I did not know until I was married that my personal kryptonite was being called lazy. I can still hear him today. I was exhausted from managing a growing law practice, a full and demanding caseload, and my two toddler daughters. I was pleading for him to allow me a Saturday morning sleep-in. Would he please take the girls to breakfast so I could have a couple of hours of rest and quiet?
“Don’t be lazy.” He matter-of-factly replied. I rose on Saturday at 6:45 a.m. to care for my children and be productive. I was not lazy.
He had always been a morning person – an early riser ready for a productive day ahead. My natural clock was in the reverse, slower to rise and later to retire. He was more practical with his productivity. Task and errand oriented where I could find massive amounts of enjoyment and feel highly productive in a creative pursuit that resulted in a completed scrapbook page.
These differences unknowingly exposed my vulnerabilities: To be mocked for being creative and my creations being viewed as trivial or unimportant; to be called lazy because I enjoy a slow start on the weekends. These were a few of my worst fears and affronts to my authenticity. As with all married couples, we did not intentionally unveil these vulnerabilities or even mean to apply pressure to them. But when it happened, with a most trusted loved one, the impact and damage was pronounced.
Being vulnerable is hard. Doable with trusted family and friends, because despite our vulnerabilities, we know we will be loved. We can even be willing to be vulnerable in a room full of strangers if we believe voicing our fears, secrets, or heartaches will be a contribution to others. But being vulnerable to your former spouse is a different level altogether. Exposing your feelings about something important to you – your children – to someone that you fear may actively dislike you, may mock you, or may be completely indifferent to you is almost beyond comprehension.
However, when faced with a non-legal disagreement over parenting decisions, being vulnerable with our co-parent may be required. We may need to expose the soft underbelly of our hearts and tell the truth about why we are worried for our children or why we believe a decision is not in their best interests.
“I am not ready for our son to meet your new boyfriend. I am not ready to put on the brave face I want to and let Shawn know that all is well and I support you moving on. I am still hurting and I need more time.”
“I cannot afford half of horseback riding lessons. I do not want Maddy to know that the reason she cannot take lessons right now is because my budget is too tight. I am trying hard to get back on track with finances, but it is hard for me with a single income household. I can contribute $50 a month or if we can wait until the spring, I can plan and save to make a bigger contribution.”
“I am scared that I am not as important to our the kids. I am worried that since I do not have as much time as you do that they see me as a lesser parent. My worst fear is that I am an afterthought. Would you mind if I made myself available to take them out for ice cream after their game?
Vulnerability is often the bridge that mends our differences. It allows our co-parent insight into why we are experiencing resistance to their decision beyond the “I’m right/You’re wrong” dynamic. It opens us up to willingness to see a decision from another point of view.