The ex recently came into an inheritance when his mom passed – about $100k-ish. My college daughter got Grandma’s used but newer car, which was a relief as I was only able to provide a much older car that worried me. Ex gave my son 10k to even things up. He also paid off about 4k in student loans my daughter had, and he made many promises – even as recently as August – that he would cover her tuition going forward.
Now, eight months after this inheritance, tuition is due and Ex is broke. My daughter is super stressed and having anxiety and panic attacks. I am going to sell a car and try to help any way I can, but I am just disgusted with him. Again. My policy has always been to try to be civil with him and not badmouth him to the kids. They will discover in their own time what their dad is truly like, and my older son definitely has.
Here is the question: Jane thinks this current situation is somewhat my fault for not telling the kids what he is like and that he’s an a$$hole and a POS in the 10 years since he left and that I’m too nice and it has caused my daughter to think he is a stand-up guy. I always answered their questions honestly, like when they asked where their savings account $ went, I told them. Jane thinks I need to cut ties and tell them exactly what I think of him. I think she needs to butt out of this one because, while she loves my kids too, she has her own issues with him from their marriage. However, I’m also feeling tremendous mom-guilt because I kind of saw this coming, but I hoped he would do better. Who wants to say that you better get that money now because your dad will piss it all away? Even I thought 100k would last longer than eight months.
So, did taking the high road for 10 years backfire? I still would rather just state the facts of what happened and take what steps I can to resolve problems, rather than going scorched earth and telling them how much I hate him and what a POS dad he is. I already feel so guilty that they lost out in the parent-lottery. — Ex-wife of a Jack-Ass
First of all, your kids didn’t lose out in the parent lottery. They have you, right? And, honestly, one loving, committed, attentive parent is a lot better and a lot more than many kids get. You sound like you’ve done a great job raising your kids, and even now, as they are technically “adults,” you are still at it, still prioritizing their best interests, still sacrificing to meet their needs, still feeling guilt for not being and doing enough. I know just by reading these few paragraphs that you are probably an amazing parent. I’d say your kids lucked out getting you as their mom.
Second, you are correct: Jane has her own issues with your ex and she is projecting them onto you. Don’t fall for her trap. Misery loves company, right? She’s wants you and your kids in the company of her misery with all of you collectively hating the ex. She thinks this will empower her (it won’t). This isn’t fair to your kids. They may eventually hate their dad on their own as they, as you say, realize what he’s truly like; they don’t need Jane manipulating you into manipulating them to form opinions that don’t serve anyone.
But here’s what I really want to say to you: Your kids are going to be ok. As they move from adolescence into young adulthood, it’s understandable that you’re worried about them, that you’re re-evaluating the job you’ve done as a (single) parent and how you’ve raised them, wondering if you’ve provided all the tools they’ll need to navigate the adult world and all the hurdles and pitfalls and challenges that will undoubtedly come their way. And the thing is, you probably haven’t. None of us parents – even those of us lucky enough to co-parent with partners who are as equally committed to parenthood as we are – can possibly provide everything our kids need to succeed in life without bruises. But that’s not our job.
As counter-intuitive as it might feel – and it feels very counter-intuitive to me! – it is not our job to protect our kids from all of life’s ills and spills. It’s not even our job to pay for their college or to protect them from disappointment or to keep their hearts from breaking over unrequited love or love that shifted or stopped or … from learning the truth about a parent who failed to meet even the most basic commandments of parenthood. What is our job is to foster independence, empower their faith in themselves, and give them a soft place to land (or return to, even temporarily) when the hits are especially hard. It sounds like you’ve done this for your kids. You have done your job. You continue to do your job. You’re a great mom!
Life isn’t easy. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy raising two kids alone. It’s not easy for Jane, who is grieving the end of her marriage and is full or rage and wants someone to share that burden. And it’s not easy for your kids to come to some realization that their dad kind of fucked them over. But while life isn’t easy or fair, it has, if we’re lucky, easier stretches in which we can catch our breath before the next challenge. And if we’re really lucky – and it sounds like your kids are – we have a support system that holds us up when we feel weak and celebrates our wins and shares at least some of our journey, providing companionship, and laughter, and advice, and care, and even sometimes financial help. And that support system is rarely ever just one person. It’s a family, or a community. It’s neighbors and friends and loved ones. And if your now-adult kids have that, then any failure on their parents’ part to be perfect is balanced, at least a bit, by the support they get from others, by their own empathy, by the opportunities afforded them, and by the tools they’ve gained over 20+ years to navigate challenges – tools that were likely only developed by experiencing or observing previous challenges.
Your kids are going to be ok. You are, too! As a mom of a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old, I understand mom guilt. Married or single or widowed or divorced, being a mom means never feeling like enough for your kids. But we’re not supposed to be everything for them. We’re supposed to be the best we can and trust that everything we’ve provided for our kids and everything they’ve fostered on their own will be enough to carry them through. Just as it’s been enough to carry us, too.