Ex Etiquette: When His New Wife Disciplines Your Kids

Q: My ex-husband and I share equal custody of our 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. He recently married a woman who seems to like my children very much, and they like her too. She has a daughter about my daughter's age. I'm actually glad that they all get along so well, but there is one thing that does upset me. She disciplines my kids when they are at their father's home. I believe this responsibility lies with their father and me, and it infuriates me when I call them and I hear that they are on a time-out when their dad is not even home! How do I handle this?

A: Years ago when parents divorced, mom got custody of the kids and dad received visitation rights. I call that "old-school divorce." With that sort of arrangement, stepmothers rarely took care of the children for any length of time.

Then joint custody became the way of the land and the "new-school divorce" was born. With that came co-parenting '- something few were honestly ready to tackle. As a result of joint custody, the children interact with both parents after the divorce, and if dad has remarried, then his wife interacts with the kids as well. In many households the stepmother is the primary caregiver for the children when they are at dad's, and, as in this case, it can be a big problem for the biological mom.

Truthfully, the problem lies in thinking with our hearts and not with our heads '- and approaching a "new-school divorce" life with an "old-school divorce" attitude. Few moms want to share their children with an ex that frustrates them, let alone a new woman this frustrating ex brings into the fold. But in reality, that's what we have now. For the betterment of our children, we have to figure out a new way.

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