Now that you have developed your strategy and you are ready to move forward as the mother-in-charge, it is time to return to a crucial concept introduced early in this chapter: the only person’s parenting you can control is your own. You cannot preach, suggest or control the parenting style that your former spouse will adopt. Your suggestions will not be well received – accept the fact that your children’s father may operate from a different set of values and perhaps that is one of the reasons you are no longer married. As long as your children are in no physical or emotional danger ― in which case you would need to act at once to protect them ― you cannot control the parenting in their father’s house.
Oh, and by the way, abuse and neglect is not:
- Eating a Happy Meal three times a day
- Going to bed without a bath
- Wearing clothes to bed not pajamas
- Staying up late
Remember they are not abuse and neglect and time and attention for your children from their father is important, however unconventionally given. Women often complain after a child has been with their father that they need to “undo” all the damage of a weekend of lax discipline. Were the weekend’s activities really inappropriate, or are you objecting because you are not in control? Or worse yet, are you letting old anger at your spouse emerge? Keep focused on your tasks as a parent and stop worrying about what he’s doing. Remember no one ever died from wearing their clothes to bed.
For most divorced families, Sunday night is a particularly difficult time. It is painfully clear that our children live in two separate families when they return home on Sunday night, still caught up in where they were with dad, adjusting to where they are with mom. As single mothers greeting returning children, make Sunday night as low key and calm as possible.
- Have a group of people there when they return home and expect them to blend in.
- Ask them a million questions and then criticize what you hear
- Make disparaging remarks about their appearance
- Criticize their father
Just listen and comfort them if they are sad about the transition. Give them a little space and time to re-adjust, sound enthused if they had a good time, and leave it at that. This whole process will not go well if you have not come to grips with your feelings about your spouse as discussed in the last chapter. Keep working through those negative feelings. Get help, pray, talk to a trusted friend, but keep at it until you get it right. Nothing is harder or more important. You owe it to yourself and your children.
The full realization of what divorce means is captured in the Sunday night ritual of returning children. For a father, there is pain in returning to a place he used to call home. For a mother, there is pain in seeing their former spouse leave and assuming all of the responsibility again. So on Sunday night shut the door, have ice cream and cookies with your children and call it a day – Sunday.
This is an excerpt from “You’re It! Successful Single Mothering after Divorce.” Chapter Three, Part Three
Article by Jeanne L. Ward