Why I, a Divorced Mom, Take Pictures with My Kids and Their Dad
How involved should a single mom allow her kids’ dad to be in her life? Since my divorce, I have joined several single mom’s groups, and each one has countless questions (or rants) about this very issue.
Some moms go to the extreme. If their kids’ dad doesn’t want them, then they will do everything possible to make sure that the dad has little or no relationship with his kids. Some women go the other extreme and live in the same house with their exes so that their kids can have as much access to both mom and dad as possible.
But most of us are just trying to find that perfect balance in between.
My children have always loved their dad, and he was an involved father. We used to spend a lot of family time together, so that was a hard adjustment when things ended with us. We still even ate lunch together for awhile after church every week, although it was a little painful for me to be honest.
With time, however, the awkwardness and pain ended. We each have our own spaces and lives now (we actually live 3 hours apart), but we do still have the occasional meal together with the kids, usually revolving around pick up/drop off or a school or dance event. He joins us on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought the kids, and we all eat breakfast together. We sit beside each other at school events and dance recitals. We celebrate the kids’ birthdays together. I can only speak for myself, but it feels comfortable for me now, and I hope it’s the same way for him.
I do know that there is no one who I want to be at those events in my kids’ lives more than him. He is their dad, and even though things didn’t work out the way I wanted between us, that doesn’t mean that I want to ruin things between them.
I don’t want for my kids to have two birthday parties, or to celebrate and not have one of their favorite people, their dad, in attendance because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable.
I don’t want for my kids to run down and see what Santa got them without having their dad there the way that my dad was.
I’m not sure when we started taking family photos at some of these events. Usually, someone else asks if we want a photo together (sometimes they don’t even realize that we are no longer married), and we take one. Every time, I am so happy to have that moment preserved for my children. It is a moment captured in time when they are with the two people who made them. And they always look so happy.
The issue of pictures as a “family” came up in one of the single mom groups that I am in and one girl commented that she has always made the point to take family photos with her daughter and her daughter’s dad so that her daughter would always have them when she grew up. She said that she only has one photo of her with both of her parents, because her parents were not together when she was growing up, and she said that she always treasured that photo.
After she made that comment, several other children of divorced, or never together parents agreed that they also would have loved a picture of their parents together with them, but they never had that.
Even though I am no longer with my kids’ dad, that does not mean that he is no longer a part of their family. They still have only two parents: him and me.
Every time we take a photo together, my daughter has a photo that she can put on a poster at school of her family like everyone else in her class.
Every time we sit together at her dance recital, she only has to look one place to see the people she loves.
Every time we eat a meal together or experience a special event together (like getting ears pierced or dying hair for a birthday present), she will remember that BOTH of her parents were there.
We have a lifetime of family events to attend together.
She has a lifetime of memories to create.
My hope is that she will remember all of those memories fondly, and that she won’t feel like anyone is missing.
And she’ll have the photo to prove it.
I know that not every mom has this option. Not every dad wants to be involved. But for those who do, why not embrace it and give the gift of two parents to your children?
If you choose to let your kids’ dad be involved, you may get some backlash. Friends or family may not want to be around your ex. The thing is…your ex is your kids’ dad. If it is your kids’ recital, school event, birthday, etc. your friends and family should be able to suck it up like both of you are and put on a happy face for the kid they love.
Significant others can make things messy as well. I have told anyone that I have dated seriously from the beginning that my goal was to have a friendly relationship with my kids’ dad. Instead of feeling threatened, they have admired that. Both my significant others, as well as my ex-husband’s, are always welcome to join us on Christmas morning and at other events. We sit together to cheer on the kids who mean the world to us.
That is what adults do. They look for the good in those people who their kids’ love so that they can be friendly and kind and actually enjoy them.
And, let me tell you…it gets easier.
At first, your smile in that photo may be a little forced, but after some time, you’ll find that it is more relaxed. Just like that first time you sit beside each other at an event may feel uncomfortable, but after a few, you’ll start laughing together about something your child did.
Share the moments. Take the pictures. It’s worth it for your kids, and it’s worth it for you.