There is in fact, a reason why dealing with your ex is difficult, other than the obvious hurt feelings and the occasional desire to cause them bodily harm. You are adjusting to the change in dynamics and the changes period. In other words, he doesn’t get to know where you go on Friday night and you don’t get to tell him to pick up his damn dirty socks for the millionth time.
This is difficult for many reasons. You have known this person as one of, or in any combination of, the following (in no particular order):
Each of these positions, are a position of power in some ways. If the other person is putting out, they have power over you and vice versa. Now that the relationship is over, you don’t get to correct their driving, tell them they should eat better, get more exercise, or how they should handle their personal relationships. Here’s the kicker, you don’t even get to tell them how to handle their relationship…. (pause for effect)…. with your kids.
Your children are as much theirs as they are yours. I am assuming here that none of my readers experienced the Immaculate Conception. Here is a list of most but not all the things that you no longer control in regards to your children when they are with their other parent (remember: deep breaths):
- What they are fed
- Discipline methods (As long as there is no abuse. Federal and state guidelines please! No, it is not in fact child abuse to let them eat fast food even if you don’t agree.)
- How they are dressed
- What they are allowed to watch on television
- When they go to bed
- Who they are allowed to spend their time with
- Whether or not they are left with a babysitter (unless you have a court document saying otherwise)
- What music is allowed
- Whether or not they attend a religious service
I could keep going but you get the point. I know many parents who are twitching over the thought of not being in TOTAL CONTROL. It is hard to allow someone you may or not be fond of to make daily choices for your children. Mostly though, whether you can admit it out loud or not, a lot of that feeling is being unsure of the new dynamic here.
Remember, you are no longer their partner, so you lose some rights. You can have your opinion, but you no longer get to share it unless the ex asks (which they probably won’t). Good news though, this goes both ways! As she says in Labyrinth, you suddenly realize, “you have no power over me” and everything shatters. What you do in your home, is your business. Unless it is in regards to your children and a law is being broken, your ex does not control what you do under any circumstances. When your children are in your home, that extends to them, and maybe David Bowie.
So, now we have identified why you are having trouble communicating but what do we do about it? It can be solved in two words. Before I tell you these magic words though, I am going to preface it with the knowledge that you already know this and this seems too easy. It is, but I wouldn’t have to say it if PEOPLE ACTUALLY DID IT. Moving right along…
Two words…be considerate. I know, I know, “but I don’t wanna!” Do it anyway. Here are some examples:
- If you know you may get stuck late at work and you need the other parent to pick them up, contact them as soon as possible. Make an effort not to wait until 4:30PM after they’ve potentially made evening plans and if you must ask with short notice, be understanding if they have to say “no”. This is not an indication that they do not want to see their children. It simply means they were planning on being kid-free. They may have plenty of plans that are not kid friendly and <GASP> they may even have a date.
- The child, who is at the other parent’s house, currently owns one pair of school shoes that are at your house and they are needed Monday, which is tomorrow. Try to make arrangements to get them to the other parent that evening if you can. Do not wait until it is 6:30AM and the kid is getting dressed in snow shoes or flip-flops because that’s all that is available.
- The other parent is on his/her way to pick up the kids, and made a point to tell you that they are heading to a restaurant for dinner. Hand them over in a reasonably presentable state, and do not let them roll in the mud until the doorbell rings.
I could go on, (I’ve seen some amazing and terrible examples of people being inconsiderate) but you get it. Treat your child’s other parent with the respect you would give a boss or a co-worker. You don’t have to like them but you do have to be professional. Remember, you chose to sleep with them!