With Father’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking about my dad, who is no longer with us except for fond memories of his life.
When I was growing up (1960s and early 1970s), most fathers were the primary earners in a family, and ours was no exception. My dad worked long hours, including a difficult commute into New York City from our suburban home.
So our time together was mainly on weekends and vacations. Dad did his best to make weekends fun. As a teenager especially, we played a lot of tennis, a sport we both enjoyed. (I still play with passion, thanks to him.)
I was fortunate. I grew up in a two-parent household where my parents worked together to create a healthy childhood experience for my siblings and me.
The end of a marriage often requires a reevaluation of each parent’s role in the future co-parenting relationship—a relationship that will unfold in two separate households.
In a family that is facing a divorce in current times, circumstances can be much different. Either parent may be the primary earner, and either parent may be the primary caretaker. Or both may work full time, and childcare may be handled with hired assistance (an expense that may not be as possible in the divorced circumstance). The end of a marriage often requires a reevaluation of each parent’s role in the future co-parenting relationship—a relationship that will unfold in two separate households.
In the wake of a divorce, I’ve often heard a parent in mediation question the other spouse’s ability to change his or her way of demonstrating commitment to caring for the children. There is often a built-in (negative) expectation that the other spouse is incapable of change. It’s my feeling that, while it can be true that a spouse may not be willing to change to save a marriage, that same person may respond very differently to the challenge of becoming a co-parent. Parents may “step up,” based on a desire to reinforce love and concern for their children, even as they are choosing to relinquish the commitment to their marriage.
In divorce mediation, we create a parenting plan that defines how children will be cared for, post-divorce. Included in that agreement can be an exploration of how each parent wants to respond to the challenge of change. There is discussion of expectations (each parent’s expectations for the other) and an expression of the willingness of each to meet the other’s needs as they commit to creating an ongoing and successful co-parenting relationship.
On a final note, as I think about my dad and my own experience as a parent (of now-adult children), I realize I feel myself to be as much a parent today as I was when my children were younger. When I grew up and left home, I’m sure my own parents felt the same way. Parenting is a lifetime experience—a joy and a challeng—that involves an evolving job description as both parents and children grow older.