One of the most solid pieces of advice that any person anywhere will ever hear is never to compare their last relationship to the one they're currently in. It's just bad news all the way around. But we're also human beings, so we're going to do exactly the opposite of the thing we're not supposed to do.
As a rule -- at least this time around -- I don't compare The Fiancee™ to The Ex. There's no comparison. The Fiancee™ is far and away the better of the two. I may reflect back on the previous relationship to make sure I'm not repeating mistakes or clearing out the detritus from some leftover baggage, but I usually don't compare.
Until I had a baby with The Fiancee™. Ever since I had The Bean, a constant thought runs through my head, "I wish I'd had The Trolls with The Fiancee™". He's such a fantastic and remarkable father. He's hands on. He reads. He listens. He's all the things The Ex isn't. Every time I have to send The Trolls off with The Ex, I cringe and count the seconds 'til they're back home with us, because The Ex is just a shit.
(I'm probably going to regret typing that last sentence -- and then publishing it in a public forum -- especially if The Trolls ever find out I have a blog, but... well... First Amendment and all that).
But really why I take to my blog is not to extoll the virtues of my beloved, but to speak to all The Exes out there. Call it Sady's Rules for Not Being a Dick and Everyone Will Be Happy.
1) Visitation: the children should always come first. Sure, every now-and-again there are going to be times when you have to work late or you need a break, but as the non-custodial parent, when you have an opportunity to see your children, you should take it. You shouldn't blow them off for, oh I don't know, a tour (you're a forty-year-old wanna-be rock star who is never going to be a famous musician. Just come to grips with that already, wouldja?)
If you can't make a scheduled visit, call the other parent NOT the children. Messages like that should not be delivered to or through the kids.
If you need to reschedule a visit, call the other parent NOT the children.
If you want to see the children, call the other parent NOT the children.
Stick to the prearranged schedule unless there's an emergency. Schools frown upon unexcused tardies and your ex gets really annoyed having to wait around for you.
2) Call the children: by all means, call the children. Regularly. Several times a day, even. There's no need to speak to the other parent if you're just calling to say, "hi."
But if the other parent needs to speak to you, the polite thing to do is take the call. If you don't want to talk to your ex, that's fine. Shoot him or her a text message. He or she would probably prefer it since he or she didn't want to talk to you, either. Talking to your ex is a necessary evil when you have children together.
3) Scheduling a visit: as a matter of fact, you do need to speak to your ex if you want to see your children. Your ex should not have to keep the children's schedules indefinitely open in the hopes that you'll find time in your schedule to see them. I know, I know. You hate feeling like you have to ask permission to see your kids, but you know what? You do need to make sure that they don't already have plans. Suck it up, Cupcake.
4) Don't trash talk: sure, you hate your ex. She or he hates you, too. That's why the two of you aren't together. Keep the trash talking between you and the voice in your head. The children don't need to be caught in the crossfire.
5) Child Support: I've got news for you, Buttercup -- child support is necessary. You don't get to arbitrarily decide that you'll buy the kids something in lieu of paying child support. It doesn't work that way. Child support goes toward the cost of raising children and, in most cases, doesn't even begin to cover what your ex has to pay toward their cost of living. Children are fucking expensive.
And if you think you're just spiting your ex by not paying, well, think again. You're just a dick that likes to hurt your own kids. NOT paying child support prevents your ex from doing things for the kids -- like get them braces or pay for sports.
It's not "extra money", by the way. It's money that is very, very needed. But even if it is extra money and your ex chooses to spend it on hookers and blow, he or she can. He or she has already paid the mortgage, the light bill and put food in the children's bellies. You're simply paying your ex back a small portion of what he or she has already spent on the children.
And let's just address this while we're at it: your ex cannot ask his or her parents to help. It's your job to support your children.Your ex's current is not responsible for the financial burden of your children, either. He or she does it because he or she loves your kids -- and you should be goddamned grateful for that and not take it for granted.
Oh and side note: if you can afford to take time off from work to go on fucking tour, you better make sure that you've paid your child support. Dick.
(Item five is especially touchy for me, since The Ex -- who only is required (by our mutual agreement... for now) to pay $300 a month for two kids hasn't paid a dime since October 2012. All points covered are all arguments he used to justify not paying).
6) Don't be super-happy-funtime-parent: Seriously, just don't. Don't be the parent that the kids get to have all the fun with while your ex is the one that has to make them eat their vegetables and do their homework. Because, you know what? The next time you have a weekend with your kids, your ex may just send them over all hopped up on Mountain Dew and bags of sugar. You'd deserve it.
7) Don't be a dick to your kids: don't say things like "you're just like your mother" or "you're stupid" or "you're fat and lazy." Saying those kinds of things is a sure fire way to get yourself a one-way ticket to The-Kids-Are-Permanently-Busy-and-Can-Never-See-You-Again-ville.
8) Blending families: make sure that the children have a place of their own in your home -- especially if you're living with someone who already has kids. There's nothing quite so sure to guarantee to make a child require years and years of therapy as one or both of their parents making their "biological" child feel like a red-headed step-child.
9) Do what you say you're going to do. And don't argue about it if it's not convenient for you anymore. You made your bed, now lay in it.