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…