If you’ve been following Kim Katz’s story these last few posts, you’ll know she’s happily married to her third husband and she has a daughter from her first marriage and two sons from her second marriage. One of the challenges we face as parents in any shared parenting arrangement is coping with different rules at each parent’s house. I figured Kim would be a good person to ask about this.
We get that a lot. Basically the standard line is, ‘What happens at your Dad’s house is his decision. What happens at my house is my and your stepfather’s decision. We will always listen to you and if you have a concern, I can certainly talk to your dad.’
My ex and I have decided that email is the best way to communicate. If there’s an issue one of us wants to discuss we’re pretty safe doing that without things getting too heated. I can say, ‘This is what I’ve heard. Is it true?’ I’ve learned there’s a little embellishment that will go on sometimes so I don’t react to what I hear right away. My tendency at first is to get really defensive or upset about something I hear but I’ve learned that I need to check it out to see if it’s accurate first.
The children are expected to do chores at both places. They gripe about that – ‘We have to twice the work of any other kids but they also get twice the allowance and twice the birthday. So we try to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got some good things too.’ I think in general they’re pretty happy with the set up and they love us both.
My youngest does feel torn. When he’s with his dad he feels guilty he’s not with me. When he’s with me, he worries about his dad. His dad has not remarried and so I think they worry about their dad a little more. They know I’m with somebody and life is good. They feel angst about that so we try to talk about it.
We’ve had some instances when they’ll sort of act up when they know they’re getting ready to make the transition to their dad because they know there’s going to be no consequences. If something’s severe enough I will make rules on my end such as because you didn’t do this, the next time you’re back here, you don’t get to play the Wii or you’re not having a sleepover. For major things I’ve done what I needed to correct on this end and also involved his dad. He’s very supportive. There are times when I’ve said they’ve been absolutely out of control and I’ve implemented this rule, can you follow through on it and he will. It’s not ideal but they have to know they can’t get away with it. My issue is when I’m tired, I give in. That’s my issue and I have to work on that.
Like Kim, I often end up saying to my kids that they need to accept that I have different house rules than their father and that’s just the way it is. My ex has also been supportive of my disciplining efforts. For example, my daughter is not the best at getting up in the morning and getting to school on time. Since she’s with me during the week, the burden of getting her out the door falls on me. During the past year she’s been learning to drive so I decided that if she was tardy then she would lose the driving privilege for a week. When she realized she wasn’t going to be able to end run me by getting her dad to drive with her, she told me it was very unfair, it would mean she’d have to wait to get her license and that I would have to continue to drive her. My response? ‘Sweetheart, I’ve been driving you for more than 16 years. Another few months won’t make any difference.’ It worked like a dream – she got to school on time and she got her license. Now she leaves for school early so she can avoid the rush of traffic in the school parking lot.
My ex and I do most of our communication in person but I’ve seen a number of recommendations supporting email – here are some tips for divorced parents from Shirley Cress Dudley at Blended Family Advice – emailing is one of them. No tips on how to overcome giving in because you’re tired and that’s one I can empathize with. So if you have any suggestions to help with that, do leave a comment.