Tag Archives: divorce

When Do You Let Your Child Pay for Dinner?

Whendoesthe kid pay?

PhotoCredit:vvork.com

There’s a commercial running for Mass Mutual that shows a married couple out to dinner with the husband’s parent’s. The waiter places the check on the table, and both men reach for it. Notice that the women pretend not to see the check, as they mime talking to one another.

This post isn’t about antiquated gender roles but rather, what does a Girlfriend Mom do when she’s out with the kids.

Does the parent always pay, even if the child is 55 years-old? What does the divorced step-parent do when they’re out with the step-kids? Does everyone Dutch it? I realize that every relationship is different and I am only speaking for myself.

I never knew what to do when I was out with the kids alone, when my ex and I were first dating. I wasn’t the kind of person who would ask for money, so I paid.

I certainly didn’t want him to think that I couldn’t afford a few rounds of The Claw at the arcade or a movie ticket. And I was happy to do it but I remember feeling awkward because protocol was never discussed.

Was I expected to pay for the kids? Was I supposed to ask for the money, like I was the friggin’ babysitter? Would I be insulted if he didn’t let me pay, signaling that it wasn’t my responsibility because I really wasn’t a part of the family?

In my current situation, there have been times when I’ve paid the bill, let the ‘young adult’ pay or we’ve flown Dutch. The only time it feels natural (and authentic) is when I pick up the tab. The GM daughter, unlike the wenches in the commercial, always offers to pay, and while I appreciate it, I don’t want her to.

I can’t imagine her mother or father asking her to throw down some bills for her Cobb Salad, and I suppose a part of this conundrum is because I want to be a member of the parent club.

Shit, my parent’s still pick up the check.

She and I were out the other day, and after I had insisted on paying, she told me that she didn’t want me to think that she was being ungrateful or that she expected it.

I told her that I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t want to, or if I thought that she was taking it for granted. This was exactly what my father used to say to me when I offered to pay. I told her that it gave me great pleasure, also something that my father used to tell me.

This simple act makes me feel like the adult, and do I dare say the parent. I have precious few opportunities to feel this way, so when I do, I relish them.

Marriage and kids can be seen (and felt) as markers or guideposts, that help to identify oneself, and ones place in the world. If you’re single, and without children, it can feel as if your GPS is searching for your current location, while you flail about adrift.

And before you start ranting in the comments section; objecting to the notion that societal constrictions such as marriage and children define a person, or anti-traditional roles, the idea of feminism, gay marriage, low self-esteem, working for the man, and your feelings about the Ebola virus, I’ll say it again– I’m ONLY speaking for myself.

Moving on.

I feel directed when I’m out with the kids, if only briefly. I like it. Most of my time is spent in free fall, where anything can (and does) happen. I’m grateful, but having some good ol’ fashion, garden variety normalcy is a welcomed addition that provides balance.

 

 

Because The Captain n’ Tenille Said So, Love Will Keep Us Together, Dammit!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

It’s taken me fifteen weeks to write this post. I needed time to figure out how I was going to tell my adoring fans that The Girlfriend Mom is no longer a girlfriend. Well, that’s one way of doing it.

Life is funny. Not funny like watching someone trip over their own feet and then trying to save themselves from face planting. Funny as in curious and ever so surprising. For all of my protestations about not wanting kids, coupled with hesitations about being in a relationship with a divorced father, I now find myself feeling grateful for having the Girlfriend Mom kids in my life. As it turns out, the kids are one of the most beautiful results of my relationship with their father.

My ex-boyfriend (wow, that doesn’t flow fluidly off the keyboard) and I did not have a plan for how we were going to tell the kids, or what we were going to tell them. For my part, I will cop to denial and hoping that dad would take the lead. For his part, I think it was more comfortable for him to simply say that, “we were taking a break,” and let the chips fall where they may. Neither approach dealt with the issue and as a result I felt off balance and alone.

Maintaining a relationship with them was paramount for me, so I forged ahead and started a dialogue independent of their father. After seven and a half years (save a year and a half due to our first breakup) I wasn’t prepared to walk away or fade to black. I didn’t want the kids to feel abandoned. They had already gone through one divorce and I didn’t want to make things difficult or uncomfortable for them. Perhaps it was I who didn’t want to feel abandoned.

I questioned what rights I had as a Girlfriend Mom. What demands could I make on their time? There isn’t a list in a ‘how to’ book on the topic. I debated with myself, and cried. A lot. Everything was falling apart. The life that I had been building for so many years was quickly slipping through my fingers, so I grabbed the kids and held on.

Throughout the relationship, I had many fears and doubts, as evidenced by my many posts. But in the face of those fears and doubts, I planted seeds, I nurtured the relationships and I watched us grow into a pretty high functioning blended family. Not always easy.

I was nervous to reach out to them. Would they care if we stayed in touch? Did they even notice that I was gone? Was I being dramatical? Besides, they had their own lives, friends, school, jobs, and they were still kids.

I had lost their father. I didn’t think that I could’ve handled losing them as well. When I did reach out, their response warmed my soul. I told them that I would always be there for them and that I hoped to always be in their lives.

I was so scared and anxious when I first met the kids. How could I go from childless by choice, to having two small kids in my life? Over the years I saw parts of myself that I never knew existed. Unattractive parts. Who needs that? And yet, something made me want to stay. Something told me to hang on and push through because something wonderful was waiting for me on the other side. Something. Something that looked a lot like love.

The first time I experienced the kind of love that practically rips your heart out of your chest, was when I was leaving for Dubai, two summers ago, to teach Pilates. I bent down to say good-bye to my Girlfriend Mom son, who was dozing off on the couch. He put his little boy hands around my neck and pulled my face down close to his and he cried. I didn’t know that it was possible to feel such pain and love simultaneously.

I had been so worried that we weren’t going to bond, let alone love someone else’s kids. I was never the same after that.

Now what? Is this the next chapter of The Girlfriend Mom- or is it The Ex-Girlfriend Mom now? Ours is not a conventional, traditional, or clear situation. I see challenges ahead, with messy moments thrown in. I also know that no one knows anything about anything, especially about the future. So bring it.

Yesterday I thanked my Girlfriend Mom daughter for allowing me the privilege to experience the joy of having kids in my life. “You’re welcome,” she said. In a million years, I never would’ve dreamed of having that exchange. Isn’t life funny.