Last Week in the Mail One Man Wrote about the Emotional Trials of Being a Weekend Dad. Here, with Complete Candour, Ulrika Jonsson Who Has Four Children by Four Men Gives the Other Side of the Story; Jonsson Clan: Bo, Ulrika with Malcolm, Husband Brian, Martha and Cameron, Whose Face Is Obscured at the Request of His Father
Byline: Ulrika Jonsson
AS THE twice-divorced mother of four children by four fathers, you could be forgiven for imagining that my house is like Euston station in the rush hour when my exes arrive at pick-up time on visiting weekends.
Contrary to expectations, however, there isn't a plethora of fathers searching through a sea of children, a confusion of weekend bags and a cluster of timetables.
I live with my third husband, who is the father of four-month-old Malcolm, but I also deal with two 'weekend dads'.
The first is John, my first husband and father of my 14-year old son, Cameron. And the other is four-year-old Martha's father, Lance, who is also called 'Dad' by eight-year-old Bo her biological father disappeared into the sunset when she was only two weeks old.
After my first two children were born, I joked to a friend that I might consider colour-coding the children and their fathers for ease of management, but then along came numbers three and four, both by different partners, and any sense of humour quickly left me.
Nevertheless, the complexity of arrangements is not as baffling as you might expect. It really is fairly straightforward, bar the odd hiccup when there is a clash of plans and dates.
Somehow, even these have been ironed out as my extended family moves forward, taking everyone into consideration, while putting the welfare of the children first.
But if I make it sound easy, the truth is that it's taken years to get to this set-up and I also know how fortunate I am to have reached this state of affairs. For many separated couples, the whole wretched business of dealing with their exes spills over into the dealings about their children, who, like little sponges, absorb every bitter intonation and acrimonious whisper.
Last-minute changes of plans and late pickups and drop-offs all contribute towards a feeling of hostility.
Last week, in this newspaper, writer William Leith wrote a heart-breaking account of his experiences as a weekend dad to his three-yearold son Billy.
His words knocked me sideways and reduced me to tears, partly because it's so rare to hear a father expressing himself like that more often than not the focus is, predictably, on the mother and partly because it confirmed to me the emotional trauma many semi-detached dads must live through on a daily basis.
As a mother at the extreme end of the maternal spectrum, I cannot for a nano-second imagine not living with my children. And it couldn't have been further from my intentions to end up in this heart-rending situation where my children's fathers live apart from them.
But sadly, divorce is a horrendous fact of life.
No one gains from it. No one walks away with a sense of achievement. When there are children involved there are far-reaching complexities which have the potential to break even the hardiest of human beings.
So, how should we manage divorce when it is still virtually impossible to establish any form of equality between the lengths of time separated parents spend with their children? My children all have 'residency' with me.
There is no such thing as 'custody' any more.
Residency, I suppose, is a far less emotive and divisive word.
In my homeland of Sweden, the rules are somewhat different. My sister has a stepchild who lives one week with her and her husband and the next with the child's mother. I think this is as disruptive for the child as it is egalitarian for the parents.
And so, along with my exes, I have had to make the best of the situation I find myself in.
Through the years of raw heartbreak and bitter disappointment, I have made a clear and conscious effort to keep my emotions for my former partners in a separate compartment to the arrangements and dealings we've been forced to endure concerning the children.
Of course, there have been times when I've been forced to bite my lip and hold my tongue, when my frustration and anxiety have almost got the better of me. …