I often watch the television show, All of Us, produced by Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith and is loosely based on their own lives. It’s about a divorced couple who is working together to raise their son. The ex-husband has a live in girlfriend, but the ex-wife does not.
If you watch the show, you will immediately pick up on the obvious double standards that exist in their co-parenting relationship. For example, the ex-wife is allowed to freely enter her ex-husband’s house, using their son’s key, whenever she likes; but, her ex-husband has to knock when he goes over to her place. The ex-wife demands to be told what’s going on in his relationship with his long-term girlfriend (when they are getting married, when she could move in, etc), but when he asks what’s going on with her new boyfriend, she tells him that her personal life is none of his business. On another episode, the ex-wife demanded to be part of the birthday planning that her ex-husband and his girlfriend was planning for their son, but she had already had a birthday party for him, and neither her ex-husband nor his girlfriend were invited.
I realize that everything on television is not real, but Will and Jada Smith have admitted that the show is loosely based on their own stepfamily. Loosely based means that although some concepts may be exaggerated to a certain extent, something similar has happened in their own lives. Not to mention, that I’ve spoken with several divorced dads and stepmoms who also frequently complain about the double standards that exists within their stepfamilies as well. For example, ex-wife wants to know everything that’s going on in ex-husband’s house and relationship, but doesn’t offer and even refuses to share, information regarding her own relationship or household. Ex-wife demands to be invited to any and everything regarding the child, but doesn’t even tell ex-husband about the activities that she plans for the child. Ex-wife is adamant about having unlimited access to the child while he or she is in her ex-husband’s care, but dad’s access is very limited and strictly based on the ex-wife’s rules alone. Additionally, according to author, trailblazing researcher and psychologist, E. Mavis Hetherington, ex-wives tend to be more intrusive and remain bitter and angry for much longer than their ex-husbands, post-divorce.
All of the above information supports the claims that double standards, more often than not, exist between the ex-wife and the ex-husband. What I, along with many others, can’t understand is why they exist. More importantly, why are these double standards continually accepted by society? Why do mothers think they have more rights than fathers who are just as involved (or at least want to be) in their child’s life? Why does society view ex-wives who exhibit this behavior, as victims who are just in pain, or the protective mama bears who are just trying to protect their children? Why does society convince us to believe that the children need protection from a father who is fighting to be with his children?
What’s even more important than why is how? How do we change our perception of how co-parenting relationships should operate? I’ve always been an advocate of and highly encouraged healthy boundaries from the very beginning of the divorce. Having a child gives neither parent an all access pass into each others’ lives after the divorce. Neither parent needs detail regarding what’s going on in their ex-spouse’s relationships or marriage or household (unless of course it is harming the child). Furthermore, when the child is in your house, the parent caring for him or her at that time is in charge of the child. Both parents are in charge of their respective households and allowing overlap only leads to the double standards mentioned above.
Overall, it’s important to realize that you can have a great co-parenting relationship without being totally engulfed in each others’ lives. And, fathers need to realize that they aren’t doing a disservice to their children by setting healthy boundaries for their ex-wives. Ex-wife should not be allowed to have each foot in both her and her ex-husband’s household and vice versa. Doing so, only increases chances of resentment, conflict, miscommunication and all out war.