The worst thing about my parents’ divorce was how much they cooperated. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? As a child, their level of respect for each other made the transitions easy for me and my sister. But as an adult, I’ve had a hard time understanding the animosity that plays out between separating couples.
One area where my parents worked together was the subject of caring for the kids if the custodial parent couldn’t. We lived with my mom most of the time and if she had somewhere to go or something to do, my dad was always quick to step in. I grew up thinking that was the way it should be.
And then, a few years ago, a friend of mine complained that her ex-husband expected her to be his babysitter while the kids were with him.
“He thinks he can use me,” she lamented. “As if I don’t have anything else going on in my life! It’s just like when we were married. He wants to do whatever he wants in the easiest manner possible and he expects me to pick up the slack.”
I considered her situation. In that instance, The Ex had asked her to take one child while he participated in a planned activity with the other.
“But it’s not like he’s partying with the guys,” I suggested. “He’s trying to spend quality time with Kira.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she insisted. “We’re supposed to be sharing the kids 50/50 and he’s not putting in his full 50%. He needs to learn how to juggle two kids on his own. I did.”
In our case, Boyfriend and I occasionally assist if Mom is stretched too thin. We’ve (individually) stayed home from work if one of the kids is sick and we’ve taken them to/from activities in instances where there was a conflicting sibling activity at the same time. Truth be told, the requests are much less frequent now that the kids have an engaged stepfather. And Mom has never asked Boyfriend to take the kids while she’s out of town. In those cases, she’s always made her own arrangements and Boyfriend is not given the option to take the boys for a few extra days.
I touched on this situation in an earlier post regarding children’s illness and who should step up to stay home. But that was more specific. Right now, I’m considering the broader issue: how “available” should co-parents be during times that the kids are with the other parent? How do you handle this in your family? Do you have specific procedures/agreements to address this in your parenting plan? How do/would you feel if your ex asked for your child-rearing assistance on his/her “watch”?