I spend a lot of time with my kids. I make no apologies for that.
I do not accept the premise that my responsibility to my children is analogous to T's responsibilities to his parent's and sisters. My children are, well, children. I am their father and they are dependent on me for all the things that children are depend on their fathers for when they are still children. The fact that I am gay and divorced from their mother changes nothing. The youngest person in T's house is 40. They are all adults who are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. In due course, my children will grow up and become less dependent on me. Eventually, they will become adults and move out on their own.
The last thing to consider is AJ. AJ lives in the same house as my kids. I need to be present enough and active enough in their lives to make sure the kids see me as not only their father but their dad. I do not want any of them ever coming to me asking what I think about them changing their last name to match AJ's.
So having said all that, is the time I spend with the children a choice? It takes at lot of my time. It interferes with everything and it makes it much harder for me to do the things I want to do for myself. But is this really a choice? I'm not so sure it is. I suppose it is a consequence of the choice to have children, but I don't think it's a choice now. No more than going to work in the morning is a choice. I do make a choice to be accommodating to K's schedule, but really I do that because, in the long run, it makes it better for the kids, and my relationship with them.
But why do I have to go over to K's all the time to be with them? Why do I hang out there until 9:00, 4 or 5 nights a week. Is because I just like to be around her? Is it because of the free food at her house? Is it because I am so used to doing what she says and making her a priority that I just do it? Am I afraid of upsetting her? Is it because the internet is faster at her house?
Nope. All of these are wrong. Well, actually her internet service is faster, but mine is fast enough.
I think children need a consistent home. They need a home that is theirs where everything is familiar and feels like home. While my kids used to live in my house, my house is not that home any more. With my agreement, K has created that for them at her house. It is better for them and better for me for me to come to K's house as often as I can to maintain my relationship with the kids as a ACTIVE and HANDS ON father.
My house has a roommate living there. He is a nice enough guy and my kids like him, but he is not family. I don't even consider him a friend. He is actually my third roommate (fourth if you count the kid I had to throw out) in the past 2 years. A parade of three strangers in my house is not exactly the stable home environment I want for my kids. I do not have a roommate because I am lonely, I need the rent money to help pay the mortgage.
So what would happen if I had a real partner. What if T had offered to move in with me? How would things be different? I think things would be drastically different.
T and I would have made a home there. We could make a home for the children there. The children could have that stable, familiar home there. Then the idea of having the kids stay with me every other week, or some other arrangement, a lot more plausible.
You see? Even though my current situation is that I am at K's house most nights until late, that is not what I want long term. It's just what I have to live with right now.
I don't just want a partner to come home to at night. I don't just want a warm body to sleep with at night. If I had a partner to make a home with, make a life with, I would make make different choices about my situation. I would push K to change the way we share the custody of the kids. That would, of course, spark some conflict. K would not want to give up that time with the kids under her roof. There would be a consequence to that choice, but, I think it would be manageable.
I'm sure it would be worth it.