Many people made fun of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s conscious uncoupling a few years ago. But it’s evident that they have influenced a number of other newly divorced celebrity parents who are raising kids together to put aside their anger and differences and come together for their family. (Sienna Miller even admits to doing the nightly bedtime routine together with former partner and father of her daughter, Tom Sturridge, while Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner take vacations together with the kids.)
Could this happy co-parenting stuff happen before a couple gets divorced?
Of course — a lot of couples have figured it out when it comes to parenting their kids. But many, many more have not and guess what happens? Conflict. And guess who suffers? Right, the kids.
Which is why one of the chapters on The New I Do is dedicated to a parenting marriage, a slightly different take on platonic parenting. But what both do so beautifully is this: anything related to the kids — from when and how to have them to how to raise and discipline them — is talked about and agreed upon. No surprises, no hidden agendas, no frustrations, no resentments — well at least a lot less of all of that.
Merle Weiner, a law professor at the University of Oregon, proposes that the state should create a legal parent-partner status that binds parents — married, cohabiting, living apart, romantic partners or not — with certain mandatory obligations in order to give their children what they need to thrive.
Whether you agree with any or all of the above, there is one aspect that is essential in making these sorts of arrangements work, and that is understanding your family-of-origin issues.
If you don’t want to end up like Jancee Dunn, who was almost at the point of divorce, as she writes in her new book, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, because she and her husband had “dreamy conversations” about their baby when they were pregnant, but never discussed the day-to-day practicalities, then you might want to read Hoefle’s book. As she writes:
As tensions rise between parents, their ability to parent effectively is compromised, and as a result, both the children’s behavior and their emotional health are put at risk. Because we are a culture convinced that kids are the ones who need fixing (thankfully this trend is changing), it’s reasonable that parents place the discord in the home at the feet of the kids, rather than on the state of the individuals doing the parenting. With each passing year, parents grow further and further apart, until they are either sabotaging each other openly or have entered into a quiet battle of wills, otherwise known as a power struggle. Without a course correction, not only are the children impacted in a negative way; the marriage suffers enough that parents consider divorce their only remedy for an untenable situation.
As a woman who has raised two children in a marriage, truer words were never said.
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