My son was born when I was a month shy of my 21st birthday, and although his mum and I had a fairly decent relationship once the baby came along we soon realised that we were too young for a child, and more importantly, not in love with each other and unhappy.
After 18 months of trying to make things work we mutually decided to go our separate ways and we split up. Leaving him behind remains the most heart breaking day off my life, I am not ashamed to admit I cried for days afterwards not knowing what the future would bring.
I vowed that day to be the best father I could be to him ensuring he would never be without his father. Despite good intentions I know this can be the case when a child is left behind and the father can end up not seeing his kids, sometimes through their fault BUT not always is it the case.
I maintained a good relationship on friendly terms with his mother and soon I was having him every weekend. I would leave work and take buses and trains on a Friday night to pick him up and bring him home with me for the weekend, Sunday the return trip again but I loved having him and never regretted once having to give up a social life to be there for him.
Every month whilst I was working I would make sure money was provided for him as well, I never wanted to be the sort of man who didn’t see or provide for his child and I was determined to stick to that!
Fast forward 2 years and when he was 3 and a half his mum was going through a difficult time with housing and no job so we mutually agreed that he would come and live with me. I was working and could send him to a nursery and provide him with more stability and, as it was best for him he came to live with me, his mum reluctantly agreed.
After less than a year on the council housing list we found a nice 2 bedroom flat and left my mums and went into a new family home.
Just father and son and it was wonderful – albeit very hard work but rewarding nevertheless. I found barriers in most places being a single parent and a man at that! At one stage when he was in Infant School I was called into a meeting with the headmistress and told that as a man bringing up a child I should “join a single parents group!”
In 2005 I got together with Sheryl who is now my wife and this increased my family to 5 and in 2009 Elizabeth came along to complete us. Unfortunately during the past few years I have been battling depression and this has impacted my work situation as I have been too ill to work.
This has made our financial situation at times laughable, poverty should be our family surname and yet we struggled to ensure that the kids never went without presents for birthdays and Christmas as well as making sure we could get them things when the need arose.
Everyday basics like clothing and food which of course are not noticed by children, meanwhile my son’s mum could afford to spend double or treble what we could on him for presents.
In terms of maintenance his mum has not paid me a penny for 95% of the ten years he lived with me but we had an agreement that she would get him the essentials I couldn’t afford to, although 100s of pounds worth of presents were not in the agreement, I went along with it though because I did not want him to go without. Yet even so it annoyed me that I was trying to teach him the value of money whilst he was getting spoilt at his mums!
Now at 13 he has decided he no longer wants to live with me and wants to go and live with his mother again.
Now don’t get me wrong I only want what is best for him assuming the reasons are the right but I can’t help thinking that he is going for the financial reasons rather than any other.
Is it a case of him wanting to live there because he thinks he will continue to be spoiled once he is there full time?
Or has someone been talking to him about how much of a bad father I am because of my depression?
I will be the first to admit that when I have my bad cycles I tend to sleep much of the day and be awake at night, but I have always sat down with him and explained to him how depression works and what happens to me when I am down.
Not that I expect a 13 year old to fully grasp the concept but by being honest and open with him I am avoiding the mistakes that my parents made with me as a kid! Growing up my mum had severe depression yet all that was told to me by my father was that she was a lazy bitch etc!
I have said he can move back to his mums in July once he has finished the school year which will give him the 6 week holiday to make friends in the new area and get a place in a new school but in the mean time I have to endure the pouting and moaning that teenagers specialise in whilst doubting my abilities as a father and whether I have let him down by suffering with depression.
Have I let him down though? I have had him living with me for 10 years are there many 34 year old men out there who can say the same? Is it simply a case that he needs his mum more than me now he is going through the changes of puberty?
Seems to be more questions than answers and hard as it will be maybe it is for the best that I let my boy have his way. Is the only way for him to learn the grass is not always greener going to be by letting him find out the hard way?
I would love to hear people’s views on this
Written for the blog by my very dear friend The Depressed Moose – You can read more of his blogs which are about his battle with depression, his thoughts and feelings and ideas behind improving his state of mind. By Visiting The Depressed Moose Blog.