Some People Are Never Going To Get It And That’s OK

 

Death Row Edited

There is a challenge of co-parenting that not many of us speak of.  It is the pressure from friends and family who are not divorced.  You see, society as a whole pushes marriage, the sanctity of marriage, the nuclear family, and so forth.  It’s clearly not working since more than half the population is divorced.  However, despite the fact that we are in the majority, we sit quietly and feel appropriately ashamed while the marriage and parenting experts show us failures how it’s done.

Everyone knows I am all about personal responsibility.  I do not think it is in any way your friends of family’s job to keep track of your visitation schedule.  Hell, I remind my girls’ father.  I hardly expect extended family and a random parent of a school friend to remember.  There will be times however, that it will become frustrating and I mean stuff-them-in-your-trunk-when-no-one’s-watching-and-enjoy-their-screams, frustrating.  Your friends and family are not always going to understand, even when they pretend they do.  Or my personal favorite when they say the appropriate words, while their body language and every action they take before or since says the exact opposite.

If you have your children every other weekend, which is standard, no matter who the primary time-sharing parent is, you only have your children 4 free days per month.  God forbid they play a sport or anything that requires scheduling on those days because that makes it even harder.  Summers are split with their other parent, which means that what may, on paper, look like 10 weeks quickly turns into 5.  Then you account for preparing again for the new school year, summer camps, and each person you promised to spend time with gets to see your kids for like….30 seconds.

The joy of having to explain several years post-divorce that if I have the kids this weekend, no, I don’t have them next weekend.  We’ve only done every other weekend for freaking years.  This, is never fun and happens all the time.

There are going to be other challenges as well.  Parents who are not in the same situation offer parenting advice that is impossible when the children are not with you full-time.  Additionally, they offer advice that I can only assume they heard 15 years ago on bad daytime television, because it simply doesn’t apply here on earth with our current legal system.  A reader actually told me she was told, “Well, just make their dad institute all the same rules at his house.”  If she had that kind of control, or he listened and executed that well, don’t you think they’d still be married?  Other fun ones:

  1. “Just go tell the Judge he fed them McDonald’s.  Poor nutrition is abuse.” – This is a whole other rant for me, but drive thru is NOT abuse.  Abuse is a terrible thing and the word should not be thrown around.
  2. “She/he should never be allowed to have a babysitter and should schedule everything when the kids are with the other parent.” – I agree if you have a free babysitter (other parent) every other week or weekend and it’s excessive, it’s a concern.  Seriously, if you have to “party” every weekend, maybe kids aren’t for you.  But sometimes, the other parent isn’t available and things come up.  If the children are provided for, stay the hell out of it.
  3. “Demand that the agreement say he cannot have women over when he has the kids.”  – The court has no jurisdiction over whom a grown adult allows into his or her home.  Also, if you agree to this, it goes both ways.  Are you planning on never dating again?
  4. “You’re the mom so you know best.” – No one, including the court, believes that a vagina makes you a superior parent.  You may very well be, but it’s not the lack of a penis that does it.
  5. Alternately, “Dads can provide better for their children so they should have custody.” – Though this is not always the case, many men make more because while their wives were birthing and raising children, they were putting in valuable years of work experience while she now has a hole in her resume.  On the flip side, many women smoke their male counterparts in the income department.  Financial success does not make you a good parent.

I’m sure there are many other fun examples that are eluding me now, but you get the picture.  Do what works best for your family.  Listen to your attorney if it is a legal issue (not your next door neighbor in the curlers) and most importantly, be reasonable!  As for friends and family who do not understand, there will be some that are never going to get it and that’s alright.  You’ve got this.  You are the best person to care for your kids and while you may want to stuff them in your trunk, it’s hard to be an involved parent from jail.  Also, when they complain about paying a babysitter, you can snicker quietly about how the you have free babysitting every other weekend and get to spend “babysitter” money on wine!

Dealing with Unsolicited Advice – How to Pretend to Listen

Don't Care Edited

Unsolicited advice, we’ve all gotten it, and most of it sucks.  Here’s the thing, he who speaks the loudest is usually the most wrong.  If this is someone who is not close to you, you can smile, nod, and move on.  What do you do though when this is a close friend or worse, a family member?  Even worse than that…a family member who has never been there, and has no idea what the hell they are talking about.

In my experience, you will get the most advice from parents who have never been divorced, people who are not parents at all, people who were divorced 15+ years ago when moms still automatically got custody, or those who just handle things poorly.  This last group simply serves as an example of what not to do.

What happens though if you hear something and it sucks so bad that you cannot imagine what you would ever use it for?  I still use the smile and nod.  Never, ever underestimate the power of the smile and nod.  People want to believe what they want anyway so let them insert their own interpretation.  I further use, “Wow, that’s interesting, I never thought of that.”  I never thought of that because your idea blows and nowhere, in the history of ever, would I use that…but they don’t have to know that.  Will Rogers once said, “Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock“.  At least I think it was him, but you get it.  You see, you have enough to deal with.  Pissing off Aunt Titsenflopper from Wisconsin that you see only at weddings and graduations is unnecessary.  Just send the Christmas card and let her think she was incredibly helpful.

Here’s the thing, people like this do not actually give advice to help you even though they tell themselves they are.  They give advice because they want to justify how they handled a similar situation.  You choosing to take a different path makes them insecure.  They feel it is a reflection of them or that they handled it poorly when faced with something similar.  Others do it because they think they are superior.  They are explaining to little ‘ole you how you should handle it because God knows, you couldn’t figure it out without them.  Some just do it simply because they are soul sucking, miserable people, and want you to be too.  These people can be identified because they give advice when you don’t actually have a problem.  You’re fine, you didn’t ask a question, and don’t need help, but you’re suddenly on the other end of a lecture.  These are unhappy people who are actually threatened because you are not.

So smile and nod.  Paraphrase so they think you were listening, and then just continue along as you were.  No one has to know.  You’ll avoid burning bridges in case that person one day says something insightful you can actually use.  It’s so cute when I’m optimistic, right?