Monday, 27 February 2012

Family law is a soft option? Are you having a laugh?

I have heard various people saying family law is a soft option during the course of the 10 years that I have been practising family law.  This has always got my goat as they quite clearly do not understand the technicalilites and the difficulties involved in this particular area of law.

This has been a gripe that has rumbled in the back of my mind for a while.

However, it has moved today to a volcanic explosion in the front of my mind upon hearing that the senior partner at the firm where I work referred to family law as being "common sense, it's not rocket science".  Yes fellow family lawyers, I kid you not.  My working world changed dramatically last year when the partner in charge of family left.  This means we are now a department without a partner in charge and, as most practitioners will know, this usually makes you a black sheep in any firm.  Your message is not heard and it's particularly not heard when the partners think your job can be done by any idiot.

Our senior partner is a litigator and, in my experience, some litigators are the worst at seeing family law as a soft option.  I completely and profoundly disagree with this (obviously I'm a family lawyer but I think with good reason).

I think family law is exceedingly complex.  I don't want to get involved in some kind of playground tittle tattle and that's not why I'm saying this but I think there are other aspects of litigation that are far more formulaic.  I understand many firms dealing with repossessions have a very standardised process and this work is often dealt with by unqualified staff (not that I'm for one minute saying unqualified staff aren't up to a fee earners job because I was for the first 4 years of my career and unqualified paralegal and trust me I offered more than my weight in gold at times).  This does not make them easy but it means that there is a clear process for each one.  In personal injury there is information in Kemp and Kemp (if my memory from my LPC days is correct) as to what compensation should be awarded for what injuries.  A practitioner then has to look at what losses a person has suffered.  It's not a simplistic job but there is information and clear guidance in respect of each claim.

In family law financial matters there is simply no flow chart, or book you can go to that tells you what money your client should be entitled to.  It's a question of gathering financial information (which can in itself be difficult and complicated where one party is being obstructive) and then applying a number of factors (which must each be weighed differently).  Only once this has been done can you advise the client as to what is a fair outcome.  This is usually a ballpark of between x and y rather than a concrete figure.  Even then your opposite number may have undertaken the same exercise and arrived at a different conclusion.

In matters concerning children there can be a variety of issues to be dealt with and ironed out before agreement can be reached.  There may be serious issues concerned abuse or abduction.

In all family matters there are clients going through a variety of emotions and struggling to cope with the biggest upheaval of their life whilst giving clear instructions about important issues.  In some cases that client may never have dealt with these types of decisions before.

There simply is no formulaic approach.  Yes there is a procedure for making applications to the Court and yes we have some standard forms but the variables are huge and make each case different.  Even with 2 cases with similar circumstances (i.e roughly the same amount of money, same length of marriage, similar incomes and ages) one person may instruct their solicitor that their priority is to obtain better pension provision whereas the other may wish to remain in the former matrimonial home despite what this may cost them in pension terms (I'm not saying that would be a sensible step simply highlighting the different ways clients can approach their situation).

In one case the parties may be keen to try mediation.  In another case it may scream to be dealt with collaboratively.  In another case you may have a client who has been the victim of domestic abuse and who is very vulnerable and does not wish to have any direct contact with her ex partner.  Whilst this does not make mediation impossible (I recently attended a seminar talking about shuttle mediation) it does flag various issues of concern for the client's welfare and mean these will be at the forefront of your mind in advising about options on how they might proceed.

Through all this we have to balance the needs of our clients to achieve a fair and sensible outcome, to ensure that whereever possible they are still able to talk about issues going forward (and particularly their children) and that the costs they have paid are reasonable and not disproportionate to the assets involved.  We have to have some very tough conversations with people that don't want to hear things.  Suggesting to people that perhaps they could use some assistance with their parenting skills during this difficult time?  Flagging with someone in a sensitive way that perhaps they should speak to their GP about matters and consider whether counselling might assist them?

We also may wear many hats: lawyer, collaborative lawyer, mediator, opponent, advocate.  We are not simply litigating.  We straddle contentious and non-contentious work. 

