Take it slowly and see how it goes. See how Ben reacts to it too.

The things we do as single mamas, eh?


notasoccermom April 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I may not be the best source. My ex changed for the worse. Was here, and available, then less and less and then just gone.
Kids are a lot stronger than you think. and in my opinion, having lived it, i think that any time he can give with his son is great! especially if that can change later due to one of you moving. Communication with Benjamin, explaining each step, is the best and helps him grow up understanding that people at not perfect. even parents.
It could be a little unnerving to you if you dont have a set schedule for Benjamin but if your ex and you keep up the communication and do your best to create healthy time, structured, scheduled or not, Benjamin will benefit from knowing you both. as you are


above average joe April 9, 2009 at 4:28 pm

I have had my two kids one week on, one week off for over a year now. You live a life of extremes. The week without them, I enjoy my free time with friends and my alone time but by the end of it I ache to have them back.
On the week I have them, its a struggle to maintain a house alone, dinners, baths, laundry. And by the end I look forward to them going back with their other so I can rest.


Irishmom April 9, 2009 at 6:38 pm

I think the fact that he loves and wants to be with his father is a really good sign. My little boy, who just turned seven has been very attached to his father for at least four years now – although he has often let him down, not turned up when he should, etc. So, if he's happy with him and your ex loves him, let it happen while he still wants it. My daughter (who has just turned 11) is just at the age where she is figuring out on her own that her father is not the man she thought he was. Sad, but true. I have never influenced that figuring out, but she is smart enough and wise enough to know that the way he deals with me and speaks to me, are not right. She constantly complains that he is hurtful to me and does not like it. When I ask her to discuss these feelings with him, she says that he tells her it's me that is telling her to say that. And it truly crushes her. She says :They're "my" feelings Mom. My son, on the other hand really needs the man influence and adores him still. I hope that that will last.


Irishmom April 9, 2009 at 6:38 pm

But, being Spring Break, he was supposed to take them for a few days and pulled out of it to go to Chicago and hang out with the woman he cheated on me with. His priorities are obvious and the children are certainly not on the top of the list. I had to lie on my husband's behalf (we are not divorced yet) to protect them, but it is a very difficult thing to do. I think they will eventually figure all this out. So I would let him take him, and you know, you need a break too. If you can trust that he will be well loved and taken care of, I'd go for it!
🙂 Tricia


CME April 9, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Wow, there's a lot of fear in a few of these comments. I'm all about replacing fear with faith. Faith that the universe will provide what Benjamin needs and if his Dad is willing and wants to be in his life, that's great. There's always a chance that something terrible could happen, like he'll leave, you'll leave, but allow him to enjoy it right now. I try to take life one day at a time and not get too wrapped up in the future and in fear about what "could" happen. There's no guarantee that we will even live to see another day tomorrow, so why not make the best of what we have today. It sounds like you already know the answer…let your wisdom guide you.


Pisceshanna April 9, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Well, I thought mine would never change. I thought he would fight me tooth and nail for joint custody, let his girlfriend verbally abuse me and throw tantrums whenever he could. Today he signed my custody papers. We were able to come to a compromise.

So, I guess miracles CAN happen?


Anna April 9, 2009 at 10:18 pm

My ex left the state before the divorce was even final and has seen his (7yo) son for a week out of the last 6 months. My boy still loves his dad, and his dad still loves him, but still fails to call when he says he will, and is supposed to have him one weekend per month and never has. If my ex tried to step up at this point, I would be cautious. It's all about the boy and setting him up for disappointment. I don't believe in protecting my ex or lying for him, but I don't typically fill my son in on when daddy says he is going to call, because he consistently doesn't. Visits are different and your little boy is sooo little. He's too young for this kind of disappointment (B.R. — Before Reason). What about letting your ex do it once a month for a bit to see if he can do it consistently? If not, it was a special treat. If he can, then you can think about doing in on a bi-weekly or weekly basis. I hope my ramblings made sense…


