Being a parent is forever. Marriage, increasingly in America, is not. The latter does not absolve one of the former, nor does it change your obligations towards your children. A decision to end a marriage can be painful for everyone, including the children. As I have previously noted, it is counterproductive to allow your children to see any lingering resentment you may have towards your ex.
It should also go without saying (but some seem to forget) that it is not helpful to allow any negativity toward your children’s other parent to impact your parenting decisions.
Even though you have decided to end your life partnership, it is not a union that is so easily dissolved if you have children. Like it or not, you and your ex must still work together to raise your children.
Of course, you aren’t going to be forced into contact with each other on a daily basis. You can, and will, have different rules and approaches in your homes. Trivial decisions like outfits and meals don’t require joint brainstorming sessions, cost-benefits analyses, flowcharts, graphs or committee meetings.
Not all the decisions are trivial though.
Take education. In Virginia, there is a growing homeschool movement. More parents are electing to pull their children out of the public education system and teach them at home. Is this right for your children? Maybe, but is it okay for one parent to make a unilateral decision on it?
What about private schooling? Common Core education curriculum is in the news a lot lately, and many parents are choosing private schools over the government version. If both parents decide on private school, who pays for it? Does tuition count as support?
The decisions aren’t all massive ones like education though. Take a related one – school supplies and school clothes. Who buys them? How is the money accounted for? This is the sort of thing even divorced parents must come to a meeting of the minds on, and the best decisions are the ones that are made with the best interest of the children in mind.
The same logic applies to holidays. Of course I want to see my kids on Christmas. So does their mother (shocking, right?). I also want to see them on Thanksgiving, and Independence Day, and Easter, and St. Patrick’s Day, and May Day, and International Talk Like A Pirate Day. What is best for them though?
We have an arrangement that works for all of us. It is a bit of a holiday timeshare. The former Mrs. Warshaw and I each get to have some holiday time with the children on all the big days, and we make allowances for each other on days that mean more than one of us than the other (turns out that she isn’t really into Talk Like A Pirate Day, despite evidence to the contrary. The kids get time with both of us and our extended families, and we don’t force each other into ridiculous contortions of time and travel to accommodate each other.
Of course, I gave away the end with the beginning. The point of all this is that you and your ex need to stay on the same team where your children are concerned, even when it is hard. Even when you want to switch leagues to find a new team to play on. Children need both parents pulling for them, planning for them, watching out for them. Your goal should be to produce healthy, happy, well-adjusted adults, and both of you are needed to make it happen.