I feel very protective of our time together, so I have resisted enrolling the kids in large numbers of activities. In lieu of filling all their “free-time” with planned activities (and chauffeuring), we spend a lot of time just hanging out together. This works really well for their current age range (5 to 10 years). This is difficult when your ex believes in enrolling the kids in enough organized activities to fill almost all of their time. We have it in our separation agreement that this will be limited to one activity per weekend. School related activities on weeknights are usually not a big issue.
In short- being with dad is just that- a time when they share “my life” and vice versa. We have fun and we get done the stuff that needs to get done. It isn’t a special time when rules don’t apply or special rules apply.
I feel that it has been VERY important to resist arguing with my ex in person or otherwise within earshot of the kids. Also, I feel that it has also been crucial not to badmouth my ex. In fact, it almost goes without saying that whatever happens at “mommies house” is under her roof, her rules, her lifestyle, etc. This is not to say that my ex and I don’t “discuss” their behavior and their lives behind the scenes. But, more often than not, I have had to deal with the question “do they do this to you?…” in terms of daily interactions and parental treatment. On this front, in my case, I feel that a single parent has to pretty much rely on generating, sticking to and enforcing their own set of rules in their household.
It sort of goes without saying that the no badmouthing rule is necessarily a unilateral decision and may not be reciprocal- just as personal parenting styles are just that.
Your ex needs you. This can be demonstrated in several of ways. Gently establish your worth as a parent.
Keep your long run goal in mind: shared parenting. Let small stuff go. Choose battles carefully.
New Dad? Need help with your baby’s sleeping, feeding, crying, and diapers? Contact:
What does NOT work
Violence and threats of violence are not in the best interests of the kids. They do not help to develop a good parenting relationship with your ex.
Loud or argumentative behavior. Gentle insistence on you most important issues is better.
Legal violence (a scorched earth legal battle) is not in the kid’s best interests. Better to mediate or work with a counselor.
I have sometimes made the mistake of taking a strident, demanding attitude with my ex. This has never worked for me. It is not good for the kids because it raises the level of tension when we exchange the kids.