You gotta love your kids more than you hate your ex... or even dislike your ex. Which is why Madonna is showing that she is a real Madonna — a.k.a. motherlike figure — in listening to daughter Lourdes's request to be nice to her stepfather, Guy Ritchie.
I guess in Madonna's world, Papa Shouldn't Preach, but her daughter can.
In an interview with the New York Daily News, a friend of Madonna's told the paper that the couple, who recently divorced after eight years together, are "working very hard to have an amicable divorce because Lourdes came to them begging, ‘Please don't be mean to each other.' Then she told them she wanted everything to be as friendly as possible."
Co-parenting requires compromise. As mediator Dr. Jonas Schrag once told me, "a divorced parent knows they are successful when you're not too happy or unhappy. The reason you get divorced is because you are unsatisfied with how the person does things. Satisfaction is derived from your kids being happy."
In fact, another source told the Daily News that "the separation has had a positive effect on their relationship as parents."
As someone who deals with divorced parents for a living, this doesn't surprise me. Many people become better parents after a divorce. Without the 24/7 requirements, many can become more doting, dutiful, and downright devoted to their children.
However, there are some roadblocks.
As we previously reported, although she's now divorced, Madonna is about to find out that she can't flex her muscles when it comes to her soon-to-be ex-husband's parenting style. As part of the agreement, while Lourdes, 13, stays in New York with her mom, the sons she had with Guy Ritchie — Rocco 8, and David 3 — will fly to England as part of scheduled visitation to see their Dad. (Lourdes will also visit him sometimes too).
Just recently, the self-described control freak reportedly gave a list of rigid rules documenting what Ritchie could and couldn't do when he had his sons.
The list reportedly included a ban on TV, no Miley Cyrus for the boys, no non-organic food such as microwaved pizza and soda, nor any clothes that were not 100 percent cotton and sent by her. She even wanted her total blessings on what water they drank — Kaballah preferred — and no toys that are "spiritually or ethically unsound."
What this sounds like is a recipe for disaster.
Divorced women tell me all the time that the hardest part of divorce is not leaving the husband. but leaving the kids with him. And if you, like Madonna, are used to control, it becomes agony to realize the limited power you now have over your ex-spouse's parenting style. It's as though handcuffs have been put on you just when you thought you were finally liberated.
"Moms go nuts about this, but all they can do is write to Dear Abby or Firstwivesworld.com," says noted divorce lawyer Raoul Felder. "The courts will not mini-manage or arbitrate parenting styles unless it involves safety or basic acceptable serious judgment issues."
"Other than allergies like peanuts, religion, and sky diving, the hand of the parent who turned the kids over for their weekend with Pop has about as much to say in what the kids do there as Bush does in the choice of the next Secretary of State," Felder says. "But isn't that what weekend Dads are all about? Lots of hot dogs, chocolate and crummy blood and gory movies?"
This is exactly what makes many mothers' blood boil. It undermines the discipline they have tried to instill all week.
Take, for example, Debbie, who sends off her children Keith and Olivia with a sleepover bag. When they return all rumpled, she discovers that hardly any of the clothes have been used nor have the children showered or done their homework.
"I spend all Sunday night and the following day trying to get them back on their routine," she laments.
Another example is Kathleen, whose son Jake was punished before his weekend with Dad for hitting his brother, Luke.
"I explained to my ex that Jake couldn't go to a party this weekend in the neighborhood," she said. "But then my girlfriend called me up and told me that Brian had dropped off Jake at the party anyway. When I confronted him, this jerk just yelled at me and said he could do whatever he wants with Jake."
As Jeanette Lofas, president of the New York based Stepfamily Foundation frankly says, "Fathers often spoil their children and divorced mothers have to get used to it."
Ouch. That hurts, but is often the truth.
"Mothers can't reach into the other house and make rules, but the other part of that is, nor can your ex-husband enforce rules in your house," she says.
But that doesn't mean moms can't devise strategies to deal with the parenting reality of divorce.
Lofas suggests that Kathleen and Debbie say the following to their children: "You're lucky that Dad is so easy with you. We have different rules in this house. Here we have consequences for actions and I'm trying to teach you these life lessons. There is a difference between going through a red light or a green light. If you go through a red light, you get a ticket. Rules have to be followed."
And as a stepfamily coach, I would add this: "When you get a green light, we can have lots of fun. But we have to do the necessary work first."
Aside from lingering resentments caused by the divorce, parents may have guilt for breaking up the family, and fear that the child will be damaged by inconsistent parenting styles. When they complain, it can be because they are seriously worried about the children.
However, parents have to have faith that their love and style will influence the children positively. As they get older, the kids choose what they like and didn't like about each parent's approach.