Dealing with the first few months
Children: Sophie and Jacob
Situation: Divorced in 2000
My separation was not what I wanted; my wife had an affair. One day, she simply sat me down and told me that she wanted to leave, and then about four weeks later she and the children left.
The day we told the kids was the worst day of my life. We sat them down in the kitchen and told them that mummy and daddy were no longer going to live together and that they would be moving to a new home. Both kids burst into tears, and so did we.
The day they moved out I went to work, and when I got home much of the furniture was gone, and there was emptiness. I just slumped down in the corner of the room in silence. For me it was terrible: all my aspirations of bringing up my children in a two-parent family (which I never had) were blown away. I knew that I would feel low, but in truth I reckon I suffered from depression for at least the first six months, if not longer.
My ex was, and still is, a good mum, and the kids were very close to her, so it was natural that they both went to live with her. In fact when I asked my solicitor about residency he told me that unless I could prove that she was an alcoholic, or a druggie, then my chances of getting residence were virtually nil, so it was not an issue that I could have any say over.
Whilst I am sure that this was good for the kids, it created a massive hole in my life. I did not realise how bad it would be, and I really struggled to come to terms with it for a long time. Simply coming back home was a depressing experience – whereas once there had been noise, smells, and toys all over the house, now I returned to silence, to space, to a home alone. Every time I walked through the door I was reminded of the fact that my kids were no longer there.
Those were dark days for me; very dark days.
Before my separation, if anyone told me that they were suffering from depression I thought they were being dramatic and wonder why they did not just get on with sorting out their lives. Now my attitude is completely different – I can understand it, having been there myself; I know that anyone can get depressed, and that it can happen overnight.
In my case, I did not have anyone that I could really talk to; my mates who I went out with were prepared to listen a bit, but because they were not divorced they could not really understand. My mum tried, but because she was biased towards me, she never gave me a balanced view. In fact it was my younger sister who helped me the most. She gave me some even-handed views, which were of some help, but I never did have anyone that had been there before. I simply had to live through the experience on my own, which probably prolonged my feelings of depression, as I did not have much in the way of support.
My ex-wife and I separated suddenly, but I was determined to behave decently even though many times I really wanted to release my anger towards her and her new partner. But I knew that it would lead to further trouble, so I dealt with my feelings alone.
In one way I know that this was best, and in fact my ex and I have always cooperated with the kids. I have never had a problem in seeing them nor has she ever stopped me or put barriers in the way. I am really glad about this, especially when I hear stories of other divorced dads.
In terms of my relationship with my kids now, Sophie is 16 years old, and spends a lot of time with her friends. She visits me a couple of times a month. I guess this is normal for teenagers – I have to wait for her to grow through these years. When she is about 20 she is likely to come back and re-establish the relationship we had whilst she was growing up.
My son Jacob, who is just 11, still comes round every weekend. I pick him up after I finish work on a Saturday, and he stays over. I have asked the kids what they remember about the split up, Jacob (five at the time) does not remember being upset, and I don’t think has been affected by the divorce. Sophie, who was 10 at the time, still has to open up and talk to me about it. We will no doubt talk about it one day.