Your spouse may now be your ex but for your children, your ex is their parent. Seeing your ex as the other parent brings a different, important insight to your parenting.
My current guest, Missy has three children who were aged two, four and six at the time of her divorce. Seeing her ex from her children’s perspective allows her to see his importance to them. Here’s Missy:
We’re only about three years out and so the times have not changed a whole lot, although the specific days have. The children spend Thursday and Friday night at their dad’s house and then they come home Saturday late afternoon and are with me the rest of the week.
The reason we came to that agreement initially, was because he was working retail and he had to be working every weekend, basically. When they’re that little, you have to have someone on the deck at all times doing child care.
Initially, he was much more sporadic. There would be times he would just call and say, “I can’t come this weekend.” He’s gotten much more predictable and follows through. My children definitely look forward to their time with daddy. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot less rules and it’s the weekend. Who doesn’t love Saturdays?
We also each get up to three weeks vacation time per year, although they cannot be more than a week consecutively. He can’t take them for three weeks at a time where I wouldn’t see them for three weeks. And neither could I do that to him. So, we don’t go long stretches of time without seeing them. We recognize that the children love both of their parents and I try—I’m not always successful, but I think I do a fairly good job of letting him pretty much own his relationship with them.
They recognize when he doesn’t follow through on something he may have said and strangely, they have made comments. They know there are more rules at mommy’s house, but then when they talk about that they make comments like, “But that keeps us safe and helps us be clean.” They are very practical. They recognize these things. They recognize the differences between mommy and daddy’s house and it seems to be OK at this point.
Sometimes I wish I had a microphone and a camera, because to hear them actually say these things, it’s just bizarre, because they’re little. They’re very young and you hear little ones say, “Oh, but that keeps our house clean and we like that.” That surprises me. They don’t resent the rules even though sometimes they complain about them.
It surprises me that they would recognize little things like hygiene. I don’t think their dad insists on brushing teeth before bed. He doesn’t have to because he doesn’t have them as much of the time. He justifies being lax at times, I should say. So, they appreciate the structure when they come home.
For birthdays, we both are present at each party and with our significant others. I’ve only had one person that I’ve ever involved in the children’s life and I’m married to him now. So, they have a step-dad and he’s been present at parties and that type of thing. Their dad has had several different friends and he brings whoever he’s with at the moment. So, they experience that on his side as well.
We do try to be both present at parties when there’s things like preschool graduation or kindergarten graduation. We haven’t experienced any big graduations yet, but those little events, we’re always there together and we often even sit together, so when they’re looking they can look at one place and see both of us. We, occasionally, will end up having a meal together. It’ll just happen—I’m going to be at dinner somewhere when it’s time for him to pick up the kids, so he’ll come, he’ll grab a few bites to eat and he’ll head out with the kids. So we try to as organic as possible.
I just got married this past July, and so I’m in a new home with the children and of course, he has never been in that home. The children all wanted him to come in, see their rooms and that type of a thing, which from my perspective, I would just prefer he never be in that space. I’m sure my husband would prefer he never be in our space either, but we understand that this is the kids’ home and this is their dad and they want him to see their new rooms. So, we just suck it up and let that happen naturally. We don’t encourage it. We don’t discourage it. When they want dad to be there, we try to support that for their sakes.
There are a lot of things where the bottom line is, “No, he doesn’t have a right to be involved or to be there,” but I just suck it up, because I don’t want the children to ever be able to look and me and say, “You kept me from my dad,” or “You’re the reason I’m not close to him. You’re the reason we’re not close now.” If that ever happens it won’t be because of me, it’ll be because of their choices or their dad’s choices or something of that nature.
The Divorce Coach Says
Missy gives some awesome pointers here:
- building your parenting schedule around what works for your kids and you
- accepting that your ex may not parent they way you do
- looking at the big picture when it comes to different sets of rules
- sharing important occasions
- making occasions about your child and not about what’s happened between you and your ex
- considering your child’s perspective
These are all excellent standards and I believe by following these you’ll be insulating your child from the negative effects of divorce. It’s even better if your ex can follow these and while you can’t control that, you can influence that through your own behavior.
Missy blogs at Far From Flawless where she writes about leading a Christian life with a blended family hoping that sharing her journey will empower others to shun the mask of imperfection and open themselves to authentic living.