Right when we focus our attention on how our co-parent is not parenting up to our expectations, we often miss all the ways he or she contributes to our kids’ lives in the most unexpected ways.
Bruno Bettelheim, world-renowned child psychologist, reminds us “it’s quite possible to be a good enough parent—that is, a parent who raises his or her child well.” He goes on to remind us that a person who is well-raised “is satisfied with him or herself…copes reasonably well with the endless vicissitudes, the many hardships, and the serious difficulties he or she is likely to encounter in life, and to do so mainly because he or she feels secure…”
As co-parents, we want to remember to focus on what’s truly important for our child: a secure, engaged, and loving relationship with both parents.
From here, children can truly flourish, enjoy the resources we provide for them, and become all that they can be.
Once we have supported and worked toward that end, we can have a reasonable conversation about “broccoli” or any number of other lesser important issues in the grand scheme of helping our children “grow up well.”
As one mom explained to me, “he might be a mac-and-cheese dad; I just want him to be the best mac-and-cheese dad he can be.”
Letting go of thoughts that you know what’s best for your children in both homes, opens up the possibility of observing how the differences between you teach your children more and varied lessons about life — adds to your children’s flexibility, resilience, and developing skill-set for capably managing the “endless vicissitudes” of life.
Working with a co-parent to manage huge discrepancies that disrupt children mitigates the possible downsides of living across two homes. With a focus on letting go of some of our ideals from one-home family life, and embracing a new normal in two-home family life, children have an opportunity to grow secure roots in both homes, and have the freedom to return to “childhood” and the business of growing up well without on-going parental conflict about them!
Spend time each day acknowledging the things your co-parent does well. Share those observations and insights with your children. Relax. Manage what absolutely needs to be managed. Enjoy being a “good enough” parent in your home … and as things settle down, watch your children thrive.