“Caught in the middle, again” – Divorced Swedish dad, Perka Holmström, gets real about family relationships.

Perka of Sweden- “Caught in the middle, again” – Imperfect Parenting through divorce

Another Brave dad, alert! 

Today’s podcast episode touches on a lot of hot topics.  Be warned!  Within the podcast are some subjects that stirred a lot for each of us.  We are thankful to Perka for his openness and willingness to be real.  So, today’s blog is a mix of those themes, mixed with thoughts and realities that divorce makes inevitable, yet we through understanding and some consciousness, we hope to be a part of easing the pain and challenges through story, exchange and more.

Perka’s Story

Grew up in Sweden in sporty world and in a time when girls and boys were treated similarly, which is so great to hear!  (I go nuts when I hear the words “this is for girls/boys”, who says?!  Ella wears Batman shirt with a tutu and I adore her for it.)

Perka’s parents divorced and their were many complicated and emotional moments, so after this, he never intended on the same.  He never planned to divorce his wife of nearly 10 years for the reason that it wasn’t a fantastic experience when he was young.  But, in reality.. it was like this.

There was a lot of pressure around deciding who he was supposed to choose, when Perka loved them both.  I remember Mats talking about this in moments, as well, regarding Lena and how it felt impossible to choose sides.

Perka  stayed with his mom, yet sadly he and his brother didn’t respect her much.  He said, “Mom had a good vision of things.”  But, he and his brother didn’t care about this.

They respected their dad more because he was a strong force  Dad hit them, didn’t beat them.  It wasn’t about the hitting that brought the respect, it was about the control and strength.  Perka stayed in contact with dad, even though not living together.  Perka and dad, like he and his own son, connected through sport.  Dad was about sport.

Perka left home at 16, with a bit of dad’s help.  He worked full time and did sports as his life.

Do we ever really plan divorce?

No.  Honestly, wishing divorce on someone is like wishing for someone to have surgery..   Often painful and unpredictable and with side effects and unpleasantries that last a life time.  Most people never intend on divorce.  In fact, many of us make many promises that we hope to keep to ourselves and our partners about not getting divorced.  We may have seen our own parents or friends divorces and decide , “that isn’t going to happen to us.”  Then, life happens and we are moved in directions we never imagined.  We see sides of ourselves and our loved ones that we could never have hoped for and unfortunately, it’s often the kids who get caught in the middle of the madness without an easy escape.

*Below, we hope to offer some insight and reminders of possible directions to make life after divorce, just a bit more bearable.

No!  Kids in the middle, again:  Realities of divorce

Life is not always pretty, especially in parenting and most especially with parenting from different households, religions (in this podcast, Catholic and not) and cultures (Columbian and Swedish).  Kids get caught in an endless loop of “who to be loyal to, now”which is painful and exhausting for all involved.  Perka talked about that common mis-step of parents, saying “now you sound like your mom/dad”.   Uff.  I know we don’t realize the damage we are doing, yet we have to be be very conscious with our words.  Yes, we are hurt, frustrated, emotional and more, yet these parents are the only ones our kids have, so be kind.  Kids in middle rarely give parents the full and real info (as we experienced numerous times) as they try to navigate and please each parent through lies, truths and swerving when necessary.  Add to that, bonus parenting, like Perka and the girls+ his biological son and there is the “who is more the parent than the other” perk that leads to endless communication and emotional challenges along the path of growing kids, in this world.

Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Bonus/blended family realities

Bonus/blended families can be a version of hell and an amazing opportunity for growth pain and juice for life, depending on how we approach it.  If all, mostly, grown up parties involved do not agree on some fair rules from the start, there is little chance for joyous living through the tough years of parenting.  It’s just sad, really.  When we imagine how it “could be” vs. how it IS.  If you are like me then you go into a situation with hope and peace and willingness and end up in an ugly situation that really slams you down.  Everyone has their breaking point.  For me, it was when Ella came and lines were crossed that couldn’t be uncrossed.  Years, decades or weeks can go by with goodness or badness and each person and family takes their own path.  Yet, wouldn’t it be great if during a divorce, each family was forced to have a mediator/family coach for life?  Imagine how amazing that could be.  I like the idea of someone being there from the start, guiding us alone, reminding us of our intentions for selves and the kids.  The kids!

