There’s a danger in talking about being a successful parent that you get embroiled in a debate about how to measure success. I think that misses the point. To me, there is no universal definition – it’s all about how the person themselves defines success and that’s why in my interviews I’m careful to ask, “What do you regard as your most significant accomplishment since getting divorced.”
When I asked my current guest that question she didn’t hesitate. Kimberly said, “Raising two wonderful children.” Here’s Kimberly:
I think the reason I feel good about that and say it’s my biggest accomplishment is because I really devoted myself to my children probably because their father wasn’t involved in their life very much after he left. I guess I felt I had to play both mother and father. But I loved it. I was completely focused on devoting myself to my children. I did have a full-time job at the time, but those were my two main focuses—my children and my job.
I spent a lot of time with them. I really got to see them growing up and really enjoyed them. They taught me and I taught them. I have a very good relationship with both of my children now and I would say that’s my biggest accomplishment.
My son finds it very difficult to talk about his feelings and emotions and that has been a challenge especially when I’m the opposite. Although, I have also learned that people are the way they are and they’re not going to change for me. And if they want to change, they’re going to change for themselves. If he wants to change that about himself, he will do that. In the meantime, he is what he is and I love him for what he is.
I had sole custody and I did try to have them interact with their father on a regular basis. That didn’t work for a number of reasons, so most of the time it was just me and the kids and actually my parents. My parents were a big help and a big influence on my children. They live close by and they spent a lot of time with my kids babysitting when it was required. They had a house nearby with a big pool so we spent a lot of weekends in the summertime swimming in the pool.
Just recently my ex was upset about something I’d put on my blog but he didn’t tell me. He told my daughter. We don’t talk very much. If I have an issue with the kids that I think he needs to know about, I’ll call him and tell him. Other than that, we don’t really talk.
For life events, my son did not go to his graduation so it wasn’t an issue. My daughter went to hers and at the time that she graduated, I was seeing someone. He was actually living with us, he’s still living with us and she asked him to do the father-daughter dance. And holidays, Christmas, the children do go and spend time with him. We have a routine, if you will, like most people do, so Christmas Eve is spent with my family and Christmas Day, the kids go and spend with him and his family.
I can tell you that for many years I would shed a tear and it wasn’t because he wasn’t around for me. It was because he wasn’t around for them, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Raising your children to be well-adjusted, independent adults is always an accomplishment and every situation has its challenges. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for this because it’s expected … you have children, you raise children. It’s all part of the job. But doing it well and helping your kids cope with the specifics of their family circumstances requires commitment and dedication.
My kids are now twenty and seventeen and my ex and I have much less communication than in the past. Much of the communication now is directly with the kids. But it’s not without its friction points.
My ex has said a couple of times recently that he feels I’m withholding information from him. I’m not doing that consciously but I can see why he feels out of the communication loop and clearly it’s something of which I need to be more conscious.
The kids are with me most of the time. A natural consequence of that is that I am more up-to-date with their day-to-day plans. It just happens because they get home and I say, “How was your day? Did you talk to so-and-so about x?” and they tell me. I don’t pick up the phone to relay the information to my ex because it either doesn’t seem necessary or because being teenagers, everything is very fluid and their plans change constantly. When I think it’s important, I will say, ‘Remember to tell Dad.”
I also have more open communication with my kids. They’ll talk to me about their feelings, their fears, their concerns, their dreams. I know they aren’t sharing all this with their dad. Does that mean I’m obligated to talk to him about it? I don’t think so. Again, I will if there’s an issue that I think he should know about and that is a judgment call but I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with my kids. I don’t want them to feel they can’t talk to me about an issue because I would just go tell their father. It’s a balancing act.
His comments are a reminder for me to be more conscious of keeping him connected. However, I also think if he feels excluded he needs to work more at staying actively involved with them directly. And that’s not my responsibility.
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