I am a reality television junkie. Yep, I admit it. I’ll watch anything from 19 Kids and Counting to Little People, Big World to Basketball Wives. One of my favorite reality series is the Real Housewives of…Atlanta, New Jersey, Orange County, New York and most recently, Beverly Hills. Due to my busy schedule I don’t always get to watch them when they come on, but I DVR them to watch later.
Yesterday, I got an opportunity to catch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and heard Camille Grammer talk about her separation from actor, Kelsey Grammer. She actually brought up some really important points that I’m sure most divorced moms can relate to. She explained how tough her job as a mom was because the kids are asking her all the questions about when daddy is coming home and Kelsey doesn’t have to help answer them because he’s not there. She went on to explain that she has to struggle to put on a happy face for them, but Kelsey basically just goes on with his life as usual. How many of my divorced moms/ex-wives/mothers can relate to what Camille is saying?I spend a lot of time talking about support for stepmothers and don’t get me wrong because I do think there just isn’t enough. However, as a woman who is also a mother/ex I do think that ex-wives/mother in Camille’s position can use a bit of understanding and patience.
Oftentimes, as Camille has stated, the mother has to field all the when, why, what, and how questions while trying to figure them out herself. She has to think about how to tell her children that mommy and daddy aren’t going to be together anymore. She has to figure out how she’s going to support her children on one or even no (for mothers who were stay at home moms for years) income and she has to find some time to grieve for the lost of a family she thought she’d have forever. It’s frustrating and ridiculously overwhelming to do. And although dad may pop in every now and then to lend support, mom is the one who has to be there all the time, putting on that happy face and helping her children through the divorce. Although I don’t condone extreme behavior such as alienating your children from their father, bad-mouthing their father to them, or using them as pawns, I do understand certain irrational behavior that a mother might do simply because she is completely overwhelmed. Just think about the times that you have a million and one things running around in your head- you just got laid off and have to figure out how to live off of one (your spouse’s) or no income; the furnace just broke; you just found out your oldest needs braces and a relative is very ill. But, you still have to take the kids to dance class, help with homework, answer their curious questions, smile AND figure out what your next move will be. Do you always use good judgement when you are overwhelmed with issues and important decisions to make? Can the slightest little thing cause you to breakdown when you already feel as if you’ve reached your breaking point? I’m raising my hand over here!
With the exception of the high conflict divorce cases, many issues with an understandably resentful ex-wife can be dealt with if dealt with in the right way. Below are some tips to help you take your co-parenting relationship from rocky to amicable.
- Verbalize your understanding – One of the things my ex eventually did was to change his language. Instead of being accusatory, he began to express that he understood my position and just wanted to find a way to amicably work together.
- Don’t react to everything – Every thing doesn’t warrant an adverse reaction. Appropriately respond to allegations or issues when necessary, but don’t escalate a battle by feeding into her frenzy.
- Diffuse the situation – To piggyback on number 2, practice diffusing the situation when you can. If she is heated about something that you feel is no big deal, act like it’s no big deal. Don’t yell just because she’s yelling at you. If she sends a nasty email, don’t respond with nastiness. Throw her off by giving a response that she did not expect and watch how that situation transforms.
- Set clear boundaries – Don’t be fickle. At this point, everyone needs clear boundaries. If totally integrating her into your new life isn’t your desire, be clear about that early on. Let her know that you respect her as the mother of your children and want her to always be part of their lives but you wish to limit your relationship regarding the children to things that can’t be split in two (school functions, recitals, graduation ceremonies, weddings, etc.).
- Talk about it – One of the best things that my ex and I did/do was/is to talk through our issues when we were/are not in a heated battle. We sat down either by ourselves, or with our respective spouses to talk about moving forward as a synergistic unit. Talking, along with the above-mentioned tips, will help to create a more amicable situation if BOTH parties are active participants.
Divorce takes everyone for an emotional rollercoaster ride and it’s important that everyone on the ride practices some patience, understanding, effective communication and are committed to maintaining civility for the sake of the children. It is much easier to keep all this in mind before your situation gets out of control.