Communication can be a pain. Imagine you need something or have to make a decision for your child. Whether you have to choose a doctor, agree on an extracurricular activity, make a medical decision, decide on which school to send them to, whether you should buy them a pony so they like you better, whatever it is….
Now imagine that your child has one to three other parents, and you have to discuss every decision with this overwhelming crowd of people. The correct, legal, moral, non-dick move is to include them all in decisions and come to an agreement among two to four people. Now imagine that you have done the research, gone to whatever tours, appointments, orientations, etc., which no other parent attends, and yet they all get to weigh in. Worse, they can suddenly decide they no longer want to switch visitation, allow an activity, or transport during their visitation. Now, you’ve wasted your time doing the research only to be outvoted because one to three others decided they no longer want to do it. This is especially infuriating after being asked to “look into it,” and when every reason given could have ruled it out prior to the research and legwork.
This happens to so many co-parents. It is incredibly frustrating when one parent has spent time researching an extracurricular activity — that you’ve all agreed upon — and after all the research is done, the parent is told that another parent doesn’t have time to <insert excuse>. Further, they are told that they are welcome to pay for it and do all the driving if they want to enroll the child. The child of course, who they’ve already said yes to, because everyone agreed prior, is now super excited — and your head wants to explode. When I go to doctor’s appointments and then have to give a full report to one to three people who were too busy to come, but still they argue about what tests to agree to and get annoyed about questions I should have asked, I restrain myself from saying, “you could have come!”
Flames, flames on the side of my face….
I use myself as an example because so many of you say how “zen” I am about our family dynamics. Usually, that is true, but every now and then…not so much. I have my freak-outs, and the girls’ dad handles many gracefully and comes up with a solution, which makes me less stabby, head explody, throat punchy. Well, most of the time….
So, what do we do about this? No, lighting his car on fire is not a viable option (come on ladies, we all know you do that when he cheats on you, and you, my dear, are already divorced).
Here’s the deal…this is painful for me to write because, while pissed, I still have to admit it’s mostly my fault that this happens. While it sucks that I don’t have help, I also told them, “I’ve got it” or “I’ll let you know how it goes.” Why should anyone step up if you will do it all for them? Is it still shitty? Sure. Mostly, because you end up doing all the work. Make no mistake, having two to four parents does not split the workload two to four ways. It often times just means more people to confer with.
Before resentment builds, ask for help.
Tell them what you are planning and say (which I swear I have done), “I’m going to look this up and do the legwork but I need to be sure we agree, because if I waste my time and it’s a flat ‘no’, I will hurt someone.” Parents (especially moms) feel the need to “do it all.” Doing it all means resentment and burnout. Being overwhelmed isn’t failure, it’s recognizing you need to reevaluate your priorities.
Alternately, you can split up the workload. I make my own schedule, so I handle appointments that are scheduled in advance. Their step-mother has offered to take them on some days off and split up the amount of work missed. Their dad researched the last extra-curricular, because I was getting overwhelmed. All three of us rotate when a kid is sick so none of us are missing too much work. Is this easy to work out? Hell no. It also means you have to communicate. I know communication with your ex and/or their new spouse can be tough, but the tone of your relationship depends on it. That tone bleeds over to the sidelines at a game, or awkwardness at a school function, which isn’t fair to your children.
Every time you must have one of these discussions, have a glass of wine first, take a deep breath, and discuss calmly. Be honest because open and honest communication is just as essential to co-parenting as it is to anything else. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told my ex, “between the girls, work, and the house, I just don’t have time to figure out ____________”, and he picks it up. Come on, if people can be “sister wives,” we should be able to figure out football practice.