Here’s the thing: idealistically speaking, parents bring children into this world together as a team. They have a common goal of raising healthy, well-rounded, independent future functioning members of society. Go Team Go!
Enter co-parenting after divorce…
Divorce Changes the Co-Parenting Game
Despite the circumstances, settlement, time, respect, or care you have for your ex-spouse and co-breeder, deep inside as a parent, divorce changes the game. Sometimes you feel like you are on a different parent team and well, it’s time to play man-to-man defense.
Why? At some point after a husband and wife go their separate ways, children spend their time in separate parent quarters. One has to think, that there is a level of natural and circumstantial competition between parents that arises. More than likely, who can be the better “liked” parent is a thought that rears its ugly head. I believe we have all felt some natural jealousy, or dealt with competitive feelings in being your child’s number one as a parent anyway, but divorce can take it to another league.
It has been said (okay, I said it) that divorce can somewhat be synonymous with competition, especially when children are involved. Before I get any backlash from the perfectly divorced tribe here, I am talking about the first stages of separation, your inner voice, the not so good for the karma, competitive derived thoughts here. In fact, I have a very amicable relationship with my baby daddy, I mean ex-husband.
I think as divorced parents you are really governing on your own, but hopefully under a united front. The goal is to still try and raise your children with the same objectives and ideals you had when there was a ring on your finger, and/or the umbilical cord got cut.
Oh, how easy would it be to let competition take over in the process? Let’s take a peek, shall we?
The following examples, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this write-up, are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.
Sarah (Child): “Mom, Dad’s girlfriend made my banana costume for the school play. She is so good at it, and you can’t even sew at all. She is soooo nice….”
Sue (Mother): “Wow, that looks great – you look exactly like a banana! Yeah, I don’t know how to sew. It was so nice of her to help – I hope you thanked her!”
Kobe (Your Inner Voice): “I can’t sew, but I did carry the almost 10 pounds of you in my body. Oh, I also absorbed the pain of a pinched nerve in my leg for three months while mourning the loss of seeing my ankles for two. Let’s not even consider the physical act and trauma of getting you to see the light of friggin day, missy. Did she do that? Kind of a nice thing your old mom did for you too there sunshine. But yes, she is the one who is sooooo nice…”
Timmy (Child): “Dad tried to make your homemade lasagna. The noodles were soggy at the bottom and burnt at the top. Yours is way better.”
Sue (Mother): “Well I am sure it was good. Maybe you can help him next time.”
Kobe (Your Inner Voice): “Damn straight. Mom’s lasagna will always be better, just like most of my dinners, lunches, and breakfasts will always be better. Oh, and I also am better able to help you with your homework, pick you up and drop you off on time for every soccer practice, make life decisions, and oh, better sense your every single need until the day you die, really. Slam dunk.”
Now I am sure if you thought long and hard, you would be able to come up with a few more “fictional” examples of your own as you cope with co-parenting after divorce.
Turning Your Inner Kobe into a Pau Gasol
In the end, I think competition is a normal side-effect of divorce. Here is your support and validation of at least one other parent who has dealt with the ugliness of envy, and one-up-man-ship. I’m proud that I suppress my inner Kobe and handle competition and jealousy with grace most of the time. Other times, not so much (accidentally hiding your daughter’s sweatshirt gifted by your ex’s girlfriend, for example)!
What to do? How do you bench your inner Kobe? You have to harness that competitive feeling and avoid foul play to stay ahead in this “game” of co-parenting after divorce.
Physiologically as humans we should be able to control our instincts. As an adult and responsible human being of another human being, it’s important to control your emotions. I know that taming the untamable is a far cry for a solution. But in the best interest of your child and keeping an amicable relationship with your ex, you should co-parent like it’s nobody business.
Your Child’s Viewpoint and Seeing the Big Picture
I can only tell you that for me, I try to live by the mantra ”through the eyes of my child.” Look at life from their point of view. That usually helps me hold back my thoughts or actions. When I am feeling the full court pressure I journal to write it out, or I friend to gab it out. You would be surprised what a little time and perspective does. (Tequila doesn’t hurt now and then either;)
Also, you need to look at the big picture. It’s not who scores the individual basket (or gives the best gifts), but – wait for it – the final score as a cohesive mother-father-child team. Are you raising an emotionally healthy child? Are you making sure your children feel free to love their other parent? Are you facilitating a good relationship with their other parent? That is the commonality to hold on to.
A child fortunate enough to have two parents who are living their best lives with their kids at the forefront, teaching and sharing united values, will be a child on a winning team. Alright then [insert applause here], get out of your seat and let me hear some noise!! If you make sure your children win, that means that in the end, you’ll win, too.
After her planned and idealistic life became derailed by divorce, Sally created The YOU After…WE – a guided journal for coping with a divorce or the loss of a relationship. The end of a relationship means dealing with stages of grief, and Sally describes this helpful book as “the double-chocolate fudge quart of ice-cream for the soul.” www.theyouafter.com