Different family styles:   Forcing kids, vs encouraging kids to do things

Within the realities of blended families we encounter the truth around our different styles.  It’s hard in marriage, yet after divorce.. it’s down right painful..  Sometimes, we all can be lazy and it is important to teach kids the importance of completing things, of working past the crappy, less fun place of learning at the start when not yet good at something.  The kids is about being aware of where the lines are between joyless and laziness.  Our kids can easily manipulate us, knowing the language around to get out of things.  Yet, teaching them, that with some effort = achieving what you imagine or hope for, is an important lesson for life, as long as there is some balance.  If kids are really being bullied or miserable in some activity, of course that is another story.  Being aware of where they have talent and joy, and not, is as well essential to how you help your kids decide things.  Yet, we hope to know this before they even start an activity.  We watch and feel kids very early.  Are we paying attention?  Is it us or them who truly wants to move forward?

Keeping self while connecting to others

Many of us do things to connect with our parents, kids or even our partners.  There is nothing wrong with this, to a point.  Listening to Perka realize that maybe his son was doing something (sports) that he might not even be that interested in, solely to connect with Perka, I felt relieved.  How often to we really ask this question, along the way?  How many times are some trying to please others (often kids with parents or partners with each other), and end up suffering in the end.  Here and there it can be OK.  Yet, I see all too often kids starting things in school, and even careers, only to please their parents.  It is often expected and pushed for, yet often starts out as only a way to connect.  Yet, where are our own dreams and desires and passions inside all of this?  And, is there a way around it?  Keeping the balance is the only thing to keep in mind.  Making sure you or the other doesn’t get lost in the mix.

Kids losses and gains in divorce

Without a doubt, if everyone were happy and doing well, staying together is ideal for families.  Yet, that is not always the case.  And, ultimately, staying together has to make sense for all involved, not just some.  We all know that if one person in the room is miserable, then it infects the whole room.  So, why would anyone continue that madness too long?  Everyone makes their own decisions.  And, yes, divorce is crap all around, even who you are the one leaving.  For kids and parents alike, it shreds from the inside out, no questioning that.  And, the reality is, kids end up getting things they would never have gotten if their parents stayed together.  Expensive private school, dangerous sports and doing things out on their own, more toys, things and expectations, in general.  Guilt is a power-full thing and kids are smart enough to use that.  With all the ickiness of divorce, I can’t blame kids for wanting something out of it.  Yet, it goes a bit too far at times.

Parental Fears around ex-partner moving on

*Perka concerned that someone would take over his fathership.   We had this same thing with Mat’s ex when his son was with us.  It was as if him having fun with me was a betrayal to his mom.  I remember the 1st time we were together and how in the middle of having fun his mom called and he was laughing and having a good time and then left the phone crying, saying he was suddenly sick and had to go home.  I knew what had happened and I understood her feeling, yet was deeply sad that that moment, changed everything and was never the same after.  Perhaps, if she partnered, as well, Mats would as well be jealous and tense about things.  It is human, yet sad for the kids stuck in the middle.  For the kids, we have to let go, let the kids be lucky to have so many different people love them, taking care and being resources for their kids.  Ohana, extended and growing family is the best gift we can have.  Unexpected things happen and can interrupt that from all sides, yet we need to keep the kids safe and not pull them into a mess.

Common communication breakdowns before/after divorce

For Perka, he didn’t fully realize the role he was being asked to take when he married his wife, that she expected to be boss, like Columbian way.  That he was marrying her entire extended family and that he would end up with his mother in law living with them years not months or days.  What a surprise!  How is it so common that such important things are not sorted and discussed before marriage?!  This is a whole podcast in of itself.  I hear this A LOT.  It always shocks me.  In this case, I get it, they couldn’t speak each other’s languages, so it isn’t surprising.  Yet, aren’t we always speaking another language, even when we technically are speaking the same one, ie English or Swedish, Spanish, Russian and so on?  Uff, don’t get me started.. communication is one of the biggest lessons to work with in our lives..ever evolving, emotionally challenged and requires conscious awareness and willingness to see “the other”  and “self” .. forever..

