They have proven themselves to be a bad partner, so how can the other other parent be a good parent?
Having had a bad experience with an ex-partner can often leave such a suspicious imprint that it’s hard not to hold a dim view of them once you separate. Having proven so unsuitable as a partner, it’s all too easy to convince yourself that the other parent must be a lousy parent too.
Don’t look back in anger
Questioning and reflecting back on the relationship, you may have felt frustrated by their ‘lack of presence’ when you were together but have noticed that since your separation your ‘ex’ is suddenly laying claim to being ‘parent of the year’. Or they suddenly appear to be doing all the things you wished you could have done together as a couple and a family. Now suddenly they want ‘more time’ with your child compared to when you were a couple and they were far too busy working or pursuing other interests. And just when you were hoping to keep the contact to a minimum after separation – they are taking you to court over it!
But let’s say your couple relationship was simply not working well and the other parent was not at their best (and possibly neither were you). Then, of course, any changes in their behaviour may now seem highly suspicious. However, the chances are that your negative views of your ex will seriously skew your aspirations for your child as you are likely to react towards them with a lack of confidence or belief in their parenting skills or disregard them by literally not wanting to discuss parenting issues or even think about them.
After separation, there is bound to be an overlapping of co-parenting issues that affect your child’s relationship with their other parent. Also your difference in parenting styles will become more glaringly obvious. You may perceive this as an irritant or obstacle to your newfound solo parenting style, believing “it’s better not to have to deal with them or have them around – it’s far too much bother!”
Change can be good
Sometimes separation can change someone. They may not be the same person you once knew. Most parents want to be the best possible parent they can be for their child. Of course they may not live up to your ‘standards’ and there are going to be times when your child comes back exhausted and cranky from spending time with the other parent. But this does not necessarily mean that your child is not in safe hands.
A child experiencing divorce or separation can be both emotionally and physically tired moving between different homes and adapting to different parenting styles. There is a period of re-adjustment for them, just as there will be for you. Getting used to being without your child and missing them is very hard and ultimately, avoiding having any contact with the other parent is highly unlikely.
Some parents are eager to find fault in the other parent, persistently creating a negative profile and intent on building a ‘case’ against them, claiming that everything they do is ‘in the child’s best interest’. Behaving this way helps vindicate and reinforce the rationale behind their separation.
Your child’s legal right with the other parent
Your child has a legal right to see both parents and confusing your intimate couple relationship with your ex’s parenting skills, could be seen as depriving them of that right. Denying your child a meaningful relationship with their other parent is an active criticism. And honestly, assessing the difference between your wishes or those of your child can be a tricky conundrum to disentangle, especially when your child is probably telling you exactly what you want to hear. Sometimes seeking professional support can help you achieve a more neutral stance and filter out the emotion from the situation.
Unless there are legitimate safeguarding issues and concerns that influence your child contact arrangements, your child has far more rights than you do as a parent. The term ‘parental responsibility’ focuses on parent’s dutiestowards their child rather than parent’s rights over their child.
So ask yourself whether you are really doing the right thing for your child. As tempting as it may be to overrule your child’s right to see their other parent and to overtly or subtly criticise your ‘ex’, it is ultimately up to your child to decide what they think of each parent and ultimately they will be the judge of how well you each fared as separated parents.