You might have noticed that we used to be a FIFO family.
What does that mean exactly?
So, until 12 months ago my husband worked away for 4 weeks at a time, working on various construction sites around Australia. He was home for one week, before flying back to work.
While he worked away, we had our children.
As you can well imagine, during the periods he was at work, a lot of stuff happened with our two children in terms of their growth and development (our third child was born right at the end of our FIFO life, and that’s a story about communication for another day).
And naturally, as with any parent who works – whether locally or away – there was a lot of stuff he didn’t get to see in person, but still got to experience thanks to the wonders of modern technology.
I was fortunate to be in the same room as our daughter when she took her first steps and while I missed the opportunity to video the first time, I did capture a video of it later and was able to share that with my husband so that he didn’t need to wait 3 or 4 weeks to see it himself.
Fortunately for all of us – our children are born in a time where smart phones are never far away, FaceTime, Skype, Snapchat and a wonderful variety of different messaging apps have been developed and are freely available. Videos are also really easy to record and share using your iPhone (or whatever smartphone you happen to use).
Phone calls are so cheap these days with most people seeming to have fixed phone plans with unlimited call and messaging capabilities.
So, while my husband worked away he, and most of our friends and family, were inundated with photos of almost every single thing that our daughter did and which I thought was cute and worthy of sharing.
Why did I do that?
Partly, because, obviously, there is a great deal of love between us.
But on a greater level, it was a really great way to keep him involved and connected to his child when he wasn’t physically able to be with her.
It was a way to help him form an attachment to his child.
In the early stages, she had no idea of course. But as she got a little older, and realised that she could see her daddy on the computer screen or the ipad, she would engage with him over video link and it became really apparent that she had developed a sense of attachment to him.
In fact, I have a rather adorable photo of my daughter kissing “daddy”. I have many friends in the FIFO world who share similar experiences – just recently, one of my friends shared photos of her son having a tea party with his daddy over Facetime and it was just such a beautiful interaction – it was only a few minutes, but I bet that moment stayed with my friends for the days that followed – particularly for my friend who works away.
The phone or video calls never lasted very long because children have such a very short attention span, and like adults – don’t always feel like interacting or conversing.
And this is a really common experience in so many families. And the obvious delight for the children in being able to share some experience with that parent, even when they are in different houses or cities, is palpable.
And it is so simple. And it is so easy to do. And it requires no conversation.
But.. for some reason, when a relationship breaks down, that level of sharing stops.
The idea of keeping the other parent informed and updated with photos and the “stuff” that is happening in their child’s life stops.
Because “why should I?”, and feelings are hurt and trust is broken. There are a lot of reasons for “why should I?”
But what if you approached it as “why shouldn’t you?”.
If this is you, I really encourage you to consider things this way – why don’t you want to make sure your child maintains a sense of connection and attachment with the other parent, no matter how you feel about that parent – and likely, right now, you don’t like them very much – but they are still a parent of your child.
Your child is still 50% of that person.
Many times, when a relationship breaks down, parents make the very deliberate and very conscious decision to stop contact. And honestly, I get it.
But, when taking a photo of your child, and sending to your friends and family, why exclude your child’s other parent from that list.
If you consider that it is about your child – and not so much about you or your spouse, and you are helping your child maintain a connection with their other parent – perhaps in circumstances where they aren’t old enough to make that contact themselves, what does your child gain by you not sending that picture and sharing that moment of your child’s life with that other parent? And what is your child losing by not maintaining that connection?
So – the choice to include your former spouse in your “list” of people you share photos of your children with is not about rewarding or punishing your former spouse by doing this.
But it is about supporting the relationship that parent has with the child that you made together that you chose to have together and who is 50% you, and 50% your spouse.
And maybe, it will help improve your co-parenting relationship.. and really – wouldn’t you like to see the fun your kids are having, even when they aren’t with you?
Megan Sweetlove is a divorce lawyer and the owner of Sweetlove Family Law. Megan has worked with families who are experiencing separation and divorce for the past 10 years and is committed to assisting her clients find respectful outcomes to their separation, away from the Court process and with a focus on having a healthy future.
If you or someone you know needs assistance during divorce you can organise a complimentary 20 minute phone appointment with Megan here.
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