Dear Ellie: I’m a man, 39, father of two children, separated from their mother for over two years.
I’m also an essential front-line worker during this pandemic, putting in long hours as a paramedic.
I’m involved in countless emergencies, but grateful for the years of training and medical courses that make it possible for me to try to save lives.
My problem isn’t with my job, but with my ex. Out of spite, she tries to upset our children (ages six and eight) about my exposure to people who have COVID-19.
We have a legal separation and shared custody that grants me two days a week and every other weekend with the kids.
My ex’es “spite” comes from the fact that I live with my girlfriend of over a year. We moved in together last October, months before the pandemic.
She has been very helpful with my children on days when they’re here and I don’t get home until late. The kids obviously like her despite loving their mother.
We live in a townhouse. When I return from work, I enter through the basement, leave any clothes that I wore for work in the laundry, which is in the basement, and shower in the adjoining washroom.
Yet my ex claims the children are at risk from exposure to the virus, through me.
She’ll call my girlfriend and coldly ask: “Is he back yet?” Then she’ll ask to speak to the children, and sometimes cries, making them feel guilty though they don’t understand what it’s about.
How do I stop this nasty undermining of my kids’ comfort and trust when at my home?
It’s a very unfair tactic, given your exhausting efforts helping people when they’re most fearful and vulnerable because of the coronavirus whose outcome is often unpredictable to the patient’s last minute.
Even if she were genuinely scared for the children’s well-being, she’s demonstrating no trust in you as their father, to assure their safety.
Few people besides other medically trained personnel, know the precautions to take as well as you do.
Also, while your ex doesn’t have to become close friends with your girlfriend, she should respect the efforts being made to put your kids at ease when with her in the home you share.
If this situation of distrust from your ex persists, even as the lockdown opens up further, there’s an obvious need for “joint-custody counselling.”
You and your ex have the agreement, but she’s chipping away at it by showing distrust and sowing unclear worries in the kids’ young minds.
Your girlfriend’s direct involvement with the children when they’re at your home, should also be considered as part of the counselling.
If your ex rejects this approach to discussing your custody arrangement, speak to a lawyer about it. If you didn’t have one for the separation, you may be wise to consider getting one as soon as possible.
Though you’re extremely busy during the virus, your children’s mental-health comfort will soon need attention.
Ellie’s tip of the day
Don’t let pandemic be an excuse for spiteful tactics regarding shared custody of children.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.