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Mom reaches standstill with ex-husband; 'I'm not co-parenting like this in front of YOUR wife.' AITA?

Mom reaches standstill with ex-husband; 'I'm not co-parenting like this in front of YOUR wife.' AITA?


When this woman is confused about coparenting with her ex-husband, she asks the internet:

"AITA for refusing to work with my ex on disciplining our kids in front of his and his wife's families?"

My ex and I share custody of our 13 year old son and 11 year old daughter. We divorced 9 years ago. My ex is now happily remarried going on 3 years now. We're okay with each other. Mostly civil but we're not close and don't see eye to eye on a lot of things post-divorce.

This is a conflict that stems from a couple of different things but I really wanna know what others think.

So I picked my kids up from my ex's parents house on Sunday. Ex and his wife, plus the kids, all of ex's family and many of his wife's family members were there.

Ex called me back to the yard to talk and he told me he had told the kids they were grounded for a week with no phone or internet and for another week they would be doing acts of kindness for his wife.

He punished them because during this family gathering they decided to do a game where the moms and their kids teamed up. The kids continued sitting and when asked why they said because their mom (meaning me) wasn't there.

They were told they would be teaming up with "their other mom" and my kids asked why, ex's wife isn't their mom.

Ex told them she acts as their mom at their house and my kids said she's not their mom and wouldn't ever be their real mom though. My son said they'd need to call me to participate in a mom and kid game.

Everyone was furious they would speak about their stepmom that way and for using the term real mom. My ex told them to apologize and neither would. My son told his dad he shouldn't have to apologize for telling the truth.

I arrived about an hour later and everyone was still angry about what happened. My ex also told me that his wife started to cry and both kids rolled their eyes. He told me I need to take care of grounding them for a week so that the next time the kids are with him they can get to the acts of kindness for his wife.

I told him I didn't see what they did as a punishable offense. He told me I was ignoring the fact it should have been clear who they were supposed to team up with. I told him they weren't wrong that his wife isn't their mom though.

He told me it shouldn't matter and they should be far willing to team up with his wife. I asked why they called it mom and kid instead of parent and kid then. But I was clear I would not ground them for it. Ex was furious. The families kept watching and I know they could hear from the glares I was getting as I left with the kids.

Ex has texted me several times through the week saying I was wrong and I made his wife feel like shit in front of their families. AITA?

Let's see what readers thought about this one. They were torn!

trevon writes:

NTA. And you should tell your ex, that his priorities should be his kids. A grown up woman who was in their live for just three years shouldn't start crying and playing victim because her step children who she sees on the weekends (?) don't think of her as a mother.

Yes she can adress that this hurts and if there is a possible for them to see it others. But not start crying and demanding a punishment for this kind of beheavour.

Maybe talk to your ex if it is possible that the children will be stay with you for the next weeks while he and his wife get to deal with this situation and learn to work with this, that the children don't see her as a parent. So that they don't have to guilt trip and punish childrens for their feelings.

facee writes:

NTA. At all. Under the vast majority of circumstances I am heavily for maintaining rules and boundaries across households in a coparenting relationship, because to do otherwise can often give kids the message that they can play (sometimes already-contentious)...

parents off against each other and that starts to lead to manipulation that isn't healthy for the kids.

But there is something here that most definitely supercedes that, and that's that your kids weren't being naughty (even if they were clearly a bit deliberately spiteful in how they communicated)...

they were sharing their legitimate feelings about the circumstances they are in - circumstances which are genuinely difficult for most kids of divorce - and asking to be heard and respected about that.

The didn't disrespect your ex's wife, they were disrespected by the adults present.

Yes, they should have known who was intended to be their partner in the game, and they were disingenuous pretending that they didn't. But that's irrelevant. They were making a point, and it was a legitimate and important one.

First of all, they shouldn't have had to play any game at a family BBQ that they didn't want to anyway. Games are supposed to be fun. If they weren't interested, then the only point in making them play was to force them to be uncomfortable for the same of their stepmom. Strike #1 for the adults.

Secondly, they didn't say that they disliked their stepmother, or say anything hateful about her. They stated a fact: she is not their mother. Period. And it is not hurtful or cruel to be clear about that.