Doing all this on an hourly basis and family law is a soft option?  Anyone who says that wants to walk a day in a family lawyer's shoes because you clearly don't know the half of it.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Dirty Dozen

I'd been thinking all week about something that would make a good topic for a blog but had been devoid of inspiration.  Then I got tagged by @HaggisMummy with a dozen questions for me to answer.  That looks like fun I thought so yesterday morning I answered them and then thought of a list of really good questions for others.  Then the bloody computer shut down without warning or reason and I lost the lot.  So yesterday was spent swearing silently (children repeat everything) and then I went out for lunch with 2 very good friends and forgot about it. So Sunday morning I am back at the 'puter and let's hope it goes better this time and that I remember my amazing questions for my tag!

1.   Movie moment that never fails to make you cry

It's hard to narrow this down as I'm a bit of a weeper.  Sad films always make make me shed tears.  The one that immediately sprang to mine was Goose dying in Top Gun.  I must have seen that film 20 times but I still cry.  I also remember having to be sat forward in the cinema while watching Philadephia so my friend could comfort me as I was doing audible sobs.  Never take me to the cinema to see a sad film - I will embarrass you beyond belief.

2.  Beer, wine or spirits?

Wine, wine and more wine.  I'm not a big beer drinker (much to OH's dismay as he keeps the local real ale shop is business).  I occasionally have a shandy but I don't really like beer.  The only time I've really drunken it is when I was pregnant with my second child and then actually wanted beer along with any savoury food.  I drank cobra zero a lot (that's the no alcohol one in case anyone's worrying).  Spirits I used to drink when I was young, free, single, clubbing and drunk a lot.  Now I have a sloe gin and tonic or possible a scotch but that's really it.  But wine I love and preferably red.

3.  You have to give one up - Chocolate or crisps

This is actually pretty easy as I don't eat crisps that much.  And I could not give up chocolate.  But if you'd have said cheese or chocolate I'd have been crippled by the choice!

4.  Last random act of kindness someone did for you

Yesterday morning OH left me in bed to sleep as we'd had a bad night and been up with our 2 year old daughter a lot.  Whilst OH will get up as soon as he gets back into bed he's asleep.  I, on the other hand, will not settle until I know the child in question is back to sleep.  So I had not had much sleep and haven't been sleeping well for a while anyway.  So he left me in bed and got up with the children.  All parents know what a treat this is!

5.  Beach or pool?

I love swimming.  I have had some of the best fun messing about in a swimming pool with my sister when I was younger and now I have the same fun with my children.  You would not believe it if you met me but I actually used to be a very good swimmer and trained twice a week.  I once swam for my home town.

I do like the sea but I'm a bit phobic about seaweed.  I know.  I'm a grown woman.  I just hate the way the small bits stick to you.  When I was younger and was in the sea I'd been swimming a little way from the shore and some seaweed had floated up to the surface near the shore.  I had to wave at my Dad to bring the lilo in so I could get on it and not get covered with the dreaded stuff.  It makes me laugh when I now see my son fretting about seaweed.  I've never said anything about my phobia to them (I have tried hard not to pass these silly things on) but clearly he has it.  I also get a bit nervous in the sea with big waves as my children are still pretty little (being 4 and 2) so for this reason I'd say pool.

6.  Hairy or smooth?

Definitely smooth.  Whilst stubble looks a bit sexy it messes with my sensitive skin.  If OH kisses me with stubble my face feels like someone set fire to it.

7.  Favourite pudding or the last pudding you ate - sometimes you just can't pick one.

This is actually not that hard.  For me it would be cheesecake every time.  I just love it.  Ask Italian do the most lovely Honeycomb cheesecake.  And chocolate cheesecake combines my two favourite things - cheese and chocolate.  This may explain why I'm not thin.

8.  Least favourite body part

Now this is hard to choose.  There are so many I don't like.  I can only recall a handful of times in my life when I've looked in the mirror and thought "you look good".  Sad but true.  And yes I should do something about it.  It's on the to do list along with finding a window cleaner, sorting out my pantry and various other mundane tasks that I'm avoiding for a variety of reasons (although the main one being that looks really hard).  If I had to choose I'd probably pick my mummy tummy.

9.  Pacino or De Niro

OH is a big mob film fan so I have watched a lot of these and the Godfather is top of his list.  So I'd have to say Pacino.

10.  Activity, sport or hobby that you don't do any more that you miss

Hang on.  Just trying to remember what I did pre-children.  Hmmmmm.  Well I do miss swimming as I used to do that a lot more than I do now and it's the one form of exercise I actually enjoy.  I used to love doing it at the nice healthclub we were members of and having a steam or a sauna afterwards.  It's really not the same at the leisure centre in the baby pool.

