Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe: Bonus familiesWhy should I be nice to the mother who abandoned our daughter?
Q: You always say that you need to work with your ex — but I have no desire to even see mine again. She’s 22 and I am 25. About six months ago she said, “I’m outta here” and left to follow her dreams in L.A. We have a 2-year-old daughter. It’s hard to raise her by myself, but the last thing I want to do is see her mother again. What’s a good ex-etiquette about this one?
A: The primary rule of good ex-etiquette is, “Put your children first” and it sounds like that’s exactly what you’re doing. It’s understandable that you’re bitter and don’t want to talk to your child’s mother. However, we bet your daughter doesn’t feel the same way — nor will she as she gets older. So be prepared. Unless there are extenuating circumstances — mental illness, addiction, etc., Mom’s leaving is probably based on selfish immaturity — and she’ll be back at some point.
What we have often seen with a couple that gets together very young then has a child, is that one parent is too immature to take on the responsibility of family and bails, leaving the other to hold down the fort. The parent left behind is, understandably, very resentful. Time passes. The one who left gets into another relationship and has another child. He or she is now mature enough to accept the responsibility of parenthood and the light bulb goes on. “What have I done? I abandoned my child!” But, that child is now 6 or 7 and the parent who raised her has moved on to a more stable relationship with the new partner seen as Dad or Mom. The wayward parent tries to mend the broken parent/child relationship, but gets very little help from the previously abandoned ex or new partner, and you have one very confused child stuck in the middle.
Even though you want to tell your child what a disaster her mother is, try not to. Give her straight-forward answers when she asks, and if you get involved with another who comes to love her, don’t raise her to believe her bio-mother is dead. If Mom does show up years down the road, the story you will have to then tell because you lied may be more detrimental than the truth. You may want to consult a therapist who knows your child firsthand and can suggest the exact words to comfort her when she asks where her mommy is.
JANN BLACKSTONE-FORD and SHARYL JUPE are co-founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com) and authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation.” Blackstone-Ford is married to Jupe’s ex-husband. Contact them at email@example.com.