On the contrary, it's hurtful and cruel of adults to keep trying to force a form of relationship between them that they are clearly uncomfortable with. Strike 2 for the adults.

And finally, their chafing at the idea that she "acts as their mother" when they are with their paternal family is also not hateful. They didn't say that they don't respect her authority.

You don't have to be a parent to be an authority figure; my own nieces and nephews always listen to me and treat me with respect, and I am not their parent.

What they did was make clear that in NO WAY did they want her to be pretending to be their MOTHER - not sometimes, not under certain circumstances, not ever.
And that's for them to decide. Not her. The fact that her feelings are hurt is sad, but not their responsibility.

Do I think the kids deserve a talking-to about how to communicate their feelings without being petty? Yup, probably. But that's as far as it goes.

Grounding them is inappropriate, and expecting them to do "acts of kindness" for a woman who was actually stomping on THEIR feelings and boundaries is, frankly, grotesque. You are NTA. Thank you for respecting your kids' feelings on this.

deepintention2023 writes:

YTA. Yes technically your kids are telling the truth but I think it was unnecessary and uncalled for that they made a big stink about how they can't play the game because technically step mom isn't they're "real" Mom.

Like what was the point of them making that distinction? Tbh it comes across as a bit rude and bad manners. Like you don't see a problem with that at all? It's not like she was trying to replace you or take your place or force your kids to see her as their "real" Mom. It's just a game.

Does the punishment fit the crime? I don't know. But I do think that was rude and disrespectful the kids to say they can't play the game because she's not their real mom and insist the only way they can play is if you're there.

Your husband was totally right to call them out for it and you're undermining your ex's attempts to teach your kids empathy and manners.

heyats65 writes:

I may in the minority but I think you both suck tbh. You much less so.

Ex sucks because he’s trying to force your kids to call his wife their mom and they should have a say in that matter. He also sucks because he did all of this publicly, including bringing you into it. If he wanted to talk to you about a punishment it should have been away from his family and his children.

But you sort of suck as well because fell right into what your kids were doing. Dividing the two of you and doing it in front of them. Do I think they should have to call his wife mom? No. But they were also very obviously being a bit disrespectful and combative.

This wasn’t just about who they consider their actual mom. Your son saying he shouldn’t have to apologize for telling the truth, and you said the exact thing to your ex. So I see where he gets it from.

Your ex approached this whole thing terribly and you didn’t help. Your son should be apologizing for hurting his step mom’s feelings, while reestablishing that you cannot be replaced but admitting or at least learning to respect all the things that his step mom does for him.

But it doesn’t sound like you plan to acknowledge that either.

tossingpasta writes:

NTA and neither are your kids. Your ex and his wife are on the expressway to never having the kids contact him once they move out at 18 (possibly younger if your court system allows them to choose if they want to stay with OP full time at 15-16yo).

His wife is NOT their mom and he can't punish them into changing their feelings. No, you can't stop him from punishing them during his custody time and it sucks that we all know he will.

What do YOU make of this story? Any advice for OP?

But you have no obligation to punish them for what he deems an offensive statement or act. The kids were truthful.

And BTW, I have to state for the record that being punished by doing acts of kindness for his wife is simply laughable. This will backfire spectacularly on the wife.

Your ex will order them to do XX as an act of kindness and they will do so but with the look of hatred on their faces towards her because it is a slap in their face to be forced to do this. I hope the wife quickly realizes how much worse she will be in their eyes and convinces your Ex to back off.

thisresearchw writes:

Hey, I believe there's a better approach than punishing the kids. Instead, it's important to have a conversation with them, helping them understand how their words may have hurt their stepmom.

I'm not taking sides here, but it's crucial to ensure the children don't live in a perpetually hostile environment. They need guidance on acceptance and empathy toward others' feelings.

Simultaneously, it's essential to talk to your husband and express how his actions are affecting the children. Punishing them and taking sides with the stepmom isn't conducive to a safe and nurturing home environment.

It's not about assigning blame; it's about fostering understanding and harmony within the family. Encourage the kids to cultivate a positive relationship with their stepmom, provided she reciprocates their love and care.

Sources: Reddit
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