I also enjoyed ice skating with my son the other day and would love to do it more and get better at it.

11.  Shouty angry or broody/sulky

I'm hesitating before answering this question.  Because it's a, er, touch embarrassing.  I'm both.  Isn't that awful?  Only with OH though.  With other people I'm dreadful at speaking up when something annoys me (although I have in latter years made a concerted effort to get better as it affected me quite badly).  But when OH annoys me I will blow up and shout.  Then we'll resolve it but I can't just let it go and have to sulk on it for a bit.  He on the other hand, blows up, shouts, apologises and then its done.  It's a better way to be I admit.  I have to keep working on this one I think.

12.  Tweeter who has posts you always make time for

This is really hard.  I genuinely have loved getting into twitter.  I've read some really fascinating things and spoken to some great people.  It's brilliant to be able to share experiences and just read other people's stories.  Plus I read quite a wide range of tweets as I look at legal stuff, parenting stuff and various other stuff (obviously I'm not alone in this as it's the point of twitter I think but it means I have different favourites for different reasons and purposes).  But if I have to pick the top 5 people whose tweets I always look at I would say @MummyBarrow, @MummyMcFi, @ThinkingFox, @SAHDandproud, @MinistryofMum But there are loads of other people whose tweets I enjoy and I love the fact that when you have time there's always someone saying something there.

So that's my dirty dozen done.  Twice.

Now I need to do some questions and tag someone.  Right errrr.........

1.  What book or film do you go back to and watch or read time and time again.

2.  If you had to give up TV, books or internet for a week which one would it be.

3.  What was your best holiday ever?

4.  What would you have for your last meal?

5.  You're going to a desert island and you can only take 1 of the following: Would it be booze, cheese, chocolate, crisps, salad or fruit (I'm not expecting anyone to pick either of the last 2 but who knows!).

6.  What made you start blogging?

7.  If you had to give one piece of advice to someone starting on twitter what would it be?

8.  Early riser or night owl?

9.  Summer or winter?

10.  Person in history (i.e now dead) that you most wish you could've met.

11.  What would you put into Room 101?

12.  If you could have 1 wish granted by a fairy now, what would that be?

Monday, 20 February 2012

In search of the elusive work/life balance

Having just spent a lovely few days away with OH and our 2 children my thoughts have turned a lot to the perfect work/life balance.  This is, in many respects, a search for the holy grail and I think the correct balance varies for each person and family so it's a difficult thing to get advice on.  That said I'd always appreciate any tips and advice from anyone!

On the face of it I don't do too badly as I work 3 days a week.  It used to be 2 days but I upped my days last year when my son started school and my daughter was nearly 2 because somebody at work left and they needed more bods in the office (and I thought I'd get a promotion but that never happened).  On 2 of the days I work I leave the office in time to pick my son up from school (in order to do this I start work at 8 a.m.).  My work are generally fairly flexible and I can alter hours on some days and I don't tend to get grief if I'm off work because one of the children is ill.  But that said I pretty much always do work on days that I'm not in and last week when I was on holiday I was dealing with e-mails every day.  Also, when one of my children is ill I do always go into the office for a brief period of time to ensure everything is OK.  So I still feel as if work takes over my life but that's probably more about a failing of my boundaries than work itself.  I also work 29 miles away from my house and the travelling time eats into my work and home time.  But I'm very conscious that I'm unlikely to get the same level of flexibility at any other firm.  The law is not a particularly flexible or family friendly profession despite effots being made in some quarters.  Many people I've comea cross believe you can't do a fee earning job part time.

So I'm at home 2 days a week with my children as well as at the weekend.  That's over 50% of the week.  But yet I still feel that I don't spend enough time with them.  My son is at school in the week which really dramatically limits the quality time that we have.  Plus during those 2 days in the week I'm also trying to get through a mountain of laundry and ensure that my house doesn't look like a bomb's gone off.  Admitedly I have quite high standards on the domestic front and I don't like to live in mess, I like us to all have clean clothes and my children to eat good, home cooked food.  I also never send my son to school in uniform that isn't ironed or cleaned (although I iron little else).  It would be fair to say that I am my own worst enemy and that I often wish I could let go and just not care about the mess or the washing but I really do not know how to let go.  Apparently people telling you to let go 40 million times doesn't just have some magic effect.  Who knew!