Jen April 10, 2009 at 12:24 am

My ex claims things will be different when my son starts sports as he is yet to attend a single school function. I hope he can change and step up to be the dad my son needs. I just see it that dad is doing the best he knows how to and while its not what I hope he'd be doing and I see a disparity between how he treats his daughter and our own son maybe one day things will change. All I do is encourage the relationship and let my son know his dad loves him. Its up to dad to maintain the relationship between them. I do believe as the kids get older the dynamics of the father/son relationship will change so maybe it is possible.


thewarriorpoets April 10, 2009 at 1:49 am

My heart breaks for Benjamin that he is even in this situation. I can't offer any advice other than time with his dad, any time, is valuable (assuming no destructive behavior on dad's part).

He may not be perfect, or far from perfect, but that time will be priceless in Benjamin's developement. The only thing I worry about is dad not following through with his commitment, which would lead to major dissapointment for Benjamin. So his little heart may need to be gaurded by you at first until dad can prove himself.


PT-LawMom April 10, 2009 at 2:19 am

I think it's great that he wants to see his son more. If I were in your shoes, I would go with it and just trust that you can deal with things (his moving/your moving) as they come. You can't manage what has yet to happen. Pain is an inevitable part of life.


mssinglemama April 10, 2009 at 2:55 am

This is true.


Katherine SOLOdotMOM April 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I agree with singleworkingmama… take one day at a time. Co-parenting is tough and none of us are perfect at it -no matter how much we try. Letting your Ex evolve into a better father for your son is not a bad thing…. monitoring it and being cautious, however is also not a bad thing. Go with your heart. You always have. Benjamin has his stability in you and your consistency… letting him take a risk with the love from his father… I think is a good thing for him. I mean hopefully he won't move away or become the long-distance dad… but having a few memories created as you figure out if that is going to happen… I think is also a good thing. But again, I don't think I am telling you anything you don't already realize.


Katie April 10, 2009 at 9:47 pm

I think there are times where the past predicts the future. I also think that young boys as they grow yearn for that male father figure. I think that you should really think about this long and hard and then follow your heart knowing what is best for Benjamin. Maybe your ex will or will not step up the plate more given the chance, you can't really change that aspect of it. I think it is great to have a formal custody agreement, just in case. My ex and I don't actually abide by ours. Over time, I have slowly given him more visitation with our son, because ulitmately that is what is best for him. He gets to see mommy and daddy both about an equal amount of time. I miss him like crazy sometimes but he loves his daddy very much. There are times where my ex wants to switch things around and I have put my foot down, but for the most part he tries to be a good dad and he loves our ds and is forming a good family unit for them with his new wife. And I count that as a true blessing in my life. It takes time to get to this point and we still are not what you would call friends, but we are able to communicate about our son more and more. Do what you feel is right and go from there.


Canadian Bald Guy April 10, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Can men, as fathers, change?

100% yes…and I'm living proof.

It took me awhile before I truly got it…and I missed out on the first few years of my daughter’s development because I wasn’t the full-time dad that she needed. I was there…but only part-time.

That relationship, thankfully, is repaired now that she’s 10 years old…even though she lives a plane-ride away and we only see each other a couple of times a year. We make sure we stay in contact often and do whatever we can to make the most of our time together. I can't imagine how my life would be if I had remained the same naive, selfish, immature guy that I was when she was born. I would have missed out on SOOOO much love from her.

And now? Now I have done my best to make sure I never make those mistakes with my 2-year-old son. He’s the world to me and he knows it and he'll always grow up knowing it.

Could it just be a lot easier for my ex because Benjamin is a boy now, not a toddler or a baby?

I won't lie…this is an extremely valid argument. I feel a million times more comfortable with my son now at 2 1/2 than he was at one or two months old. I don't think that should excuse a man for not being part of a child's life, but I can totally relate to fathers being more distant in the beginning only to come around more as the child gets older because it is, in fact, easier.


marco April 12, 2009 at 2:25 am

As a single dad, I love spending time with my toddler. We have lots of fun together. Playing & being with him helps me forgot any troubles and enjoy the moment. He's really missing out on some great times.


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