Friday 26 December 2014

This Life: I feel my ex is taking our child away

Orla Barry

Published 21/05/2013 | 05:00

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I got pregnant unexpectedly four years ago and now have a daughter, whom I adore. My boyfriend of the time didn't react well. Neither of us did. He promised he would be supportive, which he has been in financial terms.

Over a year ago he got married and his visits started to increase. Our relationship has improved and he told me that they have been trying for a baby but she's having no luck. His wife is very upset about it.

In recent visits, my daughter has come home with a new toy or new clothes. She said the presents are from her auntie as opposed to her dad. One day I heard her call the woman 'mammy' by mistake and my heart nearly broke. I am still single. As a result I can't afford to give her everything she wants.

A couple of weeks ago my ex said they wanted to take her on holidays with them. I completely refused.

My parents think I need to let him into her life more. Last week my daughter came back from one of her visits and said her daddy had mentioned they might go to Disneyland together if I would allow them. I'm furious. Now my daughter thinks I'm standing in the way of her having this holiday.

Maybe I am over-reacting, but I have been her world since she was born and now I feel someone is trying to take her away from me.

Orla replies:

I think there is every possibility you are over-reacting and understandable as it may be, you will have to come to terms with sharing your daughter with others, particularly her own father.

Unexpected pregnancies are challenging. It's a pity your boyfriend wasn't emotionally supportive at the time, but it takes everyone time to face up to their responsibilities.

Now that he is in a better place, he is happy to play a bigger part. Hard and all as this might be for you to accept, the main consideration is whether this is good for your daughter.

I wonder how much of your upset is caused by anger or jealousy on your part.

The ending of the relationship doesn't sound like it was your decision and it's hard to come to terms with the emotional fallout of a break-up.

However, it's time for you to consider the next stage of your life. Have you considered how you might begin to have a relationship with another man now?

It may be daunting, but now that you have more babysitters you could take advantage of this.

It's easy to convince yourself that your child would be bereft without you for a few days, but she will adapt. As time goes by, your ex-boyfriend may have to come to terms with a new man in his daughter's life.

The upset and impatience your ex-boyfriend's wife may feel at not having yet conceived may be driving the new gifts. But it is good for your daughter to develop a relationship with this woman who will likely be in her life for the long term.

If they do have children, your daughter will also want to have a relationship with her half brothers or sisters.

However, it is important that you talk about what you can offer your daughter. It is impossible for you to compete with gifts of this nature. Let them see that you and your daughter appreciate their generosity but point out that you don't want to spoil your child.

If she feels she can always get her own way with her father, she will likely play you off each other, so it's good to set boundaries now.

It was unfair of him to mention the holiday to her and you need to talk about not allowing incidences like this to occur again. Consider allowing her go on holidays for a shorter period of time.

Given the current state of men's custody rights and your own long-term care of your daughter, there is no danger of anyone stealing your child from you.

For your daughter's sake and your own, establishing a mature relationship with her father now will serve you all better in the long run.

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