I am also extremely fortunate in that my OH sometimes only works a 4 day week so he is then at home to assist with domestic stuff plus I do have a cleaner for 2 hours a week so whatever happens I know the bathroom has been cleaned and the hoover has gone round the house.

So I do know that I am extremely lucky with the help that I have.  But I still don't feel that I have got the balance right.  I don't think I spend enough time reading with my son who is in reception class.  I feel I am stressed and snappy with my children a lot of the time.  I am already having to change annual leave days because I've booked off my whole annual leave entitlement and still not completely covered school holidays (not helped by my Mum who helps us out enormously being away on an extended holiday.  Don't get me wrong I in no way begrudge her a long holiday and I've said she should definitely go but I have to find extra childcare for a couple of months).  Obviously I can request parental leave in addition to my holiday but that's unpaid and that in itself causes issues.

For me I have never really thought that I wouldn't work after having children (and I firmly believe that each parent/family makes a decision about what's best for them.  There is no right answer).  This is, in the main, a financial decision.  OH and I could simply not make ends meet on one salary.  But outside of this I do like to do something that uses my brain and gives me some form of intellectual stimulation and makes me feel that I achieve something for me.  But if money wasn't a problem I would absolutely do something else so I could spend more time with my children.  Being away for the last few days was just brilliant.  We walked on the beach.  We had nice lunches and being away meant I wasn't tied up with laundry, or housework, I could just play and that's magical.  Whilst during the week there is play time and fun time it never feels like enough and I worry constantly about whether I'm doing the right thing by my children.

I know that I'm not alone in feeling like this.  I have spoken to lots of other working mums who feel similarly.  I also know that being a SAHM comes with its own issues and the grass is not always greener. I really don't know what else I can do.  To work less days has financial implications that we cannot currently afford.  The obvious solution is to work for myself as that would give me greater flexibility and an ability to better manage school holidays.  But I don't want to practise on my own as a solicitor.  I lack the confidence and I don't want that level of responsibility.  I don't want to be tied to a business in that way.  I'm also mindful of the fact that it can take some time for new business to pay their way and I can't afford to be without my income for any month.

So for the moment the obvious answer seems to be to chill out more and enjoy what time I have with the children.  It's not really a long term solution (or maybe I'm looking at it wrong).  The problem is that as a life long stresshead with exacting standards I really don't know how to achieve this.  But in the absence of any other solution it seems I need to learn.  So any tips greatly appreciated. Any advice on going with the flow, letting things slide and your views on the work/life balance will be welcome.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

My firsts....

So yesterday I got tagged by @NotSoSlummy on twitter to do a blog on firsts.  This is the first time this has happened to me and I was really surprised and touched.  Thank you.

These are some of the "firsts" that first came to my mind.

My first memory

I'm a bit confused about my earliest memory.  I have what I think is my earliest memory but then I can remember bits before that but I'm not sure if that's just because people have told me things and I have deceived myself into thinking I remember.  Memory is a very funny thing.  Anyway my earliest memories centre on the arrival of my sister when I was 2 years, 4 months old.  I definitely remember helping my Dad carry her upstairs for her bath.  That's the child memory.  Of course as an adult, and having my own children, I'm pretty sure I wasn't actually part carrying a little baby up the stairs, being only 2 myself.  I suspect my Dad had her and I just had my hands on her, but in my memory I was definitely helping to carry her.  I remember other odd bits about visiting my Mum in hospital but I'm not sure if I actually remember that or if it's just what people have told me.

The first time I went on a plane

This is a really exciting memory for me.  I think I was about 9, so my sister would've been 7.  My Dad started working for an airline so he got cheap flights.  Holidays before had always been driving to France and camping or renting a caravan.  Then suddenly we got to fly places.  Imagine the excitement!    The first time we went on a plane was to go to Brussels for the day.  A day trip on a plane - how flash!  Sis and I were so excited and we loved being on a plane (much better than a boat where my sister was always sick).  I just remember it as a great day out because my Dad was relaxed and we were doing something as a family.  I also remember getting a rainbow coloured cuddly toy elephant as a present for being good.  I also remember having a platter of sandwiches on a tray and a viscount biscuit on the plane on the way back and in my childhood mind that was one of the best teas I've ever had.  The whole day was just ace.

