September 2004, Message of the Month
A subject that arises in class often is how to handle the fact that our parenting-partners parent differently. This issue can lead to such feelings of contention, anger, conflict, and all out battles.
I have experienced very challenging moments with my parenting-partner from differences in style for eight years. Part of our problem stemmed from a big difference in time that our children spent with each parent at the beginning. My partnerís time with our children began in a very limited scope when we separated (by his choice). Therefore, we saw our roles as very different. I saw myself as the parent/guide/disciplinarian while he saw himself as having little time and wanting that time to be fun. We both needed to revamp our visions of our time and our roles. Until that could happen, however, I probably had the most negative feelings regarding the inequity of our roles. I finally realized that I too, could create fun and be playful with my children. When I realized I was living in reaction to my partnerís style I could make changes. The awareness was key to changing my vision.
The other side of that coin is learning to accept that our partners are most likely going to have a different style from us and sometimes they are in reaction to us as well. Instead of centering on the other household as a negative, choose to release it peacefully and see it as an opportunity to create in a different way for our children. Our children have two parents and they deserve to know each parent. Even if we lived in one house our children would have two styles of doing things. Now that we are in two homes we often want to exert control over the other household feeling that we know best what is good for our kids. This creates such turmoil within the parent who is in a place of judgment. I have lived in this place and it is not pleasant.
Taking this position costs us tremendous energy and loss of focus on our own lives. I picked the battle of nutrition with my partners and found it to be quite contentious. We are different people with differing views on health and nutrition. So be it! There is not just one right answer, it is what works for you and what doesnít. I found that in my house, I wanted to teach my children about keeping their bodies healthy, in one part, through good nutrition. This meant eating healthy with protein, vegetables, fruits and lowering our intake of wheat gluten and processed sugars. This did have a positive effect on our overall health. My partners feel that pizza, burgers and desserts are healthy as well. What has happened is that my children felt the tension between us, and our differing views, and were reactive to that. Now that we have calmed down about what each otherís choices are, my children now see that there are many views on health. They have two examples and they will choose one day which best suits them. I have learned not to say that my way is the right way, but this is what I have chosen for my family.
We need to somehow find peace with what occurs in our partnerís home or it will cost us dearly in the end and it will negatively affect our children. If there is something happening that is truly harming our children emotionally or physically, then of course, we must act to protect them. Most often, however, it is intolerance of differences.
Can we let go? Can we see that there is a reason for everything and surrender into this knowledge with faith? Our children will have two examples and one day they will get to choose who they want to be based on what works for them. It is their right.
Can we accept this peacefully? What will it cost if we do not? Are you willing to pay the price?
Find your answers with peace, not revenge.