It takes a village to raise a child, right?
We all have experiences that we can share to help others.
Following, five parents from our community share their personal experiences around Balanced Duties and Healthy Boundaries:
Talk to Each Other
“We have been co-parenting for 16 years, so I guess you’d say we’ve learned a lot! I felt that Healthy Boundaries was a hard one for my ex to get. In HIS defense, Communication was probably my most challenging area! Since I kept the house after our divorce, my ex seemed to feel a little too ‘at home’ for the longest time. He would let himself in without even knocking, helped himself to food in the fridge, and would even go down to the freezer in the basement to re-stock the fridge. It drove me insane! I slowly started to change the house to make it more ‘mine’. Over time, I bought new furniture, I painted, and I even re-carpeted! He just could NOT take a hint! So, finally one day, I blew up at him. I hadn’t even been to HIS house, yet he acted like he was at home in mine! Well, to my surprise, he said he was trying to act comfortable for my sake and the kids’! He said I was making it difficult because I kept changing things, and it made him less and less comfortable in ‘my’ home. Hmm, if only we had that whole ‘Communication-thing’ figured out. So, my lesson here isn’t so much about what the “healthy boundaries” are, but an important suggestion to TALK TO EACH OTHER about what those healthy boundaries are! This little gap caused the both of us two years of angst! Luckily we laugh about it now!”
“Because my ex only has the kids every other weekend (and he has limited funds), I always supply him with diapers, toys and clothes for the kids. I regularly receive hand-me-downs, so it’s an easy, affordable way to help him a little. The kids grow so fast, it doesn’t make sense to always have 2 of everything. Also, I coupon shop, and I like to bake too, so I sometimes even send food and drink with him. For that, I always ask him in advance though. I feel that is one of the “healthy boundaries” in our relationship. It allows him more time to focus on the kids while they’re together too. I’m not doing it to make him feel bad or to control what the kids wear and what they eat. I’m doing it because we are raising our children together. He pays child support. If I can easily do something that makes things a little bit easier for him, while benefiting the kids, why wouldn’t I?”
It’s Not Easy
“I am trying to co-parent with a narcissist. They say it can’t be done, and though it’s certainly not easy, I would argue that it can be done. I will say that it takes a lot of patience, forgiveness and biting of the proverbial tongue. But, for six years and going, it has completely turned my life around for the better. It has awarded me more time with my girls, and I (secretly) feel that I’ve helped their mother be a better mother to them. In turn, the living hell I experienced, made me a better father. I started by offering to help her whenever I could – grabbing some groceries for her, fixing her van, getting her tickets to a concert and offering to “babysit”. I’m no dummy. Slowly but surely, I had more time with the girls, I had less threats to deal with, and we started opening up to each other. Though I’m almost always walking on eggshells, I don’t excessively praise, necessarily pander, or let her walk all over me. But, I have definitely learned to pick my battles, and I accept a lot of things I once thought impossible, to the extent that I do not respond to her insults and accusations and to the extent that I sometimes worry about our daughter’s emotional and psychological well-being. But, the fact that I have increasingly more time with our girls, and my ex often confides in me and trusts me, has made it all worth the while.”
“Best advice I can give is DON’T ASSUME! Whether together for one year or twenty, you are two people with distinct feelings, expectations and perspectives. Don’t simply assume you already know each other’s duties or what boundaries need to be set. Your relationship has changed! Calm, mature discussions and respect will go a long way! And, keep in mind that feelings, expectations and perspectives can and will change!”
Learn As You Go
“I may be old fashioned, but to me, I always expected my ex to stick up for me. It may sound silly. But, he was always the disciplinary, and I used to appreciate it particularly when he would stop the boys if they were being disrespectful to me. It’s not that I can’t do it myself obviously, but there was something I really liked about him telling them to respect their mother. When I finally confronted him about it, asking why he didn’t do that anymore, he said he felt like he was crossing boundaries. He didn’t want to make it seem like I wasn’t a disciplinary, since I had them alone half of the time. He said he still teaches them to respect their mother and women in general, but he also didn’t want to confuse the kids about our relationship or take away from my authority. There’s a lot to learn and a lot of ways you’ll need to adapt. Be patient with each other. In some cases, you may need to learn as you go….”