My first kiss

This is a very poignant memory for me.  The guy I first kissed was AS and it was a lovely first kiss.  He was a year older than me and I thought he was just ace.  Sadly I don't think he ever really fancied me but he had a lot of time for me and we were good friends for a lot time after until we lost touch.  I saw him again at my sister's wedding 6 years ago and that's the last time I saw him.  Tragically he passed away during a hospital procedure a few years ago.  His heart gave out.  I've always thought this was probably because he'd used it too much because he was one of those larger than life people who always wore his heart on his sleeve.  RIP you lovely, lovely man.

The first time I saw my OH, the first time we kissed, and our first ate

This is a memory I've been thinking a lot about lately as we have just passed the 10 year anniversary of our first date.  I went for a job interview at the place where I got my first job after finishing my LPC as a paralegal.  OH worked there too.  As I was in the interview I caught sight of this guy out the window putting boxes into his 5 series BMW (I've got to be honest I've always been a sucker for a nice car).  I can't say it was love at first sight, or even that I fancied him.  He wore these massive glasses with tinted lenses (when I first showed his pic to my very good Geordie mate she said "what's he wearing them for") and I remember noticing they were odd.  But at the time I remember having a sense that he was going to be important.  This could of course be my memory playing tricks again but it's nice to think of it that way.

At our office Christmas party (with me having only been in the job for 2.5 months) I got blind drunk.   We started drinking at 12 (the office didn't close till 4) and then carried on when it shut and we were getting ready for the Christmas do.  Then carried on at the Christmas do.  We fed each other chocolate cake at the dinner table (yes in front of all our work colleagues.  I still cringe at the memory) and held hands and kissed.  He tried to get me to go back to his house.  I'd like to say that I realised how stupid this would be in front of my work colleagues.  But the reality is I knew that a parcel was arriving at my flat the next day that was my mum's christmas present and I had to be there for it to be delivered or my Mum had no Christmas present (you know how you get fixated on things when you're drunk).  So we went home separately and exchanged numbers.  I spent the entirety of Christmas kicking myself and thinking I was going to have to leave the only job I'd ever managed to get in the legal world.  Not a good time......

We came back to work after Christmas and we spoke (I think we'd exchanged texts but that was it) in the office but nothing.  I knew I liked him but I was so worried about losing the only legal job I'd been able to get.  But eventually a month after the Christmas party he text me and asked me out.  To which I immediately said yes.  Our first date was on 31st January 2002 at the Coronation Hall in Surbiton, yes a Wetherspoons pub.  Classy.  I got blind drunk.  Again.  In fact I was pretty much drunk for our first few dates until a good friend pointed out I'd never work out if I liked him or not if I didn't remain sober for a date.  So our first sober date was watching Monsters Inc at the cinema.  A film now loved by our son.

The first time I found out I was pregnant

We'd been trying to get pregnant for over a year and the whole thing had left me fairly despondent - especially as some good friends of ours had seemed to get pregnant the month they'd moved in together.  I was awaiting further hospital tests when just before my 29th birthday I discovered I was pregnant.  I was utterly over the moon but OH was out.  I didn't want to tell him over the phone and I wanted to be sure.  So I had to go out and buy another test (had to drive further afield as our supermarket had shut).  Did the other test and I was definitely pregnant.  I think this was about 9 p.m.  So tried to call OH to get him to come home early from his meeting.  But his phone was off.  So I waited....and waited....and waited.  Until by about 11 p.m. I was thinking if I don't hear from him soon I'm going to have to tell somebody else first.  Eventually he got home at midnight and I told him (he was the first to know) and we just lay in bed holding hands.  We were so happy and so excited.  Then of course we had to endure the tedious wait for the first scan........

So those are some of my firsts that immediately came to mind.  Of course there's the first time I held one of my babies in my arms but that would make it a very long blog.  So now I believe I have to pass the baton on.  So.........


over to you..........

Friday, 3 February 2012

A role for mummy and daddy?

All the talk on twitter this morning about the Family Justice Review and disputes concerning children got me thinking about the role parents play in their children's lives.

My experience growing up was that my Dad worked pretty long hours and it was Mum who took us to school, doctors, dentists, hairdressers etc.  It was Mum you went to if you needed something.  Generally it was best to stay out of Dad's way in that slot of time between him getting home and us going to bed as he was often stressed and trying to unwind from a long, hard day.  Apparently bouncing children did not assist with this!  But I always remember rushing to the door to see him and I know he appreciated just seeing us even if he didn't feel able to deal with lots of "children stuff" of an evening.  I have a good relationship with both my parents and my Mum looks after my children and does the school run 1 day a week.