“I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.” ~Oscar Wilde

History Repeats itself

We annoyingly hear this phrase over and over in our lives.  So, we know its true.  Yet, so often feel our story and pains are unique to us and suffer alone., leaving us without the resources we deserve.  When Perka spoke of his friend reading the grandparents diaries and they spoke about how its all the same, even today, it sparks reminders of past wise words.  Human nature is human nature.  In school, we read Oscar Wilde, and I remember feeling reluctant, not seeing the point or relevance to me in modern world.  Until I read his words and was truly in awe of how it is same, same, but different.  Clothes and rules might appear different, yet what is inside is all the same a the core.  So, is there a way to move beyond these repeating patterns?  Can we at least learn more quickly through others?

The bullied exes

Many of us are willing to share, in a quiet corner with a drink of something and feel the empathy of the person in front of us or on the other side of the screen.  Being open in the IP Community, takes great courage and we are thankful to all of you who share.  Especially, the bullied exes who have someone on the other side ready to pounce the moment they say or do anything that is not “approved” by theme.  It is why,  we are incredibly thankful to the divorced dads who are coming on as they are a fraction of the men we have talked with, but most are terrified of the repercussions and just can’t take the risk of the backlash.  Boy do we get that one!  I have no doubt that there are women with male exs out there who as well have this reality.  We just haven’t met them, yet.  And, honestly have our own version of hell waiting on the other side of this blog, no doubt.  For all of you suffering from not feeling like you can speak up, there will be a day, a day when you can speak without filters and

Why share your stories?

As we know that history repeats itself with measured twists and nuances of today, why reinvent the wheel.  Yes, we all have to learn for ourselves, fall on our own and make our way in our own ways.  Yet, wouldn’t it be great to be able to share what you have experienced, learned, grown and struggled with, for the better of not only yourself who can let go and hear your own words out loud.  Yet, as well for others to have the same opportunity, to get perspective, feel community and connection to others in similar situations and feel a bit of relief?  It’s like doing group therapy(which always moves you faster through things, than individual therapy) and volunteer work and getting together with new friends over tea or coffee from the comfort of your own home, car, earbuds.  You can be anywhere, anytime and both add your story or listen.  Modern day, has it’s benefits.  Are we willing to dive in?

Key points of Episode 16

  • Another Brave dad, alert! 
  • Perka’s Story
  • Do we ever really plan divorce?
  • No!  Kids in the middle, again:  Realities of divorce
  • Bonus/blended family realities
  • Different family styles:   Forcing kids, vs encouraging kids to do things
  • Keeping self while connecting to others
  • Kids losses and gains in divorce
  • Parental Fears around ex-partner moving on
  • Common communication breakdowns before/after divorce
  • History Repeats itself
  • The bullied exes
  • Why share your stories?

Mindfulness Tip of the week:

“3 Deep Breathes”

In those hard divorce moments (or really any moments that you feel pushed to the edge), take 3 nice deep breaths. Inhale the energy you need, exhale all the energy, thoughts and feelings that are not yours and let them settle into the Earth for renewal. And, again 2 more times.:). *My mother always says, “3 deep breaths change everything.”

*This practice brings us into the moment, brings oxygen to our brain and bodies, takes us into our bodies, out of the past (even if 2 minutes ago), encourages an opening of body posture which relieves stress and lures us into clarity and connection with ourselves and source. This allows us a better starting point by which to navigate what is in front of us on any given day. From our experience, it allows for better communication and connection to others, as well. Practice when you remember, and you will feel a difference in the harder moments.

Question of the Day:

What aha moments have you had with your children/parents? When you realized one of you in the situation was only doing this activity only to connect or please the other and not because it brings joy, how did you manage?”

A Few of our Favorite things: “Especially for your independent eaters”

  1. Bear: Safari and Jungle paws fruit leather snacks. Easy emergency food and fun to eat!

2. Munchkin snack cups! The pieces stay together well, even when dropped, don’t break easily, are dishwasher safe and our 2 year old actually enjoys using them. We keep one filled all the time.

3. Use a pastry cutter for quick cutting of food for kids. As well, when your kids are frustrated with learning to use knife/forks for cutting:). Looks fun with two different sides and just makes meal time a little bit easier.

*Pics and links to these products arrive, soon:):)

Have some ideas, answers, thoughts or great stories to share?  Please, write or leave a voice message on Facebook and we will include it in our next podcast!

*Please, review and share us on Apple PodcastsStitcher, Spotify and more.

Have a wonderfully Imperfect Day!

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