partners of co-parents Archives - Relative Evolutions
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Co-Parenting Boundaries? The Partner Issue…

I’m all for co-parenting.  Children need both parents.  Parents must communicate about their children.  Divorced parents will forever be connected by the lives they created.

But at what point does “co-parenting” cross a line?  Last week, I read a blog post from a concerned mother who spoke to her ex on their children’s behalf because the kids expressed discomfort regarding the amount of time Dad’s girlfriend was spending with him/them.

My initial reaction was:  it’s unfortunate that the kids feel that way. Dad should be more sensitive to their needs. And, that’s really nice that the kids feel comfortable opening up to Mom about these issues.  Obviously, they trust her. And, Good for Mom for trying to diplomatically solve this problem with her ex!

Most of the comments following the post conveyed some level of animosity for the father and his partner.  Except one: a seemingly-scorned father stated (rather harshly) that the issue was none of Mom’s business as it exclusively related to Dad’s personal life and his relationship with the kids.  The angry dad suggested the children were working the situation by telling Mom something that would cause her to advocate for them, thus gaining attention and creating drama. (dare I suggest this behavior served to temporarily reunite the parents?) He said Mom should step back and let the kids work it out with their father.

Although it seems that Angry Dad was coming from a place quite different from the author of the post, he caused me to re-evaluate my initial stance and reflect on my own experience…

As a child of divorce:
When I was 13 I knew that my mom didn’t like my dad’s girlfriend.  She didn’t talk about her feelings, I just knew.  But I liked my dad’s girlfriend and, like many teenagers, I thought my mom was just dumb (note to Younger Self:  Mom isn’t as dumb as you think).  I told my mom good things and funny stories about my dad’s girlfriend (an attempt to alter her opinion).  But Mom offered little reaction.  She neither argued nor agreed with me.  Eventually I got bored with that game and gave up discussing the topic.

As an adult in an evolving family:
In my current situation, Boyfriend’s kids knew all-too-well that their mother did not approve of me.  In order to avoid hurting her (the truth surely would have been hurtful), they made up ugly little lies about me.  Ultimately, this resulted in years of strained relations, to say the least.  The Partner Issue proved to be a huge road block in effective co-parenting as the boys’ mom fought to “defend” and “protect” her children.  But the kids weren’t in jeopardy, so her efforts brought about further conflict instead of resolution.  (And just to compare:  Mom was never so concerned with details about anyone else who spent time with the kids while they were in Dad’s care.)

So now I think I might be siding with Angry Dad on this one:  exes need to co-parent on topics such as school affairs, behavioral problems and medical issues.  However, relationships are private matters.  Unless the situation is dangerous, perhaps co-parents should just trust each other’s judgment (and accept the fact that everyone messes up from time to time).

(and as a side note, I do realize that every family is different and some parents have a pre-approved agreement for situations like this)

OK, I’m done.  Who wants to stone me?  All relevant comments are welcome…

Jun 24, 2010 - children of divorce, divorce    2 Comments

Complications, Revisited

If anyone is curious about how my complicated conundrum about the chair at the baseball game turned out, here’s the follow-up….

Last Friday night, Boyfriend and I had a chance to discuss the incident with Josh.  We recapped the events and opened the discussion with “…and then we never saw you again.  What happened?”
Josh tried to band-aid the situation.  “Well, I was going to say good-bye to you after the game but I didn’t see you.”
We nudged, “What about before then?”
“Wellllllll,” he began.  He took a deep breath and looked down.  “It’s just that, when I’m with my mom I feel like I can’t be with anyone else.”
“And by ‘anyone else’, you mean me?” Boyfriend asked.
Josh nodded, still looking down.
He told us that his mother did not issue specific instructions about not interacting with his father, it was just a feeling he had.  (And we were pretty sure this was the case.)
We went on to discuss another issue: different rules with his mom.  Boyfriend typically gives the boys a pretty long leash when they’re with him.  Conversely, when he’s with his mother, Josh isn’t permitted to leave her side.   It’s not like he could’ve stopped by to hang out, or even wave to us, on his way to/from the snack bar, the playground or the garbage can.  He felt trapped.
Josh knew his father’s feelings were hurt.  And Boyfriend was very understanding about the whole thing.  He told Josh that he can “take it” and that someday soon (even though it doesn’t seem that way now), Josh will be older and have more freedom to move around and make decisions.  We told him that he should never feel “stuck” when he’s with us and if he sees his mom and wants to say hello, he should do so.

Given Josh’s reaction, I’m glad I didn’t venture over there on that day.  To do so would have put him on the spot, in an uncomfortable position:  accept the chair and hurt Mom, or refuse the chair and hurt Dad. Of course, it shouldn’t be that way.   Yet, unfortunately, that is Josh’s reality when he’s with his mom.

Who To Honor? By Whom? And How?

At the request of Drake and Josh, I purchased a gift for their mother over the weekend.  My reflection on the experience has prompted many questions and I’m wondering how others feel.  Please chime in regarding any of the following…

Bio Parents:

  • Do you expect to be honored for Mother’s Day? (or Father’s Day, as the case may be)
  • How do you feel about your co-parent’s significant other assisting your children in selecting/purchasing gifts?
  • Do you help your children select/purchase gifts for your co-parent on Mother/Father’s Day?
  • Do you communicate to your children the value of your co-parent’s partner on Mother/Father’s Day?
  • Do you communicate to your children the value of your own partner on Mother/Father’s Day?

Partners of Parents:

  • How do you feel about honoring the children’s other parent on these holidays?
  • Do you participate in gift selection/purchase for the other parent?  (why or why not?)
  • Do you expect/desire to be recognized as a parental figure in the lives of your partner’s children?