OH and I have a very different set up to my Mum and Dad.  OH often looks after the children 1 day in the working week because of his job.  He also waits till my Mum arrives on the day she does and drops my son at school and my daughter at nursery on one day.  I expect him to assist with the housework and running of the house and he completely accepts this.  He is a very accomplished cook and enjoys it.  He's less good with the hoover but we all have strengths and weaknesses.  So our family set up is very different to my Mum and Dad's.

OH is also more hands on with our children than my Dad was with me and my sister.  I don't think my Dad has ever changed a nappy and OH has changed thousands.  I think this reflects a changing trend and also the fact that I work and have gone back to work after both babies whereas my Mum stopped work after having me and didn't return until I was 8 or 9.  I could not do my job and manage a house myself without my parenting ability being seriously affected.

This means that OH plays a key role in our children's lives and in the smooth running of family life.  This is not always plain sailing as I am a control freak who would happily micro manage every aspect of our lives whereas OH is not like that.  Whilst I have had some "moments" (*coughs*) about all this I have had to accept that although OH does things differently to me it doesn't actually mean he gets things wrong.  He has different ways of dealing with naughty children and of getting them to do what he wants.  We both get to the same place in different ways and that's OK, as long as we respect each other's ways of parenting.  We are not an interchangeable unit, we offer different things.  Obviously I mean this to a certain extent - we both feed, clothe and put children to bed etc.

From looking at friends of mine I think it's harder when Dad is not involved as much as my OH is because I think some mums are so use to doing everything themselves that they find it hard to let Dad in when he is there and so Dad's role gets marginalised a bit.  I really do believe that Dad's are not just for throwing the children around for an hour every week.  Hard as it is (and trust me I'm still navigating this minefield) mums and dads have to work together to both play a role in their children's lives and to work out what that role is.  This is quite hard work in a happy relationship but to embark on this for the first time upon separation must be nigh on impossible.

Despite only having maybe 5 minutes every night and only really enjoyed time with my Dad at the weekends, this does not in any way mean he played a marginal role in my life.  My Dad was responsible for some of the best things I did as a child: he got me a chemistry set and we sat at the kitchen table and made things spark, he let me and my sister try to surf on a lilo in pools on holiday (thinking about this now I would stop my children straight away because the fear of a cracked head would be too great for me to watch), he taught me about different cars and makes and models (so I'm a girl that doesn't just say I like the blue one), he taught me to recognise number plates from different countries and their country stickers, and despite being a big stresshead like me he helped teach me to drive without ever raising his voice (how he did this I'll never know).

I also look at the role my OH plays in our children's lives.  I've blogged about our circumstances after our daughter's birth and how this affected their relationship initially.  But now she absolutely loves playing up to daddy and trying to get him to take her side in dispute with our son.  I seem them both light up when he comes home.  They play excitable games before bed despite me saying a billion times that they're supposed to be having quiet time.  Last weekend he collected his steam engine from his parents' so he and our son can play with it together.  He's always firm but fair and he absolutely adores our children as I do.

I'm conscious that I am extremely fortunate in that my parents are still married and OH and I are still married and very happy together.  I'm also conscious that I've been lucky enough to have a Dad that cares about me and that I'm married to a man that is interested in our children and cares passionately about them.  Not everyone is this lucky and that breaks my heart.

But even if there had been a separation in either marriage I cannot envisage a situation where I had not maintained a relationship with my Dad, or that our children would not see OH.  I'm acutely aware that people do not think straight when they're going through a separation and I see this constantly.  Absolutely it is the hardest thing in the world to make big, complex decisions when you feel like you're dying inside.  But I also believe that when you sign on to be a parent you're signing up to the big decisions.  I tie myself in knots about whether my children are eating the right food, getting enough exercise, whether I'm passing on bad habits, whether they're happy at school/nursery etc etc.  This is parenting!  The guilt, the anxieties, the waking in the middle of the night wondering if daughter is constipated (that one might just be me the other day), the constant balancing act and yes the really hard decisions.  I'm not going through a separation but not a day goes by when I don't look at my children and look at myself and think "am I doing the right thing by them".  Don't get me wrong I think that thought process would be a million times harder in a divorce and I'm very sympathetic to the problem.  But one of the most important things you have to ask yourself is what is my role in their life and what is their other parent's role?  Because 99 times out of 100 the other parent has a role to play too and you have to find a way to accommodate that.  For your children's sake.