Whether in a same-sex or heterosexual relationship, you didn't give birth to a child, but you're the child's equal parent in every other way. Then there's a breakup or divorce, and the mechanics get tricky. You end up being demoted to the "other" parent, in my case the other mother. You lost your relationship, and now it seems as if you're losing your child as well.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, but when does your craving for time with your child cross the line? And does it matter? Here are a handful of my own experiences -- my attempts to be the equal mother that I once was in my child's life. Over the line? Interference or equal opportunity? You decide.
1. Joining your ex in mornings and evenings to put your child to bed and help with the morning routine as you used to when the two of you were together.
2. Having lunch with your child at school as often as possible, because 15 minutes is better than nothing, and you know it's best for your child. Oh, and then you continue to have said lunches with child even when the other parent tells school personnel that your presence at lunch is somehow thwarting the child's socialization skills (and even after you end up in a meeting with the school counselor...).
3. Watching your child struggle in school and asking the other parent to let you take care of homework after school, then feeling helpless as the other parent enrolls the child in after-school programs.
4. Troubleshooting by going to the school two tor three times per week to help child individually with homework, despite the other parent's threats and disapproval, because nothing is more important than one-on-one homework help when a kid is struggling.
5. Rearranging your workday any and every time your child is sick, even if it's the "primary" mother's day, or, better yet, hearing in the morning that the child is sick and rearranging your day, at which point the primary mother decides that the child isn't sick after all and sends the child to school... and then 11 a.m. comes around and the child has a fever and needs to come home. Still, you jump at the opportunity to have more time with your kids.
These are just a few examples, and I would love to hear some of your experiences, as well as your feedback. In retrospect, I wish that the therapist whom my ex and I worked with could have helped us understand the demise of our relationship and work together accordingly instead of trying to help/convince us to try to stay together. And, hey, maybe that's the learning opportunity for mental health professionals: Sometimes it's better to help the couple deconstruct in a way that is respectful and supportive of the collateral damage: the kids. What do you think?
Follow Colleen Logan, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrCLogan