Divorce and Birthdays, an Emotional Mix

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There was nothing more painful than the kid’s birthdays during divorce. Will they be with mom or dad, what do they want to do and who do they want to invite? If you’re in the wrong week according to the custody schedule, you may not get to see them on their special day. It can feel ‘all wrong’ especially when you were the stay at home mom who planned all the previous parties

Sure, you might have complained about the chore it could be; the mess, the noise, the goody bags, the one bratty guest, the clean up but still, you couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it for you.

If Dad was away, the party was your sole responsibility. Yours to plan and manage from the invites to the cake to keeping the kids under control. I remember many birthday parties when I relied on a girlfriend or another mom to assist me with the goings on, whether it was taking pictures, cutting the cake or organizing the guests. Let’s face it, a kid’s birthday party can get out of hand pretty quickly…

That all changed though when I was separated. Suddenly, dad was the party planner. Seriously. He also bought school supplies that first year. Where were these hidden talents during our marriage? Oh, right they were hidden.

While I should have enjoyed the break from it, I couldn’t help but feel out of sorts. The kids were celebrating their birthdays without me. It was as if I had lost a limb. I remember one year on my son’s birthday picking him up and bringing him to my house for his birthday lunch and cake. He was staying with his Dad that week and without that lunch together I wouldn’t have seen him at all that day.

I think birthdays are special for us moms probably because we give birth and we have that intense memory of the labor and delivery. In fact, I could tell you the whole day’s events when I went into labor. It’s all part of the birth story.

Then starting at baby’s 1st birthday, we are typically the party planners. During divorce all of that changes and it feels like it’s been stolen and not willingly given over to the other parent. It becomes a hot button issue in the parenting schedule, too. “They were with you last year on their birthday, so this year it’s my turn.” Unfortunately, these are the kinds of conversations divorced parents have.

Some divorced parents are able to both attend the birthday party. How civilized is that? Very. That wasn’t the case for us though. Inevitably one parent gets left out. All you can do is plan ahead and make the most of whatever time you do have with your child the day of their birthday. Knowing in advance if you’re the party hostess or if they will be at the other parent’s will help you plan and avoid disappoint. Don’t forget to talk to your child and ask them what they want to do because in spite of this emotional issue, it’s ultimately all about them.

The silver lining? Our divorce experience makes us appreciate these occasions even more.

Just know that there will be many more celebrations to come and you will continue to be a part of those. In the meantime, cherish the moments you have with your kids whether it’s their birthday or any other day.

How do you manage sharing the kids’ birthdays with your ex?

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Faith Nouri is licensed to practice law in both the U.S. and Canadian Federal Courts. Ms. Nouri is an attorney at law in California, and a Barrister & Solicitor in British Columbia, Canada.