The Divorced Home

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Last night I told Hux off for ripping a page out of his book. He started crying, as you do when you’re a slightly guilty three year old, and buried his head in his pillow. He then sat up, looked and me and tearfully shouted “I want my daddy to take me home!”.

Oof. I was heart-broken.

My rational mind knows that he doesn’t know what he’s saying and that it was an outburst borne of upset and raw emotion but it still hurts. One of my main focuses of the last two years has been my concerted effort for both children to have a really solid concept of ‘home’ and where they safely belong, and him asking to go home elsewhere with his dad doesn’t mean I’ve failed. I’m not going to go all Doctor Foster in this situation just yet.

When the separation began Hux was around four months and Elfie was two and a half. Neither of them can remember a world where they lived with their dad, something I’ve always been grateful for as I hope this means our situation has been clear to them from the start. As soon as they worked out their parents lived in two different locations they were savvy enough to name them – they would say “mummy’s house” or “daddy’s house”.

But I didn’t like this, I never want them to feel like they are split between two houses at any time in their lives. If ever in conversation they refer to “mummy’s house” I have always corrected them. “It’s not mummy’s house” I say, “it belongs to Elfie AND Huxley AND mummy – it is OUR house”. I want them to feel like our home belongs to us all.

The children spend two nights each fortnight with their dad but will sometimes stay in different places with him. They usually will sleep at their dad’s house in Dorset but sometimes it’s his house in London or occasionally my ex-Mother In Law’s house in Somerset. This is great for them because they spend a lot of time outdoors, get to see their Aunties and do different exciting things with their special weekends but I want them to feel their home with me is solid. Permanent. Reliable. I want them to come home every single day and feel safe and stable here: physically and emotionally.

I’ve lived with them in this house for two years, the longest I’ve spent in any house as an adult. If you told me ten years ago that at 30 I’d be living in a two bedroomed 80s house in Milton Keynes I would have laughed you out of wherever we were (a bar, probably) but this is what my family needs. The stability of a house we all feel cosy and warm in, a garden we can play in and our friends and family nearby. It works.

And until that evening I was 100% confident that both my children felt that safety and stability here with me.

I’m not going to be too hard on myself, Hux is growing up, testing his boundaries, working out his own emotions. Let’s be honest, I’m 27 years older than him and still prone to similar emotional outbursts.

But I will continue to make sure my children know they are home – that they are safe and comforted and stable. We are having a new upstairs carpet at next week and I’m using this as an excuse to create a wonderful re-vamped bedroom space for them, one that they have helped design.

We’ve been looking at bunkbeds for a while (and if you have any suggestions before I go to good old IKEA please shout!) and talking about how we will want the new room to look. They’ll have a more defined sleeping area and a separate play area, with shelving and boxes to store their toys and books.  We will decide what pictures they want to go on the walls together and I will ask them to help as much as they can with all the fun parts of DIY. Most importantly I’m hoping this process will make them feel like this is a home they have helped create. It’ll be a home we are all happy to be in.

We’re home. We really are.

29 Comments
  1. Having similar upsets with my two right now, so thank you for writing about it. Just good to know I am not alone. It’s tough isn’t it? X

  2. I’m in the other side of the spectrum but understand what you mean all too well… Don’t punish yourself… Kids will do that… All of mine went theough this phase and still into pushing boundaries. Take too much after me I guess. :)
    One thing that matters is they know you love them… They know that ain’t gonna change!
    Just keep on being the awesome mum you are and all else will be alright! :)

  3. Bless you! I get this on a regular basis when Paul is travelling abroad. F will be like when’s daddy going to be back because I want him not you…and yep there’s a big oof right there, but I know that is because I won’t bend to read a fifth book on a school night or let him get up and play at 2am…and where as it’s easy for the more absent parent to bend the rules and be the ‘fun’ one, creating a stable and safe place is being loving and sticking your ground. Be super proud of the home you’ve created for your babes. xx

  4. You’re right not to be too hard on yourself Alice, you’re doing a fantastic job. I expect one of the things about being with them on your own more than their dad is, is that you get to see more of the slightly challenging sides of parenting – i.e. having to do the no fun discipline bits like that page ripping incident. Your house sounds lovely and I’m sure their bedroom is going to be much loved too. x

    1. Thank you Molly! This is something my mum always comforts me with when I feel like I get the short end of the stick – daddy does get to do all the fun things at the weekends and I am the one doing the day-to-day discipline, school runs and lunchboxes. Wouldn’t have it any other way though! x

  5. Ohh Alice, they do instinctively know how to kick you just where it hurts don’t they. My eldest one once sobbed (after the arrival of his second younger sibling) that he just wanted to go and live with Grandma because she loved him and, here’s the killer part …….. had time for him. I cried and cried and then cried some more about all the damage’ I had done to him etc etc etc. Looking back it was for similar reasons to Hux, he was in trouble for sticking stickers all over the newly decorated wall and he is the least undamaged child you could meet! You are absolutely right not to be too hard on yourself, it is just words they don’t actually mean it. Take care, you are doing a fab job xxxxx

    1. Thank you lovely! But yes – they really do know what to say! I see it happening the other way round too so I am aware in my rational mind that it works both ways but sometimes in the heat of the moment that doesn’t help ;) xx

  6. Same same except we split 50/50 so I’m envious of your ability to engage with the concept of home. I’m hoping love and the 4 years of stay at home parenting are enough of a foundation. It’s super hard but we will look back knowing we made the best decision for our families.

