I generally don’t like reading articles about divorce studies. One the reasons for that is because often they don’t seem to reflect what I’m hearing in my interviews. Admittedly I haven’t come across any studies yet on the quality of parenting after divorce – but there’s always the cry from the “stay married” advocates that children need both parents within the wrapper of a marriage. I do agree that most often children do well when both parents stay actively involved but divorced parents can do this, even though it is undeniably an adjustment. My current guest Michelle is living proof of that. She found that it’s even possible to be a better parent after divorce. Here’s Michelle:
About two months after he moved out, my daughter brought me a note one night, so she must have been eleven at the time. It just said,
“Dear Mom, I think you and Dad are happier living apart so it’s okay with me if you get a divorce.”
I think both my kids saw that all the tension was released and I felt, I feel much calmer, more patient as a mom. I feel more relaxed in our home which I’m sure has factored into my parenting. Again, my ex is really involved. He’s in and out of here all the time.
If we go to a sporting event, my ex will be there with his girlfriend because her kids are playing the same sports, and we’ll all just sit together. I asked him early on when they were first dating what he wanted me to do, “If you’re there with your girlfriend, do you want me to stay away…I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or her uncomfortable, but also if I don’t know anyone else there, I don’t want to go sit off by myself and look stupid.”
He said, “No, I don’t have a problem with it, she doesn’t have a problem with it.” We’re all supporting the same players, so I’ll go sit with them and we’ll just chat and that’s kind of nice. I think the kids see that as it’s okay.
If one of the kids gets in trouble, we have also made a conscious effort to have a meeting and decide how we’re going to handle it jointly. We’re conscious of what kids will do, which is try to go to the parent they think will be more lenient or if Dad says no then they’re going to ask Mom, if Mom says no then they’re going to ask Dad, that kind of thing. That’s just what kids do, so we’ve had a couple issues where one of the kids had a significant problem that needed to be dealt with and we said, “OK, we’re going to get together, with that kid, and let them know that we’re still both your parents.” Any really important discussion, we do together.
It’s funny because my ex has shown up pretty powerfully. There’s been times where I’ve been really impressed with the way he’s handled stuff. We’ve had issues with my daughter where he’s said exactly the right thing and I couldn’t have scripted it better. It’s been cool to see him…I think he’s really grown.
The Divorce Coach Says
I saw a comment on Huffington Post the other day from SuperSingleFather (trying to find out if he has a blog) saying that maybe he shouldn’t say it but he feels he’s become a better father since getting divorced. It’s not uncommon – Sara was excited her ex chose to be a better dad and T watched her ex blossom as a father.
This isn’t a gender thing either. I feel I’ve become a better parent after divorce too. It’s not just a question of getting better with more practice which does help but I have more time and more emotional energy for them. I have more time simply because I’m not spending time on a spousal relationship. Please don’t take that out of context and read it as my saying married parents don’t have enough time for their kids. That’s not what I mean. I’m just saying that based on my own personal experience, when I was married there just seemed to be a constant conflict between who wanted my attention and I felt it was a no-win. There was always someone who felt they were they being neglected (maybe I just had needy dependents?) and I felt there was no time for me either.
Add to that the negative energy from a troubled relationship and even when I did have time to focus on the kids, often the emotional energy wasn’t there.
So I really believe that separation brings with it an opportunity to shift your parenting for the better and if you can drop the defensive, work collaboratively with your ex, then it does send a very strong message to your children that they do still have two parents who love and care about them very much. And that’s what really matters.
How has your ex become a better parent? Do you think you’re a better parent? What has made the difference for you?
Michelle is a life coach specializing in eating disorders. Overcoming the struggle with bulimia was one of the unexpected side effects of divorce for Michelle. You can read more about her practice at her website and follow her Unlock Your Possibility blog. Follow her on twitter and Facebook.
Photo credit: Brett Jordan