Life of A Woman Who Lives With A Guilt Parenting Dad
I’m not long winded in my real life but have learned to express myself through writing. It's one of the few things I do for myself to keep my sanity.
I'm in the beginning phase of "uncoupling" (trying to be fancy and PC here lol). After 11 1/2 years living with Disney Dad I need to regain the little piece of me that’s left and nurture it back into the person I was before meeting this man.
So here's something I wrote a few months back....
Many divorced dads parent out of a place of fear and guilt. Fear that their child will not want to see them if they say no, and guilt over the divorce and more than likely only seeing their child every other weekend if the Mom has primary custody. This parenting style lends itself to a perfect storm of entitlement, selfishness and arrogance for the child.
Have you ever heard of a strict divorced parent talk about turmoil in their home? Maybe the normal crap teens try and pull, but not the stomach churning, depression inducing ridiculousness that goes on in homes of divorcees who parent out of fear and guilt. It’s a slow process that begins with Dad letting little Susie stay up until midnight when she’s 6, maybe not caring that she didn’t eat dinner before giving her ice cream every night, making sure she gets a toy (or 6) every time the family walks into a store, having daddy crawl into bed with Susie every night to help her get to sleep (or having Susie come into daddy and stepmoms room and daddy inviting her into the marital bed). Each new "yes" such as saying yes to Susie wanting a sleepover seems to turn into the norm as opposed to a once in a while event. So now every other weekend there’s a half dozen girls staying at the house because once Dad said yes to that sleepover he didn’t have the balls to keep it as something special, a reward for doing something right, instead of the new way of life when Susie is at the house.
As a child of a guilty divorced Dad gets older the power structure seems to morph. You can’t even really put your finger on when it changed as there was never really a time when Dad enforced stability, instead he always came off as a piece of taffy that’s sat in the sun.... wavering, pliable, folding in on itself, never taking a direct shape or position. Susie saw that as kids are much smarter than we give them credit for, and she knew she could use it to get all that she wanted (as most kids would).
Children will test the waters in every family; it’s what kids do. It teaches them boundaries and negotiation skills. Children who are parented out of fear and guilt though are in a category by themselves. These children learn that no (if they ever hear the word) really means yes with just a small amount of pushback, that societal norms don’t apply when they’re with daddy (a can of cherry pie filling on a waffle for breakfast, McDonalds for lunch and pizza for dinner as opposed to at least one healthy meal that includes the color green? Sure!), that the word "excess" has no place in daddy's vocabulary (because we wouldn’t want Susie to feel underprivileged by not getting every damn thing she mentions when she says, "I wish I had ...."), and that they can effectively change the family dynamic with one question ("Daaadddyyy, why does stepmom have to do stuff with us? When she’s around you don’t give me ALL of your attention and I FEEL UNLOVED"). Now does Susie really feel unloved? No she doesn’t, but she wants to get stepmom out of the picture because many times stepmom is the voice of reason ("Does Susie really need her 17th pair of Ugg boots?").
By time Susie is a teenager the household is in turmoil and the family roles are flipped. Susie is now dictating to daaadddyy what food she expects to be present in the pantry upon her bi-weekly arrival (brand names are on top of the list, because DelMonte fruit in a can taste so much different than store brand). Susie has previously (most likely on Wednesday) texted Dad to tether him for the weekend. The text most likely included how Susie would love to go out to eat with Dad on Friday and Sunday, would love to go shopping with Dad on Saturday, making sure to include how she respects dad’s fashion sense to butter him up so his credit card can easily slide from his fingers, and maybe throwing in how there’s a new rated R movie that she’d love to see, so could Dad take her since she’s only 15. Now will all of this actually happen? There’s a good chance it won’t, but Susie has effectively tied dad’s hands behind his back because Dad will sit around in case Susie wants to do the things she mentioned. This succeeds in making stepmom madder than hell because it’s now guaranteed that Dad will tell her that him and Susie have plans all weekend. Is it the plans that piss stepmom off? Of course not. It’s knowing that this is the thousandth time that Susie has cut dad’s legs out from under him just to get under stepmoms skin, using Dad as a weapon against stepmom. Susie will NEVER go to dinner with Dad, go shopping with Dad (although she’ll take his credit card), and while she will have Dad take her and her friends to that rated R movie, he has to leave after the girls are seated. He will be an on-call taxi service and an ATM. And on Sunday when Susie is getting ready to leave and Dad expresses how sad he is that Susie didn’t spend a minute with him, she will promise her next weekend at the house all to him (yup, she just tied him up to get at stepmom another weekend) and she’ll look over her shoulder at stepmom when she’s walking out the door and laugh.
Stepmom will have stopped trying to be a family a longtime ago at this point. The nice dinners she used to make, being sure to put emphasis on preparing only foods Susie would eat have gone out the window. One too many times stepmom would have made a huge dinner, making enough for the half dozen girls at the house, only to have Dad throw it away because Susie suddenly stopped liking what was made (only to piss stepmom off) and huffed until Dad took 6 girls to the restaurant Susie requested. Of course the very next day when Dad asked Susie what she wants for dinner that night (because Susie decides what the family now eats) she would say the exact dish that was thrown away the night before. Instead of Dad saying, "No Susie, we just threw away that meal" Dad will get in the car and go buy the previously wasted ingredients. "IF" Dad has found his balls and asks Susie why she said she didn’t want it the night before, he'll be told, "Dad, you know I’m a teenager and I’m prone to waver back and forth" and Dad will laugh and shake his head and tell her she’s hysterical while stepmom is turning 18 shades of purple and smoke is exiting her ears. Susie will look at stepmom and laugh, knowing that’s just enough to throw stepmom into a tizzy that will ensure she'll either get her keys and leave or hide in the bedroom to regain her sanity.
The topping on the cake is the state of the house after Susie goes back to her mother, who runs a tight ship and doesn’t allow disrespect to her husband. Stepmom will be so exhausted that the first time Dad says "boo" she will blow a gasket. This will begin a fight that lasts just about 10 days, 2 days before Susie comes back and starts the process all over again. During those 10 days stepmom will have to hear how she’s so mean to Susie, how stepmom doesn’t understand children (because Susie told Dad years ago that she’d never come back to dads if he had a baby with stepmom, so stepmom only has a dog), and the fight will devolve into a war, Dad and Susie on one side and stepmom standing alone on the other side.
There will be 2 days every 2 weeks that Dad and stepmom get along, possibly even getting promises from Dad that he will not cave to Susie’s demands. Dad may even tell stepmom that he sees Susie can be a handful, but always correcting his criticism of his daughter by saying, "She’s a normal teenager. They’re all selfish and out to get what they want. Susie is no different and you’re being unfair thinking she’s any different than how you were at 15". Stepmom bites her tongue HARD because that personal attack has been used dozens of times before and Dad always apologizes for it, but quickly forgets his apology when he uses it again.
And so life goes on in this unhealthy cycle with a divorced dad who parents out of fear and guilt.
(The story is true, the name of the child has been changed to protect the stepmom, who can’t say the child’s real name without vomiting)