Ex-Partner vs Parent

Having had a bad experience with an ex-partner can leave such a suspicious imprint that it’s hard not to hold a dim view of them once we separate. It’s easy to believe that if they were unsuitable as a partner, equally, they must be a lousy parent.

Questioning and reflecting back on the relationship, you may have felt frustrated by their ‘lack of presence’ when you were together but noticed that since your separation your ex is claiming to be ‘parent of the year’. Or they are ‘seemingly’ doing all the things you wished you could have done together and with your child. Now suddenly they want ‘more time’ with your child compared to when you were a couple and they were far too busy working. Whereas you were hoping to keep the contact to a minimum after separation and now they are taking you to court for it!

But let’s say your couple relationship was not working at the time and the other parent was not at their best (and possibly neither were you) – then of course any changes may seem suspicious. However, your negative views of them will seriously skew your aspirations for your child as you are either likely to lack any confidence or belief in your ex’s parenting skills or literally not want to even think about it. There is bound to be an overlapping of co-parenting issues that affect your child’s relationship with their other parent. Also your difference in parenting styles will be come more obvious and you may perceive this as an irritant or obstacle to your newfound solo parenting style, believing “it’s better not to have to deal with them or have them around – it’s far too much bother!”

Sometimes a separation can change someone. They may not be the person you once knew. Most parents want to be the best possible parent they can be for their child. Of course they may not live up to your ‘standards’ and there are going to be times when your child comes back exhausted and cranky from spending time with the other parent. This does not necessarily mean that your child is not in safe hands.  A child experiencing divorce or separation can be both emotionally and physically tired moving between different homes and adapting to different parenting styles. There is a period of re-adjustment for them – just as there will be for you. Getting used to being without your child and missing them is very hard and ultimately avoiding any contact with the other parent is highly unlikely.

Some parents are very eager to find fault in the other parent, contributing to negative profiling and building a ‘case’ against them claiming that everything is ‘in the child’s best interest’. It also vindicates and reinforces the reasoning for separation.

Your child has a legal right to see both parents and confusing your intimate couple relationship with the other’s parenting skills could be seen as depriving them of that right. Denying your child a relationship with their other parent is an active criticism. Asking yourself whether these are your wishes or your child’s wishes can often be hard one to disentangle, especially when your child is probably telling you what you want to hear. Sometimes seeking professional support can achieve a more neutral stance and help filter out the information.

Unless there are safeguarding issues and concerns over child contact arrangements, you will find that your child has more rights than you do as a parent. Ask yourself if you are really doing the right thing for your child.  As tempting as it may be to overrule your child’s right to see their other parent and to overtly or subtly criticise, it is up to your child to decide what they think of each parent and your child will be the judge of how well you fared as separated parents.