In the two years since Sara’s marriage ended, she’s learned how important it is to trust her ex’s parenting decisions and to ask her ex about situations without jumping to conclusions. She also believes it’s better to teach her children how to make good decisions for themselves than telling her ex what he should or shouldn’t be doing.
Sounds good, yes? Yes, but it isn’t always easy. Children are smart … they figure out pretty quickly that they’d better keep quiet about what dad lets them do. And when the majority of the daily living tasks fall on one parent, that parent can end up feeling they’re the boring one, the spoil sport … here’s Sara.
I always encourage my kids to have open dialogue.
“If you’re upset about something, verbalize it. People aren’t mind readers.”
I’m definitely not a mind reader and I keep reminding them to just talk about whatever it is.
I think a lot parents make the mistake when they divorce of thinking,
“It’ll be fine. They’re young, they’ll get over it. They’ll understand.”
That’s completely not true. It involves counseling and it involves dialogue. We talk about the different rules at my house and their dad’s house.
I’m glad my kids have each other because I think they rely on each other a lot when they’re at their dad’s.
I got my kids some books about divorce and I heard my daughter sit down with my son, just looking at one of them. She was telling him a story about it and he said, “oh, like mom and dad.” So I know they talk a little bit about the divorce.
My daughter is nine now and she’s getting to the point where sometimes she doesn’t want to tell me what they did at their dad’s house. Her brother might be about tell me something and she’ll go, “shh!” She accepts what dad lets them do and what I let them do. It’s a little frustrating because the person who’s not the primary parent is always going to look like the cool person because they don’t have to deal with the discipline, the bedtime, the doctor’s and all that stuff. Naturally they’re going to be the rock star parent.
The other day, my daughter thought the upcoming weekend was the weekend to spend at dad’s and I said,
“You’re with me this weekend.”
But we always see you,” she said.
That stabbed me because yes, I pick her up from school, I take her to soccer, to swimming, to church but I’d like to hang out with her too and do home stuff. I just have to remember she’s only nine.
I try not to be the parent that’s putting a lot of pressure on the kids to be self-sufficient and to grow up. I try to have that open dialogue and be the best mom I can, realizing that whatever their dad does for them is good. It’s better than them not having a dad or their dad not being supportive. I’d rather have him the way he is than not in the picture at all.
The Divorce Coach Says
My ex and I do have different parenting styles – I’m more of a disciplinarian and lay down more rules but as far as doing “cool” stuff, I think our children would see as being pretty similar. I can see where this would be much more of an issue when there are significant differences in financial resources as in poor mommy, rich daddy.
Talking to your children about two homes, two sets of rules is also important. I suspect we sometimes make a bigger deal of it than we have to – kids are exposed to different rules all the time, a prime example being school. Even elementary school children have to deal with different rules for different teachers. Perhaps using that as an example will help children realize that mom and dad can have different rules too.
I have often felt under-appreciated by my kids for all the daily living tasks I do. And I do get frustrated that so much of it seems to fall me. As I’m writing this though, I’m realizing that maybe they have been giving me the recognition – I just haven’t seen it as that.
For example, my son starts a summer job next week and he needs work boots. He’s staying with his dad this week so I suggested the two of them go shopping. My son however, said, “Mom, I’d like to go with you.”
I spent yesterday afternoon planning a trip to Oregon and Washington for college visits with my daughter. Today, she was planning a trip with her dad, to Vermont and New Hampshire and when she saw me she asked me if I could book that trip as well because it would be “sooo much easier.” I won’t but I think I should take it as a compliment, don’t you?
How do you and your ex handle the daily living tasks? Do you feel your children give you the credit or recognition you’d like?