My son and I were having dinner last week, talking about his classmates and what he did that day. He mentioned that one of his friends couldn’t come over for a playdate because he was going to his dad’s house. That got me thinking so I asked, “Buddy, do a lot of the kids in your class have two houses?” He looked at me and emphatically said “Oh Mom, everybody have a divorce.”
You know what? He’s not wrong. Stats from 2011 show that 43% of marriages in Canada will end up in divorce. Hands up if you’re in that category! Know that as I write this one hand is on the keyboard and the other is waving wildly in the sky. I am part of that 43%, friends. Not the direction I envisioned for my life but shit happens, you know?
While divorce is generally a terrible thing to go through, mine is one of the “best-case scenario” variety. My ex and I don’t hate each other’s guts, we can still laugh and have a conversation without wanting to punch each other in the throat but most importantly, we understand that our son is our top priority and we’ll do whatever is necessary to make sure that he is healthy and happy. All that being said, we most definitely do not always agree on what our son should be eating.
On this front I know I’m not alone. I get messages all the time from clients and friends who are upset about what their children eat when they’re at the “other” parent’s house. They work so hard to ensure their kids are eating well and have a quality diet only to hear that they had McDonald’s and gummy bears for breakfast while with the “other”. It can be super frustrating.
The general idea of eating well is pretty consistent across the board but realistically different families eat different foods. That’s life. The trouble is when eating well is a priority for one house and not the other. Let me be clear here: I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just different. I ain’t tryin’ to start no fights here, know what I’m sayin’?
If this sounds at all familiar to you, this is what I suggest.
Step 1: Breathe and accept that some things are out of your control. Unless you plan on getting back together with your ex, and I don’t think you want to go down that road, you cannot enforce rules at their house. Stop wasting all of your valuable energy on trying to change things you can’t change. You will drive yourself crazy, I promise you that. In the iconic words of that she-devil Elsa, “Let it goooooo. Let it gooooo.”
Step 2: For this I’m going to need you to think back realllllllly hard to a time when you loved the co-creator of your baby. Squint your eyes and hold your breath and try to remember some of the good things so that you can have an actual conversation with them. If you are on speaking terms with your ex, at least on the phone or through email, have a discussion with them about how the two of you are feeding your child. I realize some of you may be reading this thinking “Fat chance Stacey, there is no way in hell that is happening.” I totally get it that this might not be possible but it’s worth a shot. Try to focus in your child. You both created your beautiful spawn and both want what’s best for them. You could even be sneaky and pretend you’re doing them a favour. Like, “oh hey jackass (or insert exes name here ______) Maddie had a bit of a rough sleep last night so she may be cranky. Also, she has been loving fruit this weekend; really digging bananas so you may want to pick some up.” See what I did there? Make it seem like you’re doing them a favour but really you’re secretly imposing your will on them! Muahahaha.
Step 3: Remember that your little bundles of joy are basically tiny human sponges that will absorb every single thing you say about the “other” parent so try your very best not to shit talk them in front of your kids. For example: my mom died when I was 14 and I vividly remember my father saying something unkind about her a few years afterwards. You’d better believe I brought it up every single time I was mad at him. Trust me, he never lived that one down! Basically what I’m saying here is don’t give your kids any extra ammunition to throw at you later. They’ll have enough with all the embarrassing bathtub photos you put up on Facebook for at least a couple thousand dollars worth of therapy. Save the discussions about food and how they’re being fed for a time that they are not around.
Step 4: This is the most important step: Stuff them full of as many healthy things as possible when they’re with you. Look, I know it sucks sometimes being the “unfun” one. Being the one that says no you can’t have the ice cream but you can have a bowl of strawberries. The one who puts her foot down when it comes to treats but unfortunately, someone has to do it and in this case that someone is you. You cannot control anything outside of your own kitchen but when you think about it, that’s pretty awesome. You get to fill your babies up with incredible, nutrient dense foods that will help them grow and learn. Think about that! You’re basically Wonder Woman except that instead of a lasso of truth you have a spirilizer of zucchini! And you can counteract at any not-so great-nutrition that may or may not be happening at their other home. *Fist Pump*
It may not feel like it right now but your children will eventually, one day, maybe, sort of appreciate all of the hard work you put in raising them the best way you know how. That’s my theory anyway. Like everything that is parenting, you can only do what you feel is right. You are responsible for your kitchen, so fill it and their bellies with as much healthy stuff as you can and know in your heart of hearts that you’re doing great…and that you’re the better parent. Kidding. Not kidding.
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Artwork by Yebin Mun