I’ve been reading up about parental alienation. This is a form of psychological abuse really, where one parent alienates their child against the other parent, following separation or divorce. Much of what you will read about relating to this talks about the mother alienating the children against their father. You will also read about the “NRP” (Non Resident Parent) being alienated and, a lot of the time, the “NRP” loses contact with their child. The majority of cases are mother-against-father. 75%, apparently. 25% are the other way round. What you will also read about, quite a lot, is websites dedicated to fathers in this sad situation.
My situation is a little different. I am the mother. I am one of the 25%. Or I believe and feel that I am one of the 25%. My experience has come about fairly subtly. The situation so far is not serious….or maybe it is. I share care with my children’t father more or less 50%. It has been this way for about 7 years. My eldest child worships the ground her father and stepmother walk on, and I am the horrible mum. I try to do my best by her – I hope I do. I think I do. I feel judged, criticised, undermined and aligned by my eldest child. My youngest child is a Mummy’s girl, and I hope she stays that way.
The history of this sad tale started in 2005, when we agreed to separate. We had come to realise that our eldest child was being affected by our relationship. She no longer came for cuddles. We realised the damage that we were doing to her. We were two people living in the same house. Our children were with two parents who showed each other no affection at all. Separating was the only thing we could do. Our relationship now had irreconcilable differences. We got on better once this decision was made. It was all quite amicable really. When I moved into my new house, my ex husband helped me out with decorating. He used to pop in to see the girls. They were 4 and 2 years old at the time. The separation didn’t seem that bad. We’d agreed on divorce following 2 years separation, and we got on well. This was going to be ok. Neither of us, at the time, wanted the matrimonial home, so we agreed that he would give me half the equity, and I would buy a property with that equity. It was ok.
The children started saying that Daddy had a girlfriend, but I was still welcome at my old house. I spotted some photographs in the kitchen one day. Photographs of the children, and the woman who I had questioned my husband about before we split up, at the zoo. Recently. Eventually, I confronted him, and yes, he was in a relationship with this woman. This was about a month after I’d moved out. His argument was that we’d been separated for 6 months (we had – it took nearly that long to sort out mortgages, etc, before I could move). After this, things started to change……
My ex husband no longer popped in to my house when the children were here. The relationship that had been amicable started to deteriorate. I was no longer welcome at our former home. Then started the criticism. The clothes that I bought the children were criticised. My children would tell me that Daddy had said that people would laugh at them if they wore certain things I had bought them. There was nothing wrong with them – they were funky clothes. Fun. Not pale pink from Next….. It started to get so difficult, I ended up putting myself in counselling to help me deal with it.
There have been other things; so many things really. My lifestyle is judged. My love of live music; of gigs; of festivals. My children came home one day saying that festivals were dangerous – but when questioned, my ex husband said that isn’t how the conversation had gone; the children had misunderstood. As infuriating as this was, I didn’t push it; didn’t really do anything about it. I’ve had my children saying that they didn’t want to grow up to be like mummy (because I am clearly Satan or something). I have never badmouthed their father to them – this has been disputed by him – apparently I have. I haven’t. I’ve always made a point of biting my tongue (very hard). There’s a lot of examples – one day I may try and blog them.
The alienation is subtle. You slowly start to realise that your child/children are being carefully manipulated and turning against you. My eldest child will stand up for her father over everything – even if what you are saying isn’t bad, she jumps on you immediately and tells you not to say that about her dad. When she was in either Year 3 or Year 4, I went to Parents’ Evening and read in her literacy book that she wished that her stepmother was her real mum. That was a real slap in the face….
From 2005 to the end of 2010, I was pretty much single. I had dates. I had non-serious relationships, but they were all kept separate from my mummy life. Until I met my now partner. We’ve been together 18 months. Things with the children started off slowly, we tried to do things right. But after only a few meetings, it started to become clear that there was negativity from the children’s father. He stuck his oar in. We were taking the children to a big indoor waterpark. The children’s father phoned and told me that my partner was not to pick the children up, manhandle them – pretty much not play with them at the waterpark. Once that oar was stuck in, things became strained with my eldest daughter. Things have not been easy. She doesn’t like my partner. My youngest child gets on well with him. My eldest is rude. I have been accused of taking things too quickly – this coming from the person who had his girlfriend – who was most likely the “other woman” when we were still married – playing happy families from a very early stage. The first Christmas after we split, she was there, waking up with them on Christmas morning. We’d lived in separate houses since September….
I need to keep note of things that are said; things that are done. The more I think about it; the more I reflect, the more convinced I am that what is happening is parental alienation. My eldest daughter is excluding me from things that, as a mum, you would want to be involved in. The latest one was her new school’s open evening. It was on one of her dad’s contact nights. I spotted my child and her stepmother on the way back from it. Her father didn’t even go with her. I said to my child the day after that I would have liked to have gone – her response? “My school, my decision”. She’s not yet 11. I put up with her being rude, sarcastic and, at times, downright horrible, but she’s a tween. There’s hormones and all that. Eugh. But on top of that is, I’m sure, this alienation.
My youngest child has made a couple of books with photographs of me in, and of me and her. She misses me when she’s away from me, and the pictures help her. She made a tiny book to take on a week’s holiday with her. That book never went on holiday. It got “misplaced” before she went. Her stepmother and her father said they’d look for it. They never have. We made a whole book together – she sewed the paper together. She chose photographs, and we stuck them in. She left space for other pictures at the back. Apparently, there weren’t enough pages and my child reported that her father had made a comment about it. That book was under her pillow when she took it to her father’s. The book then disappeared from under her pillow. It might be under her bed, but she’s looked……bit tenuous really. She told me that two pictures she’d got me to print out fitted in her diary perfectly so she could keep them secret. She has to keep pictures of me secret at her father’s house, to keep them safe. All pictures of me disappear at his house……
I don’t actually know what an alienated parent is meant to do. Things get twisted so that the alienated parent seems to be the “bad” one. Everything I do is judged and criticised. I am bullied and controlled. I have said little, and not really stood up for myself, because I have believed that the people who really get hurt in these situations are the children. I believe I have done things to protect them. They are children. I can cope (mostly) with this situation, but they are children. I hope that one day, my children will realise. Karma will come through. One day.
I intend to really keep note of things that are said, situations that arise, that add weight to my feeling of parental alienation. I believe this is what is happening, and I fear for my relationship with my children.