31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Post Divorce Spouses Can Still Maintain A United Parental Front

Single with Children: Parenting under fire

Custodial parents are frequently taken to task for their decisions

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 05/14/03

There are times when single parenting is challenging and offers ample opportunity for creativity. That's on a good day. There are other days when single parenting is gut wrenching and filled with moments that are fertile ground for second-, third- and 10th-guessing. When you get to that point, it also can be labeled underproducing territory.

Regardless of the child's age, some of the decisions we make can be life-altering. When the custodial parent is a force of one, even with the backup of the other parent (who can be either 10 minutes or 10 hours away and not always within cellphone reach) the in-house parent may not always have the luxury of waiting for a two-way conference to discuss the options, potential outcomes and consequences.

Sometimes, decisions must be made instantly, and mistakes and miscalculations are bound to be made. There are times when we get it right and there are times when we don't.

I'm fortunate in that there have been very few times when my former spouse has truly taken me to task on the occasions when I've gotten it wrong. I don't live in a bubble though, and I know this isn't always the case with a lot of divorced folks. I know both single mothers and fathers who have thought they were doing their best, only to come under intense fire for saying a misguided yes or no to something involving a child, which turns into fertile ground for an argument or blame. To make matters worse, the children involved become keenly aware of a storm brewing. It's a no-win situation.

Single parenting is a tough business. Cultivating a cordial post-divorce relationship can ease a lot of tension and pave the way for peace and understanding. It's never too late to work on lessening the bitterness that is, many times, part of the fallout of a disintegrated marriage. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift and has the incredible ability to make everyone feel better about the parental tasks both at hand and in the future.

Maybe the important thing to remember when one parent makes a decision the other parent finds abhorrent is that, regardless of the past that brought us all into the position of single parent, we must try to remember that it is the children we will always share whose best interests must be paramount. Children are gloriously resilient, but no child deserves, or should be subjected, to a continuing civil war. The absolute best we can give our children is a united parental front, and the best way to do this is through open channels of communication between parents. Remember that the divorce decree might have ended the marital union, but nothing can, or should, sever the ties that bind us as parents and not only allow but demand that we keep our childrens' best interests at heart.

Remember the adage about counting to 10 before doing or saying something we're most likely to regret?

I think it applies to post-divorce parenting and recognizing that we're all working toward the common goal of doing everything in our power to nurture and raise well-rounded and happy children who know they are loved by both a mom and a dad who may not always get it right but who are doing their very best. I can think of no better reason to let go of the past and do all we can to make the present not just tolerable, but full of enough joy to go around.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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