The “Broken” Home: How to make it feel un-broken for the kids


Easter weekend… a time of family, God, and… as usual—over indulgences. Turkey sweats are replaced by chocolate tummy aches and cavities.

I wonder if anyone is ever going to uncover the conspiracy between the Easter Bunny and the dental industry? I’m just sayin’…

Today, I’m not going to delve into conspiracies surrounding our Hallmark-driven holidays, but on how we celebrate them in blended/divorced family situations.

See? I'm not the only one who knows about the conspiracy!

See? I’m not the only one who knows about the conspiracy!

I am close with a young woman whose relationship with her child’s father fizzled rather prematurely. The challenges between the two began when she was pregnant and, despite many false re-starts, the flame just never reignited. Great… another child growing up in a “broken” home.

Due to his poor life choices, the child’s father (I’ll call him Steve) spent many months without seeing his baby. As devastating as it was, the child’s mother (Cassie) did the best she could to keep moving forward despite her newly single situation.

Since Steve was nowhere to be found, Cassie struggled to make ends meet by working as a receptionist at a hair salon three nights a week, making children’s clothes on the other nights; all the while working on her business degree by correspondence.

Thankfully for Cassie, she had a great support system through both sets of grandparents. Then the court case happened…

It was ugly at first, but then a miraculous change occurred. Cassie and Steve sat down face-to-face and worked out an arrangement. Since he hadn’t been around for many months, the shared custody was gradual, to allow their child to get to know him better.

Now, months later, everyone seems to be playing nicely in the sandbox. Kinda…

The current challenge is the popularity of their child (little Genevieve). Everyone wants to spend time with her—Steve, his girlfriend (and her family), Steve’s brother, and both sets of grandparents.

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Photo courtesy of familylaw-lifeinthetrenches.blogspot.ca

One would think that such a situation could never be viewed as negative, but now, two weekends in a row, Cassie has not seen Genevieve for four days straight. She goes from one grandparent’s house, to Steve’s, to the other grandparent’s house. On the nights Cassie works late shifts she doesn’t gets home until it’s hours past Genevieve’s bedtime. Therefore, she either has to hire a babysitter (which eats her entire day’s wage), or she must accept the help of her daughter’s family to keep her overnight in their respective homes.

A few days ago, I met with her and she explained everything to me.

The first thing I commented on was, what a positive thing all this turned into. What a blessing that both Steve, his new girlfriend, and Cassie all get along so well. I really tried to put emphasis on how fortunate she is for this turn of events.

I further explained that, since Steve was away from the baby (who is now a toddler) for so long, there is an excitement and pride now that he gets to show her off to all the people in his new life. Who wouldn’t though? The child is freakin’ adorable, with an amazing personality.

So where the challenge is, is Cassie’s work schedule. Unfortunately, in order for her to keep Genevieve home with her (instead of daycare), she must make sacrifices with her work schedule.

Cassie was very upset by how forceful Steve has become surrounding increased time with Genevieve, and that he wasn’t asking for time with her, he was “telling” her what he wanted.

Hold the phone.

This is where things have to change, and this is the advice I gave her:

  1. Get through the Easter weekend, and let everyone have his or her time with Genevieve.
  2. Reach out to Steve and tell him that this kind of extended time with her, will no longer be a regular thing. You have been far more gracious with his access to her than the court allowed.
  3. If he is scheduled to see her on a Saturday morning for a few hours, but now wants her to spend the night, then his pick-up time should be later in the day, so that you can be with her until you have to go to work.
  4. When he has a social event on a Sunday, then that is in lieu of Saturday, NOT in addition to.
  5. You are the most important person to Genevieve, and the long periods away from you cause upheaval and stress on her. Yes, that is why you have a whiney child on your hands when she gets home.
  6. As wonderful as all of this excitement is surrounding time with Genevieve, a consistent schedule is crucial to raising a happy and emotionally well-balanced child.

This wouldn’t be an issue if her child was a brat, and no one wanted to spend time with her.

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Photo courtesy of theenglishgroup.co.uk

In my opinion, Cassie has one of the most positive scenarios that a divorced couple could have, but it’s obvious how quickly it could get out of control.

Steve is not focusing on what is good/healthy for the child—he is just riding the euphoria of a proud new father. I don’t blame him for having those feelings at all. I pray that his enthusiasm never wanes, but I also hope he understands the reason for Cassie putting her foot down after this weekend.

I spoke to Steve while Cassie was pregnant (and things were going south for the two of them). I said, “Regardless of what your relationship with Cassie is, as long as you have a consistent, and positive environment for the baby, she will be able to live a very happy life.”

When things became inflamed during the court case, I really wanted to track him down and smack some sense into him. Thankfully, I need not break a sweat for this one, and will just keep encouraging both to work hard at living happily ever after—“blendedly,” of course.

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