Look guys. I know for some of you dealing with your ex is not a welcome moment. And Mother’s Day likely creates some stress and uncomfortable situations. Especially if you haven’t worked at your relationship with your ex-wife since the divorce. “But we’re divorced? Why should I work on my relationship with her?” Well. I’ll tell you why. Regardless of the kind of relationship you have with your ex-wife; if you had a family together, there is one fundamental truth that cannot be changed. She is the mother of your children and you both will always be a parenting team on some level. And no matter how you may personally feel about it, another truth is that your children need to have a connection with their mom.
I say this because no matter how you feel about your ex, part of your responsibility as a father is to ensure that your kids have a good relationship with their mom. Inside, your children crave a relationship and a connection with each of you. They need to feel accepted and loved by both of you, especially when they’re trying to discover who they are. It’s one of the reasons it’s so important to put to the side your own feelings toward your ex, regardless of what they may be, and make an effort to help your children focus on the positive attributes of their mom.
As a divorced dad, you have a choice. Hold on to bitterness and create friction, tension and stress for you, your ex and your children, or recognize the value in a working relationship with your ex-wife that enables you both to benefit from helping each other as single parents. I’m not an idiot. I understand that it’s often easy to fall into the trap of pointing out the negatives. Especially when you’re at a point where you may be dealing with a disagreement. But remember, that works both ways. And your kids aren’t stupid. They’re actually quite perceptive and probably understand more than you may give them credit for. They know your ex-wife’s pitfalls, and trust me, they recognize yours just as well. It’s up to you to set the tone. You need to suck it up sometimes and recognize your kids will be much better off if they see the two of you backing each other up and creating at least some level of consistency as parents.
My ex wife and I have worked very hard these past few years ensuring that our kids know they can’t get away with things by playing us against each other. And trust me, they try. They know the buttons to push, the things to say and the way to put us against each other. But you can’t get sucked in. Listen, my relationship with my ex isn’t perfect by any means. We have our issues obviously. Hell we got divorced for a reason. And from time to time we both find it very easy to say things or point out things about each other to the kids that we should probably keep to ourselves. But try to remind yourself, what good is it going to do to slam someone so important to your kids? There is a very good likelihood that they’re very much aware of anything you may bring up. Using it as a means of turning them against the other parent isn’t going to accomplish anything other than creating friction between all of you, including you and your kids.
I would also hope for you, that during your divorce you’ve had a chance to recognize that you both brought baggage to the table. That each of you hold some level of responsibility for your current situation and that you’ve grown from the experience. The goal should be to be growing and understanding what’s really important. And that is ensuring your kids have everything they need in life and one of the most important of those is a good relationship with their mom and dad.
Transferring your own personal beliefs about your ex to your children will do much more harm than good. Honestly, I don’t think they need help with that anyway. In fact it’s just the opposite. In their own relationships with each of you, they will likely experience the same things you and your ex did in your marriage. The reality is, you’re in a terrific position to help them navigate the negatives as you’ve already lived them and hopefully have learned from them. Rather than compound the problem by reenforcing the negative, help them do something you obviously weren’t able to do; acknowledge, accept and move on. If you can teach them tolerance, acceptance and understanding on a level even you weren’t capable of achieving during your marriage, you’ll be setting them up for success in their own relationships as they get older.
In the process you may actually learn a thing or two as well. Things that will allow you to see your ex differently and the hope would be for her to see you differently as you both grow as individuals. Will it be perfect? No. But it’s time to start letting go of some of the hurt. Recognize that the divorce does not mean you’ll never see your ex again. You will be in each others lives forever as parents to your kids. This mother’s day, give your kids something they desperately need. A positive relationship with their mom; you may find yourself finding a way to create one for yourself as well. And that is something that will benefit everyone.