I asked my partner to leave when my Son was 18 months old. It was a scary time for everyone. I was quite young, and facing being a single parent was daunting. Soon after he left, Dad’s mental health deteriorated rapidly. He went to a pretty dark place and an acute schizophrenia developed.
Still feeling a sense of responsibility to Dad, I spent a lot of that time trying to get him the support he needed. This was a challenge, as Dad didn’t really accept he was ill. Some of that is still true today even though Dad is a lot more stable than he was.
Over the years I have been really concerned about the impact Dad’s mental health issues might have on my Son, and whether keeping contact with Dad was the right thing to do. I know what the easy thing to do would have been, well the easy thing for me anyway.
I’ve had lots of worries about this issue. Would being around his Dad increase the chances of my Son having mental health issues in the future? Will he learn some of Dad’s behaviours? Will he get bullied because of his Dad? Will my Son cope with it all, will he blame himself?
I soon realised that the concerns I had around keeping Dad in my Son’s life were very similar to the ones I had about my son not seeing his Dad at all. I also realised that it wasn’t really my decision to make.
Over the years I have been very honest with my Son about his Dad’s mental health issues. There have been times when Dad has been too ill to have a relationship with his Son. Sometimes my Son needs a break from his Dad, but then like most normal teenagers, he wants to spend as little time with his parents as possible!
I strive to provide as secure an environment for my Son as I possibly can. I haven’t included Dad in some things like parents evening and going to watch the basketball matches, so my Son doesn’t get bullied about it.
I’ve looked for positive male influences for my son, and Basketball has been great for that. The coaches are amazing, and the sport is brimming with bromance. My Son has people he can talk to if he needs to. He chooses when he want to see his Dad now, and sometimes he chooses not to, and that’s ok.
My Son understands his Dad’s mental health issues, and he doesn’t blame himself. My Son cares about his Dad. My Son is a kind, compassionate and thoughtful young adult, and I think the relationship he has with his Dad has helped that. Did I do the right thing? I think so. But it was hard, and still is, and it will probably continue to be.