Sometimes the advice friends give are better taken as expressions of concern from a friend who cares but certainly not advice to be acted upon. But yesterday I spoke with a friend who gave me the advice that I needed to hear and the advice that I think is the right advice to act upon. And for that I sincerely thank her, even if she was cleaning her refrigerator while we were talking. I’m taking the liberty of passing on the advice that cost her many hours and dollars in therapy and challenging moments with her own daughter and psycho-ex (her phrase).
You need to have mantras. These are some of the mantras she shared with me for dealing with exman/slime on custodial issues. We are only one week into younger daughter going back and forth and already he is being himself, causing problems, lying and bullying everyone around.
Take the high road. Get yourself out of the conflict between you and your ex because that is over, and put your daughter in the center. It is no longer about your failed marriage and bitter divorce; it is about taking care of your daughter as best as you can, regardless of what he does. It is about enabling her to grow up as independently as possible from the conflict that her parents have wrought.
Take the pressure off her. Don’t make her choose between parents, and don’t make her any more anxious than needs to be. Just step back.
"I will support whatever decision you make." This mantra is to be repeated to daughter instead of transmitting to her any of my fears of loss (of her love and attention) or anger (at exman/slime).
"I will do whatever you choose." A variation on the previous mantra, because it’s not good to keep repeating myself. Again, stepping back and letting her find comfort as best as she can without the added agony of worrying about how her actions will impact me.
Though these will surely be hard to act upon and say, they make sense and seem worthwhile to recite to myself and daughter. When she said them, I knew she was right. Right in the way the friend who told me to just put daughter on a bus to visit her grandparents in New York regardless of ex’s games was wrong. Sometimes there is a difference between what would feel good for me and what would be good for her, and that is what I need to remember. It is about how I continue being the best mother possible for her. That is the only relationship that counts now.