Q. I’m a stay-at-home mom. My children’s father rarely took an interest in the kids while we were together. He would take them to baseball practice after work and go to their games on the weekends, but never took them to the doctor or dentist or went to school conferences. Now that we are splitting up and he wants all this time with the kids! I don’t think he deserves it under the circumstances! What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. In so many families both parents must work outside of the home to make ends meet. How fortunate that you can be a stay-at-home-mom—possibly one of the toughest jobs around. That said, there must be more to this story than what you have listed in your question because if your kids’ father works outside of the home, the fact that he’s available to take the kids to practice after work and spends his weekends attending their games, seems like an invested father to me. It would be wonderful if he could take time off work to accompany you to the doctor or dentist, but that may not be possible all the time. One of the benefits of being a stay at home parent is that you are available to do those things.
When you design a parenting plan after a break-up you base the schedule on the best interest of the children. Your comment and observations do not take the children into consideration–it sounds like you’re trying to pay dad back for not being as attentive as you thought he should have been by limiting his time with the children now. Why else would you think under the circumstances that you have out lined, that dad doesn’t “deserve” time with the children?
The truth is, the children “deserve” time with both parents–and the best way to approach a parenting plan is to optimize both parents time with the kids. If dad is at work all day, it’s doubtful he can pick the kids up from school, but he can certainly continue to take them to practice after work and attend their games on the weekends. If you would like weekend time with the children, as well, alternating weekends is the answer. Just remember, it’s not “your time” or “dad’s time” with the kids. It’s the kids’ time with you. Each child is only one person and he or she must to split their time to make their parents happy.
Something else: Be careful. It sounds to me like you may be in danger of falling into the “best parent syndrome.” “I know more about the kids, so I’m the best parent.” In actuality, the best parent is the parent who shares everything they know about the children with the other parent. You want the other parent to be successful—that will ensure your children’s security and safety during possibly the toughest time in their lives—the break-up of their parents.
Finally, as the old song says, “Breaking up is hard to do.” People are at their worst and do and say things they would never do if they weren’t under the stress of breaking-up. But of all times, this is the time you must be the role model your kids need. Grace under fire. That’s good ex-etiquette.
Ex-Etiquette®, runs in countless newspapers and websites all over the world. It is written by Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, and other Ex-etiquette books. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.