Q: About a year ago, I was offered a job in another state. Before that, I had equal custody of my kids and saw them three or four times a week. My ex’s new husband was great, and we were pretty friendly – both coaching the youth league games – but once I left, he completely took over. Now, no one tells me when the games are, or when there are school conferences, or when the kids go to the doctor. It’s very frustrating! I’m always fighting with their mother and stepfather. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: It seems you think it’s your children’s mother’s responsibility to keep you apprised of what’s going on with the kids, but proximity to the children is not the determiner to gaining information about their lives. From what you’ve told me, it was your decision to move. You didn’t have to, and I’m wondering if you took into consideration how moving might affect your relationships with not only your children, but their mother and stepfather. Granted, we all need jobs, but the decision to take this one did have consequences – you can’t see your kids as often, and because of the distance, you are more dependent on their mother to facilitate communication.
It’s good to hear that parents work together for the sake of their children, and the fact that you have a good relationship with the stepfather is commendable. But as frustrated as you seem now, nothing has really changed in your ability to contact schools, teachers, youth league coaches or doctors’ offices. Most likely all this information is online, particularly school information and sports schedules. Unless the kids change schools, sports leagues or doctors, contacting and staying up on their progress is on you. If contacts change, that’s when it’s mom’s responsibility to let you know, but it’s up to you to make the contacts. If something slips through the cracks, I don’t believe you should blame it on the kids’ mom or her husband. He cares so much for your children that he’s their coach. You probably feel out of the loop, and it’s more obvious how much he interacts with the kids now that you aren’t around.
You could be feeling a combination of guilt and a little jealousy. Check yourself and make sure resentment or spite isn’t getting in the way of keeping those lines of communication open. (Ex-Etiquette for Parents Rule No. 5, “Don’t hold grudges” and No. 6, “Don’t be spiteful.”)
Keeping communication open will allow you to coordinate efforts and utilize all the trick technology available today. If you and mom get along, she might be open to FaceTime or Skype during the games. I’ve seen parents with their laptops and iPhones poised at youth league games so that family and friends can see how the game is progressing. Blame her for not keeping you in the loop, and you may be on your own. At home, schedule regular Skype time so you can visit and help the kids with their homework remotely.
Definitely go to see them as much as possible, and make sure you are always available for your regularly scheduled visitation time. Staying in good standing with mom will ensure that those visits happen.