My ex-husband is often critical of my parenting even though he is generally uninvolved in our children’s lives and does not support them financially. (C: He lives 5 miles away but only sees them about once a month for a few hours. He owes me over $100,000 in unpaid child support.) When we divorced eight years ago, we went through a period of conflict where I tried to enforce a manual re. visitation and support, but I eventually found peace by letting go of these expectations, and I regularly choose to accept the situation as it is.
Over the last 4-5 years, again with conscious work, I have reached out to him and we have developed a good working relationship and renewed a basic friendship with few expectations. I did a lot of thought work around this and made a decision (before I found SCS) to be an example to our children of a healthy divorced couple who make them a priority.
I have found it harder to hold onto this belief during C-19 as our children have been doing homeschool online which has required a good bit of extra time and management from me in the midst of my workday. When my children don’t hand in assignments on time, the school emails us both and he contacts me to see why the children are falling behind with comments, like WTF! At times, it feels really stressful and I have had moments of self-pity and also anger towards him. I have wondered if all the work I did earlier investing in this belief that I could let things go was not real. Because when he criticizes my parenting I find that my mind goes back into the past and I dig up a list of things to prove to myself that he is really an awful person. Here’s the modeling I’ve done:
C: Email from kids’ school re. about missing assignments, then W. forwards it to me with “WTF!”.
T: I have so much going on and he doesn’t have the right to criticize my parenting when he is completely uninvolved.
A: Remember bad times from the past and get angry; Email him and agree with him that the kids need to get schoolwork in on time and then ask him if he’d like to take the kids to his house and help them with schoolwork; No reply; Get angry with the children for not getting work done when they told me it was finished. Get angry with the school for piling so much work on them (and me). Indulge in thought loop fantasies where I collect unpaid child support and force him to parent.
R: Get distracted from doing important things done (including helping the children with their work) by focusing on him and feeling angry and defensive.
Would you please check my UM? Also, I’m trying not to jump too quickly to an IM because there may be somethings here that I need to really examine and sit with.
Even saying that… here’s my IM:
C: Email from kids’ school re. missing assignments, then ex forwards it to me with “WTF”.
T: His words and the kids’ missing assignments have nothing to do with my parenting or my worthiness.
F: Acceptance (or self-acceptance)
A: Recognize that the kids and I are doing our best in a challenging time. Remind myself that the teachers are extending grace for late assignments and everyone is dealing with this is in different ways. Release the need to prove that I’m a good parent to my ex. Release thought loop fantasy of punishing him. Remember that my life is better when I can return words he says back to him and not make them about me.
R: Move on in my day by focusing on getting my work done, helping the children stay on task, and enjoy parenting my amazing kids.