Some of the things I write for single parents may seem odd, like today’s conversation about phone calls. When you have become a single parent via an abusive marriage or relationship, many issues continue to be manipulated by the ex-spouse, who generally do not miraculously stop trying to abuse and manipulate you, just because you left.
Hopefully, issues like these are mutually agreed upon in your situation and boundaries are respected.
Single parents deal with phone calls more than any other parent. Face it, if your child is at the other parent’s home for more than a day, you want hear their voice, or visa versa. And, the other parent shouldn’t be cut off from daily contact, either.
Phone calls are also necessary for planning, making last minute arrangements, and other parental communications, when texting or emails won’t suffice. I will address parent to parent calls in another blog.
I remember one of my kids telling their Dad early on in my single parent days, they had mac and cheese for dinner. Followed by “that’s it, just mac and cheese.” It killed me, I wanted to set the record straight, we ALSO had pork chops and green beans. I wanted to get on the phone and make the correction. I wanted to tell my child to be accurate. But, I realized this was unnecessary, if their Dad had a concern about their diet, he could contact me as needed.
This was the day I let go of phone calls or at least what they said on phone calls to their Dad, it was their time and I tried to respect it.
I had other issues to contend with, continual attempted abuse, via telephone communications. Fortunately, I was wising up to his tactics and started taking control.
Yes, he had the right to free and liberal contact with his children. No, it didn’t need to be right in the middle of home-work time or dinner-time. And, I certainly wasn’t going along with delayed bed times, because of late phone calls.
I need to clarify here, there was not a “working” relationship with my ex. He took any requests as a challenge to get at me, often at the expense of our children. Phone calls where prime material for his fodder.
Here is how I handled phone calls. I became pro-active. Right after dinner, but before the bed-time routine ensued, I made it the routine time for the kids to called their Dad. Everyday they were not with him. This was pre-cell phones for the most part, so we were actually limited to being home to make calls. Cell phones would have enabled calls while we returned from an evening sports practice or church night, from the car.
They could also call or receive calls with their Dad, during any free time, if they wanted to. However, I felt it was important to establish a consistent time, so their Dad knew he could count on a certain time table for regular interaction, and so calls didn’t get lost in the busyness of life.
If he didn’t answer, they left a message. If he called back before the bed-time routine began, they could have a quick call, but bed time wasn’t changed.
If he called back during bed time or if he had decided to call during dinner or homework time, we let the answering machine pick up, there was no need to open the door for a confrontation. The phone call was returned at a reasonable time.
I set the boundaries and routine into a schedule and stuck to it for consistency. If he had been receptive, we could have worked out another specified time, to accommodate his schedule. Phone calls were initiated either way as they got older, but generally I gave a quick reminder that if they wanted to call their Dad, now’s the time.
When my youngest was a young teen and cell phones were becoming personal necessities, my ex gave one to him. Personally, I think he thought he could have more privy to his son, but it actually backfired and he eventually took it back,because the young son wasn’t quite responsible about keeping within the limited amount of texts back then. Ah, for unlimited everything we have these days!
I didn’t have a problem with this phone. However, had I found my son using the phone inappropriately, it would have lived in a basket in a public space of the house and not in his room. The rules at my home were not the same as his Dad’s and I had the final say about what would or would not be O.K. In our home. Again, it was never conferred or agreed upon when the phone was given to young son, so I set the boundaries for my home.
Phone calls to me when they were at their Dad’s were about the same. Because we had established a routine, they would generally try to give me a quick call after dinner.
Unfortunately, this was a way of manipulating me, so often the ringer was turned off on his phone, if I tried to call them, or there was some other reason why they couldn’t make or receive a call while they were there. Pick your battles, they were home in a few days, I chose to let this one go for the most part, although I did teach them how to communicate with me if it was necessary and they felt as though there was a problem that needed addressed before they returned.
Abuse doesn’t alway stop at the doorway of single parenting. I’m praying you find your boundaries and the constitution to stick with them.
If you have ideas about phone time in your single or blended family, I would love to hear about them!