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Permission to Parent Part 5: Betting on Benefits

Permission to Parent Part 5: Betting on Benefits

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“It would be so easy.  He deserves it for making this decision without you.  Who does he think he is?  You are their mom!” The snarky and self-satisfied devil sat perched on my shoulder whispering into my ear.

I could firmly press down one of his vulnerability buttons and expose the worry that he would not be an active and fully engaged father.  I could quite successfully play my trump card by dismissing his decision with contempt and judgment and sent a text message that read “If you want to get out of your parenting responsibilities today, I am happy to watch the girls instead of you dropping them off at the mall unsupervised.”

What would be my intention?

A. To make him feel like a terrible parent.

B. To make him see how wrong he was.

C. To dictate his decision-making by shaming him.

Would any of these intentions have served our co-parenting relationship? What would sending this zinger have gotten me:  A high-five from a friend who despises my ex; an uncomfortable laugh from a co-worker who was seeing the nasty side of me being clever; or perhaps, more realistically, a scathing response from my co-parent.

Instead of playing my ace, I bet on different odds.  I shifted my focus to intentions that matched my integrity like my overriding intention to have a harmonious relationship with my daughter’s father to ensure my girls were not subjected to unnecessary conflict between their parents.  I have a strong intention not to have “whiplash” children, those children experiencing their parents’ divorce as the result thereof by perpetually being placed in the middle.

In the end, I allowed in perspective.  I paused.  I was vulnerable.

“It makes me really nervous to think of the girls alone at the mall.  I am scared something will happen to them.”  I said in my message to him.

“I am making sure Anna has her phone fully charged.  The auto shop is right across the street from the mall.  I thought they would have more fun there than being stuck in the waiting room for a half hour. Does that sound okay?”

My built-up breathe slowly released. “Yes.  This sounds fine.”

Regardless of whether your co-parent ultimately agrees with you and changes course on a parenting decision, the bigger benefit is that you are re-establishing trust with your co-parent.  These are the steps to re-building a new relationship with your former spouse based on a premise that you are both making parenting decisions with good intentions and your child’s best interests at heart.

Angela Dunne