There is much about divorce that just seems unfair. You may be burdened financially, or you may be watching out for the kids while their father ignores his responsibilities. You may be blamed for the break-up even though you know that your spouse made the marriage a living hell.
Regardless of what is unfair, you must be willing to step up and be there for your children.
With the right attitude, focusing on the children will keep you sane and give your kids what they need in order to thrive.
Your kids deserve the best that they can get. Think of yourself as a parent who is truly responsible for your beloved children; be prepared to act that way. With this philosophy in mind, whatever comes from your ex-husband is simply an extra.
Rise above the martyr or victim role.
Alexandra, age 8, had been promised by both you and her dad that she will be getting gymnastic lessons. She was very excited. On the eve of signing up for the lessons, her dad tells you that he thinks this is "wasting" money on an 8-year-old. After all, “she is too young to learn anything important.”
As Alexandra’s mom, you have a number of choices. You can "spill the beans" about her dad. But that’s a mistake, because in this scenario, you find yourself sharing too much with an 8-year-old and thus break the Intergenerational Boundary.
It is a loss of innocence.
You can decide to tell Alexandra that both you and your ex cannot afford gymnastics for her right now. This is a reasonable approach. It protects the child’s innocence and does not set up a precedent in which your ex dumps extra financial responsibility your lap.
Or you can just pay for the lessons, thereby keeping Alexandra from being disappointed. This approach requires a willful act on your part to do what is right for Alexandra, even though it’s unfair to you. This is a difficult, but seasoned, response to the problem — and one that has some validity.
That last solution means saying to yourself: "I am going to be fully responsible for the adult tasks needed to raise my daughter. I hope my ex joins me in this effort, because it will be good for everyone involved, including him. Yet I accept, in my heart of hearts, that whatever contributions he makes will be an extra."
Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand with your ex husband, and sometimes — for the sake of your kids — you don’t.
Stepping up permits you the pleasure of raising your child without constantly feeling that your ex is falling short for your child, and taking advantage of you.
Disentangle yourself. Such resentment has no useful purpose. In fact, it is good to neutralize it as early as possible.
You do this by being willing to take on whatever is required for you to foster your beautiful child’s development.
Mark R. Banschick is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Katonah, New York.
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