Question: Last Father's Day, my husband's ex sent a gift to my husband from their son, age 7. My husband said he was uncomfortable by her gesture, even if it was supposed to be from his son. I spoke with mom before the next holiday and told her I'd help their son with gifts, including a gift for my husband. She agreed that it would make more sense, and she would help her son with gifts for people on her side. Well, this Father's Day, she did it again! This time, when I asked her to let me handle it, she told me I was out of line. I think she's having trouble accepting that it's not her role to buy my husband gifts anymore. Now, she says that we all need to sit down and “discuss our roles.” What do we need to say for her to realize that she's crossing a boundary and not respecting my role as his wife?
Answer: Your question implies that you are right and Mom is wrong, and it's not that simple. Mom buying a present for Dad on Father's Day from their son does not cross a boundary nor disrespect you as your husband's wife. Yes, divorce severs ties between former husband and wife, but it does not relinquish a parent from their parental responsibilities — and buying presents for the other parent “from the child” can certainly fall under the category of parental responsibility. I think you may be confusing your responsibilities as wife with your responsibilities as bonusmom. Because you are married to dad now does not imply that you also take on all the “mom” responsibilities, as well. It certainly can, if that is the agreement between the adults, but it's not automatic. Based on that, I think it is an excellent idea that the three of you sit down together and come to an agreement as to the responsibilities of the adults in this child's life.
I always counsel families in your position to think outside of the box. Figure out a solution that works for your family. It doesn't have to be conventional, as long as it works. In your case, you may have to assign buying Father's Day presents to mom, but Christmas and birthdays to you. Something you haven't mentioned — who takes the child out to buy presents for mom on Mother's Day? If you are the purveyor of gifts — that's you.
Check out the article called “Tips for Her” on the Bonus Families website. (www.bonusfamilies.com) It offers tips for how moms and bonusmoms can better coexist. One of the tips is “Find Your Niche.” That means agree to offer what you are both do well to the child, don't compete — always in the best interest of the children in your care.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at email@example.com.
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