Wednesday, September 16, 2009

PART ONE: "Baby's Parent" Ettiquette

So, lots of feedback on the respect issues in married/single platonic friendships- thanks for that, guys! Apparently, this is a hot topic for most of us.

Truly, we are not our grandparents generation when it comes to how the family structure is built. Right before our eyes, we are seeing the stereotypical single parent stigma demolished; with more than half of marriages dissolving in divorce; many families are choosing to raise their children as single responsible parties. We are faced with a new problem that is an unspoken taboo: what is the "proper etiquette" for the baby mama/papa to follow, when the relationship has ended... but the children are still very real?

We all have friends that do it; perhaps its you. Still sneaking a little cookie out of that sealed off jar. Maybe you feel frustrated with the dating scene as a newly single person; and thus, seek comfort in whats familiar. Or perhaps, you have not resolved your feelings for this man, and continuing a physical relationship keeps you connected to him. Maybe a sexual relationship is how you lure him over to see his kids...Maybe you secretly want to sabotage his new relationship with that girl that you want no where near your kids. I have heard all these things; believe me.

I am not throwing stones, not at all guys. I simply want speak to what these things really say about you as a woman, as a mother, and ultimately: as a potential mate in future relationships.

Rule #1: Giving him the nookie... will not keep him from playing hookie!

Oh, don't shake your heads at me! You all know it goes on. That unspoken rule that is upheld by many mamas and papas alike: You can always still sleep with the baby's parent.
Scenario A: The revolving door of the baby mama....
Angela is a successful attorney, on the fast track to partner in her firm; she embodies what is inspiring in all single mothers. She cares for her two children as the primary care giver; she is a role model and spends quality time with her children while balancing her career. She and her ex husband were married young and separated years ago. He has not remarried, and she has not found the time to begin to date again. It takes so much energy, she told her girlfriends, these guys with their down low lifestyles; bad credit; criminal records...Angela had heard all the horrendous stories of what the dating scene held for her in Atlanta. So even though Howard, her ex husband, was never a hands-on father, was a cheater and had fathered children outside their marriage; she kept him around as a "filler in the space" until Mr. Right finally surfaced. When Howard would come over to "see the kids", he would spend fifteen minutes with the children, then head to the Angela's bedroom for a little action before heading off. She always felt guilty; her kids were middle school age now and surely knew what Daddy and Mommy were doing upstairs. At times when she would cut him off, he would simply not show up at all. Months would go by and the children would not hear from him. So, when he would come around, she obliged him what he wanted in exchange for the few hours a month he spent with her children. She knew it set the wrong impression to her kids, but as a Christian woman, she resolved that even though they were no longer married and living separate lives; that what she and her ex husband were doing was better than the alternative- fornicating with men that may end up being just a fling. With Howard, however awful; at least she knew what she was getting...
At least, that's what she thought. A routine doctor visit for a yearly exam showed that Angela actually had no idea what she was getting. Throughout her marriage and divorce, Howard had never been faithful... to anyone but himself. He misused women his whole life; and Angela most of all. He had managed to never give her a birthday present; an Anniversary Card...but he had given her HIV.

Sadly, this scenario plays out everyday. It seems simple enough to blame her for her lack of standards; or to vilify Howard as the "STD carrying-deadbeat -womanizer". But when we take accountability... how did BOTH contribute to the outcome, for their children?
*Had Angela been less fearful of moving on, of being rejected or hurt in a future relationship, could she have prevented this?
*Had Angela cut off Howard's sexual "privileges," and it resulted in his not coming around the kids anymore, would it have been worse than having them see him treat their mother as a "side piece"?
* How will her lack of self esteem impact her children's lives now ?

In this story, we see how continuing to engage in sexual relations with our "ex's", particularly "ex's" with whom we share children, never ends well. While it may seem the "safe route," the "quick fix," or the "safety net," what seems safe... could easily be toxic. You cannot be certain that your ex has the same standards of exclusiveness that you do, critically; when it comes to who they will engage in unprotected sex with. Just because you had a clean bill of health at OB when you went in for your prenatal check up; doesn't mean that your partner won't continue to gamble with their private parts after your relationship has ended. The same thing that made you end the relationship will likely not change just because he/she moves out. If you lower the standard to "cut buddy" status, then not only have you have not let go of the baggage from this relationship, but you are carrying it into any potential relationship in the future. Worst of all; it is showing your children that boundaries are meant to be broken. Once a relationship ends all the fringe benefits should; too.

Part Two is finished; I will post them both on the same day. Thanks for taking the time to read this!

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