One of the challenges in any marriage is for spouses to agree on parenting rules. I suspect that most parenting experts would say that consistency is important both in the rules themselves and between parents. That consistency may be just as important when couples divorce and parenting time is shared however, I think it is probably harder to achieve. Different parenting rules and styles are more likely after divorce and except in extreme circumstances where you may be able to seek legal help, there’s little you can do to stop your ex from parenting the way he thinks is appropriate.
As much as Sara loved that her ex chose to be a better dad after divorce, she had to learn to accept that he wasn’t going to parent in the same way as her. Here’s Sara:
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned in divorce is letting go and not worrying about being in control or caring what happens with the other parent. Obviously, if there was something I needed to bring to his attention, I would but much of it, the bitterness, the anger, the frustrations, I just had let go.
If I was to move on, then I learned I had to accept the things he did in our previous relationship and what he’s doing now and just take it for what it is. I tell him this,
“My goal is for us to have a successful parenting relationship, even if it has to be a business relationship.”
One weekend the kids had been with their dad and I asked them what they’d done. Within five minutes, I found out that their dad took them to a tattoo shop and while he got a tattoo, they watched an R rated movie and of course, they ate a bunch of junk food.
I remember sitting in the car, listening to this and thinking my options were to get really pissed and have the kids see me get mad and call him on it or to let it go, trust him and think about. I had to breathe through it and talk myself into letting it go. I have the capability to go off when I’m upset so I knew it wasn’t a good idea to react immediately.
Later on, I did talk to him about it and I found out one of his friends owns the tattoo shop and their kids were also there so my kids weren’t sitting there on their own. My ex’s significant other was also there so it wasn’t like he just brought them to some dirty tattoo shop which was what I thought when the kids first told me.
I’ve realized that I need to teach my kids about making good decisions instead of telling my ex what to do. He would just take it as a negative. I need to teach my kids that if they’re watching something and they don’t think it’s appropriate, they need to say,
“Dad, I need it off.”
Or if there’s a bunch of junk food, they can ask him if there’s anything else to eat. They might not take my advice but at least I know that what I’m doing is in my control. There’s no way I could tell him how to parent because that would just lead to an angry discussion that wouldn’t get us anywhere.
The Divorce Coach Says
What I love about Sara’s message here is the focus on what she can control – teaching her children about making good decisions for themselves. Not only does it help to maintain that co-parenting relationship, which is vitally important, it is teaching her children a skill they will use throughout their lives. It’s also a skill that is especially important through their teen years when they will be exposed to all sorts of peer pressure.
In a similar vein, it only took me a couple of weekends and “Mom, you didn’t pack this” to realize that my teenagers needed to be responsible for packing their own bags ready to go their dad’s and for bringing their belongings back.
Teaching your children decision-making doesn’t make having to live by different rules any easier and in the next post Sara shares how her children support each other.