    1. it’s funny, I’ve been spending more and more time at home recently because I really do think it helps them feel a bit more grounded. Still feels like whatever I’m doing is not quite right though… always the way ;) x

  7. If it makes you feel any better, Ramona has declared before that she wants to live with Ouma and Gramps instead. Also with Yiayia and Pappou. Also with my sister (and her family) in Leeds… Basically, any number of places where I am not at the moment that I’m telling her off about something. I 100% understand that it’s not exactly equivalent but I just wanted to bolster your point that yes, it IS boundary testing, and three-year-old pique and you are doing a really, really good job. x

  8. Have you tried looking at pre-loved bunks – once from Aspace and GLTC seem to sell on nicely around us (and we’re not that far from you) – found one with a slide the other day…

  9. Tom and I recently had a conversation that went a bit like ‘his behaviour is so much better when he’s with me’ (from Tom). It really bugged me because he’s quite often right, Wilf will often play up more or cry more or be a bit ‘harder’ with me but I read somewhere that they do these things because they can really be themselves with you (which made me feel slightly better!) anyway it made me think of it as I bet he only said that because of how close your bond is. Of course your home is their home and whilst it probably seems to them that their dad’s house is more fun at times because he won’t have to do all the normal day to day boring things and the majority of disciplining he defo won’t mean it. Plus three years olds are really hard work ey? Wilf told me he didn’t love me the other day and then checked my face to see how sad it made me before saying ‘just joking!’ x

  10. Kids don’t understand what they are saying do they, If I tell Thomas off he starts to cry and then cries for his dad which really bugged me at first but then after speaking to his dad I found out that he does the same thing with him and cries for me. They are very clever little people and definitely know how to work people.

  11. Ahh man this is so hard. I feel for you.

    My son is 14 months old. My ex and I first split when he was 5 and a half months, but we have only been living separately for the last four months. My son spent last weekend with his Dad. When my ex dropped my son back home with me on Sunday night he cried. He watched his Dad from the window, walking out of the main entrance to our block of flats, down the steps and onto the pavements and he cried. He didn’t want to be with me, despite not having seen me for the whole weekend. It broke my heart.

    I am working full time, unfortunately not from home, so I hardly get to see my son. It is really tough and I don’t really know what to do.

    Anyway Alice. I just wanted to say that I really like your blog. I read it regularly, and also really like the new design. Take care. Pen x

  12. Isn’t it funny how often we can feel like we are failing, when to the world around us, we look like super heroes? To me, you are doing incredibly well. You have created a secure loving home for your kids, you are making waves in your career and you’re a thoroughly lovely person. I call that a win xx

  13. Urgh. It’s when I read stuff like this I realise what a horrible teen I was. I would regularly throw this at my poor mum. Your children aren’t doing it out of malice, just upset. You’re a great mum. I’m off to tell my mum, again, how great she is too!

  14. Hi,

    Just to say I yelled something similar at my mum when my parents split up. I was 19. I don’t regret saying it, it was pure emotion. Whilst hard to hear at least your child can say what he’s thinking, if he was thinking it, but didn’t feel able to say it for fear of hurting your feelings that would be worse. Having a home you feel truly at home in in the most important thing, but I don’t think you realise that until you’re an adult.

  15. It sounds to me like you’re doing a grand job, and I’m betting it’s the fact he feels so stable and secure that enables to him to say things like he did (even if they smart at the time!). Looking forward to see their bedroom makeover if you decide to share it! x

  16. I have a spirited 4 year old boy (I say spirited I mean 90% of the time he’s a little sod) he throw out the ‘I hate you’ which prompted me to burst into tears (little traitor) he loved the reaction it got. Pretty soon the words for worse ‘leave the house and find another’ I want a better mummy’ (ouch) and ‘why did Daddy have to marry you’. He’s always on such a fury when he says it and within minutes he’s sobbing ‘im sorrys’ bit it’s the hardest bit of parenting to date. They know just how to push your buttons. But its worth it for the 10% amazingness !

  17. I love your look on it being not just “mummy” home but a place for all three of you and I know it must of hurt what he said but like you stated it’s an emotional outburst and not meant to hurt you in that way. It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job

    Laura x

  18. Don’t be so hard on yourself, you are doing brilliantly! I am sure they are going to LOVE their new bedroom, especially as they are helping to create it. I let Z pick out the colours for his room make-over earlier this year and he felt so proud and excited to be involved. Beautiful home, beautiful family x

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