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A good dad (just not the drugs)

I left my ex because he did drugs and wouldn’t get a job. Trouble is, my son really misses him and they have a good relationship. Did I do the right thing?

Absolutely, says our elder. You’re doing the best you can in a difficult situation.

Dear EWC

I am so torn on what is right. So I was with my son’s father for over 10 years. He has been on drugs the whole time except once when he got clean and got a job and that’s when I became pregnant with our five-year-old. Soon after he was back to the same drug addicted, no-job life. For almost four years we had lived with his mom in her two bedroom apartment — me, my son, his dad and our dog all sharing a room. I finally had had enough and warned him for a whole year that if things didn’t change, if he didn’t get a job and get up a bigger spot and change his lifestyle, I was taking our son six hours away to my parents’ property where we would have a house to ourselves on the property, my son could play outside, go to good schools, etc. And for a whole year he did nothing — so I left.

Now he comes up all the time. Cries to me about how awful I am for taking his son away. Meanwhile I am in school and working trying to better my life so I can support him without living with a parent. My son’s father comes up every couple weeks and the quality of time spent with my son is a million times better. But when we are now on our way home from his dad’s, all my son does is cry for his dad. See, what I left out was his dad is a good dad. They have an amazing bond and relationship when my ex isn’t constantly sleeping or hanging out with his friends doing drugs. He isn’t a role model I want for my son. Teaching him it’s OK for a 45-year-old man to not work and not support his family and hang out with his friends all day, living with his mom. But my son doesn’t care or know about that because he’s too young. All he knows is that we moved and now he doesn’t have his dad every day with him. And this is seriously killing me.

Did I make the right decision? His dad thinks it doesn’t matter where we live or what the hell goes on — as long as we are together that’s all that matters. And I disagree. Also, all he would have to do is get a job up here and he could live with us but he can’t seem to leave the area he has lived in his whole life and start anew somewhere, even though he swears that’s what he wants. He hasn’t made any effort to even start the process of even looking for a job. I just don’t want my son to be sad. I just want to know I’m not damaging him. Did I do the right thing?

PJC replies

Yes, I believe you did do the right thing. Lots of parents are divorced (mine were) or separated and, while it is terribly difficult and painful for the child involved (and hard for you to see your son in pain), it’s just the reality of the situation. You separated for very good reasons. Only your ex has the power and ability to change his situation, to become drug free and employed, so that he is fit to be around his son and to financially support him.
Perhaps taking your son to a child psychologist would help him. And I also believe that your weekly attendance at an Al-Anon or CODA (Co-dependents Anonymous) meeting would help you.

You gave your son’s father adequate time to get his life together, and he didn’t manage to do it. As you understand, there’s still time for him to get clean, stay clean, find a job and support his son.
Do your best not to speak badly about him to your son. And ask him not to speak badly about you. You’re both in a difficult situation, and this wholesome lifestyle you have chosen is best for you all. The psychologist, if you choose to go, can give you some pointers about whether, how and/or when to explain your ex’s situation with drugs and no work history to your son. The psychologist might also be able to give you some pointers on how to make the visits with his father easier on your son.

I’m pleased that you have found a way to support a wholesome way of life for you and your son. And good on you for returning to school and working to support you both. And I think it’s very good that you have left the door open for your ex to see his son and even to come find a job where you are living. What you’re doing to change the trajectory of your lives is not easy, but as you know, you made the best choice.

You could consider telling your son that his dad is welcome to move to where you two are, find a job, and see him every day. You’re sorry he’s unable to choose to do that right now, but perhaps someday he will be able to.
I understand your dilemma and how wrenching it is for you to see your son’s pain and anguish. I know you didn’t fully understand when you allowed yourself to get pregnant by a man with no good work history and a drug problem that you would be here now, trying to console his unconsolable son. But here you are. In time, and with the therapeutic help of yourself and a psychologist, your son will learn how to live with the situation. You made the right choice, and you are doing a hard thing. Hopefully, as you continue on it will be less hard on both of you.

You might even, in time, grieve fully and finally for the loss of the family you hoped you would have, and allow yourself to meet a wonderful, drug free, employed man who loves you and your son — perhaps someone who wants to marry you and be a proper stepfather to your son. And while that would never make up for the loss of seeing his own dad every day, it might go a long way towards healing his life and giving him a good role model to look up to and emulate.
I hope this helps. Just keep telling your son that his father is welcome to visit anytime he wants. And tell that to your ex, as well. Tell him to get a job so he can afford to come see his son on weekends.

Letter #: 452900
Category: Family

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